Note from Julie: Eric also wanted to mention that registration for CPC’s summer youth camp on Whidbey Island is open until June 23. 7th-12th graders are invited to come! You can find more info and register on our website.
Occasionally something occurs to you with such force that though you already know it, it seems new and striking. I’ve had that experience over the last 18 months with regard to what is variously called trust in God, or seeing God, or believing in him to a greater degree than I believe in all the other forces swirling around me. Some of that renewed awareness is due to my son’s PhD thesis on what it means to “see” God, given the fact that God is invisible and “no man can see God and live” (Ex. 33:20). But in reading the OT, I’m struck again and again by the Lord’s expectation that we must see, in the midst of all the smoke-and-mirrors of the material world, the overarching truth of who God is and what he is doing.
With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along this email exchange with Luke from earlier this week. I’ll try to explain the things that are unclear. You may have to work to understand some things Luke says, but that’s a muscle worth exercising. We never grow so much in the faith as when we are willing to re-read paragraphs in difficult books. It’s never wise to dismiss things just because we don’t get them the first time.
From me to Luke
Reading Isaiah this morning.
“They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord,
or see the work of his hands.”
I think I’ve subconsciously assumed nearly all my life that at some point in the past the works of God were plainly visible. Ancient people could see them (and him). I suppose I’ve read the prophets this way: that only because the hand of God was so visible were Israel and Judah held to such strict account. Similarly, theophanies like the pillars of cloud/fire made engaging God a two-dimensional transaction, matter-of-fact and given. Now I’m thinking, what if it was always about having eyes to see and ears to hear? What if he’s never really been easily seen and in those places in Scripture where “everybody” could see him, that wasn’t actually the case? What if it’s always been just as it is now?
Of course, as a teacher I’ve always known this, in a way. I’ve (almost) always known that faith was the key. But simultaneously, operating just beneath consciousness, was the assumption I’m trying to explain.
Part of what this would mean is that my personal struggle to see/hear/trust/rest is a struggle shared with all the great figures of Scripture. I could take more strength from them. In the moments they were confident and bold, they had no more to go on than I do now. My subconscious impulse to wait for a clearer moment, that day when all doubts are removed, is not coming: the moment is now. Isn’t that what Moses is saying:
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
Anyway, wrestling with this. What if I CAN see? What if I DO know? What if I’m not to wait for the perfect moment, but the moment is now. It’s weird: I’ve always known this was true, and I’ve never known it.
Praying sun and warmth for you — Pops
From Luke to me
That’s really interesting in light of Jesus’ denial of the Jews’ ability to find eternal life in their search of the Scriptures juxtaposed with his claim that if they had believed Moses they would believe him [that’s at the end of Jn 5]. Regarding the Deuteronomy thing there’s this concept of “compressed inter-generational memory” in Judaism which claims the experience of Sinai–the theophany and the law-giving as a first-hand sensory experience for each subsequent generation of Jews. Really interesting. [He’s saying there’s a theory that all Jews, by virtue of their ethnicity, have an embedded memory of Moses’ giving them the law.]
Also in light of 2 Peter 1:17–21:
“For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
[Peter is saying reading Scripture is an actual experience of God himself.]
[And here is the same idea in John.] And also in light of John 20:30-31 in which the semeia [signs] Jesus has performed now exist “in this book” as a means of creating a faith equal to Thomas’ response to his encounter with the risen Jesus. Which is to say that John sees no difference in the quality of belief that his gospel could cultivate vs. an actual encounter with Christ himself. [Meaning, our experience of reading the Bible is, to John, the same as Thomas’ experience of touching Jesus.]
Anyway — when I was a kid I always thought the OT people had it easier. God always told them what to do and how to do it and it seemed like all evil was external — you just went out and killed Philistines (piece of cake); but now, of course, I see in myself their inability to trust and follow through — even though I am one who has inherited the results of “the day that Abraham longed to see.”
So, I’m with you on that. I think what has always been invisible is never really the sensory phenomena so much as the understanding of what it demands from us. Bultmann felt he could separate the demand from the sensory, but that’s where he let modernity lead him astray.
Also, you haven’t been praying very hard, because it is wet wet wet and cold here.
Love you. And you should be a little bit excited for Father’s day.