Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Mystery of God's Priorities

If He told us, we wouldn't understand them anyway.

Job 36:17-33 (ESV)

“But you are full of the judgment on the wicked; judgment and justice seize you. Beware lest wrath entice you into scoffing, and let not the greatness of the ransom turn you aside. Will your cry for help avail to keep you from distress, or all the force of your strength? Do not long for the night, when peoples vanish in their place. Take care; do not turn to iniquity, for this you have chosen rather than affliction. Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, ‘You have done wrong’?

“Remember to extol his work, of which men have sung. All mankind has looked on it; man beholds it from afar. Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable. For he draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly. Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion? Behold, he scatters his lightning about him and covers the roots of the sea. For by these he judges peoples; he gives food in abundance. He covers his hands with the lightning and commands it to strike the mark. Its crashing declares his presence; the cattle also declare that he rises.”

Elihu shifts gears again – and this time he hits the very point that God Himself will soon make. He doesn’t argue the specifics of God’s actions, nor try to explain them. Instead, Elihu notes that it’s all beyond their understanding.

Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, ‘You have done wrong’? … Behold, God is great, and we know him not.

Military planners speak of something called “unk-unks.” In war, there are knowns, unknowns, and unknown unknowns (unk-unks). You can plan for the things you don’t know, when you at least understand what it is that you don’t know. It’s the things you haven’t even thought of – the things you don’t even know that you don’t know – that are the greatest threat.

While this book is giving us a glimpse of some of God’s higher purposes, the truth is that most of his higher agenda is beyond our comprehension.

So it’s even worse than unk-unks. God doesn’t tell us what He’s up to because we wouldn’t understand it if He did.

Though we should always seek wisdom and understanding, we must also be prepared to accept that some things are above our pay grade. Our understanding of anything is always, in some sense, incomplete.

I don’t even understand how my chainsaw works.* What chance do I have of understanding God?

Don’t run away from tough subjects, but don’t think that you’re superman either.

*No one completely understands the physics of combustion at the quantum mechanical level.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

Subscribe to Ailbe Newsletters

Sign up to receive our email newsletters and read columns about revival, renewal, and awakening built upon prayer, sharing, and mutual edification.

No