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The Mysterious Memory of God

2-15-13

Can God make a rock so big that even He cannot lift it? That age-old wise-guy challenge from skeptics is supposed to stop believers in our spiritual tracks. But it is a syllogism, more correctly a syllogistic fallacy. It does not confront the Creator of the Universe in an existential contradiction, but rather exposes puny human minds, especially the smug skeptics (and more than a few of us believers, too) unable fully to comprehend the vast, all-encompassing, limitless powers of God.

It is, besides, a fallacy built on the inherent strictures of language and linguistics. And a philosophical “gotcha” whose purpose is not seeking truth but annoying the faithful. Christians, if they engage in certain debates, should rely more on the “God is God” response: if we could explain EVERYTHING (especially to hostile people), well, God would not be God, because we would be obviating the necessity of His being. No, I am grateful for mysteries.

Skeptics are not at all concerned with God, anyway; nor rocks; nor our souls, except to introduce viral doubts. The character Matthew Harrison Brady in the play “Inherit the Wind” delivered a great line that is constructive: “For my part, I am more concerned with the Rock of Ages than the age of rocks.” Or their size or weight.

Oh, rocks count. So do mountains. I heard someone say this week that if mountains were nice and smooth, they would be impossible to climb over. It’s hard enough! – but those crags and rough peaks and jagged crevices, when all is said and done, make it easier to climb over than a vertical, smooth monolith. Yes, we are talking metaphors here.

God’s metaphors and similes, Jesus’ parables and analogies, fill the Bible, for the benefit of our emotional comfort as well as our spiritual understanding. Many of them are related to rocks and mountains. And many of them address the old conundrum I quoted above – the powers of God, and our thoughts about His imputed limitations.

I was frustrated recently by the inability to sublimate certain troubling thoughts in my consciousness. Did you ever have trouble falling asleep because you can’t get something off your mind? I realized: I can do funny things with my eyebrows and tongue, even make my nostrils flare, and make children laugh. I can cross my eyes and, somehow, make the pinkie of my foot shift atop the toe next to it, without using my hands. These all involve muscles. The brain is a muscle. Why can’t I make IT stop doing something when I want?

We remember things, even when we don’t want to; and sometimes we are annoyed that we forget things, also when we don’t want to. In these things we are reflections of God – imperfect reflections, that is. Which confirms our humble status before the awesome magnificence of God. You see, I am remembering the metaphors.

We must climb mountains. But God talks to us of His faithful people moving mountains. We surely are impeded by “rocks” in our path. But we all know of one stone that was miraculously rolled away in the Bible. We talk about “fiery trials.” But we are assured that God has been there for His children to endure the fiery furnace, and be delivered. He created mountains, rocks, and fire. I am quite happy to know that God saves us from such physical and metaphorical challenges; I don’t have to know HOW, except by the lights of my limited understanding, my faith, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Speaking of our limited understanding, here is syllogism that skeptics seldom point to… because it reveals a loving God, not a confused self-contradiction. Can an all-knowing God be aware of your sins, and yet forget them?

How can that be? It can’t… unless you are God. As rocks thrown into the sea of forgetfulness, He promises to forgive – and forget – our sins when we repent. A God who knows all, can “forget” something? Yes. Is there much better news laying around?

It is useful for us to remember: Sometimes when we pray, and pray, and pray again, about some matter of guilt or sin, we can be reminding God about something He forget and promised not to hold to your account.

Finally, countless sermons and prayers and hymns have dealt with the other spectrum of a worry we have about God in our imperfect minds: not that He will forget sins, but the chance He might forget US! “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”; the Bible account of Blind Man Bartimaeus, worried that the Lord will not notice him; the doctrine of public confession, so when the roll is called up yonder… and so on.

As believers we know that God cannot forget us. It is a mystery that He can cancel His memory for the sake of His children’s salvation; and it is joy unspeakable that His memory reaches down to the humblest among us. And remembers. Not only on Judgment Day, but every day, every moment in fact, he remembers our needs, and cares for us.

Remember the rock in that skeptic’s riddle? How thankful we should be that there is NO rock that represents our burdens that He cannot lift and roll it away.

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A great song about God’s forgetting, and remembering, is “He Will Remember Me.” A standard gospel song of Black and White churches alike, it was associated with Albertina Walker, the Sensational Nightingales, and the Staples Singers, as well as the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers. It was written by E J Bartlett, mentor of Albert E Brumley. Bartlett also wrote “Everybody Will Be Happy Over There,” “Just a Little While,” and the greatest camp-meeting song, “Victory in Jesus.” This link to a video is priceless session of “Gospel Legends” letting loose over the profound message of the lyrics, “O yes, He heard my feeble cries, from bondage set me free; And when I reach the pearly gates He will remember me.” Featured are the great Rev Donald Vails, Jessy Dixon, and the Barrett Sisters… and a hundred other joyful souls.

Click: He Will Remember Me

Category: Contemplation, Hope, Life

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses

  1. chris Ort says:

    How we forget that not only is God able to move mountains but he has always been interested in what we think are small things. There are 7 billion human beings in the world today but standing up with plenty of room to spare all 7,billion could fit on the small island of Ireland which suddenly makes me feel VERY small.
    Yet God loves us,individually as if we were all his best friends. So I agree Rick…no rock to big no mountain too small.!!

  2. Leah Morgan says:

    Beautiful! And lovely are the conclusions drawn by your troubled mind that ran to the cleft of the rock to find its peace.

  3. Barb Haley says:

    Well said, Rick. And well said, Leah! Sometimes I wish I could find a way to contain the peace of God so it wouldn’t leak out. But then, I would be afraid of finding my confidence in the stale, self-contaminated peace instead of leaning, moment by moment, on the living Rock of ages for fresh, vital peace, strength, and joy.

    PS -I loved watching the people worship!

  4. Excellent words to live by, Rick. So interesting that both of us were writing this week about forgetting. I purposely forced myself not to read yours until I’d finished mine. Smile.

    And loved the worship. That’s the kind of music Hope and I really love! Sisters of Thunder!!! Hahaha!

    Thanks, Buddy.

  5. Becky! Yes, what a God-incidence we addressed the same topic at the same time. Except yours is more profound, personal, and phunny (“God doesn’t have a poor memory. He’s not suffering from Alzheimer’s.” I love it! I wish I had written that! Don’t worry… I will…!) Similar paths to the same detour in our walks as believers, though. I was not inspired by infidelity, those type of problems, but rather some sorrows and guilt and missed opportunities and regrets, likewise now cast into the sea, and I am haunted a bit. That’s what fueled me this week, those old thoughts. But… there’s no fuel like an old fuel. Your essay ministered to me — YOU ALWAYS DO! God bless you, friend.

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About The Author

... Rick Marschall is the author of 74 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia magazine called him "perhaps America's foremost authority on popular culture") to history and criticism; country music; television history; biography; and children's books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals and magazine articles; he was co-author of "The Secret Revealed" with Dr Jim Garlow. His biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series (Thomas Nelson) was released in April, 2011. Read More