Lent 2008: Fifth Sunday – Knowledge and Obedience

I am reading a book, “The War in Heaven” by Theodore Beale. There is a theme in the book, one among many, that speaks to me, primarily because I have always loved knowledge, the knowing of things. I became an expert in my field by learning as much as I could about it. The theme and issue I want to address is the relationship between knowledge and obedience.

Two events shaped my desire to learn. The first was my Latin teacher in High School, the venerable Mrs. Hage. Here is a section about her from an earlier post: Tests, Prayers, and What Really Matters.

When I was in high school, I had a Latin teacher by the name of Mrs. Hague. She was the classic classicist: older, bookish, spindly, and utterly devoted to learning. She once told me that the real difference in my life would come when I was more concerned about learning something than passing a test. I now believe that you can universalize that statement by changing “passing a test” to “just answering a question.”

The second was an article I read in the early 80’s in Reader’s Digest. It was about people who got up early and devoted an hour or two in the morning to learning something. Many of those people had become experts in their field.

The thing that ties Mrs. Hage’s advice to the Digest article is becoming an autodidact (self-taught learner). Most of my knowledge has come through personal and self-directed study, not classes or courses or any formalized training.

One of the things that drive autodidacts is the ever-present why? It is our searchlight into the formerly hidden information. Why did that happen; why does it work that way; why did they say that; why am I here?

The problem with why is that it knows no limits and sometimes it is a temptation to go beyond where God wants us to step. When I started looking at this I was surprised to find that why is found in 431 verses in the Bible. Even God asks why, but I believe his use is entirely therapeutic, because he already knows; he just wants us to deal with the question.

I believe many souls have broken themselves on the rocks of why. Often, when tragedy occurs, the first question is why and there is seldom a satisfactory answer. Job touched on the issue over twenty times. One especially speaks to the issue I am discussing.

Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? Job 3:23

It is those times, when we face the difficult moments (remember Job had lost all of his children, his wealth, and his health), we expect God to explain why, to give us a satisfactory reason for what has happened to us. However, he seldom does answers our questions. Most of the time we are in the same plight as Job; we do not learn the reason and that, in the end, becomes our testing point. Do we push past or blame and turn on God, or do we, like Job, accept not knowing the reason and accept obedience as greater than knowledge.

In the end it is all about limits and the difficult balance between straining to the uttermost with all of our effort, persevering to the end as Paul puts it, and letting go and letting God, becoming like Job.

Sometimes we need to be Paul, sometimes we need to be Job, but all the time we need both their faith and trust that God is faithful, loving, and wants the very best for us.

Has your life recently run onto the rocks of why? I understand. I will not judge you, but hold your trial in prayer and compassion because Job has additional wisdom on the matter.

To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. Job 6:14

A dimly burning wick we should not quench, or a bruised reed we should not break. Kindness is our task for those who have been broken and know not why, as they struggle to find the path of obedience. Remember that. May I never forget it.

Grace and peace.

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