Too wonderful for me, #6

I think about my kids a lot. God thinks about His kids a lot, too.

I’ve been pondering some ponderous ponderations about self-righteousness today (will probably post some about it later this week), and in doing so came upon a much nicer thought after reading a passage in the Psalms that took me in much more pleasant directions.  One of the verses — for me, at least — clearly fits in the “too wonderful for me” category, and seemed worth sharing today as we continue to approach the Spring Holy Days:

…Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.

Psalm 40:5b

I’ve tried however poorly to communicate this idea before in sermons and other messages: That God spent time thinking about you today.  The mind is boggled when trying to contemplate the depth of what it means to speak of God thinking about anything, given the awesome depth that such a mind must represent (à la, Isaiah 55:9).  Yet it is just that unfathomable depth that makes such a statement believable, but also terrifyingly wonderful to meditate upon.

Even more than I have spent time today meditating on and praying about my own wife and children, God Almighty has spent time thinking about me.  He’s been thinking about you, as well.

Such a possibility really is too wonderful for me.

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Earlier “Too wonderful for me” entries:

18 thoughts on “Too wonderful for me, #6

  1. In such a case I don’t try to unscrew the inscrutable. I just let it be.

    (Psalms 131:1 RSV) A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
    (Psalms 131:2 RSV) But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.
    (Psalms 131:3 RSV) O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and for evermore.

    And just because I can: 🙂

    (Psalms 131:1 HOT) שׁיר המעלות לדוד יהוה לא־גבה לבי ולא־רמו עיני ולא־הלכתי בגדלות ובנפלאות ממני׃
    (Psalms 131:2 HOT) אם־לא שׁויתי ודוממתי נפשׁי כגמל עלי אמו כגמל עלי נפשׁי׃
    (Psalms 131:3 HOT) יחל ישׂראל אל־יהוה מעתה ועד־עולם׃

  2. Brian Lacher

    LOL, much more nicer…

    [EDITOR: Ha! Thanks for the catch, now fixed–the remnant of a quick edit imperfectly executed. WGS]

  3. Brian Lacher

    Good thoughts, one of my most favorite sermons was by Mr. Way regarding self-righteousness. It is mind boggling indeed that he can/does spend ‘time’ thinking about us individually, especially while listening to our prayers, seeing sparrows fall and EVERYTHING else He does simultaneously. While I do not assign terror to Him within His wondrous works and deeds. However, His Majesty and this small picture of His ability and attention is a concept that is extremely humbling indeed. It is also cause for joy, when truly considered alongside our Gods’ sacrifice to allow us access to Him.

  4. I agree, Brian!

    Though I don’t know what you mean by “assign terror to Him.” If you are referring to the comment about the thought being “terrifyingly wonderful to meditate upon,” you need to rethink your statement. In the venerable King James Version, God is frequently called “terrible” but with a richer and more beautiful meaning than today’s pop vocabulary has sadly left us with.

    For instance, notice God’s description of how wonderfully He will bless Israel in Exodus 34:10 — “And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the LORD: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.” The NKJV translates that last phrase, “For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.” Regrettably, “awesome” is another word that has lost its richness as the English has fallen apart, thanks to such cultural powerhouses as Bill and Ted.

    Consider, too, Brian, this beautiful description of the overpowering blessings that God will bestow upon Israel in the Millennium: “Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it” (Jeremiah 33:9, NKJV). Notice, they will “fear and tremble” because of the unprecedented goodness they experience. It relates to being moved in your deepest being — a humbling joy that inspires awe, love, and complete devotion at levels they had never experienced before. In fact, one could rightly say that the blessings that Israel will experience are terrifyingly wonderful.

    After all, Brian, “Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict” (Job 37:22-23).

    “Terrible” can mean “formidably great” or “causing awe” — indeed, these used to be primary meanings of the word. Just a friendly reminder that the dictionary often holds more than one definition for a word. 🙂 Let me know if you disagree, and thanks for your comment!

  5. BrianL

    Well said, while I had indeed forgotten that definition of the word ‘terrible’ (ly); due to the change of understanding of the word (as a bit of a wordsmith it got me, even) I would have to disagree with it’s use in a public forum, as it is easily misunderstood. Please be assured I relish the opportunity to learn (or brush up), I am not sure the majority would feel the same way and may be a bit put off. Remember the KJV is not the divine language (however correct or proper it may be). But that is me, I am not paid nor commissioned to write, it is merely opinion and observation. Conclusion: I no longer disagree with your terminology, but still question the use of it in such a forum, with your position. That being said, I do appreciate that you take the time to write and to respond in such a manner. As far as awesome is concerned, I completely agree. That is indeed a word that should be reserved for Him and His works. It has been nearly ruined (certainly diluted to almost inert) as a concept and has become approximately a slang word. I can tell you that in my house (at least as far as my family is concerned) it is a reserved word and not to be used in ‘vain’. It is disappointing at best, I very much understand the ‘sighing and crying’ for the direction that Satan has taken this world, with the willingness of us as humans to go along with it, even furthering its degradation.

  6. Thanks, again, Brian for writing back, and it looks as though we’ll have to agree to disagree about “terrifyingly wonderful,” though the facts are (ahem) on my side here, as I will tediously demonstrate… 🙂

    I certainly agree that the KJV is not divine English. Far from it: much of it is outdated. However, I referred to it not because I was claiming to use an archaic phrase (since it is not) but because I hoped to use examples that would be familiar to you to demonstrate how a word could be used in such a manner that its meaning is clear from its context. I apologize: picking the KJV for your presumed familiarity with it may not have been wise, since the word “terrible” has not aged well, as I noted, and that may have distracted from my point.

    After all, the definitions of “terrible” I gave you were from a modern dictionary, not a 17th century one. And as for “terrifyingly wonderful,” I have read and heard it used many times in modern English, as well, on many occasions, and just as I have used it. Even a quick Internet search provides instances: for example, a stay-at-home mom describes the inspiring examples of other women as “terrifyingly wonderful,” and an impressed-with-himself guy describes his artsy photo of a trash can and urban snowscape as “majestic and terrifyingly wonderful,” et al. Again, modern people using modern English, not the 1600s. And even today, we say things such as “That was terribly kind of you, thank you!” and “He was terribly nice, wasn’t he?”

    So, I appreciate your opinion about my use of the phrase, and I am always happy to hear feedback. (Or at least I try to be!) But–as a professional wordsmith, myself–it seemed and still seems just the right phrase to communicate what was on my mind, and I think its other modern usages validate that. The phrase is not only used here with valid, recognizable meaning, but that meaning is made all the clearer by the context, making it, I believe, rather difficult to misunderstand. If anyone else out there disagrees, though, feel free to let me have it. I’m a big boy, and I can take it! 🙂

    This discussion reminds me of another thought. This ought to be a post in itself, but let me go on a bit as an aside, unrelated to your comment. (Besides, I can’t sleep and I have a computer in my lap!) In my public speaking experience (even before being in the ministry), I have seen that many people do not hear what you are saying but what their personal biases cause them to hear. Mr. Apartian warned us about that in the first ministerial conference I ever attended. As God tells us, “To the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1:15), and the mind sees what it is prepared to see, but I do try to take into account how what I say might be misinterpreted, sometimes purposefully, and speak or write accordingly. Sometimes I succeed, other times I don’t. And while I do seek to avoid laying down unintended stumbling blocks, there are regrettably those “special” individuals who, upon seeing even a possible stumbling block across the room, will run across said room–leaping over any intervening obstacles–for the sole purpose of tripping over it and complaining about it. Time has taught me (and continues to teach me) that I can’t possibly anticipate and adjust for all such twisted (and twisting) individuals, yet, thankfully, God continues to demonstrate that He is big enough to take care of such concerns as long as I agree to keep doing my best. So, I do try to keep them in mind–someone intent on unjustly attacking you will inevitably find a stick, but it doesn’t mean you have to hand him one. 🙂

    Again, the ramble above is unrelated to your comment, Brian, but it’s something I’ve considered writing about for some time. So, back to your comment!…

    I also wanted to say that I am glad you are protecting your use of the word “awesome.” I wish I had more in earlier years of my life, and I find it much harder now, though I am trying! (Honey, that chicken dinner you made was aweso… I mean, it was really fantastic!) I think that maintaining the integrity of such words helps in our relationship with God, as there are really fewer and fewer words these days that can communicate the degree of reverence we should hold towards God like these words do.

    Thanks, again, for writing, as well as for putting up with this ramble. I’m going to try and go to sleep now. And since I typed this on my Beautiful Wife’s MacBook, it is probably full of typos (what an annoying keyboard!), so let me know if you see some!

  7. Steve

    Okay, I might be making another off kilter comment here, but forgive me!

    I feel intimidated when I pray. It’s not fear in the bad sense of the word. It’s more like respect for the majesty and power. Like you’re standing next to a thundering waterfall, or something.

    At the same time, I know that He has our best interest at heart. We’re all just pieces of dirt, destined to become empty skulls in the grave. Little nothings that come and go in a fragment of time. Yet David says, “what is man, that you are mindful of him?” It’s amazing.

  8. Howdy, Steve! I agree, it is amazing! And let me just say that I can sympathize with you about feeling intimidated. Yet, at the same time we should remember the words of Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” You’re His son! It may seem paradoxical, but while He deserves our utmost reverence and awe, He also is our Dad, which better translates the Aramaic term “Abba” — a term for Father that communicates childhood, familial intimacy.

    We have the privilege of approaching Him with a kind of intimacy that even the angels in His presence do not share with Him. How amazing is that, huh?

    So, we should have a godly fear of Him — “fear,” here, meaning an attitude of reverent respect and awe. But the worldly kind of “fear” should have no place, since “[t]here is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

    I’m not saying that you need the advice, but I thought I would give it anyway. 🙂

  9. Teresa

    We lived in New Hampshire for 4 years and “hayed” our fields as part of our farming operation. Meaning that we let the grasses & legumes grow, then when we had what looked like a 4 day clear stretch of weather, we mowed the fields, let the cut hay dry, fluffed it up, let it dry further, and then finally baled it and put it in the barn. It was easy to bale 300 or more square bales in one cutting. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t always stick to the weather man’s predictions & sometimes it will rain after you have cut the hay, reducing or destroying its nutrient levels. I personally was the recipient of God’s intervention both in His holding back impending rain until we finished our work and also in sending help to pick up bales when there was seemingly no help to be had. It still brings tears to my eyes to think that God was so loving and caring that He intervened in situations that meant nothing on a world scale, but He intervened solely to help one of His children in need.

  10. Hi Mr. Smith and All,

    Mr. Smith, you could always (and probably should preferentially) double back to the meaning of the Hebrew nora (נורא), which is the Hebrew original in the cases you mention and means exactly what you indicate is the original meaning of the English words “terrible, awesome, etc.”. Not only are the facts on your side, but they have the ball, it is fourth down and there are only two yards from touchdown against the weakest defense in the NFL. 😀

    What you and Steve have said about approaching God makes me wonder. Given that we all have different personality types with different cognitive processes functioning in different archetypal roles, this affects how we deal with each other and (I’ve observed) with God. (Think of it as how each of us deals with the Beatitudes, for that is precisely what is going on.) Could it be that how we deal with God’s “awesomeness” relates to how we use our capacity for “big-picture” conceptual (as opposed to “big-picture” sensory-based) thinking? I know that you and I use the first capacity in the same “archetypal” way but that Steve uses it in a radically different way, and his reply about how he deals (or not) with the conceptual “awesomeness” of God seems consistent with that.

    I have no trouble contemplating the “awesomeness” of God. I’m not intimidated in the least by that. It’s how He deals with issues connected to thought processes a lot farther down in my mind that can trip me up.

  11. Brian Lacher

    Thank you again for the response. Your example of the phrase ‘terribly nice of you’ of you finally clicked for me. It must be cultural differences, as I do not and do not recall using the word in such context. (By the way, since my first misconception of the word, I never called it wrong.) It did get me to thinking that I have used the phrase ‘awfully nice of you’ which is indeed approximately (in English) the same type of word. It has a similar meaning to terribly, but is not generally used today (at least not in typical pop culture) as a positive word- except of course in a phrase such as that. I would wager that if one were to poll the general public for the meaning of awful and terrible- you would get less than a 10% response of a positive meaning. So, I do not think it is as severe as agreeing to disagree (which is not in itself a problem) you have swayed me in the allowable use of the word in such a context. I will still ascertain however, that a small percentage would (out of such context) know the meaning properly. There are truly few words left that have been untainted by our ‘modern’ dialect that can be utilized properly for His Majesty- how sad.

  12. Thanks, again, Brian, and I agree that we’re agreeing more than we’re agreeing to disagree. 🙂 And I did not think of “awfully nice” until I closed down the computer and tried to go to sleep, so I’m glad that you mention it (as well as phrases such as “I loved her so much that it scared me,” which communicate the same sense I am aiming at). And you’re right — “awfully” seems different only because it has lost its meaning (“full of awe”), which is prcisely why I chose “terrifyingly” of possibilities such as that one. Good example! Of course neither of them are meant to be inherently good or bad — they are simply adverbial modifiers, meant to communicate the depth, intensity, or quality of the adjective at hand: in the case of this post, the word “wonderful,” which is clearly positive.

    And I do agree that a small percentage might wonder what those two words meant if the two words were given out of context. Of course, anything taken out of context can be misunderstood (witness the confusion of mainstream Christianity!). Thankfully, the context of the post makes the use clear in this case–in fact (dare I say it?) terribly clear. 🙂 And of course, some are determined to see the worst regardless of the context, and only so much can be done about those folks.

    Good thing Zeph. 3:9 is around the corner!

  13. Steve

    Hi,Smith!

    I saw your reply to my comment. I’m afraid that I accidentally left a false impression with you. Most of my comments are too long, so I was trying to keep this one short and sweet.

    Surprise!

    I absolutely agree with everything you said in your reply. Godly fear is not the same thing as worldly fear. It’s more like the respect of a toddler for a powerful father.

    Thanks for your concern, Mr Smith! You can give me advice anytime you like!

    Now, if I may allude to Rakkav’s comment…

    I don’t think one’s approach to God is necessarily a function of personality type, sensory versus conceptual, or what have you.

    It’s about realizing Whom we are praying to. That we’re not praying to a religious belief behind closed eyelids. But that we are praying to One who actually exists. That it’s very, very real.

    Thankfully, we have a God who cares about humanity, little nothings though we are. It’s about believing in His plan for humankind. About His incredible love.

    Okay, here I go again. Another long comment. Sorry! I have to stop doing this.

    Again, thanks for your reply, Mr. Smith. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you.

  14. By comparison to many of my comments, Steve’s comments are the essence of brevity, always. This one still leaves me with a question, though.

    Granted that our approach to God depends on our accessing a thought process not natural to our personality types – the Holy Spirit – how is it that people otherwise equally aware of God’s existence are in some cases intimidated by the awareness of God’s awesomeness while others embrace it?

    I suggest it has nothing to do with faith or lack thereof. It might have to do with fear needing to be cast out by love, but I don’t think that applies here. I’ve been observing a consistent correlation, though: those who are more naturally intuitive, have naturally less trouble embracing awesomeness. What intuitive people have trouble grasping are other things about God that give sensory-oriented people absolutely no problem at all.

    One could go further, and show how those who are strong in the Thinking processes naturally have much more skepticism about God’s existence, period, than those who are strong in the Feeling processes. This is especially true of NTs versus NFs. I’m not making this up; this comes from people who’ve worked in the field for decades.

    For every strength there is a weakness, and for every weakness, a strength.

  15. Steve

    Hi John,

    Well, I don’t know. Even though I’m aware of how the personality tests are constructed and where they come from, I really don’t put much thought into it. You study and analyze it much more than I do.

    I’m fairly good at sizing people up on an objective level, but I don’t worry about their internal workings, unless it’s somebody close to me. (Too many people, and it’s not my pay grade).

    I can only speak for myself. Being intimidated by God while embracing Him isn’t necessarily a contradiction. You can do both at the same time.

    “Dad, I really blew it. So am I grounded, or what?” Well, I just might get grounded, anyway. I might not like it, but Dad probably knows what he’s doing.

    And the fear isn’t so much the punishment. It’s the disappointment in your father’s eyes. That cuts to the heart.

    So, I don’t know about this or that personality approach to God, John. I only know that I believe in His way of life, and that I feel like kicking myself when I don’t meet His standards. And it wounds me personally; because, believing in His way, I don’t meet my own standards for myself.

    “Let us hear the whole conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”

    And from I’ve seen, the law is love.

    I had a bad relationship with one of my neighbors. It was so bad, that a couple of punches were tossed. One night, I noticed that a couple of his animals had gotten out. God’s law commands that we look out for our neighbors stock. Well, I’m knocking on his door at one o’clock in the morning. I didn’t want to do this, because I knew that he would take a swing, the moment he saw me. But God’s law commanded that I do this.

    You know what happened? I talked really fast when he opened the door. Then we did a buddy team on the animals. After that, we were shaking hands and laughing. All of that bad blood got washed away in one moment of time. I couldn’t believe it.

    Okay, I’m running on here. The point is, the way I see it, fearing God and embracing Him is part and parcel of the same thing. I just wish that I was better at doing it. If He offered me the power to not-sin, then I’d grab it out of His hand faster than He could open it. You know?

    And Mr Smith – my apologies, and please feel free to to delete this!

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