“The more you see the less you know,
The less you find out as you go.
I knew much more then than I do now” (U2: 2004).
God is God and we are not. The Writings teach this message as a reminder to the original Jewish readers who where living in a period of great upheaval in Jewish history. Jerusalem had fallen to world powers and, other than a brief period of Maccabean rule, they would remain under foreign control for years. The assurance of the message that God is God is rooted in lordship and sovereignty over all powers. This includes the kings and empires that controlled the Jewish people.
We find a great example of this in Psalm 33. This Psalm begins with the reminder that God is the creator God, maker of everything (1-9). God is God, Lord of all nations and kings (10-17). The Lord is faithful to those that fear him and the hope of God’s people is in God’s unfailing love (17-22). Psalm 135:5 proclaims, “I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods”. In Ecclesiastes we read, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things” (11:5). God is God and we are not.
Where does this leave us as we face the realities of life each day? The fact that God is God and we are not does not mean that there is no room for questions, lament, pain, and suffering. It means that God bears the ultimate response-ability. It is this fact that gives us hope. It is this fact that enables us to ascribe lordship to God, to live in paradox, and to question and praise in the same breath. It is this fact that allows us to remain doubtful for we doubt not God, but our concept of God, and the attributes that we ascribe to God. God is bigger than our belief. This allows us to embrace death and tragedy, casting aside fear, so that we can truly live. The paradox of believing in a God that is bigger than belief, the sole bearer of response-ability for creation, a God of hesed, unfailing love, and living in a world that holds tragedy and death is the very space needed to have faith. Psalms 71 sums it up nicely, “Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up” (19-20).
Part I of this series began with my friend’s observations and thoughts regarding her experience in her Bible study. Her reflections center in upon lament, questions, faith. After listening to her, I suggested that she read the Writings because they ask similar questions. In doing so, she will enter a journey with a host of people seeking to live life with God. She will find paradox and hesed as she reads and that brings comfort and enables faith.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2002. Reverberations of faith: a theological handbook of Old Testament themes. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.
____________ “The Costly Loss of Lament” in Israel’s mysterious God: an analysis of some Old Testament narratives, Bernard P. Robinson, 1986. Newcastle upon Tyne: Grevatt & Grevatt.
Jacobson, R. 2000. “The Costly Loss of Praise”. THEOLOGY TODAY -PENNSYLVANIA-.57: 375-385.
U2 . 2004. “City of Blinding Lights”. How to dismantle an atomic bomb. [United States]: Interscope Records