Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Luther Said!

Matthew 15:22-28, "...behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed. But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

  But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour."

There are many methods by which the providence of God is displayed. His grace is sometimes deployed in some vexing and dark ways, which are difficult to explain, yet are viable expressions of an omnipotent, sovereign and loving God. This story seeks to give hope, in some part, and faith in the greater part, by giving us a view to the mystical, perplexing, often cited as malevolent, inexplicable workings of God. The ways of God are not really what is in question, or are ever to be questioned, but what is to be questioned is our understanding and our abilities to understand the intents and purposes of God. As C.S. Lewis so succinctly expresses, "Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them—never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?" What disturbed Lewis most was not the thought that God does not exist. Rather, it was the thought that he does exist, and that he may inflict pain for reasons we do not recognize as positive or even ethical: "What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, 'good'? Doesn't all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite?"

What atheist and agnostic philosophers view as insensitivity and a callous and contemptuous attitude towards suffering and pain, God uses as a means and methodology for the outworking of the faith of those who are humble. A recognition of a need for God is first and foremost an expression of humility and worship. In order to believe we must first acknowledge a need and dependencyy which cannot be satisfied by anything we can do ourselves. Our response to a premise that God is in control and able to change our life's course and situation must be characterized by the complete absence of pride and self-reliance. This attitude is a precursor to believing and sustaining faith.  

This begs the question, What of the answer 'No'?

In this instance faith's victory was answered by 'Yes'. Is there a faith victory when the answer is 'No'? What of the despair and turmoil created by the absence of the answer. What of the desperation when there is no where else to turn, when all hope has faded, when all other help is in vain and still God is quiet.
Luther said, "This shows how our heart feels in despondency. It seems nothing but a plain no. Therefore it must turn to the deep hidden yes under the no and hold with a firm faith to God's Word." How easy it is to grasp a quote or say words that are meant to encourage. How empty those words can be when a person is faced with an absolute unchangeable event from which there is no rescue. To express thoughts in a subjective context without understanding the personal experience of the loss of God's presence is a failure to be sensitive and compassionate. For a Christian to possibly doubt in this instance, or perhaps to question, is a plausible outcome, but with understanding there should be an expectation of a fruitful and greater theology developed.  What is so presumptuous is to expect it to be easy. Just as pain and sufferring are difficult to bear, so it is with faith. We would rather be justified by extravagance then sanctified by austerity. Job 5:18, "For He (God) bruises (inflicts pain), and He (God) binds up (gives relief); He wounds, but His hands make whole." This is not a condemnation of a sinner, nor the affirmation of a saint  



"That there may be room for faith," Luther insisted, "everything which is believed must be concealed. Thus when God brings to life, he does it by killing; when he justifies, he does it by making guilty; when he exalts to heaven, he does it by leading to hell." This paradoxical vision comes most powerfully in the story of the Savior who is born into poverty, rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and ends up being judicially murdered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great quote John..lots to ponder on