Mysteries are enticing, aren’t they? A good mystery novel gives us just enough information to work out who-done-it, but disguises it perfectly so we’re surprised.
The world’s greatest mysteries are tackled in theology or philosophy classrooms. Who is God? Who am I? Why does evil exist? Why does good exist? How do we know the difference? After all the intellectual activity, most of these great mysteries remain unsolved and our perceptions of the answers come from a germ of faith – faith in the Christian God, Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit, or faith in science or faith in some other god.
God is a mystery, but he has revealed just enough of himself to make known that has done it; he’s real, he loves us, and he has saved us from ourselves. Actually, he’s exposed quite a lot of himself throughout the Bible, but much of our reality is still a mystery.
And I want to figure it out. I want deeper understanding. I want to know God better.
I’ll never figure it all out, and I may gain deeper understanding, but I’m sure that I will know God better, because that is what he desires for all of us. Maybe the way to know him better is to rest in the mysterious, and sometimes perplexing, God as revealed in the Bible. He has revealed just enough.
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7
It’s easy to rest in a God who is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving our sins, and the Bible reveals that all of those attributes are true. But that last sentence is also true. That’s where reality gets complicated, and that’s where faith is important.
I recently read a book, Restless Faith: Hanging On to a God Just Out of Reach, by Winn Collier, that was inspired by the Old Testament prophet Malachi. Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament, and it is not easy reading. Collier describes the mysterious God we are confronted with in Malachi.
He disrupts their ease by dismantling their construction of a quaint God who can be easily managed, hoping for a little and requiring even less. He charges through a litany of bewildering realities. God will hate Esau if he so chooses. God will curse and ravage when he deems it necessary. God will answer prayers – or not – at the time he considers appropriate. God will entice beauty and bless with silence. God will, at times, allow the wicked to seemingly go unpunished while the righteous writhe in despair. He will not be robbed. He will not be coerced. He will do what he will do. When he chooses. How he chooses. He is God. Restless Faith: Hanging On to a God Just Out of Reach, by Winn Collier.
That is much more difficult to absorb, but it is also true.
If you turn a page after the end of Malachi you’ll read of the genealogy and birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus became man to live in our messed up reality and to experience temptation, fatigue, illness, sorrow, loneliness and human love, delight, family and satisfaction. God himself entered our mysterious reality.
Christianity is the only religion that opens a window to that astonishing truth, and when you see this world through a lens of faith in Jesus Christ, you will see much more of God.
Jesus lived on this earth for about 33 years, the first 30 of which there is not much known. He was a baby, a child, and he grew up to be a carpenter. One day, he knew that it was time to begin his official ministry and he took the first steps toward the sacrifice that he would make.
His followers were early adopters of the mystery of Jesus Christ, and they marveled at the miracles that he did. They began to understand that he was the Messiah. But Jesus, the Messiah, attracted too much attention for religious and Roman leaders. They didn’t like it, and on a Passover celebration, which was no accident, Jesus was crucified as the final and perfect Passover lamb.
The followers of Jesus must have been horrified, shell shocked. How could this happen? Where was God? Jesus was the Messiah, and now he is dead!
The love of God was perfectly on display at the cross. He loves us so much that he sent his son to be a sacrifice for us, and at the same time he judged evil in the world by placing it on Jesus.
It was all part of God’s mysterious plan.
Perhaps if I rest in the mystery, recognize that it is beyond me, stop trying to work everything out in my mind, I’ll grow closer to him. Maybe the secret is not so much study as it is worship of an awesome God who is far beyond any human understanding.
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3