Strategic Obscurity and the Glory of God

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1 Kings 17:22–24 (NIV)

The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

CONSIDER THIS

ME: THIS IS THE WAY—
YOU: FROM GLORY TO GLORY!

This is such a strange way to save the world.

Why in the face of a natural disaster, a national calamity, a crashing economy, and certain tragic loss of life . . . why does God put his chief agent in hiding with a widow of dubious reputation to seemingly wait out the storm (or lack thereof as was the case) while taking exquisite care of her in a way that is of seemingly no consequence to anyone or anything else going on? 

I struggle to make sense of it. Sure, I can read it from below (i.e., with my own life and present challenges in the center of the frame) and settle for the cheap and easy refrigerator magnet: “God will make a way when there seems to be no way,” or “Look what God did for this widow. Imagine what he can do for me.” I can just settle to interpret it as a God flex. 

We are learning to read from above. We are doing our best to read with God in the center of the frame. What is God seeing and sensing, thinking and feeling, saying and doing? This path of going from glory to glory requires this majorly massive shift in us. It is a shift that does not happen all at once, but by degrees. It is the shift of learning to interpret life and the world and all its unfolding from God’s frame of reference and not from our own very limited point of view. This is the work of decentering—or getting ourselves out of the center of the story. I like how Isaiah tees it up, and I’ll quote him with a bit of length here.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:8–11)

If you were tempted to skip over that text, please accept my gentle rebuke and go back and read it now. And if you read it, I want you to read it again; this time aloud and with emphasis. This is a life text. 

Speaking of a strange way to save the world, none of this was lost on Jesus, who said the following in the synagogue in his home town; after which they promptly escorted him to the city limits (i.e., the cliff).

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. (Luke 4:25–26)

And three chapters later we get this: 

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:11–15)

Decentering. We are onto something here. It means shifting from “Why is this happening to me” to “What are you doing, Lord?” What are you seeing and sensing, thinking and feeling, saying and doing? What are your thoughts? What are your ways? What is your Word? What are your purposes? 

I am learning to cease trying to figure it all out as though it could be figured out. I am learning to simply behold this God and be in awe. 

This is the way—from glory to glory.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, what looks to be an obscure and confounding story turns out to be one for the ages, indeed, lifted up by your Son, Jesus himself. To say it is a prominent story in the history of the world would be a gross understatement. So obscure and so prominent. Holy Spirit, would you ponder these things within us? Would you decenter us from the story. Would you show us our seat to the side where we can learn to see, no, to behold you in the center of the story and delight in our own strategic obscurity. Something tells me this place is where we find our part. Praying in Jesus’ name, amen. 

THE QUESTION

Decentering. How do you resonate with this thought? Have you realized the more we try to decenter the more we actually entrench ourselves in the center? What if the only way we can decenter is to get our eyes on someone else; to become so fixed on another that we forget ourselves? What if this is the essence of how “be transformed” works? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

6 COMMENTS

  1. In my prayer and meditation time this morning, prior to reading this DT, It came to me why as Americans, we struggle with our relationship with God. He truly is the sovereign KING over all creation. We have no clue as how that affects everything. We fought a bloody war to gain our freedom from a king some 200+ years ago. Our culture of personal freedoms and individual rights, I believe cloud our understanding of God’s sovereign rule over every aspect of our lives. As Christians we are truly Christ’s bond servants.

  2. To see, to care for, to embrace, to identify with, and to truly become the “least of these” is to prepare the way so that God can mightily move and ever increasingly manifest His glory amid our brokenness and poverty of Spirit. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Obscurity causes our “earthen vessel” to be overlooked and fractures our pride so that the inner glory of God can shine unquenched and uninterrupted through the gift of holy meekness and self-detachment.

  3. God’s greatest works come through the most difficult pain. Healing either comes from the pain, or brokenness keeps breaking until nothing is left.
    Matthew 11:28-30
    “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
    Tragedy can happen in a moment, but putting the pieces back together usually comes from moment to moment surrender; continuing moments of going to Christ. This way we become new, and not glued back together. Christ is the only way we become whole again where there are no cracks in our souls.
    Just Him.
    Learning.

  4. I think this is why people have so much trouble with the question of suffering. We ask, ‘why is it allowed? And forget to ask, ‘what is God doing?’. ‘Why’, puts us/me in the spotlight. ‘What’ puts God in the spotlight. ‘Why’ can be defensive and self destructive. ‘What’ is searching and hopeful.
    Even when ‘Why’ can be answered (we suffer because we are fallen) the ‘What’ is far more important (God is bringing us back to Himself).

  5. A friend recently lost her son daughter in law and granddaughter in a traffic accident typing to make sense of all of this so tragic

  6. I take liberties with reworking the wording on a sign I saw today in a gift shop…

    “Keep your eyes on the Son, and the shadows will always fall behind you.”

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