Anchor Sunday School Class
by Bob Marsh
AN OVERLOOKED EXCLAMATION. OR, NURTURING THE SENSE OF WONDER!
Myra and I were ministering to some amazing missionaries in East Africa, teaching and encouraging many of the pastors and other Christian workers. Some of the missionary friends were taking us along the border of Tanzania and Kenya to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. We had ministered in this part of Africa several times, but had never seen what we had always wanted to see: Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, a majestic wonder wrapped in awe inspiring beauty. Our friends assured us that we would be within miles of Kilimanjaro. Our aspiration to view this wonder of nature would be fulfilled.
Bitter disappointment hit us hard when we realized that the mountain was wrapped in clouds. Nothing there to see but these infuriating and disruptive clouds. So, we settled for hiking up a small hill of volcano ash, and hopefully from there we would view the plains, maybe some of the BIG FIVE ANIMALS.
I led the way up the hill, reached the top, and was stunned by what I saw: Mount Kilimanjaro was coming out through the clouds, shoving them aside so we could view the “awesome” majesty of this mountain. In attempting to call out to Myra and the friends down below, all I could do was stammer, stutter, struggle to describe what was looming before us, causing them to wonder if “Bob is speaking in tongues!” The only words that would get out of my mouth were “Wow, Look!!” I was gripped with a sense of ineffable wonder. “Wow” and “Look” would have to suffice. An attempt for EXPLANATION was supplanted by EXCLAMATION!
If the Apostle Paul had been standing there, listening to me and probably smiling at my incoherence in striving to express the inexpressible, he might have said something like: “Know how you feel buddy. Listen to me in Romans 11:33, and latch on to that overlooked first word OH! It is in the Greek text. All I could do was cry out OH!!!!!! Maybe WOW, LOOK, would be a better translation.”
Keep in mind what Paul had just been sharing with the believers in Rome. In Romans 11:33 he had concluded a rather complicated discussion of God’s unique relationship with Israel as a nation and the Jewish people as individuals. Paul has been giving the definition and substance of THE GOSPEL OF GOD and all that this glorious good news entailed. Very meticulously Paul had revealed how God made Himself known in Jesus Christ, Christ’s death for our redemption, His resurrection for our justification, and His saving life for our reconciliation. Paul also revealed how the Christian life is not lived under the old covenant law, for with great delight he declared “the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death!!” WOW! We live this new life in the power and guidance of the SPIRIT OF LIFE! It is the Holy Spirit who “TESTIFIES THAT WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD!”
In summary, the Apostle Paul had explored the great doctrines of the Christian faith. He has taught that “having been justified by faith we now have peace with God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5).” WOW! He goes on to astound us with the truth that “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 5)!” WOW, LOOK!” And if that were not enough to shock us, he then declares “Nothing will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus! (Romans 8)!” WOW!
Then in Romans 11:33, he pauses, probably out of breath. His astute analysis gives way to ADORATION. The TRUTH of what God has done for us in Christ leads to WONDER and WORSHIP! He now delivers a poem of PRAISE, much like a hymn, and he marvels at the depth of God’s kindness and patience (Romans 2:4), the riches of His glory (Romans 9:23), and His riches of mercy for the world (11:12). Look at that first word again, OH!!!!! That is a cry, a shout of ASTONISHMENT, WONDER!!
John Stott reminds us that our theological concepts of the nature of God should lead us to the worship of God. True worship is a response to the self-revelation of God in Christ and Scripture, and arises from our reflection on who God is and what He has done to make redemption and reconciliation available to all. (STOTT: ROMANS, GOD’S GOOD NEWS TO THE WORLD). Now grasp this fact: THE TREMENDOUS TRUTHS OF ROMANS 1-11 PROVOKED PAULS CRY OF “OH!” Or, the better translation “WOW,” “LOOK!”
Our Christians lives are filled with joy, peace, love, and meaning to the degree that we maintain THE SENSE OF WONDER. Too often that cry “OH” is muffled by a YAWN! The Glorious Gospel that is “THE POWER OF GOD “(Romans 1:16), the good news “ABOUT JESUS CHRIST THE SON OF GOD” (Mark 1:1) too often fails to elicit what we see in Revelation 7:9: “THEY CRIED OUT WITH A LOUD VOICE, SALVATION BELONGS TO OUR GOD WHO SITS ON THE THRONE AND TO THE LAMB!” When Thoreau settled into WALDEN’S POND, he was asked to explain the Boston Church’s descent into moribund irrelevance. He tersely replied: “PREACHERS PREACHING MILD MANNERED SERMONS TO MILD MANNERED PEOPLE ON HOW TO BE MORE MILD MANNERED!” Shouts of joy too often are replaced with disdainful “WHATEVER.”
How may we develop a DEEPER SENSE OF WONDER? The Psalmist cried out “Teach me your word and I will meditate on your wonders!” (119:17) Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have their SPIRITUAL EYES OPENED SO THEY COULD SEE WHO JESUS CHRIST IS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR THEM, AND THAT THEY WOULD “KNOW HIM BETTER!” WOW! His prayer for the Ephesians was that they would FOCUS ON CHRIST, AND “GRASP HOW WIDE AND LONG AND HIGH AND DEEP IS THE LOVE OF CHRIST, AND TO EXPERIENCE THIS LOVE!” WOW!
Paul prayed that they would focus on “HIM WHO IS ABLE TO DO FAR MORE THAN ALL WE ASK OR IMAGINE, ACCORDING TO HIS POWER AT WORK WITHIN US!” (Ephesians 1:16-23; 3:14-21) The writer of Hebrews encouraged us to develop a SENSE OF WONDER, “OH!” BY “FIXING OUR MINDS ON JESUS AND FIXING OUR EYES OF JESUS.” The more we seek to know Him who is the living Word of God made flesh (John 1:14-18), the more we will gripped by a SENSE OF WONDER. I desire in my life some of what the disciples experienced in Luke 24:31: “THEIR EYES WERE OPENED AND THEY RECOGNIZED JESUS…AND ASKED EACH OTHER ‘WERE NOT OUR HEARTS BURNING WITHIN US AS HE OPENED THE SCRIPTURES TO US?’” They were captured by A SENSE OF WONDER! OH! WOW!
As we dive into the WRITTEN WORD OF GOD, seek the guidance of the SPIRIT OF GOD, focus on Jesus THE LIVING WORD OF GOD, the more we will experience A SENSE OF WONDER, leading us to join the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:36:
“FROM HIM AND THROUGH HIM AND TO HIM ARE ALL THINGS. TO HIM BE GLORY FOREVER. AMEN!” AMEN!