Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Face from Space

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=50%C2%B0+0%2738.20%22N+110%C2%B0+6%2748.32%22W+&ie=UTF8&om=1&z=17&ll=50.010201,-110.1141&spn=0.004875,0.013561&t=k&iwloc=addr

Visit the above link, then come back here. I'll wait.

Waiting.

Okay--isn't that too cool? It's a satellite image of a spot in Canada-- I only know that because I clicked on the link to get driving directions from my house to that spot, so if I ever feel the urge to visit the face, I'm all set.

But it won't look like that when I'm standing on that soil. I won't have the benefit of perspective.

I won't be able to see that lovely face (quite artistic, don't you think?), because I'll be surrounded by all that lonely, arid land.

And there's a metaphor in that. When we reach those lonely, arid places of our lives, we may feel that we're standing in the middle of a desert, but we don't have the benefit of perspective. We won't be able to see the lovely work that God has created and that he sees from HIS perspective.

Reminds me of a short essay I wrote yesterday for my class in the OT prophets. My assignment was to take a passage from Isaiah and extrapolate meaning for today. Here's part of it:
Isaiah 45:1-13.

1This is what the Lord says to Cyrus, his anointed one,
whose right hand he will empower.
Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear.
Their fortress gates will be opened,
never to shut again.
2This is what the Lord says:
“I will go before you, Cyrus,
and level the mountains.
I will smash down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
3And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—
secret riches.
I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.
4“And why have I called you for this work?
Why did I call you by name when you did not know me?
It is for the sake of Jacob my servant,
Israel my chosen one.
5I am the Lord;
there is no other God.
I have equipped you for battle,
though you don’t even know me,
6so all the world from east to west
will know there is no other God.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.
8“Open up, O heavens,
and pour out your righteousness.
Let the earth open wide
so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together.
I, the Lord, created them.
9“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
‘How clumsy can you be?’
10How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father,
‘Why was I born?’
or if it said to its mother,
‘Why did you make me this way?’ ”
11This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel and your Creator:
“Do you question what I do for my children?
Do you give me orders about the work of my hands?
12I am the one who made the earth
and created people to live on it.
With my hands I stretched out the heavens.
All the stars are at my command.
13I will raise up Cyrus to fulfill my righteous purpose,
and I will guide his actions.
He will restore my city and free my captive people—
without seeking a reward!
I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!”

Isaiah’s message to Israel must have shocked many people—for the first and only time, a Gentile ruler was proclaimed “anointed” by God, in fact, Isaiah used the same word we translate “Messiah.” Just as Saul and David had been anointed at God’s command, so Cyrus, king of Persia, would be divinely “anointed” for a holy task: to restore Israel to the Holy Land. He would free the people from Babylonian captivity (at the appointed time; after the seventy years of captivity) and bring judgment upon unbelievers.

History tells us that Cyrus conquered the mighty Babylonians easily--by an ingenious strategy, a Persian contingent diverted the course of the Euphrates River and entered the city on the dry river-bed. Once inside the city, the Persians opened the gates to the main army from the inside. Thinking their city impregnable, the Babylonians were easily overrun. Seventeen days later, Cyrus entered the city in peace as a victorious conqueror, thus bringing an end to the Neo-Babylonian Empire.[1]

Historians may believe the victory belonged to Cyrus or his engineers; God tells us the victory was his doing. God made it easy and God rewarded Cyrus with treasures. Cyrus did not know the true God, but the Almighty aided him as he conquered Lydia and Babylon. Though Cyrus did not worship God, God called him by name and aided him in his conquests for two holy purposes: first, to restore Israel, and second, to reveal himself to Cyrus and to the world at large. “I am the Lord; there is no other God.”

This passage has profound application for today. First, it demonstrates that all world events are in God’s hands. Even leaders who do not know or worship the true God are known to him and used by him for his purposes. God is sovereign over all creation, and just as he used Cyrus to accomplish his divine purpose, he can use an ayatollah, a president, or a common citizen to accomplish his holy purposes today. He can protect Israel and his church, and he can reveal himself to the world whenever he chooses.

Second, this passage demonstrates that everything—the things we consider good and the things we consider “evil” or “disastrous”—also come from the hand of God. Verse seven tells us that he is the one who creates light and darkness; who sends good times and bad. He does all things; nothing escapes his notice or his control. John 1: 3 tells us “God created everything through him [Christ], and nothing was created except through him.” Therefore, even the situations we perceive as “evil” are brought about by God to serve his designs, though we may not understand the reasons behind them.

This “evil” is not moral evil, but the opposite of peace—what we consider disaster or calamity. God does not and cannot sin, but he uses all world events, good and bad, to work his sovereign will.

Third, this passage illustrates the human tendency to argue about God’s sovereign design. Realizing that some of the Jewish people might have wondered why God didn’t raise up a Jewish warrior or king to lead them from captivity, God rhetorically asks, “Does a clay pot ever argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop you are doing it wrong!’”

We clay pots are still prone to argue with our creator. When disaster strikes, we want to blame it on Satan, or global warming, or we imagine that God must have been sleeping when the disaster occurred. We are happy to allow God to be loving, but we find it hard to surrender our right to self-governance to the point where we can admit that we are but clay pots in our creator’s hands. We are so intent upon seeing God as loving and life-preserving that we tend to forget that judgment and justice as also his to wield. We forget that his ways are high above our ways.

We can see evidence of this in our lives—we worry about world affairs, for instance, when this passage clearly indicates that God is firmly and irrevocably in control. We argue with God and create theodicies where he is equal to evil, helpless to overcome it, or bound by self-limitation to tolerate it for a time. Yet God clearly states that he will do what he pleases, when he pleases, to accomplish his purposes.

Finally, in this passage we find hope for the future. “Open up, O heavens, and pour out your righteousness. Let the earth open wide so salvation and righteousness can sprout up together. I, the Lord, created them” (vs. 8). In verse 17, he continues: [I] will save the people of Israel with eternal salvation. They will never again be humiliated and disgraced throughout everlasting ages. For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos.”

One day, in the new heaven and the new earth, the New Jerusalem will be inhabited by the children of Israel and by Gentiles. Salvation and righteousness will grow together, and we will live under the Lord’s eternal messiah, the anointed king Jesus Christ. As Isaiah prophesied, the world will be filled and lived in, without chaos. And we will know that the Lord has done it.

So the next time you feel beset by your circumstances, think of yourself as standing in the center of that lovely face.

~~Angie

[1]KJV Bible Commentary, 1374 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1994).

4 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

That resonates in my spirit. I always remind myself it's all abtou God and not about me. That helps put my puny problems in perspective. :) But I love the anaolgy of Him seeing the problem totally different than I do.

Kristine dB said...

Near Medicine Hat I see. I'm sure I've driven near there many a time, never once knowing that was there! Very cool.

Catherine said...

Thanks for the reminder that He is the Potter and we are the clay.
C.

Amy said...

Hi,

I do not really know you but I wanted to let you know that your post really touched me. Sometimes in the middle of the wilderness, we fail to see the bigger picture. And yes, as you very well put it, we fail to realize that we are only clay pots in the hands of our creator.

Pray for me.
Cheers,
Amy