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Isaiah 6:1,4 tells us, "I saw the Lord and the temple was filled with smoke." I don't know who brought this to my attention but isn't it a truth that is filled with truth? Not without good reasons we're more inclined to think, "I saw the Lord and everything became clear." Or, "I saw the Lord and the world was filled with light." But personal experience and a close look at scripture shows that the very entrance of God can make life more complex and confusing than we ever dreamed. This much is clear, Jesus Christ made our faith more difficult because he made it more profound and complex. What are we to do with him? If you stop with an enlightened biblical Judaism there is complexity enough but when Jesus comes on the scene the mind begins to whirl like a dervish. And the cross, what are we to make of that? If God were more like ourselves we could muddle our way through without the cross and settle for a God easily understood (well, more easily understood). But would we want a God more like ourselves or is it not true that it's the fact that he is so unlike us that makes him precious to us?
I'm not suggesting that we should exult in ignorance or that we should bury the joy-filled obligation of pursuing the truth about him. But I am saying that we should rejoice in the truth that he is forever beyond our comprehension not simply because we are so tiny but because he is infinite. I'm not suggesting that we should profess that he is utterly unknowable because he has made himself known in truth. What we know of him in Christ is true but not exhaustive, certain but not complete. The good news is that we don't have to know him completely to find ourselves complete in Christ. It's God's glory that blinds us, it's his holy love that fills the temple and the world and our lives with smoke. The comforting word we rightly (and hopefully with wisdom and good timing) give to so many great sufferers fills the temple of their experience with smoke. "God loves you." He loves me? If he loves me then why this or that or the other?
We've come a long way from Moses on mount Sinai when God told him "you shall not see my face." But there will always be that distance between God and us, a gap that can never be closed. We'll make our educated guesses at "where history's going" (or, God help us, we'll claim revelations from God himself that seem to change with the headlines) but wise men and women are slow to point to footsteps and say they're God's. Colin Morris was furious with those who (he said) hadn't a clue what was going on in the heads of their pet poodles but knew within an inch what God is going to do with the economy or in "our" nation's foreign affairs or with the balance of "weapons of mass destruction". Isaiah spoke of God's "strange work" in chapter 29 and God tells Habakkuk in chapter 1 that no one would believe what he was going to do even if they were told.
Though like tens of millions of others down the years I know from personal experience that the smoke can be distressing but, in the final analysis, it's for our benefit in more ways than one. This much is sure, no matter how thick the smoke and no matter how deep we penetrate into it we'll never discover someone horrible or hateful or indifferent. For God is like Jesus Christ and in him is no unChristlikeness at all. The last word in Isaiah's experience is not, "Woe to me. I am ruined," but, "See...your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." (6:5,7)