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Know Your Limit. Play Within It.

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As we’re spending time in Ecclesiastes as a church this summer, one of the recurring themes we’re seeing is the finite nature of humanity. We are limited creatures, bound by time and mortality. There are so many things we can’t fathom. There are so many aspects of life that we don’t understand. Even in the wake of tremendous technological and scientific progress, we cannot transcend the limits often 8ujiko 09 our existence. The corollary to this is that God is not like us. He is transcendent. Somehow, while working within time, He stands outside of time. He is all-wise. He fathoms all mysteries. He sees how the pieces fit together.

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I shared this short video with our staff this week. It’s 25 seconds. I’m confident you have time to give it a watch: https://wwu.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=816f04da-f1ff-45e6-b45e-addf0067f876

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Isn’t that incredible? Imagine that piece of artwork was the scope of history. We humans are in the midst of all of those swirling, seemingly discordant pieces. Many things don’t make sense to us. We grieve and we mourn and we lament. I don’t mean to minimize any of that. After all, Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to mourn. The Bible is full of lament. There is much evil in the world. However, what if God is like one who is able to see the whole of history, like someone viewing that piece of “perceptual art” at the end of the video? What if He is able to see how the pieces fit together? What if He is the artist, taking these discordant elements and somehow turning them to fit His purposes?

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In Romans 11, Paul is concluding his reflections about God’s purposes among Jews and Gentiles and their reception of Jesus. He writes these words in praise of God, words that apply on the large scale of history: “33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” 36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

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To be honest, I rarely, if ever, have chosen that passage as a way to close a worship service. Why is that? Maybe it’s because part of me intuitively resists this idea. After all, God has made Himself known in Christ Jesus. He has revealed His purposes through the Gospel. But more than that, there is a certain pridefulness in me and in humanity in general that wants to believe we can conquer mystery. I resist this idea that something might be unknowable to me, or that God would keep anything hidden from humans. But we resist this in futility. We need humility. Humility to recognize, once again, that we are limited creatures and God is not.

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There’s a saying you’ll see or hear on gambling advertisements: know your limit, play within it. There is a certain wisdom in that, especially in a day and age where so much information and knowledge is available to us. There is a rugged wisdom in Ecclesiastes. As you traverse through life and inevitably receive bumps, bruises, cuts and even deep, deep wounds, you may find yourself asking, “why?” That is a reasonable and understandable question. Ask it. But ask it from the understanding of the limits of humanity and the boundless wisdom of God. 

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