August 22, 2015

Who can understand the ways of God?

Isaiah 44:1–45:13, Luke 17:11–18:8, Job 10:1–10

A few months ago, a cousin died without faith in Christ. Our prayers for her salvation seemed unanswered. This week another person in our family is suffering, perhaps dying. He claims faith yet this is difficult for him and us. As I read the Bible this morning, I’m thinking ‘who can understand God?’ At the same time, because He is who He is, I must trust Him.

He says, “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.” (Isaiah 44:3–5) These verses often come to mind when I pray for my children. Will God apply this promise to them? Who else can I trust?

He says, “Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:7–8)

Without God, who would I trust? It has been said that the human heart is an idol-making factory. Would I turn to an idol because I cannot manipulate God? Or would I trust anything else because we cannot understand Him? Am I blind to my idols because trusting them doesn’t make any sense either?

God says of those who trust idols: “They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself . . . .” (Isaiah 44:18–20)

Job struggled to make sense of God while he was tested. He said to Him, “Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?  . . . . Although you know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of your hand? Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust?” (Job 10:2–3, 7–9) For him, faith was difficult because he also did not understand what God was doing.

Jesus told the disciples that a day would come when they wanted to see Him, but first “He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” He compared their oblivion to this truth with those in the days of Noah who ate, drank, lived life as usual and suddenly the flood destroyed them, and to the ignorance of those in the days of Lot when “fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.” He told the disciples that they would see Him, but that day “when the Son of Man is revealed” would come without much warning. (Luke 17:22–30) They were distressed at His words, mainly because they didn’t understand Him either.

Yet Jesus didn’t want them to be unprepared. He told them, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” (Luke 17:33) “Trust me!”

He also told them a parable that illustrated “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1) because God would give justice to His people who cry to him day and night. “Trust me!”

Jesus’ words are amazing. He also invites me to trust Him, yet He knew the challenges His people would face. In Luke 18:8, He asks, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:7–8) and if nothing else, I understand the reason behind His question.

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