The Transcendence Of God’s Mercy

God is transcendent, of that I’ve been sure. He is higher than His creation and therefore surpasses our ability to dissect Him, analyze Him, pigeonhole Him into our compartments of understanding. In fact, if He hadn’t chosen to reveal Himself, we would be forever shut out of His presence in ignorant misery — desperately longing, incapable of reaching.

In fact, one of my favorite passages of Scripture spells out this transcendent nature of God:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9)

I’d never thought much more of transcendence — just that God is. But today, I came across a passage from Psalm 103 that caught my attention:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. (vv 8-11, emphasis mine)

There, nestled in the middle of the section (it continues for several verses) about God’s compassion, mercy, lovingkindness, is the same line Isaiah used to describe how high God’s ways and thoughts are above ours: as high as the heavens are above the earth.

I realize now I’d never taken the idea of God’s transcendence to its logical conclusion. If He is higher than we, if His thoughts are, His ways are, then it stands to reason that what forms Him, what defines Him as a person — His traits — also will be higher than ours. Hence His love will be higher than ours, His compassion higher than ours, His patience, His forgiveness, His justice, and His mercy — or as some translations have it, His lovingkindness.

Sometimes God’s lovingkindness mystifies me, and sometimes His justice does the same. Why, for example, did David who had Uriah killed become known as a man after God’s own heart? Apart from God’s mercy and forgiveness, it doesn’t make sense. And why, when Ahab let his wife Jezebel murder Naboth in order to take his property, and God said Ahab and his descendants would be removed from the throne, why, I ask, did God relent and tell Ahab he would leave him on the throne after all? In fact, why did one of his sons ruled for twelve years after Ahab’s death? God was merciful, and I’m pretty sure I would have been inclined to throw the book at the whole family. At once. No delay.

Yet how grateful I am for God’s delays in my life. He gives me mercy and help in time of need. He doesn’t slam His door in my face but graciously answers prayer. Over and over and over.

So after thinking about God’s transcendent mercy, I logged onto the computer this morning to handle email. First up was a note that agent Lee Hough had a journal entry posted. For those who may not know, Lee, an agent with Alive Communications was diagnosed in April or May with a brain tumor — an especially deadly kind. Here’s an excerpt from one of Lee’s recent entries that explained the data he received at his first meeting with his oncologist — a Dr. Cheerful, so named for the upbeat way he presented a trial procedure to Lee:

Soon we’re cha cha’ing out of the office all grins when I asked, “Could I have a copy of the report?” I wanted to read more happy details about my soon-to-be prolonged life. Dr. Cheerful made me a copy.

“Glioblastoma, the most common primary brain tumor in adults, is usually rapidly fatal.”

That was the opening line of the report. Bluebirds started dropping dead all around me. Don’t panic. A couple of paragraphs later it said, “. . . survival is generally less than one year from the time of the diagnosis.” No “Happily ever after” there. Instead I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning in doom. And then, hallelujah, I finally got to the graph page, a beacon of hope in this medical shop of horrors. The graph will throw me a lifeline of good news. But bad news had another twist of the knife. The glioblastoma cancer patients who participated in this trial? When the researcher followed up with them after 28 months, “480 patients (84 percent) had died.” Now I’m completely undone, horrified. First for those “patients” – people just like me whose hopes were undoubtedly just like mine. Second, because of the scalding realization that I’m not reading a “report” anymore, I’m reading my obituary.

The coup de grace was delivered just before the graph. I was still holding out hope in the doctor’s fabled “significant increase in life span.” And here it finally came. The total life span gain of the simultaneous therapy approach: “The median survival benefit was 2.5 months.”

Wait. Are you serious? Not 10 years or 5; not even 2.5 years. 75 days.

December 2 Lee had his first scan after the treatment. Again in his words:

Because grade 4 glioblastoma tumors are so hard to kill and so good at killing, the doctor wants me to have an MRI every three months. If the Lord chooses to heal me, it appears that I’ll rediscover that truth in three-month increments for the rest of my life. Starting with December 2nd.

And the first results are in. Lee is cancer free. Will he be cancer free again in three months? If God so chooses. His mercy, after all, is transcendent.

Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 6:04 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , ,

“Ready Or Not, Here I Come”

The title of this post is the line we used when I was a child as part of the game Hide and Seek. The “ready or not” part was meant for the those running about looking for the perfect place to hide. But it dawned on me as I was doing a little research for this article, that portion of the line perfectly describes the human condition at the point of death. Ready or not, here I come.

And why am I writing about death? I learned a week or so ago that deist and former atheist Anthony Flew passed away earlier this year. Somehow I’d missed the news. Sadly, from what the public knows, Mr. Flew’s new-found belief in an intelligent creator never translated into belief in a personal Savior. In fact he said as late as 2007, when his book There Is a God (you can read my posts related to the book here and here) was published, he had no hope for eternity:

Mr. Flew, in a statement issued through his publisher, reaffirmed the views expressed in the book, which did not include belief in an afterlife.

“I want to be dead when I’m dead and that’s an end to it,” he told The Sunday Times of London. “I don’t want an unending life. I don’t want anything without end.”
– from “Antony Flew, Philosopher and Ex-Atheist, Dies at 87,” By William Grimes, Published in the NYTimes: April 16, 2010

Whether Mr. Flew wanted an afterlife or not, he has one. Whether he was ready for it or not, he went from this life to the next. And so must we all, either by death or by God’s power to take us to heaven at the return of His Son.

But my thoughts about death aren’t in relationship to Mr. Flew alone. The fact is, another well-known atheist, Christopher Hitchens—he of stage-four metastasized esophageal cancer—is facing death. You may remember I wrote an article related to him a few weeks ago. While he can, Mr. Hitchens continues to write, making his views of God and the afterlife plain. From an article last month:

As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be “me.” (Bear this in mind, in case of any later rumors or fabrications.)
– from “Unanswered Prayers,” Vanity Fair

At this point, I thought, maybe what Mr. Hitchens needs is to live. If God miraculously heals the man, what will he do with that? Even he apparently has had some thoughts about such a thing, though I don’t believe he’s really considered surviving cancer by an instantaneous healing.

Later, in that same article, this:

Suppose I ditch the principles I have held for a lifetime, in the hope of gaining favor at the last minute? I hope and trust that no serious person would be at all impressed by such a hucksterish choice.

Sadly, Mr. Hitchens only demonstrates his lack of understanding of God. Could he possible think that the Creator of the universe with be impressed with some last ditch effort to gain His favor? To say such a thing makes it plain Mr. Hitchens doesn’t understand the first thing about God, no matter how often he has debated other Christians.

Instead, he is entrenched in his belief that the spiritual does not exist:

It’s no fun to appreciate to the full [because of the ravages on his body of cancer and its treatment] the truth of the materialist proposition that I don’t have a body, I am a body.
-from “Miss Manners And the Big C,” Vanity Fair

With such a position, Mr. Hitchens is declaring with Antony Flew that he wants to be dead when he’s dead, making it abundantly clear that he is not ready to enter the spiritual world. But whether he’s ready or not, he’s coming. Which makes me sad.

Published in: on November 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm  Comments (11)  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: