Learning to Trust the Ways of God

All this I observed while applying my heart to all that is done under the sun, when man had power over man to his hurt.

10 Then I saw the wicked buried. They used to go in and out of the holy place and were praised in the city where they had done such things. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity. 15 And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.

16 When I applied my heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done on earth, how neither day nor night do one’s eyes see sleep, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out. Ecclesiastes 8:9-17 ESV

In this life, things don’t always turn out the way we think they should. The righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. Good people experience a lot of bad things. And, far too often, bad people seem to come out on top. Solomon is wise enough to know that, in the end, everybody dies. But some wicked people can spend their whole lives fooling others into thinking they were actually good and godly people who lived religious lives. So, when they die, they receive the unmerited praise and honor of men.

I have seen wicked people buried with honor. Yet they were the very ones who frequented the Temple and are now praised in the same city where they committed their crimes! This, too, is meaningless. – Ecclesiastes 8:10 NLT

They lived a lie, and in death, they receive unwarranted admiration. As far as Solomon is concerned, this is just another proof of the vanity and futility of life. At the time of death, good people get forgotten, while the wicked get a parade in their honor.

When Solomon mentions the wicked, he is not just speaking of the godless and immoral. He is referring to those who hurt others, abusing and taking advantage of them. They are the oppressors he mentioned in chapter four.

Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless. – Ecclesiastes 4:1 NLT

These people don’t commit their wicked deeds in a vacuum. Their behavior inevitably impacts the lives of those around them. There are always victims involved because wickedness is an equal-opportunity destroyer. And sadly, it is usually the innocent who end up suffering because of the lifestyle choices of the wicked. For Solomon, the actions of the wicked against the innocent are just another example of life’s meaninglessness.

I have thought deeply about all that goes on here under the sun, where people have the power to hurt each other. – Ecclesiastes 8:9 NLT

Prostitution and human sex trafficking destroy the lives of countless individuals every year. The drug cartels line their pockets with cash paid out by those seeking yet another high in a hopeless attempt to escape the lows of life. Abusive husbands have abused wives. Rapists have victims. Con artists have their marks. Bullies have the helpless. Liars have the naive and gullible. The powerful have the defenseless. The list goes on and on. And when the wicked see that they can get away with whatever it is they do, they feel emboldened to do more. Solomon put it this way: “When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 NLT). 

But Solomon introduces a vital point of clarification. Even though the wicked may appear to escape any retribution or justice, he knows that eventually, there will be payback. He has confidence that God’s justice will one day be meted out on all those who have made wickedness their lifestyle.

it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. – Ecclesiastes 8:13 ESV

From our perspective, it may appear as if the wicked just keep on sinning, committing evil after evil, with no apparent consequences. It can even seem as if they live charmed lives, marked by longevity and free from accountability. But Solomon knows that it is those who fear God who will prosper in the long run. They may not experience it in this life, but our righteous God will one day ensure that all is made right. In the meantime, we have to live with the incongruous reality that things don’t always add up in this life. It is full of contradictions and apparent paradoxes. This is why Solomon observes:

good people are often treated as though they were wicked, and wicked people are often treated as though they were good. – Ecclesiastes 8:14 NLT

It can feel so meaningless and futile. And trying to make sense of it all is about as productive as chasing the wind. You get nowhere. You expend a lot of energy but have nothing to show for it in the end. So, Solomon simply concludes. “I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15 NLT).

Is this advice from Solomon wise? Does it even make sense? It may sound appealing but just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean it’s godly counsel. This isn’t the first time that Solomon has reached this conclusion and passed it on to his readers. He offered up the same basic conclusion back in chapter five.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. – Ecclesiastes 5:18 NLT

He said virtually the same thing in chapter two, verse 24. He repeated it in chapter three, verses 12-13, and then again, here in chapter five. Eat, drink and enjoy your work. Eat, drink and be joyful. What’s Solomon saying and how should we take his advice?

He is not advising a life of hedonism and self-centered pleasure. He is not advocating unbridled self-satisfaction. But he is suggesting that there are joys associated with hard work and diligent effort in this life. We get to reap the rewards of our work. We can enjoy the warmth and safety of the home our labor helped to we helped to provide. We can take advantage of the many material blessings that God allows us to enjoy as a result of our work. Unlike a slave, who receives no personal benefit from his labors, but must watch the rewards be consumed by his master, we can enjoy the fruit of our effort. We can find joy in a job well done and the benefits it offers. And Solomon would have us remember that “To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God” (Ecclesiastes 8:20 NLT).

We may not have much, but what we do have, we should appreciate and view as a gift from God. The ability to find joy in our labor is something God supplies, and it comes from having a healthy reverence for God. If you despise your job and resent the time you spend having to work for a living, you are essentially expressing to God your ungratefulness for His provision. Your job is not good enough. The benefits it provides are not sufficient enough. So, rather than joy, you express resentment and disappointment. You begin to look at the apparent prosperity of the wicked and question the goodness of God. This can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with the past that produces a ledger of God’s failures to provide for you. This can lead to a lack of fear of God. And this can result in a failure to show Him reverence, honor, glory, or gratitude.

A big part of learning to fear God is learning to trust Him. It is coming to grips with who He is and who we are in comparison. He is God. He is sovereign, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He is not wise; He is wisdom itself. He knows what is best. He always does what is right. Moses expressed it this way:

I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
    how glorious is our God!
He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.
    Everything he does is just and fair.
He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
    how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NLT

Yes, there are many things in this life that appear unfair and unjust. There are paradoxes and incongruities galore. Our circumstances may scream to us that God is nowhere to be found, but the Scriptures tell us something radically different. He is always there. The wicked may appear to get away with murder, both literally and figuratively, but God is still in control. He has a plan. He will do what is just and fair. He can do no wrong. And if we could learn to view life through the lens of God’s transcendent power, glory, goodness, and love, we would be better able to enjoy our lives on this planet – in spite of the seeming contradictions and incongruities that surround us.

Solomon realized that “no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim” (Ecclesiastes 8:17 NLT). God’s ways are not our ways. His sovereign plans are sometimes a mystery to us, but they are always righteous and good. Attempting to judge the faithfulness of God based on the incongruous circumstances of life is a dangerous game to play. The apostle Paul warned against presumptuous behavior.

Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” – Romans 9:20 NLT

And Paul borrowed his analogy from the prophet Isaiah.

How foolish can you be?
    He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay!
Should the created thing say of the one who made it,
    “He didn’t make me”?
Does a jar ever say,
    “The potter who made me is stupid”? – Isaiah 29:16 NLT

Both men believed it was ludicrous for a mere man to question the goodness of God just because life had not turned out as expected. For Isaiah, it was ridiculous for the creature to question the Creator. The one who was made had no right to call into question the integrity and righteousness of his Maker.

…can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it? Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it? Can a wooden cane walk by itself? – Isaiah 10:15 NLT

In the end, Solomon recognized his inability to understand the ways of God. No amount of wisdom would ever explain the vagaries of life and the mysteries of God’s ways. And it was the apostle Paul who succinctly summed up the lesson that Solomon was learning.

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to give him advice?
And who has given him so much
    that he needs to pay it back?

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. – Romans 11:33-36 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Kingdom Clarified

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables;
    I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” – Matthew 13:24-43 ESV

Continuing to speaking in parables, Jesus let the crowd know that He was expounding on the kingdom of heaven – God’s divinely ordained kingdom. But because He was using parables, they were unable to discern the meaning behind His words. To them, these stories came across more like riddles, leaving them wondering what it was Jesus was trying to say. Even His own disciples said to Him, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field” (Matthew 13:36 ESV).

Jesus had told His disciples, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:11 ESV). In other words, they were being given the unique privilege of hearing about previously hidden mysteries concerning the kingdom of God. The truths Jesus was about to share with them were not new. In fact, they had been in existence from before the foundation of the world. But they had been hidden from the eyes and understandings of men. 

While the Jewish people thought they were fully informed about the kingdom of God, they were actually operating on partial information and had reached some false conclusions. That was why they were having a difficult time accepting Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. He didn’t fit the bill. He had shown up in the form they had been expecting. Jesus did not look like a king. He had no army. There was no royal retinue or regal robes that would have marked Him as a king.

So, Jesus began to divulge some essential information regarding the kingdom that was going to conflict with all their preconceived assumptions. But He would do so through parables.  And much of what He had to say is, as He put it, was a mystery or secret, previously undisclosed and unknown. Jesus was having to deal with many centuries-worth of false conceptions among the people of Israel regarding the coming kingdom. Their longings for a Messiah were accompanied by dreams of liberation from Roman rule and restoration of their status as a world power. The kingdom they were hoping and longing for was an earthly one. The king for whom they were waiting was to be a warrior-king just like David had been.

But with these parables, Jesus provides an as-yet-undisclosed aspect of the kingdom that was in direct conflict with their expectations. Remember, the parable of the sower or the soils was about the receptivity of the people to the message about the coming kingdom. Many would hear the good news of the Messiah’s arrival but refuse to believe it. Others would get excited upon hearing the news, but then discover that His kingdom was associated with persecution, trials, and difficulties. Their expectations of the kingdom having been unmet, they would fall away.

Jesus has made it clear that there will be many who hear the message of the kingdom, but who refuse to accept it. And yet, in these parables, He discloses that the message will take root among “the sons of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:38 ESV). And while the initial number of those who hear the message and believe it will be small, it will grow exponentially.

Like a tiny mustard seed that eventually grows into a massive tree, the kingdom of heaven will start small, but greatly expand over time. Its influence will be like that of leaven on a lump of dough which, in time, eventually permeates its way through the entire batch. In these parables, Jesus is revealing an aspect of His kingdom that is far-distant in its focus. He is speaking of the millennial kingdom which will come at the end of the period of the Great Tribulation. It will be at His second coming that Jesus establishes His kingdom on earth and its influence will be all-pervasive. He will rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem and it will be a period marked by perfect righteousness and justice.

But until that day arrives, the Son of Man will continue to sow the good seed within the world. And, as Jesus explained, the good seed represents the sons of the kingdom, those whom He has redeemed as His own.

The period in which we live is called “the church age” – a time when Christ-followers find themselves co-mingled with unbelievers. The sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one are forced to co-exist until the harvest, which Jesus said will take place at the end of the age. Until that time, Jesus will continue to sow His seeds (His sons and daughters) in the world, and their influence will spread. But they will find themselves surrounded by the sons of Satan, those who have rejected the message of the Gospel or the kingdom of heaven. But rather than despair, the sons of the kingdom are to recognize that God’s redemptive plan is not yet done. He is going to send His Son a second time, when He will bring a permanent end to the forces of wickedness and the one who stands behind it all – Satan.

But in the meantime, we must realize that this phase of God’s plan will allow the kingdom to remain relatively hidden, but far from inactive. Like yeast, it will continue to spread. Like the tiny mustard seed, it will slowly transform into something unexpectedly large and significant. And while the weeds will continue to sprout up all around the sons of the kingdom, the day will come when God will call for the harvest. That event will include the separating of the wheat from the weeds. And while the weeds will undergo judgment, the sons of the kingdom “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43 ESV).

At present, the righteous and the unrighteous live side by side on this planet. And, at times, it appears as if the kingdom of heaven is being overrun by the weeds of the enemy. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds. But Jesus wanted His disciples to know that this was to be expected during this phase of His kingdom plan. The period in which they lived was to be for the purpose of sowing. They were to sow the seed of the Gospel and allow God to reap the harvest when the time was right. All they needed to know was that, in spite of the presence of the enemy, the kingdom would continue to grow and spread. The day will come when God sends His Son back to gather all those whom He has sown in the world. It will be at that point that the King sets up His kingdom on earth.

None of this was what the Jews expected. Even Jesus’ disciples would have found this news to be surprising and somewhat disappointing. Like every other Jew, they were expecting the Messiah to rule and reign from the start. They still had expectations that Jesus was going to set up His kingdom in their lifetime. That’s why James and John would later make the bold request of Jesus: “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left” (Mark 10:37 NLT).

But Jesus had come to establish the kingdom of heaven, not earth. He had come to sow sons of the kingdom all throughout a world permeated by the presence of the enemy. And that hidden kingdom would be made up of men and women who would live as aliens and strangers on this earth. While their actual citizenship would be in heaven, their numbers would continue to grow and spread. Their presence would slowly permeate the fallen world, impacting the lives of others through their message and their ministry of reconciliation.

And while they wait for the return of their King, they are to place their hope and faith in His promises, living in the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. As the apostle Paul reminds us: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (Philippians 3:20 NLT).

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Mystery Made Known

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” – Matthew 13:1-17 ESV

Matthew has not been trying to provide us with a hard-and-fast chronological timeline of Jesus’ ministry. Instead, he has arranged many of the stories related to Jesus’ ministry into a topical outline so that they better support his attempt to prove the Messiahship of Jesus. But in this case, he makes it clear that this particular event happened “that same day.” And what day would that have been? The very day on which Jesus had healed the demon-possessed man and been accused by the religious leaders of having done so by the power of Satan.

Chapter 12 provided an important transition point in Jesus’ relationship with the people of Israel. The tension between He and the religious leaders was intensifying. Not only had they chosen to reject His claim to be the Messiah, they were accusing Him of being in league with Satan. And the people of Israel, while attracted to the miracles of Jesus, were not convinced that He was their Messiah and King. Which had led Jesus to refer to them as an “evil and adulterous generation.”

And Jesus had made it clear that belief in Him was the missing factor in the relationship the people of Israel had with Him. They were intrigued by Him, but were not willing to place their faith in Him. But, in spite of Jesus’ reference to them as an evil generation, the crowds did not diminish. They continued to show up in great numbers, attracted by His miracles and intrigued by His message.

And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. – Matthew 13:2 ESV

So, that same day, with the crowds gathered on the sea shore, Jesus entered a boat and began to teach them. And Matthew adds the important detail: “And he told them many things in parables.” This will not be the first time Jesus used parables to teach, but it does signal an overall shift in His strategy. A parable was a common teaching tool, that utilized comparison in order to drive hom an important lesson. They were stories that contained imagery familiar to the audience, but with the intent of teaching a deeper spiritual truth.

In this case, Jesus used the imagery of sowing seeds, something His audience would have readily understood. But as this chapter unfolds, it will become clear that the message behind His parable escaped those in His audience, including His disciples. They will end up asking Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables? (Matthew 13:10 ESV). In a sense, they were asking Jesus why He didn’t just say what He wanted to say. They were curious as to why He chose to utilize parables as His primary means of communication. And Jesus explained to them the purpose behind His chosen teaching style.

11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables…” – Matthew 13:11-13 NLT

His parables contained the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was revealing truth that had been hidden. He was providing enlightenment about God’s Kingdom that the people of Israel had missed. In fact, He told His disciples that “many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17 ESV). While the Old Testament Scriptures were full of promises concerning the Messiah, the people of Israel had failed to fully understand who He would be and what He would do when He came. Their understanding of the Messiah’s reign was that of an earthly kingdom, like that of David and Solomon. They had been looking for a King who would set up His kingdom in Jerusalem and restore the power and prominence of Israel’s glorious past.

But Jesus was letting His disciples know that the expectations of the people were not wrong, but only premature. There is a day coming when Jesus will establish His Kingdom in Jerusalem and rule from the throne of David, all in keeping with the promises of God made to David. But first, the people would reject Him as their Messiah. And it would be their rejection of Him that would lead to His crucixion by them. Their refusal to accept their Messiah and King would result in the Gospel being taken to the Gentiles. And Jesus pointed out that their refusal of Him was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

14 “This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.’” – Matthew 13:14-15 NLT

But Jesus would explain the meaning of His parables to His disciples. Because of their belief in Him, He would reveal the truth contained in His messages.

“For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance.” – Matthew 13:12 ESV

These men had been called by Jesus and given the chance to sit under His teaching. Each of them had answered His call and left behind their former lives in a display of faith. They did not yet fully understand who He was. They were still wrestling with their own expectations and the seeming incongruities of Jesus‘ actions. But they were willingly walking with Him, even in the face of growing opposition. And Jesus promised that, because of their faith, they would be given even more insight into the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The key was their faith. Yes, it was small at times. They regularly wrestled with unbelief and doubt. But they remained by His side, eagerly listening and learning, watching and waiting to see what their Messiah was going to do. And over time, Jesus would continue to provide them with enlightenment and insight into the true nature of His Kingdom. And Jesus will reveal to them the hidden message contained in the parable of the soils. He won’t leave them hanging or left wondering about His meaning. And, over time, they will grow to understand more fully who He is and what He has come to do.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Health, Hope and Healing.

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

“Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
    for the Lord is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!’

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.”  Jeremiah 33:1-13 ESV

While Jeremiah was still locked up by Zedekiah, God visited Him a second time. And this time, He commands Jeremiah to pray to Him and promises to answer when he does.

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. – Jeremiah 33:3 ESV

The term, “hidden things” in the Hebrew is a single word that is most often used to refer to the defensive capabilities of a city. It can actually be translate as “fortified” or “inaccessible”. It is somewhat ironic that God uses this word, because it can mean the walls of a city that are impenetrable. Here was Jerusalem, surrounded by Babylonian troops, with siege walls and ramparts set up all around its perimeter, and it’s fall eminent. But God said He was going to tell Jeremiah things that, unlike the walls of Jerusalem, were impenetrable or unknowable. Man could lay siege to God, demanding to know His will and His ways, but unless God determined to reveal His mysteries, man would remain ignorant and in the dark. The prophet, Isaiah, also recorded the words of God declaring His plan to reveal new and hidden things.

“From this time forth I announce to you new things,
hidden things that you have not known.
They are created now, not long ago;
before today you have never heard of them,
lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’
You have never heard, you have never known,
from of old your ear has not been opened.” – Isaiah 48:6-8 ESV

Unless God makes Himself known to man, He remains unknowable.

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! – Romans 11:33 NLT

Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.
 – Job 36:26 ESV

He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

God is unknowable, unless He chooses to make Himself known. While He has revealed His divine nature through His creation and men are without excuse who refuse to acknowledge His presence, they can only know Him in a limited sense. God had chosen to reveal Himself more intimately and deeply to the Israelites. He had chosen them as His own and revealed Himself to them in incredible ways. But they had chosen to reject Him and treat their relationship with him with disdain. So, now God was going to give Jeremiah a glimpse into the unknown, the hidden things of God. He was going to reveal to His prophet the incredible future of Israel and Judah. While He was going to bring punishment on them for their sins and allow the Babylonians to defeat them, He said:

“Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion.” – Jeremiah 33:6-8 NLT

God was going to do something remarkable and unbelievable. Just when things appeared to be catastrophic and the fate of Judah was sealed, God promised that their future would be bright. They would experience hope and healing.

“…in the empty streets of Jerusalem and Judah’s other towns, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the Lord.” – Jeremiah 33:10-11 NLT

The future. We can’t see it. We can only hope for it. Oh, we can worry about it and attempt to do things that we think will improve or impact it, but when all is said and done, we have very little influence over how the future will turn out. There are far too many things that can derail our plans and destroy our best intentions. But God knows the future. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are all the same to Him. He is not bound by time. And His plans for the future are not speculative, but predetermined. They will happen just as He has planned them. No wishful thinking. No hoping for a good outcome. What God says will happen, will happen, with the same degree of certainty as if it had already taken place. And we know from history, that the people of Judah did return to the land, seventy years later, just as God had said they would. So, we can also know that His plans for His as-yet-fulfilled promises regarding their future will also take place. He has proven Himself trustworthy and faithful. And one of the things God had in store for the nation of Judah was the future coming of the Messiah, the descendant of David. It would be hundreds of years before Jesus appeared on the scene. And when He came, He brought with Him the revelation of God’s plan for mankind: Salvation from sin and restoration to a right relationship with Him. Sadly, the people of Judah did not receive Him when He came.

The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children—children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God. – John 1:9-13 NLT

But as John reveals just a few verses later, Jesus came to make God known and to reveal yet another impenetrable mystery regarding God’s plans for mankind.

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. – John 1:18 NLT

And John would later declare the true nature of Jesus’ arrival on earth.

Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29 NLT

God’s ways are beyond finding out. There was no way Jeremiah could know that God had a rich and fruitful future in store for the people of Judah. God had to tell Him. And there was certainly no way that Jeremiah could have known that one day God would send His Son, as a man, born to a woman from the tribe of Judah, who would die for the sins of men. It was a mystery. But in time, God revealed His plan by sending His Son. And His Son revealed the Father, proving the incredible love of God for sinful men. Hope and healing were going to come, but in a form that no man could have envisioned, including Jeremiah. For Jeremiah, sitting in jail as the Babylonians laid siege to his beloved city of Jerusalem, the future looked grim. But God was revealing something mysterious and unknowable to mere mortals: His unstoppable, unwavering plan for the world He had created. It’s important to note that God opened up His address to Jeremiah by describing Himself as “the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it” (Jeremiah 33:2 ESV). The God who created was going to recreate. The God who spoke light into darkness was going to send the true light into the darkness of man’s sin. Hope and healing are always in God’s hands. He is the only source for what mankind really needs. And as bleak as things may appear, we can rest in the knowledge that God has plans for us – “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV).

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson≠≠

One nation under God.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:14-22 ESV

To truly understand this passage, you must first grasp the nature of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in Paul’s world. There was a long and deep-seated animosity between the two groups. To put it bluntly, Jews despised Gentiles. They viewed them with contempt and rarely, if ever, associated with them on any level. The Jews viewed themselves as the chosen people of God. Everyone else was considered a Gentile, an outsider and destined to God’s wrath and punishment. It was forbidden for Jew to marry a Gentile, and in the rare cases it did happen, the family of the Jewish son or daughter would consider their child as dead, even holding their funeral to mark the day. Paul had just told the Gentile converts in the church in Ephesus, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12 ESV). Jesus, the Messiah or Christ, had been promised to the Jews. He had been born a Jew. They had been born outside the commonwealth of Israel, with no access to the covenant promises made to the people of God. So not only were they disdained by the Israelites, they were without hope and without God in the world.

But all that had changed. Paul reminded them, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13 ESV). The great chasm that had separated the Gentiles from the Jews had been closed by Jesus. He had made it possible for them to have hope and a relationship with God. But amazingly, Jesus had not just reconciled the Gentiles with God, He had reconciled them to the Jewish believers in their congregation. They were now one.

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. – Ephesians 2:14 NLT

When God called out Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation, that was the beginning of the Jewish people. God separated them out. He took one man and his barren wife and made of them a mighty nation. He chose them as His own and revealed Himself to them in ways that He had not done with any other people group on the planet. He rescued them out of captivity in Egypt. He had them through the wilderness. He met all their needs along the way. He gave them His law. He led them the land of Canaan just as He had promised Abraham. He fought and won battles on their behalf. He gave them prophets to speak to them. He provided kings to lead them. He appointed priests to minister to them. And they were to be a light to the Gentiles, a visible example of what it looks like when men live in obedience and submission to God. But they had failed. They couldn’t keep God’s law. They were incapable of remaining faithful to Him. They repeatedly rebelled and wandered from the truth of God, seeking after false gods and the fulfillment of their own selfish desires. And as a result, God punished them. He sent them into exile. He disciplined His chosen people. But He also redeemed them from slavery yet again and returned them to the land of promise. But things would never be quite the same. They would never have another king. They would never enjoy the peace and prosperity of the days of David and Solomon.

Then God sent His Son, the Messiah. After centuries of waiting, the long-awaited One arrived on the scene. But John records what happened. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11 ESV). Jesus, the Son of God and the descendant of King David, was rejected by His own people. Instead of crowing Him as King, they demanded His crucifixion. But it was all part of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. With His death, Jesus had “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” The law had separated Jews from Gentiles, but it had also separated Jews from God. They could not keep the law. It held them under sin, exposing and condemning their lack of faithfulness to God. But Jesus removed the barrier. He reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God “in one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:16 ESV). He made it possible for men to be restored to God and to one another. Paul claimed that Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17 ESV). The very same message of redemption was preached to Jews and Gentiles. Restoration and reconciliation to God would be the same for both. As Paul stated earlier, it was to be by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV).

And now, believing Jews and believing Gentiles were one. No more alienation and separation. No more animosity and hostility. As a result of their shared faith in Jesus Christ, they had become “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 ESV). The church was God’s plan from all along. It was always His intention to redeem men and women from every tribe, tongue and nation. That is why He had told Abraham that He would make him the father of many “nations” – not just the Hebrew nation. He had also told Abraham that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). And that promise was fulfilled in Christ. “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22 ESV). The people of God, reconciled to Him through a common faith in His Son, and living in the shared power of His Spirit. One nation under God.

 

Glory To God.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. – Romans 16:25-27 ESV

Paul wraps up his letter with a doxology – a statement of praise to God. This entire letter has been a treatise on the praiseworthiness of God for His power, grace, mercy, patience, power, sovereignty, love and the greatest expression of that love: the sacrifice of His Son as the payment for mankind’s sins. Paul wanted his readers to know that the very same God who made salvation possible and who, in His mercy, chose them to receive redemption, was fully capable of strengthening them and keeping them “according to his gospel.” Notice that Paul personalizes the gospel, calling it his own. In the early stages of his letter he referred to it as the gospel of God (Romans 1:1) and the gospel of His Son (Romans 1:9). In chapter 15 he called it the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:19). But here he makes it his own. It is the gospel of God because He is the one who made it possible. It is the gospel of Christ, the Son, because He is the one whose sinless sacrifice fulfilled the demands of the Father. But it was Paul’s gospel because he had been commissioned by Christ Himself to share the good news of salvation for the Gentiles. This is the mystery Paul refers to: “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all the nations” (Romans 16:25-26 ESV). Paul referred to this mystery in his letter to the Colossian believers.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. – Colossians 1:24-27 NLT

The gospel was at one time a mystery, hidden from the eyes of men. It was clearly revealed in the Old Testament, as Paul has so strongly proven, but the Old Testament saints were not able to see all the aspects concerning God’s plan of salvation for all the nations. Even the disciples of Jesus saw Him as a Messiah for the Jewish people. They had no concept of Gentiles being included in Christ’s Kingdom. They were shocked when they found Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. They were more than likely confused by the conversation had with the Gentile woman concerning her sick daughter.

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Gentilee woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. – Matthew 16:21-28 NLT

When Jesus said to the woman, “It isn’t right to take food away from the children and throw it to the dogs,” He was simply expressing what the disciples were thinking. Jews would not mix with Gentiles. They were considered inferior. But Jesus came to change all that. His death would not be just for the Jews, but for all mankind, and Paul’s God-ordained commission was to make the mystery known to any and all who would listen, in order “to bring about the obedience of faith.”

The gospel, this incredible mystery, is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, the righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV). The gospel was made possible by the love, mercy and grace of God. It was made possible by the gracious gift of His Son. It was made possible by His Son’s death, and confirmed by His resurrection, accomplished by the power of the Spirit of God. Everything about the gospel was God’s doing. Even Paul’s miraculous conversion and divine commissioning. So to Him alone belongs “glory forevemore through Jesus Christ” (Romans 16:27 ESV). The words of the great old hymn, To God Be The Glory, by Fanny Crosby, sum it up perfectly.

To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He has done.

Those Who Are Spiritual.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. – 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 ESV

God is mysterious, transcendent, holy, perfectly righteous and completely invisible to the human eye. He is an non-created spirit being who has no beginning and end. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, unbound by space or time, and inaccessible by man unless He makes Himself known. But that is the amazing thing. He has made Himself known. He has revealed Himself through creation. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:19-20 ESV). But over the centuries, God has made Himself known in many other ways. He spoke to Abram in Ur. He guided him, directed him, and promised to make of him a great nation. God had personal encounters with Isaac and Jacob. He personally cared and provided for Joseph. He appeared to Moses and used him to release the people of Israel from captivity. God spoke through prophets. He used judges. But His greatest revelation of Himself was through the incarnation of His Son. One of the titles of Jesus was Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Paul tells us, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 ESV). John writes, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV). 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became a man and took on human flesh. He lived among men. He ministered to men. He healed them. He taught them. But the greatest accomplishment of Jesus’ earthly life was His sacrificial death on the behalf of men. He died so that we might live. God sacrificed His own sinless sin so that men might be made right with Him. And those who have accepted the sacrifice of His Son’s death as payment for their sins received another manifestation of God’s presence: His Spirit. The Spirit of God has come to dwell within all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their sin-substitute and Savior. And Paul would have us consider the staggering significance of that reality. “Now we have received … the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV). This may sound a bit sacrilegious, but the Holy Spirit within us is like a radio receiver that allows us to pick up the spiritual wave lengths broadcast to us by God. Think of it like having a radio in your can that can receive Sirius radio signals. If you don’t have one, you can’t hear what is being broadcast. Without the Spirit, we would find it impossible to pick up and make out what God is saying to us. His Word would be impossible to understand. His presence, while all around us, would be oblivious to us. Paul explains why. The Spirit interprets spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. And we are only spiritual because we have the Spirit within us. Our spirituality is not something we have earned or attained. It has been given to us by God, just like our salvation was. We have received the gift of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And His presence within us makes it possible for us to hear from and understand God. The bottom line, according to Paul, is that “no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11 ESV). But thankfully, we have His Spirit within us. And we CAN understand the thoughts of God. We CAN comprehend His Word. We CAN hear from Him and communicate with Him.

When we read the Scriptures, we are not on our own. We do not have to rely on our intellect alone. We have been given the Holy Spirit to help us hear from God as He speaks to us through His written Word. That is what makes the Scriptures so powerful and potentially life changing. The write of Hebrews describes the Scriptures as “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT). The Word of God is alive to us because the Holy Spirit lives within us. He is the one who makes us spiritual beings. Rather than being limited to our physical and mental capacities alone, we have the ability to receive spiritual truths directly from God Himself, all because we have the Spirit of God living within us. And Paul, quoting from Isaiah 64:4, provides us with the incredible nature of that reality. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” We can’t even begin to imagine what God has to show us, teach us, reveal to us, and do for us. But because we have the Spirit of God within us, we can experience and understand the unimaginable and unknowable – the things freely given us by God.

The Deep Things of God.

God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 ESV

Paul was a highly intelligent man. He was well-schooled in all things concerning the Law, having studied under Gamaliel, a well-known rabbi and expert in the Law. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus did not diminish his intellectual capacity, but it did alter his perspective. After having come to believe that Jesus Christ was the long-awaited Messiah and Savior of the world, he found that he no longer had to rely solely on human reasoning and his own intellectual prowess. He had another resource on which to rely. There had been a time in his life when his oratory skills and debating talents were of great importance to him. But he reminded the believers in Corinth, “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan” (1 Corinthians 12:1 ESV). In other words, Paul didn’t rely upon his highly-developed and well-honed speaking skills or his personal powers of persuasion. Instead, he said, “I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:3-4 ESV). In fact, his whole approach while ministering in Corinth was intentionally simplistic and one-dimensional. “For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:3 ESV). Why? He gives us the answer:  “So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV).

But what Paul shared with the Corinthians was anything but simplistic or sophomoric. He had not checked his intelligence at the door or dumb-downed his message. He shared a brand of wisdom that was not of this world. It was not based on human reasoning and could not be grasped by human intellect alone. Paul, who had been a student of the Scriptures and, as a former Pharisee, an expert in the Law, knew that his years of study had not revealed to him what he now knew about God and His plan of redemption. It had been disclosed to him by the Spirit of God. No, Paul explained, “I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7 NLT). Had the “rulers of this world” – the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman governmental authorities – understood who Jesus was, they would not have crucified Him. But, in spite of all their collective power and wisdom, they were oblivious to the reality of Jesus’ identity and mission.

Paul makes it clear that the reality of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were unknowable by men unless the Spirit of God revealed it to them. “These things” regarding Jesus had been revealed to Paul “through the Spirit.” He hadn’t ascertained it on his own. It had not been the result of careful study. His knowledge of the Scriptures had not prepared Him to recognize the Messiah when He came. Even Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39 ESV). In their passionate desire to understand the Scriptures, they failed to see the One who is the fulfillment of those very same Scriptures. Paul’s claim was that his knowledge regarding was Christ was the work of the Spirit of God. “For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets” (1 Corinthians 2:10 NLT). It was the Holy Spirit who had revealed to Paul his understanding of and appreciation for the mystery of Christ’s coming and God’s gift of salvation through His Son. He refers to it as the “secret and hidden wisdom of God.”

Jesus accused the Pharisees of trying to find eternal life through the study of the Scriptures alone. But because of their arrogance and pride, they were looking right past the very focus of those Scriptures. It has been and always will be about God’s redemption of man. God is a redeeming God. From beginning to end, the Bible is the story of man’s redemption. And it all points to Jesus. In his letter to the believers living in Galatia, Paul writes, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:4-6 ESV). At just the right time, according to God’s perfect, divine plan, He sent His Son. No man could have come up with this plan. And no man is capable of understanding it without help from the Spirit of God. But as Paul says, God has sent the Spirit into our hearts. We have divine assistance. We have been given the ability to understand the deep things of God. Because no one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We are dependent upon Him for all that we know. He is the one who made it possible for us to see and accept Jesus as our Savior. He is the one who makes it possible for us to understand the Scriptures and apply the to our lives. He makes it possible for us to grow spiritually and increase in the knowledge of God. We have within us a divine enabler who makes the deep things, the mysterious, unknowable things of God knowable.