REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 51: Secret things that lead to certainty.
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law [Deuteronomy 29:29].
What wonderful assurance is found here, reminding us that God is far greater than we. We don’t know everything, which is what we ought to expect, given our sinfulness and smallness. Yes, we are made in God’s image but we dare not create a God in our own, with the expectation that he/she/it must be like us, or even worse, like a puppet do what we demand. It has been quipped that ever since God made us in His image, men and women have returned the compliment by re-making Him in their own! Mercifully there is no need for us to fall into this folly, since God has made Himself known to us, and for our good. In a general way through creation [Romans 1:18-23], in our conscience [2:14-16], through Israel and the law [ 3:1-20] but specifically, finally and most clearly through Jesus Christ [ 3:21-26].
What God reveals in these chapters is that He had to reveal Himself clearly, since we routinely and sinfully sell Him short through one kind of idolatry or another. We all fall short of His glory as Romans 3:23 makes plain. This ought not surprise us, with the evidence of our own hearts and behaviour confirming this Biblical analysis of human nature. For example we tend to take Him for granted and fail to thank Him [thus proving the grim reality of Romans 1:21ff] and so easily justify our failings, by blaming others, rather than owning up and making restitution [as 2:12-16 suggests]. From cover to cover in the Bible we see our wilfulness in ignoring or disobeying Him. But mercifully we see God revealing His plan to convict, then captivate with the beauty of His grace through Christ and conform us to the image of Christ through the Holy Spirit in us and our obedience to the Spirit given Scriptures [2 Peter 1:21].
This revelation completed by Christ and His appointed apostles [Hebrews 1:1-4] opens us up to the fulfilment of the secret of Deut. 29:29 which is fulfilled in the gospel [Matt 5:17, Acts 15:13-18, Gal 4:4-7, Eph 1:3-11,2:11-3:21, Col 1:24-29, 1 Pet 1:10-12]. There are still many things that we don’t know about God’s purposes, in the pandemic for example. It is good to be humble about this. Not least because it causes us to cast ourselves upon Him and to rejoice, and be sustained and nourished in what has been revealed for all of us in the public domain Bible. These include:
[i] That God is in control of all things since He is Sovereign. Nothing takes Him by surprise and is without purpose in His hands [Job 1:1-22 and 38-42, Psalm 24, 73, Colossians 1:15-20].
[ii] That God is good and loving in all that He does; whether in judgement of the unrepentant or discipline of His children [Psalm 25:8-10,29, 118:1,29; Hebrews 12:4-13, Rom 8:31-39, Eph 3:14-21, Psalm 103:11-18].
[iii] That disasters are clearly opportunities for us to take stock. Individually [1 Cor 10:12] and corporately as we consider what He might be wanting to remind us of: perhaps our rebellion, our inability to control everything [which we already should know since none of us escapes death], our self-focus as a prosperous nation, disregard for the unborn, or very likely of the many ways we display disobedience as churches [Revelation 2-3].
[iv] That all of this is designed to be remedial, leading us to repentance. This is the tenor of our Lord in His teaching [Luke 13:1-5], patient warnings [Luke 6:24-26]. Where even these strong woes seem to be designed to cause us to see the folly of wasted opportunities to consider that there is far more that He would give than earthly riches and temporal laughter. His purpose to save us from the regrets of hell, where the weeping will certainly include the missed opportunity of sharing temporal, and now, His eternal blessings 6:20-23].
[v] That our Father is no flatterer. He is a gracious Father whose only design [is] your dross to consume and your gold to refine [From the hymn: How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord. Each verse is full of comfort]. A truth made plain in Rom 8:28-29, where His design in all circumstances is crystal clear: that we might be conformed to the likeness of His Son , even when we cannot fathom why it is happening. No greater kindness could be afforded us, since He endured all the pain and consequences of our pan-demic = all-people, namely our diagnosed, universal sinfulness [Romans 3:23]. Where this famous verdict, defines our sin as falling short of God’s glory, and all have sinned: our shared universal condition. Pain now, that we might embrace, the pan-demical Saviour [Rom 5:12-19].
[vi] Paul’s doxology [Rom 11:33-36] allows the revealed truths to enable our rejoicing in the unknowns: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements, & his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him & to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Peter Brain 24th November, 2020