Having considered God’s Sovereignty (Uncontainable) we now turn to our fourth description of God, “Unfathomable.” In this blog we will consider the question of God’s Wisdom (next up is God’s love). The dictionary describes something as unfathomable if it is incomprehensible or not completely understood. The Bible often says that God cannot be fathomed: below are some verses which say that His greatness, His wonders and His understanding cannot be fathomed:
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”
“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”Psalm 145:3, Job 5:9 & Isaiah 40:28
Try as we might, we will never be able to get our heads around the wisdom of God. Our world is in the grip of the effects of the corona-virus and the consequences of the varied strategies employed by Governments to try and get on top of it. The question on a lot of our minds just now is how do we understand what God is doing in all of this? I’ve spent quite a bit of the last few weeks cancelling events and re-imagining how some of them could work for a digital platform. Humanly speaking so many really good events and opportunities (in culture, entertainment, sport, ministry etc) are having to be cancelled. If God is always at work what is He doing in and through this crisis? Can all of this really be for our good and His glory? This blog arises from my own wrestling with these questions. Before we dive in I think we set out straight away that the Bible says emphatically that God’s thoughts and God’s ways are higher than our own:
8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. 9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:8-9
God is God: we are not. It should be no surprise to us that God is unfathomable – if He was fathomable then He would not be God! Our tendency is to elevate ourselves while trying to bring God down to our own level. Remember what we saw last time – that rather than trying to squeeze God into our own framework we need to start to appreciate Him for who He is: Sovereign over everything even the things that are difficult.
The better question is ‘who’ not ‘why‘
It is very interesting to consider the example of Job. The book of Job records the terrible suffering that Job faced (chapters 1-3) and the discussions he subsequently had with his friends (chapters 4-39). These interactions were not so encouraging for Job: these friends encouraged him to repent and accept that God was punishing him but that was not the case. We get a glimpse at the start of Job into the spiritual heavenly conversation that was going on. Job however was oblivious to this. Later God addressed Job’s friends directly and told them that He was angry with them because they had not spoken the truth about Him as Job had!
Over the course of these reflections Job asks 16 “why” questions of God. Even from an early age we learn to ask the question ‘why’ with an impressive passion and frequency. God does not however answer any of those questions but instead answers the question “who” as He responds with a whopping 77 questions of His own (see Job 40-41). I am not wanting to diminish the very real experience of suffering that Job faced and that we too are experiencing (or have experienced) ourselves. Many in our world are facing exactly that right now as our lives, our livelihood and our loved ones are placed in jeopardy. What is fascinating however is that rather than answer Job’s questions God sought to reveal Himself instead. Our natural inclination and response to difficulty is to ask ‘why Lord’ but often the better question is not the ‘why’ but the ‘who’. Job lost almost everything but God was still on His throne! Job did not understand what God was doing but he now saw that he had questioned things too wonderful for him to know:
1 Then Job replied to the Lord: 2 ‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.Job 42:1-3
Next time you are tempted to ask ‘why’ perhaps consider reading Job 40-42 and be reminded again not of the ‘why’ but the ‘who’. When we reflect on who God is it brings a very perspective into sight.
God works for the ‘good’ of those who love Him
The Narnia books (by C. S. Lewis) describe Aslan as not a tame lion. In another place we read that Aslan is “not safe but he is good”. Though God is uncontainable we can be sure that He is good: in fact He is the very definition of what goodness means. Though we don’t always understand what God is doing the Bible tells us that He is always working for our good and His glory. We see this in Romans 8 which says that all things work together for the good of those who love Him:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.Romans 8:28-29
I think we try often try to take this out of context to say that will always bring us good but that is not what the verse says. Firstly it does not say that God will bring ‘good’ from each thing but in all things. He works to bring good from the culmination of what is happening in His world. There is a much bigger perspective than just us. Secondly we also try to read into this passage our own definition of what is good. Reading on to v29 what Paul is saying is that we have been predestined to be confirmed to the image of His Son. God will stop at nothing as He works unceasingly for our good. A big part of what this goodness looks like is seen in our transformation into the likeness of His Son. Sometimes it is the hard experience of life that help us most in this respect – often we find ourselves learning the hard way!
Many will have seen the hilarious film Bruce Almighty which stars Jim Carey and Morgan Freeman. Freeman (playing God) gives Carey (playing Bruce) some of his divine powers for a short time for him to experience what it might mean to be God. Bruce gets overwhelmed by the number of prayer requests and decides to answer them all with a yes. The result is not so much goodness, happiness and joy but chaos, rioting and disappointment. In saying to everyone who asked God to win the lottery there were actually no winners at all! Its a silly film but I think there is a lesson to be learned here: God knows what is best for us and His perspective of what is good is quite different to ours. While we might think we can do His job better the reality is quite a different matter!
Even the hardest things we face (and lest I say it even the corona-virus) can be used by God to bring about good both in our lives and in the lives of others. God is working to make us into the likeness of His Son. How that all works no-one can fathom but I trust that in time we might see glimpses of what God has been doing even through our pain and suffering. See the verse below about how Joseph came to see what had happened to him (at the hands of his brothers) actually turned out to be for the good of many.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”Genesis 50:20
So what do we do with a deeper understanding of the unfathomable wisdom of God? We need to trust that God is still on His throne and look for opportunities to get on board with what He is doing. In a flash God could heal our pain, destroy the corona-virus or give us that thing that we have so long desired. The fact that He hasn’t is part of the mystery of His purposes. In all things God works for the good of all who love Him and for His glory which He richly deserves. He alone knows what is ultimately best.
“God will stop at nothing as He works unceasingly for our good and for our transformation into the likeness of His Son.”
Next time you are tempted to wonder where the goodness is in all of this perhaps read Romans 8:28-29 and be reminded about what God is working to achieve in our lives.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”2 Corinthians 3:18
Other Posts in this series