I don’t know what it is about the early Friday mornings that Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) Leadership requires of me. For my BSF class, the Leaders meet on Friday mornings beginning at 4:50 AM. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation (I don’t need very much sleep by most people’s standards, but 1-2 hours is a little scant, even for me), maybe it’s the emotional fellowship that we tend to have, maybe it’s the intense time we spend training and looking into God’s word and each other.
Whatever it is, almost every Friday, as I am driving home at 7 AM, for the last 3 years, I have had some of my best moments with God. Things that I have been aching over, praying over, searching for, come together. A song sparks some reminder or realization about God’s character. I feel his closeness and love and mercy and grace more closely than almost any other time. Beautiful sunrises inspire me, beautiful memories fill me. Today was just such a day.
I have been endeavoring all year to impress on the students that we have to see God all the time. We have to look through all the sin to see God’s grace and the promise of our eternal life with him. We must make all the beautiful things of this world into signposts that point us toward Jesus, rather than idols that draw us away. Then, the other week ago, I taught a lesson on Revelation 17 and I emphasized this verse:
They (the ten horns and the beast) will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. -Revelation 17:16b-17
The kings represented by the horns gave their power to the beast. God put that possibility into their hearts so that they would carry out his plan of destroying the prostitute.Then last week, one of my students asked how sickness could come from God’s loving hand. I gave him a fairly pat answer about how God uses our illness and the illnesses of people we love to draw us closer to him spiritually and sometimes he uses our sickness to bring us to him in our Heavenly home. We are sanctified through struggle and all that, right?
But today, as I was driving home, I was listening to Holy Is The Lord by Chris Tomlin. The line “The earth is filled with his glory” just kind of jumped out at me, highlighted, so to speak, in the ticker tape that constantly runs through my mind. The Earth is filled with his Glory. The Earth Is Filled With His Glory. The Earth. Filled. With Glory. God’s Glory.
And I realized. The whole earth is filled with his glory. It’s not just an awesome lyric, it’s awesomely biblical (Isaiah 6:3). We don’t have to look through the world or use the world as signposts or mirrors to deflect our vision to God. We just have to see the world rightly. The whole earth is filled with his glory. God is in and through and over everything.
Even evil and sin is full of his glory. Even suffering is full of his glory. It all happens within his plan and from his hand. It is all under his authority and sovereignty. We just have to expand our vision of God to be big enough to include someone that is so powerful that he can take the ugliest thing, foresee it and purpose it for good. We could not do it because we could not bear the ugliness of everything that would have to come first. We would take the easy way.
God doesn’t take the easy way. He shows us, for real, what happens when he is not the King, when we put ourselves first. When we try to displace God so that we can be God. When the angels asked if he is a good King, when Adam and Eve asked if he is a good King, if humans wouldn’t be better gods, God let us see the answer played out in the Fall and all that came after. He did that knowing how dark and sinful and ugly we would be. He did that knowing how painful it would be. He did that knowing that we would all come out on the other side, truly understanding a love that requires such a redemption from such darkness to image it’s beauty.
He goes through the pain to get to the promise. He goes through justice to get to mercy. He goes through suffering to get to sanctification. He goes through the grave to get to life.
And He goes through the Cross to get to grace.
And he wants us to go with Him.
And the whole earth is filled with his glory.