Ephesians 3 seems to provide us with a contradiction about our perspective on the love of God.
Eph 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Eph 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
Eph 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
Eph 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Eph 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
We bow to God the father, and because of our faith, we have Jesus Christ in our hearts. As a result of that relationship we simultaneously know the love of Christ and also recognize that it passes knowledge. That almost seems like a contradiction. After all, how can we have knowledge of something that goes beyond what we know?
I think about this in relation to a human relationship. Think about your best friend. It would be safe to say that you know your best friend. Simultaneously though, there are parts of that friend that you don’t know. I think about my friends, and I think I would be able to say what any of them had for dinner last Tuesday. No one has perfect knowledge of anyone else’s life, but that does not stop us from claiming that we know people.
I think the same is true with the love of God. We might not always understand it or know everything about it, but we understand that it does exist because we have experienced it. This might appear to be a contradiction, but it doesn’t strike me as a particularly difficult one. We can know the love of God without knowing everything about our infinite Creator.
After the illustration in the first three chapters of Hosea of the prophet and his unfaithful wife, we are now moving to a discussion of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel and Judah in Hosea 4.
Hos 4:1 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
Hos 4:2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
Hos 4:3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
Hos 4:4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.
Hos 4:5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.
Because of the symptoms in the first two verses, they are going to fall. Because there is no knowledge of God and a blatant disregard for the commandments of God, the people are heading for destruction. However, I have to assume that they did not have any idea where they were going.
Most of these problems came up because of the lack of knowledge of God. That is why people didn’t know where they were heading, and if you take away the knowledge of God, you take away the prohibitions on all of these other issues.
That is why it is so important to make sure that we are actively reading the Bible and learning about God. If we don’t have that baseline, then we will continue going down the wrong path. If we don’t have anything to ground truth on, then all things are potentially okay for us to do.
That leads to the problems in verse two. We can morally permit doing bad things because we don’t have any reason to argue that they are wrong without objective truth. God provides that basis, and I think it is one of the most powerful argument for believing that there is a God.
Proverbs 3 is going to keep us on the same theme that we have been talking about for the past few days. We have these concepts of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. We have already established that they come from God. That has been rather obvious from the first two chapters of this book.
Now, we run into them again, and a lot of this ties back to what we talked about yesterday in Proverbs 2.
Pro 3:19 The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
Pro 3:20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
I think that this is so important. If you recall, yesterday I explained how if the Christian God is everything that we argue He is, then it makes sense that all things would be able to be brought back to Him. If there was some kind of knowledge in the design of the universe, you would be able to trace all knowledge to its origin which we believe is God.
Chapter 3 emphasizes this even farther. God is not just the source of knowledge, but He built it into creation. God used His wisdom to build the earth. He put His mind to the task of creation. That is why these things are built into the creation.
Think about it. Henry Ford designed the automobile. He had some knowledge, wisdom and understanding as he was creating that machine. You can see the evidence of his thought in that car. There is some type of intelligent design behind the building of that machine.
However, I don’t want to end there. By looking at the automobile, we can learn things. For example, by looking at an engine, I could learn something about mechanics or physics. Henry Ford didn’t necessarily build an automobile to teach me physics, but that knowledge comes along with the package.
I think the universe is similar. I don’t know if God explicitly built the universe to teach me biology. However, in building the universe in the way that it is, God made it possible that I could gain knowledge about biology. I hope that that parallel makes sense.
God is indeed the source of knowledge, but He has also made the universe in such a way that we can discover knowledge. It is not like we are injected with infinite knowledge the minute we are born. We can have that pursuit because God built it in.
Yesterday, I wrote about how we need to fear God before we can have knowledge and wisdom. I wrote about how we need to become anchored in the word of God to really learn who He is and develop this sense of fear and respect.
Proverbs 2 provides us with another way of developing this kind of fear of God. There is another way to learn about Him so that we will put Him in the right perspective.
Pro 2:2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Pro 2:3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
Pro 2:4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Pro 2:5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
In verse five, we are reaffirming that knowledge does come from God, so that is good. That hasn’t changed since the previous chapter. However, if you want to fear God, you need to be one who seeks after knowledge. I know that this is a radical concept, and it might be a little bit frightening. However, if we are really looking for knowledge, I am convinced that that pursuit will always lead us back to God.
Again, like I said yesterday, the secular world will tell you this is ridiculous, but I think that this is an important concept for all of us.
For example, I know that there can be fear of academic learning. Parents might worry that by sending their child to a secular college, it could rattle their faith. I am not trying to deny that it certainly could. However, this verse ought to be some type of comfort. If God really is that the base of everything and really is the ultimate Creator of everything, then eventually our pursuit of knowledge should lead us back to God if we are being intellectually honest. If God was not the Creator, then obviously that previous sentence does not apply, but if He is, it is certainly logical to assume that all knowledge will lead back to God.
I took a pair of classes in college called The Pursuit of Knowledge. It made me think of that as I was reading this passage. If you really try to follow knowledge wherever it leads, you are going to end up back with God if He is everything that we as Christians say He is.
Wow, I finally get to say that we are beginning a new book of the Bible. Welcome to Proverbs! I like Proverbs quite a bit, so I think that this should be very fun time.
Chapter 1 seems to be centered on a thesis.
Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
I think that in society today, a lot of people would like to say that the fear of God is the beginning of ignorance, but I guess that shows the differences in our worldviews.
We need to think about the implications of this verse though. We need to fear God if we are even going to begin finding knowledge. That is a rather bold statement. This also seems to imply that if you do not fear God, you do not have any knowledge at all.
However, on the surface that doesn’t seem to be quite right. There are plenty of people who are not God-fearing yet seem to have plenty of knowledge. For example, Sam Harris is a very talented philosopher. He obviously does not fear God, but he certainly has a lot of knowledge about the field of philosophy (even though I believe he is misguided).
I think that we are looking at a somewhat different definition of knowledge than simply facts. Look at the way that that particular verse is set up. It is almost like some type of parallel structure. Those who fear God are at the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
It seems like knowledge and despising wisdom and instruction are at odds here. Wise people do the first, and fools do the second. Therefore, if the fools did not despise wisdom and instruction, they would not be fools anymore. That is what makes them fools.
It seems as if in context, knowledge is being used to mean both wisdom and instruction. Obviously we can gain both of these things from the Bible, and we base our beliefs on the Bible when we respect and fear God. When we understand how great God is and how amazing His power is, we find that fear of God, and we are at the beginning of knowledge. The Bible is what helps us in that process. It can provide us with wisdom and instruction.
This is important stuff. I don’t think that this verse means that we can only learn 2+2 through the fear of God. There are clearly plenty of counterexamples to that one. However, when we look at the context of the verse, it seems to make quite a bit of sense that we need to be grounded in the word of God and learn to fear and respect Him along with the wisdom and teaching that He has given us.
Psalms 49 gives us a very comprehensive picture of the message of Christianity, and we find that it doesn’t really matter who you are.
Psa 49:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:
Psa 49:2 Both low and high, rich and poor, together.
The message we are about to hear cuts across socioeconomic class. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor; the message is for all.
We might as well continue to see what message is about to be shared.
Psa 49:11 Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.
Psa 49:12 Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.
Psa 49:13 This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah.
The message is that earthly things fade away. People who feel secure in their possessions are foolish. Even trusting in your own life is foolish because you will die just like an animal. Your time is limited and it will end.
What is the implication then?
If trusting in temporal things of earth is foolish, then I would presume that it is meaning that trusting in eternal things is wise. Those are the two options and if one is being differentiated as foolish, then it seems like the other is presumably wise.
Do we want to be wise? If we are following the Biblical definition of wisdom, then putting our trust in the eternal God seems like a good first step.
Pro 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Pro 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
We have now come to a sort of grand finale of Job’s speech in chapter 31 of the book named after him. Essentially, the entire chapter is a list of things that he could have done, and if he had done them, what the punishment fall on him.
Job 31:5 If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit;
Job 31:6 Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.
Most of the chapter goes on like this, but we ultimately come to what is a pivotal verse in my mind.
Job 31:35 Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.
He wishes that he had a complete description of the charges that have been brought against him. If God were to talk to him, and if he had literally have a book to read about what he had done wrong, he would appreciate it.
How often do we say things like this? Don’t we want to know God’s big picture plan right now?
I have to admit that I would like that very much. I would like to know why things have happened and what larger purpose there really is. This is particularly important for the bad times.
Interestingly, we are quite a bit better off than Job was. We actually have a book. It wasn’t written by our adversaries, but it does help explain why the world is the way it is. We understand that we do live in a fallen world, and even though there are a variety of explanations as to the problem of evil, I think we can all agree that evil is a reality. The Bible explains that. We know how sin entered the world, and we know how it will one day be eliminated.
Beyond that, even though we might not talk to God in the way that Moses seemed to be able to, we are able to get answers from that same Bible. It is certainly a theological book that deals with some heavy issues, but there is also quite a bit of practical, everyday knowledge. Maybe we don’t hear a booming voice coming down from the sky, but God does answer us through His Word.
I know that we all wish that we knew more. We wish that we could understand more about the nature of the world. I wish that as much as anyone else. However, humans are not omniscient. We all know that. Therefore, it is a good thing that we communication from One who is.
In Job 5, we continue to hear from Job’s friend Eliphaz the Temanite. Obviously, he has a lot to tell Job, but there’s one thing that I think fits very well with what I wrote yesterday. If you recall, Eliphaz had been telling Job that he essentially needed to get his act together. He knew what to tell other people when times got tough, but he was having a hard time dealing with it himself.
Job 5:17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:
Job 5:18 For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.
Now, although it is probably not what Job wanted to hear from his friend, Eliphaz is now telling him that he really shouldn’t worry about punishment because it must simply be correction from God.
On one level, we know that this is true. God does indeed use problems to get us back on track. Look at the story of Jonah. God brought a major storm because of him as a way to make him realize that he was wrong. On that level, it makes sense that Eliphaz would say this kind of thing. We know that is something within the character of God.
However, factually, we know that his statement was inaccurate. We know that Satan and God were having kind of a debate regarding whether or not Job could endure. It wasn’t necessarily that Job had done anything wrong, but of course his friend would not have known about this heavenly description that we have already read.
Also, while I do believe that the premise was accurate and that God does indeed use problems to get us back on track, we need to remember that our judgment is not always helpful. Again, he was factually inaccurate. Maybe we should be careful about passing judgment on any situation before we understand the details. Eliphaz automatically assumed the worst in this situation by thinking that Job must have done something bad and was being reprimanded.
Looking back over this first speech from Job’s friend, I think that on some level he was trying to help. However, he made some assumptions that were clearly problematic and should cause us to think a little bit more before we approach our friends who might be suffering or going through a really difficult time.
Nehemiah becomes even a better book in chapter 8. If you recall, the wall has just been completed, and now the people are beginning to build houses and internal structures.
However, they also had some other things going on while they were building.
Neh 8:2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
Neh 8:3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
These people were committed to a learning about the Bible (at least as much of the Old Testament as they had at that time). They knew that the Bible wasn’t meant to be something that was hidden away from the people. The leadership spoke about it in public so that all the people could understand.
I think that is something that we all need to really take seriously. The Bible is meant to be read by all of us on a daily basis if possible. We can’t expect our pastors to do all the Bible reading for us and then simply have us soak it in on a Sunday morning. Like I have told you before, that is part of the reason I started writing here. It held me accountable for getting in the Bible every day. It provides value.
Act 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
These people were considered more noble by the early church because they were in the Bible every day. They were putting in the effort outside of the traditional church services. They were listening to the world and actively engaging it with Scripture to discern truth.
We need to be like the people in Jerusalem with Nehemiah and Berea. They were engaged with Scripture. Remember, we don’t call it the Good Book for nothing.
I remember writing about this story before when it came up in a parallel passage, but I absolutely love the story in 2 Chronicles 18. Ahab, the king of Israel, wanted Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, to go to war with him. Jehoshaphat asked what the prophets said, and Ahab said they were okay with it. Jehoshaphat wanted more though.
2Ch 18:6 But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?
He wasn’t happy with just any type of prophet. He wanted one that would listen to God. He wanted one that would be drawing from the right source.
Sometimes, I think that we need to apply these filters to our own lives. For example, what if all of the smartest people in the world tell us one thing is okay, but the Bible itself tells us that is wrong? What are we going to use as the basis for our opinion? I don’t want to pin this discussion to any one issue, but if you think about it, there are plenty of areas where the values of the Bible don’t match up with the values that are commonly accepted in the world. We need to make a decision.
However, we also need to evaluate our motivations for that decision. For example, Ahab did not want to listen to the prophet of God for a very simple reason.
2Ch 18:7 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
He did not want to listen to the word of God because it was simply not what he wanted to hear. I would argue that that is a pretty terrible a justification for a belief system. Dealing with any type of belief system involves discussions regarding the nature of absolute truth. In fact, even if you are of the belief system that truth is relative, you are still making an absolute declaration about that fact.
Therefore, in dealing with some type of absolute, our opinion on the absolute is somewhat irrelevant. If something is the way it is, we are not going to change it just because we don’t like it. Our preferences do not change an absolute.
Ahab was arguing that his belief system was based on what he wanted to hear, but as we all know, you might like something today but not tomorrow. Our interests are by no means absolute. With a relative belief system, you really don’t believe in anything but rather any amount of things.
I really like this passage. I think that it illustrates what can happen when we end up in a situation where we want the truth to become relative. Ahab was only interested in hearing what he wanted to hear. We need to be careful where we base our belief system.