We were sitting in one of my student's front yards late in the spring, having walked there for one of our last youth group meetings of the year. The topic of conversation was God's ability to redeem people and things, despite our sinful tendencies. One of the students asked a question about a Biblical example of redemption, and a volunteer jumped in with one about God's blessing the result of David and Bathsheba's "sinful" indiscretion, by giving him immeasurable wisdom. You know, King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived. I nodded along contently, and the conversation went really well. The night ended with worship and treats back at the church, and everyone went home happy.
One problem, though. The child who was born to David and Bathsheba following their rooftop tryst, was NOT Solomon, nor was he wise, nor did he become king. In fact, he died - like right away. God was angry at David for misusing his power and the child was allowed to pass away not long after his birth. Yikes. Not a lot of redemption there.
Now you might be thinking, "Aaron, why didn't you correct that poor volunteer so many years ago. Surely you could've thought of a polite way to inform them that they were in fact mistaken, and have moved in to bring up a different example." And then there are probably some of you who are thinking "Oh, how sweet of you to not want to embarrass your volunteer in that way, David and Bathsheba did eventually marry and have other children, including Solomon, so it all worked out in the end." Both of those would've been adequate and understandable ways to handle what happened. Here's the thing though, I didn't know my volunteer was wrong. The reason I sat there in complete agreement, was because I didn't know any better. I couldn't have corrected them if I had wanted to.
Over my almost 20 years in ministry, there have probably been almost as many times that I haven't known the answer to a question that was asked of me, as the times that I have. That will probably never change. People have all sorts of very intelligent and honest questions, and most of us have a relationship with Him, have a desire to understand the things of God more clearly. It makes sense, that if you're going to serve someone and devote your life to them - that you are able to make sense of who He is and what He does, and why. What has changed though, is my response to the questions I don't know the right answer to. In my youth, and my ignorance, I used to try to "fudge" my way through a situation like that - saying a whole lot without saying much at all. If you can paint with broad enough brushstrokes, and sound smart and spiritual while you're doing it, people tend to think you know what you're talking about. But there's a huge problem with that - namely - it's dishonest. So instead I now say something like this: "You know, I'm not sure about that one. Why don't we look it up and talk about it together."
Yes, after 18 years of experience and six-plus years of schooling, I have gained a lot of knowledge and am able to recall much more of the Bible and life's happenings than I was that warm night years ago. I have read many books, studied basically the whole Bible, and had all sorts of enlightening discussions with people much smarter than myself. I now have much more to offer people, and a better base from which to formulate opinions. But the honest to God truth of the matter is that there are questions out there that even the great and wonderful me will never be able to answer. Questions about Heaven and Hell. Questions about angels. Questions about what happens to babies when they die, or people who never heard the life-giving, life-changing message of Jesus Christ. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more.
I guess what I really wanted to tell you all is this. I am a pastor. My wife hates it when I call myself a professional Christian, but in a certain way that's what I am. A person who makes a living reading, studying, helping and teaching people about the God I believe wants to know us all. But a long time ago, I had to learn how to become ok with the fact that there are just a lot of things about that God, that I can never and will never know or understand. Hard, but true. There are all sorts of cliches that people use to try and explain it - but I have found the most comforting thing to be these;
Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) - "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Romans 11:33 (ESV) - "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!"
1 Corinthians 2:9-11 (ESV) - "But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him' - these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."
God knew our heart would be to know Him. Our quest for understanding is not a surprise. Neither is our inability to comprehend Him in His entirety. And to further demonstrate His omniscience, He placed in His Word, reassurances that I'd paraphrase like this. "I don't think like you, I think a lot higher. I understand and know everything, and make my judgments accordingly. But I know you, and I know you'll want to try and know like me, and so I have given you my Spirit, because no one knows me better than Him."
One thing I know, I do not know everything. With that, I have learned to be content. I believe in a God so big, and so great He cannot be fully known. With that I am more than ok. He is God, and I am not - and for that, I am forever grateful.