Every now and then, the God of the Word, throws one out that totally spins my little brain.
Isaiah 48:14-15 (English Standard Version)
14"Assemble, all of you, and listen!
Who among them has declared these things?
The LORD loves him;
he shall perform his purpose on Babylon,
and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans.
15I, even I, have spoken and called him;
I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way.
When I read this I had to stop- and then I had to go back and search out other English translations of the Bible here. The majority of the translations use the term 'love' here though the NIV uses 'ally'.
Who is this 'him'? This is Cyrus- the chosen instrument of siege and destruction- founder of the Persian empire. Now there could be an obvious reason in that Cyrus freed the Israelites and anyone who does good to His children get loved and blessed- but there is something even deeper here.
It is the mystery of God's sovereignty, I have never had a problem with language that denoted God using the choices of man to accomplish His purposes- but here is the language of relationship - "I love him and will see to it his prosperity". Things that make you go - hmmmmmm. There is much more I could go into here- including our natural propensity to 'domesticate God and elevate man' but for now I will just leave it as hmmmm.
Typical of me- I am reading about 4 books at one time and they all end-up flowing together.
In Os Guinness'- The Call- He makes a point out of the controversial novella, The Portage to San Cistobal of A.H. by Steiner ( a Jewish writer). I had not heard of this work before- but it is a scathing story of Nazi hunters finding Adolf Hitler hiding out in Brazil and the book allows Hitler to defend his actions. The scandal of this book is that Hitler justifies his regime by pointing to the mono-theistic, transcendental God of the Israelites and the implications of their faith and practice.
Critics were mixed on how to respond to such a work. Some praised Steiner for creative ingenuity and some were appalled.
Guinness uses this work to explore the idea of 'letting God be God' and how far removed we are from the concept of "God' and the ability to accept "authority'. I felt like Guinness was pressing two major points:
First, is that ideas, philosophy, and beliefs have consequences. As we make decisions- they ultimately flow out of what we believe and who we are- so we need to always be molded in these areas by TRUTH. We must stay in the Word and seek to reason by the Spirit. We do not need to fear in our straining at the details of theology. Yes, it has to be more than reason- but it is OK to search out these things and seek a God-honoring articulation of the system. And you know by now that I am biased. All the struggle will never produce anything close to the Westminster Confession of Faith- but no need to fear in our chewing on it and struggling to apply it to our current culture. I love this quote by the Rev.Art Azurdia:
"We must crush the spirit of this age under our feet that says, 'I don’t want to think, I want to feel'. You may say, 'Who can understand domain of theologians?' But theological lumber is something you cannot live without. It is not a philosophical conundrum for the intellectual elite. God’s sovereignty is a soft pillow for a weary head. It is comfort to a church under attack and Christians facing opposition, even martyrdom.”
Secondly, and this is crucial, we must be 'self-suspicious' in these decisions knowing that our hearts are deceitfully wicked. We can rationalize and choose solely based on our selfish desires and wrap them in words of light and beauty. How dangerous is this? How vulnerable am I to this? Look at the quote below from a review of Steiner's book.
“The organizer of Steiner's posse is careful to warn his agents by radio not to let their prisoner speak while they march him out of the jungle (A.H.). "When He made the Word, God made possible also its contrary," says Emmanuel Lieber,…"He created on the night side of language a speech for hell ... There shall come a man who ... will know the grammar of hell and teach it to others. He will know the sounds of madness and loathing and make them seem music’.”
Lawrence Malkin,Otto Friedrich -Teaching the Grammar of Hell- Review of The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (Steiner) Time Magazine 3/29/1982
Knowing that I will making a major decision in the next few weeks has put me on high alert to seeking God out. I will need supernatural intrusion to step in the right path. It will never be a perfectly marked road and there will be parts that will not match up like a piece of a puzzle.
I am asking my wife to join me in this and we must spend time reading the Word, praying, and even desire to have some fasting involved. It is an active pursuit- we must do our homework. At the same time- we need to ask that God will make it clear.
I have developed a 'decision grid' to help make the call- and will share it at some point.
The bottom line is that it will be a step of faith as well. A simple trust that we tried and now have to believe that God will be with us. It is hard changing ladders- but God has clearly spoken- there is another path that He has for us that will lead higher.
I am also open to the idea that I have to be working and God may throw me a curve ball even at this late stage. It always brings me back to Emerson. The quotes below are beautiful IF they are put in the right context of following Jesus as Lord. I see God's mysterious sovereignty differently. Some men hide behind 'God's will' and never really act. They see God working while they sit slow and still.
I want to see God's providence take place as I GO HARD. Yes, willing to wait on clarity. Yes, willing to submit and be joyful even if the way is hard. Yes, willing to go against the grain and possibly be misunderstood. It also means choosing when I am not trustworthy to choose. It means acting where I may not be 'qualified' to succeed. But there is something beautiful in the process. God does not call the 'qualified'; he equips the called.
All of this is chaos and it will converge (one day) on one big "Green!... Go!.... Who will I send?.... "
"Send me Lord, the foolish one who is willing to trust....."
From 'Self Reliance":
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. ...We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace...Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most requests is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs...A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson-
And I hope I mean this when I say it: 'Not for me, not for me- but for God's name be the glory. Let the light He has given me shine before men so that they glorify Him. ' So easy to say. Impossible to do......without Him to do it.