What Do You Know?
It is not an uncommon experience for me to be asked a thousand questions a day. This is part of being a parent, a teacher, and having a reputation for always having an answer. I know that I’m not alone in having to field all these questions, and most of us don’t like to say, “I don’t know.” Though, sometimes that is the best answer we can give. A small example of this came up recently during a class. We were discussing the Tabernacle and what was used to make it. Exodus 25:3-5 gives a small part of this list:
“This is the offering you are to accept from them: gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, scarlet, fine linen, goat’s hair, ram skins dyed red, fine leather, acacia wood.”
The list continues on, but in most modern translations there is reference in verse 5 to “fine leather” or some other obscure type of covering. This is a change where they are admitting that they don’t actually know what the original word meant, though they have guesses.
In fact, there are many places where the translators have made their best guess. Nowhere does this affect the message that God has given to us, but it does highlight something for us. There are things that we don’t need to know. It would be interesting to know if Adam had a belly button, but I don’t need that information! If God were to give us every single detail that we wanted to know it would actually be a distraction to what we are supposed to know. God knew this was a possible issue for his people. He made certain that the Israelites had no form, no picture of what he looked like when he appeared to them. Moses emphasized this shortly before his death.
“Be very careful, then, because you saw no form at the time the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the middle of the fire. I say this so you will not corrupt yourselves by making an image in the form of any kind of figure” (Deuteronomy 4:15-16).
God specifically told them to not use an image to worship him. It is interesting that no picture of Jesus survived from his life. Not only that, but the apostles never describe his physical form enough that we could recreate it.
To me, this seems to be intentional. God did not intend for the tabernacle to be rebuilt nor did he intend to be worshipped by only one type of people. Jesus came to be the savior of the world, and all too often we fall prey to what we think we know. I do not say this to make us uncertain of what God plans for us or to rethink his accessibility. On the contrary, I want to make certain that we are able to differentiate between what we truly know and what we think.
What has God made certain for us? Many things! The Israelites knew their covenant. There was no uncertainty in how God expected them to live their lives. In the same way, we too have been told how we are to live. Jesus told his disciple, “so then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And we are told that this includes doing good deeds, not being angry with our brothers and sisters, saying what we mean, turning the other cheek, loving our enemies, and so much more (Matthew 5:16, 22, 37, 39, 44).
There was no doubt left that we are unable to meet this standard from the very youngest of ages. It is humanly impossible for us to be as perfect as our Father in heaven. Solomon recognized this. Paul recognized this. God recognized this. We need to recognize this. This is the reason that we needed Jesus to come to earth and become human. Jesus, having become one of us, is now able to be the best possible intercessor between us and God.
“For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
This we know! God will help us because Jesus delivers our requests to him. It is through the effort of the Son that we can have confidence. Along with Job we can say with confidence, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” (Job 19:25).
God has taken care of the cost of our failures through the sacrifice of his Son, and we know that he is reaching down to lift us up. There are many things that we may be unsure of. There may be many questions that we can’t answer. But the greatest and most important questions have already been answered for us. We know who God is and what he expects of us. We know that we fail, but that he covers us with the blood of his Son. We know that he has prepared a place for us (John 14:2). We know that we can still learn many things.
It is important for us to never think that we have learned enough. We who are one with Jesus have the ability to understand what God wants us to know. As Paul says, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). We can learn what God desires and we can learn what God intends, because we have the mind of Christ, we have the Spirit living within us. We should not waste these gifts! This conviction is why I have often been quoted as saying, “The day I stop learning is the day I die.” But the truth is that I expect that even after death I will still have many things to learn. Maybe Adam will even let me know if he had a belly button.