July 18, 2021

The Ways Of God

Passage: Isaiah 55:6-13

It happened in 1948, just a few days before Christmas in Austria.  A flood ravaged a small town, leaving a gaping hole in the wall of an old church building – right behind the pulpit.  The young pastor knew there was no time to fix the damage and decided to make the best of it.  But providence was in his favour.  The next day he stumbled upon an old lace tablecloth at an auction and bought it for $6.50.  His intent was to hang it on the wall to cover the hole – not perfect, but adequate for the occasion.  The next day, while unlocking the building, he noticed an elderly woman on the curb and invited her to come inside for warmth.  She nestled into a comfortable pew while he set to work covering the hole.  She gasped as he unfolded the worn tablecloth. "That's mine", she exclaimed. "It's my banquet cloth!"  And she rushed to the front to show him her initials sowed in one corner.  The minister listened as she retold the story of her days in Vienna, before the war.  She fled from the Nazis, leaving everything behind, but her husband was captured for crimes of treason.  She hadn't seen him since.  Although the minister offered her the cloth, she refused.  After the Christmas service the following Sunday morning, an aging gentleman approached the young pastor.  The cloth behind the pulpit brought back painful memories for him.  "Many years ago my wife and I owned such a tablecloth", he told the pastor.  "We lived in Vienna then." Something told the pastor that this was more than coincidence, so he took the man with him to seek out the woman.  Calls were made, and before long the two men were standing on the front steps of her apartment.  As the woman opened the door, the young pastor witnessed a reunion more touching than he could ever have imagined – a husband and wife, together again after years of separation.  As the pastor left, a thought came into his mind – a thought we are familiar with – “God works in mysterious ways.” 

Over all the centuries of this world, there have been those who claimed, “God will always be a mystery to people – in His character and the way He operates.”  But then Isaiah tells us in chapter 55 that Though God Is Mysterious, He Wants To Be Known For His Understanding.  His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.  But the very fact that we can even talk about God is amazing.

In his book Miracles, C. S. Lewis compares our human talk about God to shellfish talking to each other about humans.   If a mystical shellfish catches a glimpse of what a human is like, he will attempt to share his vision with his fellow shellfish.  He begins by telling them how unlike themselves humans are.  Humans have no shells, they aren’t attached to rocks; and they don't live surrounded by water.  Lewis writes, “Uncorrected by any positive insight, they build up a picture of man as a sort of formless piece of jelly, never eating because he doesn’t exist in water to find food.”  What a ridiculous perception – we feel like filling them in about many things they don’t know about us.  That some of us like to eat shellfish, just to mention one.  But think about it, Lewis continues, “We do the same with God when we want to place Him in the framework of our understanding – this is what God is like; this is how God thinks.”  No, says Isaiah, God is to be known for His pardon and forgiveness.  Verse 7 says, “He will have mercy on him” and “He will freely pardon.” 

From the beginning of time God wanted to be known as the One to restore people’s lives more than to give explanations for every mystery in life.  I'm not sure if you are familiar with Dr. John Lennox, an Irish author and Christian apologist.  He shared that he used to think of God with the greatest mysteries and that's what he used to debate with.  But then, he switched to the simplest way of talking about God – almost childlike.  And the results were astonishing.  O my friends, there are so many mysteries in life we will never be able to explain.  Even those things close to our own lives – “Why did God take my child as an infant?  Why does God allow some people in the world to die of hunger?  Why can't God keep disasters from happening?”  Like Job the groaning of people are going up throughout the whole world – why?!  Isaiah brings the words of the Lord – “You can know me for my grace and pardon!”

You see, God is so different from us.  When we ask about the way those we go to for a professional service do their work, we want to know about their credentials; we want to see the ratings they received from those who went to them.  God is never concerned about being compared to others.  He simply says, “I want to redeem you, my people.  I, the God of heaven and earth have my own ways to accomplish that.”  That's what Isaiah prophesied in verse 8, “'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways', declares the Lord.”   

Isaiah tells us that God Will Bring His People To Victory and JoyIt's like a mystery that only God can solve.  Don’t you love a good mystery?  Most people enjoy solving a complicated riddle or uncovering a mystery.  There’s even a television show called “Unsolved Mysteries.”  The web site for the show claims almost 300 real-life cases have been solved by the viewers of “Unsolved Mysteries.”  Many people think God is the same way.  They think His ways are so mysterious that they are beyond our understanding.  So often He does the unexpected – instead of using Moses when he was 40 years old, God waited until Moses was 80!  Abraham had received a promise of many descendants, but was a man of old age when the announcement came that Isaac was to be born.  It was so impossible to Sarah, Abraham’s wife that she laughed when she received the news!  Instead of using Gideon’s army of 32,000 soldiers, God told Gideon to lower his ranks down until only 300 soldiers remained.  That in our world would be reckoned as stupidity!  Instead of having the Messiah, the King of the Jews born in a great palace, He was born to a peasant girl in a stable.  Instead of having the Messiah placed on a great throne of gold, God had the Messiah nailed to a cross of wood.  God is mysterious in His ways.  No one will ever be able to fathom His ways.

In the New Testament, the word “mystery” comes from the Greek word “mysterion.”  It  means “that which is beyond the range of natural understanding.”  It can only be made known by God.  What was God’s greatest mystery to be revealed?  Verse 12 gives the answer, “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” 

God’s greatest mystery to be revealed was peace and harmony on earth, for His people to be restored to the state before sin wrecked a perfect relationship between their Creator and themselves.  God’s mystery came into fulfilment in Jesus Christ.  That was confirmed in Ephesians 1: 9&10, “And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one Head, even Christ.”  

O my friends, God orchestrated His plan like only He could.  He was the architect to change the ruins of the world into a construction that is steadfast.  For that Jesus came to the world, He died on the cross for all sins and brokenness, He rose up from the dead, He went back to heaven, but He will come again and in the end He will reign forever.  We don’t have to hold our breaths for the outcome of this construction.  There is one thing we have to do – we have to let His kingdom come in our lives.  We have to acknowledge that He is God – the Creator God, Who reigns for eternity.  He is the same God that is in control of every situation we can ever face.  Isn’t it a great peace of mind for us to know The Ways of God are the only right ways?

A young pastor in New Zealand had a retired minister in his house as a guest during a week of meetings at the church.  One early evening the young pastor looked at the sunset.  He was in deep thought.  The retired minister saw that and he asked, “What are you thinking?”  The young pastor answered, “I wonder when God is going to give me more discernment in some situations?”  Then came wisdom from the lips of the retired minister, the young pastor could never forget, “Give God time, never rush Him; give Him time.”  It's in the same book of Isaiah, in chapter 40: 31 that we read “...those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.”  The Ways Of God realize sometimes not within our time lines, but my friends, it's worth to acknowledge, “Lord, bring your plan to perfection as only You can do.  I will wait on You.”  Let us submit our entire lives to Him.  Let's affirm the words of the familiar song, “I want God's way to be my way as I journey here below.”