Believe me, trying to fulfil my post as a domestic window cleaner this week presented a challenge - particularly on Wednesday, when the gentle rain continued to fall without abatement, making me feel cold and damp, even though I was wearing a heavy raincoat - as I did just about all the time I was out of doors throughout January, whether for work or otherwise, this year recorded as the wettest since records began. Although cold and hungry I might have felt at times, there are surprising gems that I come across during the daily house-to-house call.
Like the daughter of one customer who was kind enough to offer me a cup of coffee. While I paused in my work to sip on the welcoming drink, I watched the little girl play happily in the lounge through the wide patio window which I was about to clean. She was between two to three years old, whose older sister was already attending school. Her bovine eyes, wide with curiosity, settled on me as if calculating whether I was there for good or ill. Deciding that I bode no ill, she smiled a little.
It is times like these that Psalm 139 comes into mind. This, I believe, is one of the bastion of Scripture which hints at the Eternal Security of the Believer. Nothing like the Omnipresence and the Omniscience of God can be described so lucidly as here:
Oh LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise from the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
The psalm then goes on -
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I'm fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Then suddenly in verse 19, King David, who penned the song, takes a sudden and rather abrupt turn:
If only you would slay the wicked, O God!...Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
If only you would slay the wicked...but God doesn't, because he waits patiently for the wicked to repent, that is to believe in the coming Messiah, the Consolation of Israel, and to demonstrate such faith by doing good to others. But with the first 18 verses, the little child I saw through the window comes to mind. I recall when the mother was pregnant with her, and she was being knitted together in secret, at a place no one can see, at least not until the invention of the ultrasound scan. How the genetic code found in the DNA inherited from both parents resulted in the formation of the perfect human body, with the heart beating at the right rate, the plasma crammed with red and white blood cells, the functioning of vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, the lungs, nervous system, and many other functions which is vital to life. And talking of the kidneys, without human hands, these magnificent machines were made to filter impurities from the bloodstream without a single red cell passing through into the urine by mistake. And not to mention the vast complexities of the immune system, and the platelets which cause the blood to clot when exposed to air, therefore sealing the wound before the injured person bleeds to death. Yet all of these were already in place even before the child is born, as if anticipating the world outside the womb and being fully prepared for what's to come.
So in the above psalm, it seems strange to ask God to destroy the very creation he himself had designed and made, and David's justifying his hatred of them. This sort of reasoning had made me wonder in the past, and sometimes comes up from time to time in the present as well, about the love God has for us. As mentioned in these blogs already, the human cell is a dizzying complex structure, the very nucleus itself, so small that it's invisible to the naked eye, is far more complex than the whole of New York City. Yet it's existence must be the very demonstration of God love, which he created for his own pleasure, a hint that the Creator's initial desire was for mankind to share in the wonderful, magnificent love that had eternally existed between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
And one of the best demonstrations of God's love is between husband and wife, and I say this as a married man myself. Having my own wife ill in hospital for so long throughout last year had made me realise how precious she is, and will always be to me. And I suppose I can extend this loving care towards pet owners and their love for their dogs, cats, rodents, birds, even fishes (I have an aquarium) I think this love for certain animals in the home is a relic of a much greater and wider care mankind was meant to have towards all creation before the Fall. But the irony of it all is that the love returned to the human by the animal kingdom is extremely limited. Both the horse and the dog may show a degree of loyalty to its owner. But the cat, hamster, budgie and the fish, all household pets, don't rate their owners as much as their own space and comfort. Some 25 years ago, while setting off to work one typical morning, an elderly gent called out to me for help. I rushed to his apartment to see a canary flying around the room, and beating against the closed window. I managed to grab it and gently returned the bird to its cage, much to the gratitude of the elderly widower. Obviously, the bird had a greater desire for freedom than any loyalty to its owner, no matter how well it was treated and loved. And this is why, I think, all windows should be shut if the owner wants to let his budgie out of its cage for a while.
And so it was at London Zoo, which main entrance I sauntered past a few years ago. Separate from the main entrance used by the general public, I was amused to see an entrance for VIPs (Very Important Person). We as humans regard celebrities with a high regard, along with greater respect for the better educated. I watched at both Leicester Square in London and at 3rd Street Santa Monica, crowds gathering when a movie star made an appearance (the crowds in London were more extensive.) And whenever the Royal Family celebrate an important occasion, vast crowds gather at the Mall. But if a famous actor, singer, sportsman, or for that matter, a politician, or even the Queen herself with all her bodyguards, were to enter the zoo through the VIP entrance, and saunter past each of the enclosures, how would those beasts in captivity re-act? Would the giraffe bow its long neck at the VIP? Would the elephants gather for attention? Would the primates stop their screeching and bow a curtsy? Would the lion stop eating? Would the sleeping pyphon wake up, uncoil to bow? At the aquarium, would all the fish gather at the glass pane for a closer look? So much for the celebrity culture and social status!
But for us being created for the purpose of enjoying God's love makes far better sense. Before the Fall, mankind had the dominion to care for all creation. This was well demonstrated by all the beasts which came meekly to Adam to be named. There were no rivalry, no hunting carnivores, none of the beasts presenting a threat to Adam's safety and well being. Rather, their submission to Adam as God's deputy was something which does not happen now, which indicate that the Fall and the Edenic Curse brought a significant change to both within the entire animal kingdom and its relationship with mankind. (Genesis chapters 2 & 3.)
The mind of God, however, remains infinite, and there will always be areas we as mere humans will never understand. For a start, we would never know how God has brought such creation into being, but within the last few decades we are beginning to understand why, for example, the vast complexity of the genome working the way it does.
As for salvation, that too I find hard, if not impossible to understand. There are Scriptures indicating that God knew and predestined from eternal past who would believe and be saved (e.g. Ephesians chapters 1&2.) In John's Gospel, there is an indication that no one can come to Jesus for salvation unless his Father calls him and brings him to Jesus (John 6:37,44,65; 10:25-30; 17:6.) This seems to have further backing from Revelation 13:8 that Jesus was slain from the foundation, or creation of the world. In other words, since God exist outside of time, the crucifixion, as he sees it, was from eternity past. This could be the reason why God was able to acquit, or justify believers during Old Testament times. Men of faith such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, David, and all the prophets, received justification by faith in their future Messiah who God alone saw him as already crucified. But in human history, Jesus was crucified at a specific moment which the apostles agreed was just at the right time. Since then, God has commanded all men everywhere to repent (e.g. Acts 17:30; Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9.) There seem to be something like a contradiction here. First, the Bible indicates that from eternity past, God knew and predestined certain men to be saved, backed by Jesus' own statement that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him.
This was the central teaching of John Calvin, and those who followed him were known as Calvinists. But the Bible also indicates that salvation is open to all men everywhere, and God has commanded that all mankind should repent. What that this mean? Reading of the book of Acts of the Apostles, especially chapter 2, indicates that repentance is a change of mind about Jesus Christ, turning from thinking he was an impostor or just a good teacher, to being the Messiah or Christ risen from the dead. This is confirmed by 1 John 5:1, which reads:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God...
Perhaps the best way of resolving this apparent contradiction is by an explanation offered a few years ago by one of our Elders. A person comes along and he sees a doorway, perhaps with a cross fixed in such a way that to enter, one has to pass under one of the arms of the cross. But above the doorway is a sign, which reads: Everyone is welcome. The person walks through the door, and the blood from the cross washes him from all of his sins. But when he turns to look back, the sign overhead now reads: Selected by the Father to conform to the image of his Son.
This is only an illustration, but it does offer some form of help for us with finite minds trying to fathom an infinite mind, whose thoughts and knowlege are way above ours. The truth is, we will never be able to fathom the Infinite, but God will willingly give wisdom and knowledge to all who desires them. I thank the Lord that scientists and academics of the past have discovered the genome. Such scientific knowledge has, to my mind made God our Creator more awsome, someone worthy of worship. But more than that, this same Infinite Mind has an equally infinite heart of mercy and love to send his Son to atone for our sins, and to give eternal life to all who believe.
God wants everyone of us to partake in his love, regardless of social standing, nationality, race, level of education, profession, or wealth. God's heart is open to all.
Now that is Good News!