This Love that Surpasses Knowledge

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ISAIAH 43:14-45:10 | EPHESIANS 3:1-21 | PSALM 68:1-18 | PROVERBS 24:1-2

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Isaiah records a long monologue on behalf of the Lord Almighty and his people, the children of Israel.  It is an account of the many mercies of the Almighty toward an erring and sinful people—who have time and time again turned away from their God.  These words are striking for the plaintive style in which God lays down the facts.  He says:

23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
nor wearied you with demands for incense.
24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses.

There’s not much that Israel can say in her defense.  And yet, Israel is not to despair, because this is a God who is not giving up on her.  God says:

25 “I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.
26 Review the past for me,
let us argue the matter together;
state the case for your innocence.

Idolatry is the mother of all sins, and God is reminding his chosen people of the error of their ways when they resorted to worshiping idols.  Referring to a block of wood, God says:

19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

One can only imagine the sense of gratitude that the children of Israel must feel when they read these words:

Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”

And to the ones who might be in an argumentative frame of mind, and even have the audacity to question the ways of the Almighty, this is what the Lord God says:

9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?
10 Woe to the one who says to a father,
‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
‘What have you brought to birth?’

Turning now to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we come across a passage that appears to complement the previous reading in Isaiah.  In the old covenant, Israel was the only “chosen one” — the only people who were privileged to receive the forgiveness of sins and the many blessings that followed. 

But we are no longer in the era of the old covenant, Paul is telling the young church at Ephesus.  We are under a new covenant that came into effect with the occurrence of God incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ and by the blood that this man, i.e., God himself has shed on the cross.  And because of the resurrection from the dead that followed, everyone who believes in the saving power of this supernatural act is now entitled to enter into the new covenant with God. 

The gates have been thrown open—there is no special treatment for the Jew, and no discrimination toward the Gentile. 

Paul says, 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

Paul goes on to say to them:   7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

The people in the church of Ephesus must have been very dear to Paul, because what he says next to them is indeed the most affectionate and sincere wishes for them.  He says:  16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

And finally, one of the most sublime of all ways to end a letter, Paul writes these words—which for generations have been used as a benediction:   20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Turning now to our reading of the psalms, we find David extolling the greatness and the mercies of the Lord Almighty.  These verses capture the pure essence of David’s gratitude:

9 You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.

Finally, one “saying” from the book of Proverbs, authored by none other than Solomon, the Wise:

1 Do not envy the wicked,
do not desire their company;
2 for their hearts plot violence,
and their lips talk about making trouble.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

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