From the Pastor: I Love A Good Debate
“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool. –Isaiah 1:18
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations. -Psalm 33:11
I once heard a man begin his prayer like this: “Lord, if you really think about it…”
Well, how smart is God? We may not often think of intelligence as being one of God’s characteristics. It’s not usually listed in a course on the Nature of God. We spend more time on the traditional aspects that apply to him alone: his omniscience, omnipotence, immutability, and so forth.
But intelligence? Intelligence seems mundane for God. But, of course, he must be intelligent, for he designed and created the entire universe, among the many other impossible things he does. So then, why do we frequently speak of him as though he’s not very good or very bright? So many of our questions imply we think God is stupid or unjust:
-Why would God create a world with evil in it?
-Why would God allow so much suffering in his world if he’s so good?
-What rational purpose would God possibly have for letting this happen?
-(Your own question here!)
Have you ever found yourself thinking, If I were God I wouldn’t have done it that way? Or have you said, When I get to heaven I’ve got plenty of questions God’s going to have to answer?
If you ever feel that way, take your questions to God. Far from being anti-intellectual and judgmental, as so many think, God has a respect for the intellect, for true learning, for solid reasoning, and he has a taste for a good, old-fashioned debate. He enjoys helping us get to know and trust him
In the book of Job, when God’s ways are being questioned, or even misrepresented, a series of conversations ensues where human wisdom and advice are offered. Finally, God breaks in (one of my favorite verses in the Bible) and answers:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:2-3).
And then, for two full chapters, God begins with,
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).
He poses a long list of questions that imply his brilliant and superior intelligence and wisdom over the limited reasoning and flimsy mental capacity of human beings. I highly recommended reading these two chapters.
Again, through the prophet Isaiah, God invites his people, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). He is in dialogue with them over their sin and his plans for removing the stain and deadly consequences of human foolishness.
In the Gospels, Jesus engages the contemporary scholars and wise men in conversations that expose both their faulty reasoning and his high intelligence. In a number of cases, his challengers, as well as bystanders, were both amazed and amused at the cleverness of Jesus’ answers. While reading these accounts, have you found yourself saying, “I don’t get the point. What exactly was Jesus saying here?” And then, after some reflection, it becomes clear, “What a brilliant answer!”
Jesus’ contemporaries frequently slandered him: a deceiver, drunkard, glutton, false prophet, and even called him demon possessed. But no one ever accused him of being stupid. If he came to reveal the nature and character of God himself, then clearly one of the things we learn about our Creator is that he’s brilliant beyond measure.
So let’s revisit the first questions and personalize them:
-Why would God permit pain and suffering in my life?
-Why would God take my loved one from me?
-How could God let me lose everything I own?
-Why would God not step in and save me?
“In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old “(Isaiah 63:9).
God feels our pain. He grieves with us when we grieve. Whatever reason he may have for permitting terrible events, he goes through them with us, comforts and encourages us, and, in time, brings good out of evil. He wants us to learn to lean on him and to trust that his reason is an excellent one, intended for our best. In Jeremiah, we learn of God’s promise,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Again, a few chapters later, God reiterates his permanent love and care for us,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Let us rejoice and be confident that we serve a smart God who knows all things, and has a plan to lead us to a final, joy-filled destination.
“’declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose…,
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it’” -Isaiah 46:10-11
Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash