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Underestimating God – April 6, 2020

It’s easy for us to underestimate God. Maybe that’s why Paul uses such powerful language to describe him and his son in Ephesians. For instance, in our reading today in chapter 3 he mentions “the manifold wisdom of God” (v.10), “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8) and “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (v.19). Back in chapter 1 he also mentions “the immeasurable greatness of his power” (v.19). God’s wisdom is manifold, which means it is multi-dimensional. The wisdom of God is applicable to every situation we can think of, as we’re seeing in the multitude of applications of wisdom in the book of Proverbs we’re reading this month. Then there’s the unsearchable riches of Christ. What we’re offered in Christ can’t be quantified. Compare anything in this world to eternal life. If you received the whole two trillion fund, being put together by the US government to help Americans through the economic crisis, it wouldn’t even come close to the riches we have in Christ. And his love for us surpasses knowledge. You can’t explain the love of Christ in words; it’s unfathomable. And there’s the immeasurable nature of God’s power. He created the entire universe. That’s just mind boggling.

Our problem is we only tend to appreciate a watered-down version of these qualities. It’s hard for us to understand just how wise, rich, loving and powerful God is. And it’s because of that we also tend to look for direction, stability, escapism and strength in the things of the world. There’s a word for that mindset which the Bible uses a lot – idolatry – and there’s an echo that runs through the whole epistle to the Ephesians, reminding us of the epitome of idolatry in the form of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The image, made up of shiny metal we’re naturally attracted to, represents everything the world stands for in the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires and through to the modern world. Each part of the image finds its counterpart in one of the themes of Ephesians mentioned above. Babylon was known for its wisdom and learning and when the empire came to an end its wisdom filtered down through the other world empires to us today. Medo-Persia pioneered the principles that led down to modern day economics and so the silver part of the image contrasts with the riches we have in Christ. Then we have the fleshly pursuits of Greece where sports and entertainment found their birth and comes down to us today in things like theater and the Olympic Games. Finally, there is the might of Rome, the most powerful of all world empires, represented by the legs of iron.

When we look at our world today, we see the influence of all four world empires. We’re attracted to the fine gold of Babylonian wisdom, the head or thinking part of the image. But no matter how much human intelligence is put into trying to sort out world problems, the only answer is the manifold wisdom of God. Likewise, we’re attracted to the silver money of Medo-Persia. Their empire was based on wealth and the taxation system they introduced. In the image they’re represented by the breast and arms, the engine house of the body, where the heart and lungs pump oxygenated blood around the body. But what we’re seeing now is how a virus can disrupt that on both a physical and economic level. While people’s lungs are grinding to a halt so is the world economy, as the air and lifeblood of society – money – is being severely affected. What we have, though, are the unsearchable riches of Christ. It’s also at times like this that we naturally turn to escapism in the form of the fleshly pursuits of Greece. But the sports and entertainment industries have also ground to a halt. Sports leagues and events like the Olympic Games have been postponed. Movie theaters have closed, and movie production has stopped. Although this has led to taking in all that the internet has to offer, a system catering to the desires of the flesh. Our desire should rather be for the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. And then there’s the power of Rome. The Olivet Prophecy, using symbolic language about world leaders, says, “the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:26). The most powerful country in the world now has four times as many coronavirus cases as the original epicenter of the disease in China. The whole world has been brought to its knees and is under control of a tiny protein. We’re witnessing the poverty of human power contrasted with the immeasurable greatness of the power of God.

Nebuchadnezzar’s image is founded upon feet of clay. Why do we trust in it so easily? When we survey current world events, we see how brittle it is and one day soon the stone will smite it on the feet and destroy it forever. Our confidence should be in the God of heaven, the one who rules in the kingdom of men. And if we do place our trust in him and his son, we are going to receive an incredible reward. After Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation of his dream, he was rewarded with four things which relate to the four parts of the image. In Daniel 2:48 the prophet was made “chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” because God’s wisdom is greater than man’s. He was also given “many great gifts” and we look forward to the greatest gift of all – the unsearchable riches of Christ – the gift of immortality. He was given “high honors”, using a word which has to do with having a family. Daniel was a eunuch, he could not have a family of his own, and it could be that the king gave him an adopted family. The love of Christ which surpasses knowledge means we have been adopted into the greatest family of all. And Daniel was made “ruler over the whole province of Babylon”. When our Lord returns, we will share in the immeasurable power of God and help Christ rule over the whole world.

Paul’s message to the Ephesians, and to us, should take our breath away. As we see the world crumbling around us may we turn from everything the image represents and instead find full assurance and hope in the manifold wisdom of God, the unsearchable riches of Christ, the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power.

Richard Morgan,
Simi Hills, CA

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