The Hubble Telescope is an extraordinary invention. With it, we can see from unimaginable distances some of the farthest reaches of the universe; and simultaneously we can look back in time to see stars and galaxies as they were thousands and even millions of years ago. Perhaps the Hubble serves as a useful analogy for God’s ability to see from far away what is going on in our lives, and to look back through our personal history even to our formation in the womb. But, unlike the Hubble, which passively gathers information from a long time ago and from galaxies far away, Psalm 139 reminds us that God knows each of us personally. Extraordinarily, God sees, not from a vast distance, but up close and in person.
In the context of a congregation, the psalmist acknowledges that leadership is a vocation lived in all aspects of life: in the court of public opinion, among colleagues and competitors, and particularly in the presence of deadly adversaries, a life of faithful leadership plays out. Faith for the psalmist is neither tangential nor compartmentalized. It is central and integral to leadership, even a matter of life or death.
New Creation. Heaven on Earth. The End is Beginning.
Some of us are at the height of our careers, at the height of our powers. Others are at the beginning of our vocational journey, where much is promised yet unfulfilled. Some of us are nearer the end of our journey than the beginning, where our lives and gifts appear more fragile and uncertain. Wherever and whenever we find ourselves, the challenge is to be “trustworthy in a few things.”
The God who made our universe is unchangingly reliable, “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” That’s good news in a harsh and unreliable world. We have a divine counterclaim and divine counterexample to the world around us. In a world that is regularly ruthless and self-absorbed, God is always “compassionate and gracious.” In a culture increasingly ready to do and say anything, God continues to act consistently and overflows with “love and faithfulness.”
Today’s text suggests that God is not a distant deity with vague warm feelings toward his creatures. Instead, the Lord’s compassion and grace overflow in action with an abundance of steadfast love and faithfulness. God’s heart, God’s word and God’s actions are all congruent with one another. So it should be for all of us who claim to follow and lead in God’s Way.
Seeing life as a gift and seeing our redemption as a gift shapes the kind of leaders we become. Biblical hope is irresistibly resilient not because we are great leaders who are relentlessly determined to overcome all obstacles, but because the LORD is “the compassionate and gracious God.”
Is there a personal God and what might such a God be like? One of the problems with the way the Bible describes God is that God cannot be manipulated. In other words, no scientific experimentation is possible. If we are to know anything about God, it would require God’s self-revelation. That’s why the Bible is the essential book of human culture, since it claims to be the unique record of God’s self-revelation in human history. So, what is this God of the Bible like?
One of the challenging parts of the Christian journey is to undo our misconceptions of God. However we accumulate such conceptions, it’s important that we replace them with a biblically rooted vision of what God is like.
Numbering comes naturally to human beings. It’s hard to imagine human society functioning without our ability to keep count… We’ve invented previously unimaginable technologies to expedite the process. It’s led to the ability to quickly calculate all sorts of measures for all manner of things. On the downside, this has enabled us to generate volumes of data which may be of little value. Today’s text reminds us that this need not be so. Counting and wisdom can go together. But how do we learn to count well as human beings?