We live “under the sun”, as the writer of Ecclesiastes describes our existence, filled with existential angst. We live year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, and moment by moment. The inertia of our lives is focused on the here and now, with our dying always looming in the near distance like a great mountain range rising up to the clouds we cannot conquer.
Our perspective is limited. It is finite. We stand at any given time on a small planet in a small solar system in one of billions of galaxies that exist in a universe. We stand “under the sun”, and our perspective, therefore, limited.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,(Isaiah 55:9)
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
That verse from Isaiah is a way of saying that God has a different perspective than we do. God has a purpose, and he invites us to consider the difference between His perspective and ours. He desires for us to seek to understand His perspective and to align with His purpose.
When Jesus says my yoke is easy and my burden is light, I believe he was encouraging us, at least in part, to understand and to adopt his perspective and his purpose. Our momentary lives include existential angst, dread, suffering and pain, but God has a purpose and a plan for us that is greater than what we see and experience under the sun, and it is liberating!
I see three concrete examples in scripture of the difference between God’s perspective and purpose and ours. (I am sure there are many more.) As God invites us to consider that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways, I think it is appropriate to consider and meditate on these three examples.
The first example is from Jeremiah and includes a verse that is often taken and applied out of context. The context should give us pause and help us to begin to see God’s perspective. In Jeremiah, God encourages the Israelites with these words:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”Jeremiah 29-11
When we look at those words in our position “under the sun”, we try to apply them in our momentary situations. We place our hope in God blessing us, and prospering us in our circumstances, and promising us a better future. We often fail to see or understand the full context and the implications of that context.
These words were spoken by Jeremiah as he conveyed the word from God to his people that had just been exiled to Babylon. The Assyrians had just routed the Israelites from God’s promised land they had inhabited for many generations and marched them to Babylon.
The people were captives of the Assyrian Empire. They were prisoners of war. Jeremiah had already proclaimed to them that their exile would last for 70 years.
Thank about that: 70 years is an entire generation. The people who heard these words would likely never know anything in their lifetimes but exile in the foreign land of Babylon.
Almost all of the people who heard Jeremiah speak these promising words would die in Babylon, still in exile.
God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. His perspective is greater than ours, and His purposes are eternal.
The second example is involves Abraham. God promised Abraham a child through whom that God would bless all the nations of the world. God told Abraham that his descendants would be like the number of stars in the sky. Decades after God made that promise to Abraham, Abraham was still waiting to see the fulfillment of that promise.
Fast forward. Abraham was living his life day by day, year by year, under the sun. At one point, his nephew, Lot, and his family were taken captive by four local kings of the land God promised to Abraham (land not yet claimed or possessed by Abraham).
Abraham did the right thing, though he went up against forces more powerful than his, and Abraham rescued Lot and his family with the help of God. At that moment, Melchizedek shows up. He declares that God is with Abraham, that Abraham was victorious because of his relationship with God, and Melchizedek proclaims a blessing over Abraham.
Yet, Abraham was troubled. Melchizedek had just blessed Abraham, but Abraham was thinking of the promise that was yet unfulfilled. Abraham was not content in receiving the momentary blessing he obtained because the great promise God had given him so many years before was yet unfulfilled. In that context, Abraham asked God for assurance.
This dilemma set the stage for the story of “the blood path”, which is a precursor to the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. This is one of the great stories and themes in Scripture! (See Abraham, Isaac, the Blood Path, Christ and Him Crucified)
But, that is not the point of this story. In this story, God instructs Abraham to set up a covenant, a covenant that Abraham likely realized he could not keep. A covenant Abraham dared not enter into with a Holy God.
On the horns of that dilemma, Abraham fell into a troubled and fitful sleep. That is when God came to him in his dreams with the assurance Abraham asked for.
This is the assurance God gave him: God said it would be 400 years before Abraham’s descendants would take possession of the land God promised him. As if that was less than comforting enough, God added that Abraham’s people would be mistreated in the meantime and live as prisoners in a foreign land. (Genesis 15:13-16)
Come again? What is it that God said? The promise would not be fulfilled for 400 years?!! And they would be mistreated as strangers in a foreign land?!
Abraham would be long dead. His son, Isaac, who was still only twinkle in God’s eye, would be gone. Isaac’s sons, and grandsons, and grandsons sons would dead before God would deliver on His promise!
Abraham was just looking for assurance he and Sarah would even have a son!
God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. God’s perspective is greater than ours, and His purposes are eternal.
The last example that comes to my mind goes back to Adam and Eve. God certainly knew that they would succumb to the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit of tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And, certainly, God was looking far beyond it.
Following on the curse and looking past their banishment from the garden of Eden and the presence of God, God looked out into the future and made them a promise wrapped in the curse:
“And I will put enmityGenesis 3:16
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
It would be many millennia before that offspring became reality in Jesus Christ, and will be millennia after that offspring was born before the reality of that redemption will be fully realized.
God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. God’s perspective and purpose are greater than ours.
We are made from the dust and to the dust we will return but for the death and resurrection of Christ and the offer he makes to us of becoming born again. We are made from perishable seed, but God has over offered us imperishable seed.
Long ago God ordained to put eternity into the hearts of men under the sun, but not that we should know the beginning from the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Only God knows the beginning from the end.
God chose us before creation to become His children. (Ephesians 1:4) We did not chose to be born; God chose us; and He chose us to bear His fruit. (John 15:16) Be fruitful…. It our purpose created by God in Christ, who “was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20)
Though God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts, God invites us into his perspective and purpose.
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.”Isaiah 51:6
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”Isaiah 64:4
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him….”1 Corinthians 2:9