‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 8. Responding to the Uncertainties of God
Lk 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Ezek 37:3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Ongoing: If we were playing one of those games where someone says a word and the next person has to say something different and yet with a clear link to the first word, and we were using the Bible, then having just seen the response of Job to God, my next link would be that of Peter to Jesus. Job concluded, “my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 4:5,6) Peter, after having given his boat over to let Jesus use it as a pulpit, concluded, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Lk 5:8 AV)
The Uncertainties of God: One of our greatest dangers is making God ‘manageable’. The Anglican translator of the mid-twentieth century, J.B.Phillips, ended up writing a book entitled, “Your God is Too Small”. Both Job and Peter, I suggest, caught something of the uncertainty of God.
After Job had listened to God going on for chapter after chapter about what He could do and what Job couldn’t do, Job began to be overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the enormity of God. You need to prayerfully read those chapters over and over again and let the reality of them get through to you, for perhaps the modern church needs more than anything to be delivered from the ‘God is my buddy’ mentality by seeing Him as the most awesome being we can ever encounter. But God who is Spirit – power and energy with personality – permeates every minute piece of space that fills billions and billions of light years of deep space in every direction, a description that utterly defeats our finite minds. And this energy, this power with personality, has the capability of expressing a communication we would hear in, for example, four words, “Let there be light,” and instantly with no apparent cause, or original resource, light appears. If only we could grasp that it would almost scare the life out of us which is why, I believe, when we find heavenly revelations in the Bible (e.g. Ezek 1, Rev 4) the word that is so often used is ‘like’ because we would be unable to comprehend an iota of the reality. Instead we have imagery.
But then there is Peter as we see him in Lk 5. It appears he’s met Jesus before (see Jn 1 etc.) and perhaps he’s caught something about Jesus, although he’s not sure what. Lk 5 seems to be an expanded version of the abbreviated calling we find in Mt 4:18-20 and Mk 1:16-20 or it is possible each of the accounts we’ve referred to here, had time gaps between them and the Lk 5 account is the last of them. Whichever is the truth, Jesus asks Peter to allow him to use his boat to preach from. This happens and when he has finished preaching there is a sequence of events that conclude in our verse above:
– Jesus says to push out further and cast their nets.
– Peter the fisherman knows these waters, had been out all night and caught nothing.
– Peter the fisherman knows there are no fish there (If you’ve ever lived by the sea perhaps you have seen the movement of the water, even the shimmering silver, that denotes the presence of fish).
– Yet something about Jesus makes Peter want to please him so he throws the nets out – probably with no hope of anything.
But then the nets are full to breaking point! Where did these fish come from? Why didn’t I see them? One minute they weren’t there, the next they were. This is scary. (The cogs of his mind are now rapidly churning over). Oh, my goodness, Jesus knew! Or is there something scarier here, he called them to come? Who is he? Or is there something yet even more scary, did he somehow make them? Who is he? This is someone out of my league, this guy isn’t religious for religion can’t do this stuff, thus guy is something or someone greater than anything we’ve ever encountered, someone greater than anyone we’ve ever dreamed of. This guy makes me feel like I’m just a kid playing in an uncertain world who really hasn’t a clue about fishing. Who is he? I’m starting to feel seriously uncomfortable being in his presence even. If he knows more about fishing than I do, he must know all there is to know about me. Wow, that is seriously uncomfortable! “Lord, please go away, I can’t cope with this. You know all things, you know me, and that’s not good.” “Yes, I do know you and that’s why I’m calling you to come with me, to follow me and I’ll teach you a new kind of fishing – for people.”
Three years later, after three years of the most incredible events the world has ever seen, he’s going to be on this shore again, and if the above is anything like what went on in the first episode, we aren’t left wondering. A question. “you know I love you.” A second question. “you know I love you.” A third question. “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.” (Jn 21:15-19 Msg) Yes, Jesus, in the midst of all our uncertainties is the Great Certainty, the one who knows all things about us and is there for us with access to a power that can bring light when there was no light, fishes when they were no fishes, and life when there is no life.
And that’s when the ‘word game’ takes us back to Ezekiel and his valley of dry bones. When the Lord gives him a vision of this valley full of bones and asks him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (37:3a) He is questioning Ezekiel’s uncertainty about Him. Now dry bones are all that are left after death and decomposition and the birds have picked them clean. There is, humanly speaking NO hope, but why should God ask such a thing if He hasn’t got something in mind. What is He thinking? Uncertainty! “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (v.3b)
And us? So there it is. A God greater than anything we can comprehend. A God who draws close and interacts with us. A God who knows all things and can do all things. A God who, we’ve suggested before, doesn’t make mistakes. A God who calls us, forgives us and cleanses us, equips us and sends us. Certainties in the midst of the uncertainties? Let Him impact you with this truth – and be at peace.