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Faith in the Face of Perplexity

Faith in the Face of Perplexity

6 10 99
Faith in the Face of Perplexity 10 6 99
(Indonesia : Iman Dalam Menghadapi Kebimbangan)

 There are many things that we don’t understand. There are even things that our Lord keeps from us. He tells us that he has His secrets (Deut. 29:29). Strangely, He sometimes even withholds words of comfort.

Abraham knew that it wasn’t going to fair well for Sodom. God was going to judge that city and the surrounding ones that had so utterly rebelled against His truth. However, Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family lived in Sodom, so Abraham interceded for Sodom with Yahweh:

    “What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?” (Gen. 18:24)

God agreed that He wouldn’t. However, Abraham wanted to make sure that Yahweh wouldn’t destroy Sodom, and so he tried to reduce the minimum number of righteous down to 10:

    Then he said, "May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?"

To Abraham’s great relief, Yahweh consented that if there were 10 righteous in Sodom, He wouldn’t destroy the city. However, Abraham’s hopes were dashed:

    Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. (Gen. 19:27-28)

Sodom and the surrounding towns had been utterly consumed! There weren’t even 10 righteous! However, we have no indication that Abraham ever learned that God had spared Lot and his family. The Bible records no further communication between them. Instead, it seems that after the horrific sight of Sodom’s destruction, Abraham pulled up his stakes and moved out of the area (Gen. 20:1-2) to the land of Gerar, where his faith once again lapsed.

It doesn’t seem that God had given him any indication that his prayer for Lot had been answered, despite Sodom’s destruction.

Why didn’t God ever engineer a joyous reunion between Lot and Abraham? Why hadn’t God informed Abraham of His faithfulness? The secret things belong to God, and therefore, there are many questions we can’t answer.

How then was Abraham able to continue walking in faith in view of a God who seemingly brought such tragedy upon his small and dwindling family? Could he trust such a God for his own life? Evidently, he felt he couldn’t. Despite the fact that God had promised that Sarah would give birth to their promised son next year, Abraham bowed to fear and allowed the King of Gerar to take Sarah for his wife.

However, God was faithful and miraculously restored Sarah to her husband Abraham, and Isaac was born as promised.

It was clear that Abraham wasn’t able to understand all of God’s ways. However, he was learning that God is faithful. Consequently, about 10-15 years later, we find a courageous Abraham. He now believed in his God to the extent that he was even willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s bequest.

It is the faithfulness of God that enables us to live with perplexity. However, there is another important piece in the puzzle of living by faith in the midst of great loss and perplexity.

Job had lost everything – family, friends, financial resources, and even his physical well-being. Understandably, he charged God with injustice and unfaithfulness. However, God finally challenged Job’s indictments:

    Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. (Job 38:1-3)

Job couldn’t answer even one of God’s many questions. Job learned a humiliating lesson. He now understood that his understanding was very limited, so limited that, he had no basis to bring charges against God. Job, therefore, repented profusely:

    "I am unworthy--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer--twice, but I will say no more." (Job 40:4-5)

    "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:2-6)

We too speak of things we don’t understand. We fail to see the entire picture. Our problem is that we think we have a wisdom when we really don’t.

Ironically, it is this blind self-confidence that causes us harm. Because we are convinced that we do understand, when we really don’t, we too bring indictments against God, cause ourselves unnecessary grief, and even shipwreck our faith.

There is much that I cannot understand. My dear and faithful friend, hearing voices and suffering from paranoia, recently took his life. I cried out to God, “How could You have allowed such a thing to happen. You could have healed him!” Lacking the bigger picture, I brought my own indictments against God.

Jesus had received word from Mary that her brother Lazarus was dying and that He should come. However, Jesus purposely delayed two days, allowing Lazarus to die. He could have merely spoken a word and Lazarus would have been healed, but He didn’t.

·        So then he told them [His disciples] plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." (John 11:14-15)

However, Mary was perplexed that Jesus had delayed and charged, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). However, this death had a happy ending. Lazarus was raised up and many believed and faith restored.

However, many of us are still waiting for our Lazarus to be raised, and we see no indication that this will happen. We have signed our indictments, filed our charges, and they remain unanswered. Consequently, we are tortured by doubts, regrets, anxiety, and bitterness. We do not see any possible resurrection; none is in sight. Trust is our only light, but it seems to have died along with Lazarus.

However, after laying out her charge against Jesus, Mary cried out in faith:

·        But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." (John 11:22).

I trust that my precious friend is with our ever-gracious Savior. Nevertheless, I don’t understand why He allowed this to happen, but I am confident that He has his reasons!

·        Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Author : Daniel Mann
Instructor at New York School of the Bible, New York
Teach classes of OT, Theology and Apologetics.

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