You would think that the more you read the Bible, the better you understand it, right? And in some ways that may be true. The older I get, the more I’m likely to see parallels between passages or recognize the names of people and places as I read.
It also seems to me that the more I read, the less I understand. I had a little bit of a crisis this afternoon, as I was reading a passage in Isaiah that prophesied the virgin birth of the Messiah. I read the verses, and I re-read them, and still my mind kept saying, “WHAT?? What in the world does this really mean?”
I grew up in church. I’ve served God my entire life, and made a habit of disciplining myself to pray and read the Bible. And yet the only thing I can say with confidence that I know is that understanding God is completely beyond me.
He is SO holy.
I can’t even wrap my mind around it. At all. The Bible says that not even the highest heavens can contain him, and everything is as God says it is. When he said “Let there be light,” there was light. When he said that Sarah would have a son at 90 years old, she did. When he said the Israelites would plunder the Egyptians, see their kingdom reduced to nothing, and walk out of their land through the Red Sea, it happened.
His voice makes the mountains shake and the sky fill with lightening. His presence fills the tabernacle with smoke. HIs fire comes out from the altar and consumes those who are disobedient to him. He strikes dead a man who presumes to touch the ark of God.
And it seems like we have no hope. As Joshua told the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God…” (Joshua 24).
You see, our hearts are so sinful. All of our natural desires are in direct opposition to God’s righteous law. When we are left to our own devices, and everyone does as they see fit, terrible things happen. A man makes a rash vow that costs him his daughter (Judges 11:30-35). Sinful men do unspeakable things to an innocent woman and those who should know better refuse to give them up to be punished for their crimes (Judges 19:25-20:13). Brothers take up arms against each other (Judges 20:14). People abandon God and turn to idols. We are not able to serve the Lord. He is holy. We are not.
He loves us. So he pursues us, over and over again. He comes to us after we’ve let him down, and says, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) When we run away, he comes running after us and asks, “Where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8) When we sin and sin and sin, he looks at us, and loves us, and heaps on his grace, saying, “How can I give you up?” (Hosea 11:8)
And it makes absolutely no sense to me. I would have given us up. I would have abandoned the Israelites in the desert. Or in Canaan. Or in Babylon. But God didn’t give up on them.
He gave them Jesus.