Lenten Scripture Reflection | Sunday: Psalm 38; Hosea 4.1-19; Galatians 6.1-18

From: Charles Glenn

The recent preaching focus on Hebrews is a reminder that our calling as Christians is not only to certain modes of feeling and living, but also to clarity and depth of thinking about God’s purposes and our part in them.

Hosea represents God as condemning the Israelites, not only for moral failures and idolatry, but 

Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children,

and concluding sadly, “a people without understanding will come to ruin!”

What is the knowledge and understanding that the people and their leaders lack? Not a hidden gnosis, a secret concealed from those outside an inner circle; after all, as Paul puts it in Romans 1:20, “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” 

It is publicly-available, the wisdom and knowledge for which King Solomon prays, “that I may lead this people” (2 Chronicles 1:10), and which God promised in Jeremiah 3:15: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” It is the wisdom and knowledge which we also should seek as we play our part in God’s purposes for the world God created and entrusted to us, the only creatures made in his image.

Paul insists that it does not require special revelation, as does the message of salvation through Christ Jesus, but simply awareness of God’s sovereignty and unlimited goodness. Or, in the words of Psalm 19,

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

Awareness that there is divine purpose expressed in Creation, and the determination to apply that understanding to every domain of our lives.

This forbids compartmentalizing our lives into religious and secular, or private and public. Statesman-theologian Abraham Kuyper put it this way: “Christ does not tolerate our living a double life: our lives must be one, controlled by one principle, wherever it may express itself.”  That principle is the sovereignty and love of God, expressing itself in a demand for justice and for mercy:  

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea  (Isaiah 11:9).

Until the earth is so blessed, it will continue to be true of fallen humanity that, “just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” (Romans 1:28-9).

Those called into the fellowship of Church of the Cross have also been called by God into a variety of professions and fields of study, and our recognition of God’s sovereign purposes in those domains will differ; it is up to each of us, with what fellow-pilgrims God provides, to discern their application. And up to all of us to pray for each other, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).

And so, “we continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10). Amen!

Retirement has given me a blessed balance of grandchildren and writing, with no papers to grade! I’ve just sent off to the publisher the book on Muslim educators in American communities.