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19 June 2022

Meditation – Humbled by Eternity (The Eternity of God – Part 8).

by Isaac Overton

One of the uniquely amusing things about being a parent is hearing your young children pontificate. In the vastness of their 6 or so years of life, apparently they have gathered enough insight to put them at least on par with their parents, and oftentimes it’s very straight forward: it’s the parents who need straightening out! It’s not all bad, of course, it really is a delight to see their excitement when their minds are broadened in some way and they can’t wait to share it with you. At times gentle instruction is needed, and at times stern correction when their pride tempts them to be argumentative.

I point out this quality in children, not because adults ought to feel superior about it, but because such behaviour is so very like us (our children learn much by way of imitation!). Of course, we ourselves were the same as children, which is reason enough in itself to be humble, but even still is this not an apt way of describing our own attitude with God? Here we are, having now lived lives that have spanned the vast chasm of decades, and having gathered wisdom constantly across the course of those years, we too have come to think ourselves ready for a bit of our own pontificating! Though, of course, we would not choose that word, we might prefer a word more… measured, like “explaining” or “helping”, or “illuminating”.

The book of Job furnishes us with a wonderful example of this kind of problem. Job was, indeed, a godly man. Even God himself said of Job: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8). Surely, if ever there was one qualified to pontificate, it was Job! He was a mature, wise, and godly man. And yet, God having permitted Job’s affliction and suffering, Job himself was then ultimately tempted to demand an answer of God. In his response to his three erring friends, he started more reasonably, saying things like: “If one wished to contend with God, one could not answer him once in a thousand times” (Job 9:2). And yet, it is not long after that we find Job doing just that! “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me” (Job 23:3-6).

When the Lord did at last respond to Job, who had laid out his complaint and defended his innocence, his first words were these: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” It’s interesting, and I’d never noticed it before, but God’s reproval starts with an eternal recalibration for Job. This God, with whom we have to do, is the eternal one. He was there at the start, and he has been there to witness and sovereignly direct every moment from that time until now. Our temerity in questioning God is far more arrogant than that of our children toward us!

Job suffered profoundly. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health. I doubt any one of us would do so well under the same circumstances. And yet, though not to Job’s extreme, we might yet ask: how do we respond when, in his providence, God ordains hardship for us? Do we groan and complain? Do we not question God? Do we not think that we have been hard done by? Do we not think that we deserve better? These kinds of thoughts are not uncommon for us in our trials and difficulties. In Psalm 73, for example, Asaph was “envious of the arrogant” when he “saw the prosperity of the wicked.” He too needed an eternal recalibration, which he found when “went into the sanctuary of God” and discerned their end. In spite of his present trial, he recalled that the wicked will be “destroyed in a moment”, but that the righteous will be received into glory, and that God would their portion forever (Ps 73:26).

When we question God and struggle with his hard providences, we too need to be reminded of and humbled by God’s eternity. His wisdom and experience is infinitely vast, and has been steadfastly applied and displayed right throughout history. I would say that his wisdom has been gathered across the millenia, but it’s far more profound than that – his wisdom has and always will be infinite. He knows the end from the beginning, and so the wisdom of the ages has and always will be his! Who are we, who have existed for mere decades, to question God? Or to match wits with his insight? Job was rightly humbled, and came to express that which all of us ought to express:

“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further… I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know….I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes have seen you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 40:4-5; 42:6).

In conclusion, please take a moment now to read these words from the Puritan Stephen Charnock. Read them well, and re-read them a few times. Ponder them, and weigh them in your mind. Read them out loud and slowly, he expresses this all much more potently than I. Charnock says: “...shall we, that are of so short a being and understanding as yesterday, presume to measure the motions of eternity by our scanty intellects? … The counsels of a boundless being are not to be scanned by the brain of a silly worm, that hath breathed but a few minutes in the world… Whenever, therefore, any unworthy notion of the counsels and works of God is suggested to us by Satan, or our own corrupt hearts, let us look backward to God’s eternal and our own short duration, and silence ourselves with the same question wherewith God put a stop the reasoning of Job – “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job xxxciii. 4), and reprove ourselves for our curiosity...” SDG.