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Psalm 53


 

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand,who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. (ESV)

 

Let's Plumb the Depths

Thursday of Epiphany 6

20 February 2014

A. N. Wilson, a British intellectual and well-known author, was a notable atheist who gave up atheism and returned to the faith. During an interview he was asked, "What's the worst thing about being faithless?" Wilson answered: "The worst thing about being faithless? When I thought I was an atheist I would listen to the music of Bach and realize that his perception of life was deeper, wiser, more rounded than my own. Ditto when I read the lives of great men and women who were religious" (Why I Believe Again: A Former Atheist Tells His Story). Wilson, the atheist, understood that there was some depth missing in his mind and life. There is a proto-atheist in every heart, which rejects the depth of understanding inherent in the Christian faith, with its teaching about the incarnation, two natures in Christ, substitutionary atonement, suffering, death, and resurrection. We want to doubt that such depth matters. We would prefer the habits of the mind and heart that sees in only one dimension on the flat panel screen of theological simplicity. Challenging patterns of thought are only for the egg heads, trained in the fine distinctions that are too deep for the rest of us. "Just give me the simple faith," we say. And there is a place for such simplicity in children. But even children believe that Jesus is the God-Man and that He is one undivided person.

 

While you might excuse simplicity in children, they often perceive depth where adults have blocked it out. Some years ago I had a four-year-old child approach me after a church service in which the Lord's Supper had been celebrated. He took me to chancel steps, pointed to the cup on the altar and asked, "Pastor, is that God's blood?" This child had understood what Jesus had said when He instituted the Supper and gave it to us and He knew who Jesus was, therefore this had to be God's blood. Just so. He was not hindered by false ideas about what God might or might not be capable of. His presupposition was that God could do exactly what God said He could do. Go figure! If we only had that same depth of insight!

 

I am constantly challenged by Scripture to see what cannot be seen, to know what cannot be known, and to hear what has never been heard before. There is a demanding depth to the speech of God. Why should that surprise us? Why shouldn't we be challenged by God's self-revelation? Why shouldn't what we hear from God sound unlike anything we have ever heard before. Even the great saints often had that response to God's self-revelation. Even Mary was compelled to say, "How can this be?" (Lk 1:34), to the announcement of the incarnation of her Lord in her womb. How can this Jesus who takes on our flesh do so without damage to the perfection of His divine nature? Yet, this is the Bible's claim. This is why the church uses hymn and poetry, song and chant to disclose the deep things of God in her worship services. The church is proclaiming what has been wrapped in the mantle of human flesh. We struggle to wrap it in the mantle of words. I find myself struggling to plumb those depths when I read and listen with the church to her great preachers, like Leo the Great. Let's plumb those depths together.

 

Leo the Great

 

"When the whole body of mankind had fallen in our first parents, the merciful God planned to rescue His creatures made after His image through His only-begotten Jesus Christ, that the restoration of our nature should not be effected apart from it, and that our new state should be an advance upon our original position. Happy, if we had not fallen from that which God made us; but happier, if we remain that which He has re-made us. It was a great thing to have received form from Christ. It is much greater to have a substance in Christ. For we were taken up into its own proper self by that nature that condescended to those limitations which loving-kindness dictated and which yet incurred no sort of change. We were taken up by that nature, which destroyed not what was His in what was ours, nor what was ours in what was His. In His person He made God and Man so one that by co-ordination of weakness and power, the flesh could not be rendered inviolable through the Godhead, nor the Godhead capable of suffering through the flesh. We were taken up by that nature, which did not break off the branch from the common stock of our race, and yet excluded all taint of the sin which has passed upon all men. That is to say, weakness and mortality, which were not sin, but the penalty of sin, were undergone by the Redeemer of the world in the way of punishment, that they might be reckoned as the price of redemption. What therefore in all of us is the heritage of condemnation, is in Christ 'the mystery of godliness' (1Ti 3:16). For being free from debt, He gave Himself up to that most cruel creditor, and permitted the hands of Jews to be the devil's agents in torturing His spotless flesh. This flesh He willed to be subject to death, even up to His resurrection, to this end, that believers in Him might find neither persecution intolerable, nor death terrible, by the remembrance that there was no more doubt about their sharing His glory than there was about His sharing their nature."

 

Leo the Great, 
Sermon on the Lord's Resurrection
, 2.2
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have revealed the divine depth in Your own person by giving us grace and truth. Grant that we would both seek that truth and receive it from Holy Scripture. Keep us from doubt and rescue us from feeble-mindedness. Send Your Holy Spirit to Your church that she might ever know and confess the truth of Your glorious resurrection from the dead. Amen.

 

In thanksgiving that Jessica and Matthew Webber have been given the gift of a child, Aiden Ross Webber, and that he would be kept safe until the day when the Lord Jesus gathers him to His family in baptism

 

In thanksgiving to God for good weather, good health, faithful neighbors, and the like, that we might recognize the ultimate source from which all our blessings flow

 

For all military service personnel, that the Lord Jesus would watch over them and that the would be kept safe in their duties 

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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