In the first part of this study (Looking in the Wrong Direction, Part 1), the question was asked if it was possible that there are basic things that are true that we just don’t “get”? These fall into categories of the challenging (concepts that are just hard to understand), the complex (concepts that require a lot of study), and the “clear to others” (concepts that we are unwilling or unable to understand).
After looking at the example of Pharaoh (the one who was ruling Egypt when the Israelites were liberated), let’s take a look at another case:
For this second example, consider Jesus’ disciples. They didn’t seem to fully grasp who Jesus was, nor why He was on earth. (In fairness, many people today struggle with those same questions. If you consider yourself in that category, welcome to the discussion. Let’s tackle difficult questions together.)
- The disciples faith fell short in Matthew 17:19-20.
- Peter correctly identified who Jesus was (at least to some level) in Matthew 16:15-19, but then misses in Matthew 16:21-23.
- At the Last Supper, see John 13:5-10 and John 13:21-30 for a couple of examples of disciples missing what may seem obvious to us.
- After Jesus had been raised from the dead, some were still ready for Him to free Israel from Roman rule (see Acts 1:6).
Admittedly, the disciples – especially before Jesus’ return to Heaven – are sometimes judged harshly by those of us in the modern era. However, we should consider our advantages over them at that time (including our access to the complete Scriptures, centuries of history and study, and the leading of the Holy Spirit), as well as the ways that we are still like them, in ignorance, today.
Even after Jesus returned to Heaven, though, I Corinthians 13:12 (the “love chapter”, which you’ll hear at a lot of weddings…but probably not this verse) reminds us that we don’t know everything:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 NASB
So, there is sometimes just more than we can understand. Whether that is because our minds are too limited to comprehend everything, because we’re still too stubborn to fully grasp the truth, because God is saving more for the hereafter, or for some other reason, we must accept that we don’t know everything. This is where faith must fill in the gaps.
I acknowledge that this article (and its predecessor) is a lot of study and Scripture. However, if studying the Bible doesn’t change us, we’ve probably missed the point of studying it. Let’s go back to the initial premise:
- There are some concepts that are just hard to understand.
- When we don’t understand, it’s ok to keep studying (which we should do), but there is also a time when we just have to accept that we may not understand everything here on earth, and look forward to the time referred to in I Corinthians 13:12, when we will “know fully”.
- I’m not sure if God will spend eternity teaching us the secrets of the physical world we used to live in (once the new heavens and the new earth are in place), but I am confident that we will learn more about Him.
- Other concepts just take a lot of time to research and understand completely.
- If you are called to be one of those people who delves deeply into a topic – whether of this physical world, or in the study of God Himself – don’t keep it to yourself.
- If you are blessed with the opportunity to share your findings with others, do so in a way that glorifies God the Creator, and gives Him the credit: both for the mysteries that He has unlocked for you, and for giving you the ability to understand them.
- There are also concepts that we are unwilling or unable to understand.
- Overcoming this starts with “softening” our hearts. When you read the Bible or are learning from others who are teaching from it, be less stubborn.
- We must always study and interpret messages critically, so that we are not led astray, but this can too often become an excuse for resisting leading in any direction that we don’t like.
- Keep an open mind when reading the Bible, and vet others’ teachings in light of the Bible – not just based on what the last person said, or what you’d like the Bible to say.
These habits aren’t necessarily easy to develop or follow, but if we really want to find truth (and not just pat ourselves on the back for reinforcing what our own minds have made up), we will need to carefully weed out the obstacles that we put up – preventing us from reaching that goal.
Jesus gives us some encouragement, though. May we live out what he challenged us to do in Matthew 7:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8 NASB