Today I have the privilege of participating in the funeral ceremony of a dear lady in our church who passed away yesterday morning. Her favorite Bible character was Joseph, so I spent some time this morning reflecting on the life of Joseph and his courage and integrity despite cruel treatment. In the little amount of time I got to know Gail Kohl, I could see the same Joseph-like courage in her. When I visited her in the hospital on Thursday of last week, and she was cheerful and coherent, expressing her trust in God’s goodness.
When we see courage, joy and integrity in the face of suffering, our natural response is to ask why–why could someone give a genuine smile when in pain and suffering? It’s no secret that Gail, like Joseph, was convinced that God’s purposes are always good. When Joseph’s brothers feared that he would take revenge for mistreating him, he told them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:19-20). Everyone has a song that rings out from their lives. It may have different stanzas or variations, but the same theme. Gail’s was this: God is so good. He’s so good to me.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
I have been using this Bible memory plan to focus on key truths about God throughout each week. The first two passages, Psalm 139:1-4 and Romans 11:33-36, form a powerful pair. Together, they contrast God’s knowledge of me and my knowledge of God.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:1-4).
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).
I draw two contrasting truths from these passages–truths that compel me to bow in worship.
1. God’s knowledge of me exceeds my knowledge of myself. We humans are incredibly complex creatures. The science of the human body itself evokes fascination and wonder. Yet the biological complexity of a human is only part of the picture. The working of our minds presents a vast and often bewildering frontier for psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurosurgeons. It is ironic that we humans know so little about ourselves. We think we know our personalities, interests, likes and dislikes–only to be surprised as we continue to discover who we truly are. God’s knowledge of me is complete and thorough. He is not intimidated by my complexity. He has mastered me.
2. My knowledge of God will never be exhaustive. God is certainly knowable. It is his nature to reveal himself. But I can never know God fully. Paul’s rhetorical question expects a negative answer: No one has fully known the mind of the Lord. His ways and judgments will for all eternity remain a boundless frontier of exploration and delight.