The God Beyond Our Understanding
In so many words, a thirty-something asked me this question the other day: God is unfathomable anyway, so what’s the point of trying to figure Him out? And I believe it’s one of the best questions one can ask. It’s a great question first of all, because of the truth present within the question. God is unfathomable. God tells us directly and plainly:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For 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
And it’s good that He’s beyond our understanding. As it’s been said, a God who’s small enough to understand isn’t big enough to worship. So my thirty-something friend is right. Without question, God is beyond our comprehension.
Explaining Quantum Physics To Sheep Herders
At one point in our conversation my friend said, To me the Bible is like God trying to explain quantum physics to sheep herders.
And indeed it is. It is like God trying to explain quantum physics to sheep herders. Consider Ezekiel’s vision from the book of Ezekiel chapter 1. In it he speaks of four creatures who sparkled like burnished bronze with four wings and four faces. And each creature had a wheel below him. And the spirit of the the creatures was in the wheels. And each wheel was full of eyes. And over the heads of the creatures was a shining expanse like awe-inspiring crystal. And above the expanse was a throne with a gleaming humanoid seated on it.
That is amazing. That vision is amazing because it’s amazingly strange. It’s no wonder that Ezekiel, when he saw this, fell on his face. Who can make sense of such a vision this side of heaven?
Should We Throw Up Our Hands?
So given the boundless unfathomability of God’s nature, why should I even try to figure Him out? It would be impossible to figure out God, it would even be arrogant to try, wouldn’t it?
I think there’s some merit to that line of thinking. Some theologians present their personal speculation as though it were the most concrete immutable fact imaginable. And that’s not right. But what happens to people who throw up their hands and give up on understanding God altogether?
It might sound funny but when I think of that question I’m reminded of women. I’m reminded of what happens on a practical level when we throw up our hands in relationships with our wives. For me, and for most men–oh all right then, for all men–women are unfathomable. I’ll never come close to fully understanding my wife, because she’s a woman, and I’m a man. But what works on a practical level? If I throw up my hands and stop trying, the relationship dies. When I ignore what I do understand about my wife and focus on what I don’t understand, a great chasm forms between us. The roots of our relationship aren’t watered or nourished and we, as a married couple, wither.
The same thing happens in our relationship with God. When I become distracted from what I do understand, the roots of my relationship with God aren’t watered or nourished. And a chasm forms between us. And our relationship, pictured in the scripture as a Husband and His bride, also withers.
How He Loves Us
It works that way from God’s side too. But God is always faithful to love us. And He communicated His love for us most emphatically by coming to us in human form, and dying on our behalf. He communicated His love for us by sacrificing His own son. There is no greater love than this. He also communicates His love for us with His words in His scriptures. The words spoken by His son Jesus, the words written by the Apostles, and the Tanakh, the Old Testament scriptures we see endorsed by Jesus.
And He loves us so much He gave us scriptures that we do understand. And that which we understand is spoken of by Jesus. He said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24) You know for thirty years I had this verse edited in my head so Jesus said, Everyone who believes on me will be like a wise man who built on the rock. That is so much easier! But that’s not what He said. He said to do. He said for us to do what He said to do. So God’s expectation for us is to do those parts of the Bible we do understand. If we want that solid foundation, whatever Jesus says to do, we’re to do, in response to His great love for us.
It’s because He loves us that He wants us to act on Jesus’ words. There are blessings associated with following the words of Jesus. And the consequences of doing otherwise are given in the very next verse after Matthew 7:24.
What Ezekiel Did
It’s worth noting that when Ezekiel did encounter an unfathomable vision of God he fell on his face. (Ezekiel 1:28) I think that’s the appropriate response to our God who is too big to understand. His thoughts are so much bigger, His ways are so much higher, He is so much greater, and His love is so much larger: we’re at his mercy. There’s nothing left to do but to fall on our face and worship. There’s nothing left to do but to fall on our face and surrender ourselves to Him.
I think it’s also worth noting that God’s voice came from Ezekiel’s vision. And the main topic of discussion, what He spoke of, at length, was the problem of rebellion. What He communicated to Ezekiel in that vision was that He wants what any earthly father wants for his children: He desires for us to obey, for our own benefit. (Ezekiel 2)
There are amazing and un-understandable portions of scripture for sure. But from the portions of scripture we can understand, it’s clear that, out of love for His children, God desires us to obey. And on a practical level, focusing on the scripture we understand, and doing what that scripture instructs us to do will nourish our relationship with Christ.
Jesus said it directly and plainly:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…” -Jesus Christ, John 14:23
[Image via Gerard Van der Leun – Creative Commons]
The words spoken by His son Jesus, the words written by the Apostles, and the Tanakh, the Old Testament scriptures we see endorsed by Jesus:
This is so true,Kurt, as we see this connection in Psalm 78–
Psa 78:1 My people, give ear to my Torah #1, Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. Footnote: #1 In vv. 1-11 the words “teaching, words, witness, commands, covenant,” are used interchangeably, as parallels, almost synonymously. We find the same in Ps. 119.
Psa 78:2 I open my mouth in a parable; I utter riddles of old, [Prophecy78:1&2 fulfilled in Matthew 13:34-35-He would teach in parables and Matthew 7:29-To speak the wisdom of Elohim with authority]
Psa 78:3 Which we have heard and known, For our fathers have related them to us.
Psa 78:4 We do not hide them from their children, Relating to the generation to come the praises of Yehovah and His strength and His wonders which He has done.
Psa 78:5 For He raised a witness in Jacob, And set a Torah in Yisra’ĕl, Which He commanded our fathers, To teach them to their children;
Psa 78:6 That it might be known to a generation to come, To children who would be born, To rise up and relate them to their children,
Psa 78:7 And place their trust in Elohim, And not forget the works of Ěl, But watch over His commands,
Psa 78:8 And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation which did not prepare its heart, Whose spirit was not steadfast to Ěl.
Psa 78:9 The children of Ephrayim, armed bowmen, Turned back in the day of battle.
Psa 78:10 They did not guard the covenant of Elohim, And they refused to walk in His Torah,
Psa 78:11 And they forgot His deeds And His wonders which He had shown them.
Then we see in Exodus 19: Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
Exo 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
This covenant is BEDROCK (the very basis, the foundation). The Israelites broke the covenant through the golden calf episode. The Almighty broke His marriage covenant/ketubah/commandments with them through a writ of divorcement. We know, in order for a re-marriage the first husband had to have died; when Jesus died the renewed covenant took place for a Bride who would again “hear and obey” her Groom. This covenant is the circumcision of the heart.
Heb 7:22 By as much as this Jesus/Yeshua has become a guarantor of a better covenant.
Heb 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith Yahweh, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
Heb 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Then we have:
Luk_6:48 “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock. And when a flood came, the stream burst against that house, but was unable to shake it, for it was founded on the rock. [The word rock in Greek is petra, a mass of rock]
“…when a flood came..” reminds me of the enemy as mentioned here:
Isa 59:19 So shall they fear the name of Yahweh from the west, and his reputation from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of Yahweh shall lift up a standard against him.
Mat_7:26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not do them,1 shall be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, Footnote: 1John 3:36. [The word sand in Greek is ammos=as heaped on the beach]
Our God ROCKS! And His foundation is sure!