Sunday, December 8, 2013

A seeing

The Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:21-22

I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.” Jeremiah 33:8

Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for His steadfast love endures forever!

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins writes, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

As I considered the God of Noah yesterday and Dawkins’ accusation, Scott Holmberg sent me a quote from Karl Barth, on God revealed. God is not hidden to us; He is revealed. And as I reflect on the nature of God and His relationship with His created earth, particularly with human beings as detailed in the Scriptures, this is the heart of the question of Dawkins observations.

While All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that we may be complete, equipped for every good work, the man part of the conversation has a long way to go in understanding the dialogue. We are not so good at noticing the heavens declaring, the God walking in the garden at dusk, the preciousness of each image bearer. We just don’t get it.  It’s sort of like me talking to Jincheng in English. There’s a lot he doesn’t get. So I have to try again and again, with lots of hand motions and demonstrations and rephrasing.

And the story of Noah and the story of Sodom and the story of Egypt and the story of Jericho is part of the big story. The story of redemption of a broken world and the real consequences of eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and how evil is evil, and how good is good.

And we need to learn how to grieve over this brokenness. And to rejoice over the restoration. Maybe that is why David was such a man after the heart of God because he gave to mankind the words to articulate this growing and deepening relationship of God with His creation.

And quite honestly, if snapshots of this process, moments captured in time, were all that there were of this story, Dawkins might have an accurate accusation.  But life is not simply snapshots of bleak winters and cold iciness and howling winds. There are springs of splashing waterfalls and columbines and life springing forth. In my life and across the ages.

And somehow, even as God was speaking the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil into existence, He knew the end of the story, the spring at the end of winter. And it was good. Very good.

Back to Karl:
God is not hidden to us; He is revealed. But what and how we shall be in Christ, and what and how the World will be in Christ at the end of God’s road, at the breaking in of redemption and completion, that is not revealed to us; that is hidden. Let us be honest: we do not know what we are saying when we speak of Jesus Christ’s coming again in judgment, and of the resurrection of the dead, of eternal life and eternal death. That with all these there will be bound up a piercing revelationa seeing, compared to which all our present vision will have been blindnessis too often testified in Scripture for us to feel we ought to prepare ourselves for it. For we do not know what will be revealed when the last covering is removed from our eyes, from all eyes: how we shall behold one another and what we shall be to one anothermen of today and men of past centuries and millennia, ancestors and descendants, husbands and wives, wise and foolish, oppressors and oppressed, traitors and betrayed, murderers and murdered, West and East, Germans and others, Christians, Jews, and heathen, orthodox and heretics, Catholics and Protestants, Lutherans and Reformed; upon what divisions and unions, what confrontations and cross-connections the seals of all books will be opened; how much will seem small and unimportant to us then, how much will only then appear great and important; for what surprises of all kinds we must prepare ourselves. We also do not know what Nature, as the cosmos in which we have lived and still live here and now, will be for us then; what the constellations, the sea, the broad valleys and heights, which we see and know now, will say and mean then.”

We had a seer visit 220 South Country Club Road Thursday night. As in one who sees. And someone asked him what is saw in the sort of bedraggled adobe house with stacks of books and stuff from all over the world and stacks of empty dishes from Nicole’s dinner of squash soup and Flammkuchen, but you couldn’t really notice them so much because of the candles and little twinkly lights and a fire in the fireplace.

And he spoke of a great tall angel standing by the front door with a massive sharp and powerful sword. But the sword was not to protect the house, rather to slice off the cares and concerns and even dark heavy brokenness burdens of those who walked in, a place of refuge.  And he spoke of an angel skipping through the clutter, swinging scarfs of joy. And then he pointed to my chair over by the desk Alan made for me when we just returned from Mexico, and he said that he saw an angel of intercession sitting there. Quiet and not-so-noticed, but just as strong and mighty as the shining one soaring up through the roof over by the stack of Alan drums.

And this is a clear reminder that until that final day of revelation, the seeing, compared to which all our present vision will have been blindness, perhaps mostly what I can do is join ol’ Paul on his knees: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.