Jeremiah 31:1-14

He who scattered…will gather..”.

In meditating on this passage, I am drawn to this phrase and Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways!”

It is beyond our natural understanding and our willingness to understand, that He who gathers is also He who scatters; that He who tears also mends; that He who drives away also draws us back? At least this has been so for me. How many times have I come to this place where I must say, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high I cannot attain to it.“? (Ps 139:6) Interestingly, I have come to this place at times in bitterness and at other times, more recently, with joy.

The greatest stumbling I have experienced in my walk with God; the most undermining thing I have ever done to my faith has been searching for unsearchable things and attempting to fathom unfathomable things. Let me try and explain. That God is ever-present, all-powerful and all-knowing, places Him at the scene of every incident. In every case, If He knew about it and could have prevented it, is He not, at least, an accessory with questionable motives? The grand inquisitor, which has been my heart, asks; “Why was this permitted?” Did this happen because, in His capacity as Judge, He is exacting payment for someones’s sin? Did it happen as a consequence of God’s incompetence? Did the devil just overpower heaven and successfully steal something right out from His (or an angel’s) supposed care? Was God just indifferent? Are there just so many lives that He cannot really spare the time to get too personally involved? We are stumbling toward a unique encounter with God if this is our line of thinking.

I discovered there was something insistent within me that demanded an explanation as to “why”. “WHY do bad things happen”? If you have shopped in the theological marketplace you have probably discovered that many vendors are hawking their particular dogma as to why God does this or does that. There is great demand for dogma because “not knowing” limits what we can control. When you encounter such a one, who without tears and with great confidence makes his confident assertions regarding unsearchable things; may I suggest that you politely, yet quickly, just move on to the next shop. Knowledge and understanding are not without value but they can also be a hedge against the simple childlike faith God is trying to form in us. Trust and faith are the things that connect us today to eternity. Knowledge may be helpful but faith is absolutely essential.

A question. Could God gather us if we were not scattered? Could He mend us if we were not torn? Could we appreciate His drawing if we had not been driven? Would we appreciate His presence if we had not tasted of His absence?

Our hearts can become paralyzed in their capacity to believe by the mountain of apparent evidence we collect and file away that has suggested to us questions about God’s motivations. We are left in our inquiry with the notion that there is something in the outcome that is incompatible with His love, care and power. Even though we do not quite make a formal indictment against Him, our hearts can nurse deep questions about God’s love and/or His competence. I suspect many a busy, noisy life has been crafted, both consciously and sub-consciously, to keep these kinds of thoughts at bay. This is why slowing down, retreating and opening up to God is so essential in our spiritual formation.

With weeping they shall come, and by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of water, on a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father....”

From experience I recommend weeping and supplication as opposed to taking refuge in the certainty of some readily available and popular religious dogma. As to “why” we have been scattered, torn or driven I cannot say for sure. I believe for the sake of our faith, which is of eternal worth, He spares us from explanations. When I stand before God, I do not want a file-search to reveal I have file after open file of incidents where God is still the suspect with questionable motives. I want Him to find a file called “Mysteries” that is rarely opened, where I have filed away my questions regarding the unsearchable and the unfathomable. I want Him to see all the files that are open where I am actively collecting evidence – persuading my heart all the more of his goodness; of His wonderful nature and character.

While God’s ways and judgements may be unsearchable, His nature is discoverable. We can come to know Him experientially. Case by case, face to face, we can gain adequate assurance for our hearts that all His dealings with us are motivated by an incomprehensibly strong love. It is His heart, that He desires each of us to progressively love and to trust. It may require some tearing. It may involve some lonely desserts, but if we will only acknowledge His nearness, we will discover that we have somehow been drawn, even in our pain and disorientation, into His great heart. We will discover a “Father filter” has been installed in our hearts that will aid us in how we process and file away our experiences. We will stumble far less when we are resting in His love. This is where we will discover the songs, the shouts and the praises that are so becoming and native to His sons and daughters.

Father, we do not understand pain. It is disorienting and incomprehensible to us. Grant us hearts that will hold You harmless. Grant that we would not stumble over Jesus as some rock of offense; that we would not be offended at His eternally focused, love-driven dealings with our hearts. Amen.

Suggestion; Read the passage again. Try, in God’s presence to ask yourself about your files and filing system. Try praying with David and all those who have become satisfied with God’s goodness, “Search me Oh God and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.


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