Divine Transparency

In the previous post we discussed the safety of the divine community. In this post,  I would like to look a little deeper into one dimension of a safe community. Meaningful relationships are always marked by transparency, openness and vulnerability. Again, if the Triune God is the blueprint for all relationships we might expect to find some of these dynamics within that community. Sure enough, we do. I want to briefly explore three texts that touch on these overlapping themes.

  • “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

Astonishing, this passage gives us a glimpse into the Triune relationship. The Spirit searches, explores and inquires into the thoughts of the Father. He journeys the heights and depths of God himself. The language is relational. The Father is welcoming, open and transparent. The Spirit responds to the openness of the Father with investigative energy. The Spirit is privy to the thoughts of God…he knows them all.

  • “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

The Father has an intimate knowledge of the Spirit’s mind. Unintelligible groanings to us are clear to the Father because he knows the thoughts of the Spirit. The unity of will and purpose between the Father and Spirit is foundational to this mutual understanding. The text is relational once again. This divine knowing is something that seems to require openness on the part of the Father and Spirit. Though completely equal in omniscience…there appears to be some mechanism of divine sharing that facilitates this knowledge.

  • “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).

Exclusive knowledge of the Father belongs to the Son. Exclusive knowledge of the Son belongs to the Father. This text brilliantly displays the intimacy of the Godhead. God alone knows God. The Father gives the Son total access and vice versa. Revelation…a gracious introduction of the Father through the Son by the Spirit…is the only way one comes to know God.

All three of these texts hint at openness, transparency and vulnerability in Trinitarian interaction. Father, Son and Holy Spirit willingly allow the other respective persons into the fulness of themselves. They truly see one another and are seen by one another.

Another way of getting at this mystery is the doctrine of perichoresis, which has been defined as “co-indwelling, co-inhering, and mutual interpenetration.” Alister McGrath writes that it “allows the individuality of the persons to be maintained, while insisting that each person shares in the life of the other two. An image often used to express this idea is that of a ‘community of being,’ in which each person, while maintaining its distinctive identity, penetrates the others and is penetrated by them.”

This doctrine is rooted in Scripture that uses the language of “in” when discussing how the Father, Son and Spirit are connected. For example, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves” (Jn 14:11). This is intimacy, openness and vulnerability at its very best.

Unseen Footprints

For the singer of Psalm 77, comfort is a stranger. His is a season of sorrow and spiritual fatigue. I value the authenticity of this Psalm. I also appreciate the key elements that make up  the movement of the Psalm. The singer moves from cries to questions to remembrance. This is a movement we can learn from.

Cries


“I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (1-4).

A hoarse voice, weary arms, bloodshot eyes, and a tired soul…this is what godliness looks like in this text. This man is pursuing God and even his own pain will not stop him. Charles Spurgeon captures the faith underneath the cry to God.

“Asaph did not run to man but to the Lord, and to him he went, not with studied, stately, stilted words, but with a cry, the natural, unaffected, unfeigned expression of pain. He used his voice also, for though vocal utterance is not necessary to the life of prayer, it often seems forced upon us by the energy of our desires. Sometimes the soul feels compelled to use the voice, for thus it finds a freer vent for its agony. It is a comfort to hear the alarm bell ringing when the house is invaded by thieves.”

Note also the Psalmist’s transparency as he describes his feelings about God. The thought of God causes pain to well up within him. All consideration of God evokes moaning and fainting. This is a hard place, but a very real place. There are seasons where God and distress are uncomfortably intertwined. I resonate with Spurgeon’s comment on this dynamic.

“He who is the wellspring of delight to faith becomes an object of dread to the psalmist’s distracted heart. Alas, my God, the writer of this exposition well knows what thy servant Asaph meant, for his soul is familiar with the way of grief. Deep glens and lonely caves of soul depressions, my spirit knows full well your awful glooms!”

Questions


“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (7-9).

Cries give way to questions. The character of these inquiries speaks to the depth of the covenant relationship that exists between God and the Psalmist. The Singer knows that he can engage God with honesty and that his God welcomes hard questions. His questions are all focused on the faithfulness of God. He wants to know if God has forgotten himself and his promises. Has God lost track of his own character? Have his promises slipped his mind? The Psalmist is wondering…

Remembrance


“Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” (11-12)…Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen” (19).

Everything changes when the Psalmist quiets his voice, lowers his hands, and focuses his memory. This text turns on remembrance. With remembrance comes hope. The Psalmist is clearly recalling the Red Sea deliverance that followed the mass exodus from Egypt. He remembers how the Egyptians had the Israelites backed up against the wall…hedged in at the Red Sea with no visible sign of escape. He brings to mind the parting of the waters and the pathway through a hopeless situation. Note his insightful statement, “your footprints were unseen.”

It is the “unseen” activity of God in a hopeless situation that brings the Psalmist hope.  God’s indiscernible “footprints”…this causes his heart to take courage. His situation feels dire, dark, and without hope. But he recognizes that God excels at showing up in these scenarios. He has done it again and again throughout salvation history. He strolls through a mass of water and welcomes his people to walk in his invisible footsteps. The Psalmist is confident that God has not ceased to lead this way even though he is unaware of it…this brings him great encouragement and will do the same for us.