“Arousal of the Mind for Contemplating God” – Anselm

Come now, insignificant man, leave behind for a time your preoccupations; seclude yourself for a while from your disquieting thoughts. Turn aside now from heavy cares, and set aside your wearisome tasks. Make time for God, and rest a while in Him. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind; shut out everything except God and what is of aid to you in seeking Him; after closing the chamber door, seek Him out. Speak now, my whole heart; speak now to God:

I seek Your countenance; Your countenance, 0 Lord, do I seek. So come now, Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You, where and how to find You. If You are not here, 0 Lord, where shall I seek You who are absent? But if You are everywhere, why do I not behold You as present? But surely You dwell in light inaccessible. Yet, where is light inaccessible? Or how shall I approach unto light inaccessible? Or who will lead me to and into this [light] so that in it I may behold You? Furthermore, by what signs, by what facial appearance shall I seek You? Never have I seen You, 0 Lord my God; I am not acquainted with Your face. What shall this Your distant exile do? What shall he do, 0 most exalted Lord? What shall Your servant do, anguished out of love for You and cast far away from Your face? He pants to see You, but Your face is too far removed from him. He desires to approach You, but Your dwelling place is inaccessible. He desires to find You but does not know Your abode. He longs to seek You but does not know Your countenance. 0 Lord, You are my God, and You are my Lord; yet, never have I seen You. You have created me and created me anew and have bestowed upon me whatever goods I have; but I am not yet acquainted with You. Indeed, I was made for seeing You; but not yet have I done that for which I was made.

0 the unhappy fate of man when he lost that [end] for which he was made! 0 that hard and ominous fall! Alas, what he lost and what he found, what vanished and what remained! He lost the happiness for which he was made and found an unhappiness for which he was not made. That without which nothing is happy vanished, and there remained what through itself is only unhappy. Man then ate the bread-of-angels for which he now hungers; and now he eats the bread-of-sorrows, which then he did not know. Alas, the common mourning of men, the universal lament of the sons of Adam! Adam burped with satiety; we sigh with hunger. He abounded; we go begging. He happily possessed and unhappily deserted; we unhappily lack and unhappily desire, while, alas, remaining empty. Why did he not, when easily able, keep for us that of which we were so gravely deprived? Why did he block off from us the light and enshroud us in darkness? Why did he take away from us life and inflict death? Wretched [creatures that we are], expelled from that home, impelled to this one!, cast down from that abode, sunken to this one! [We have been banished] from our homeland into exile, from the vision of God into our own blindness, from the delight of immortality into the bitterness and horror of death. 0 miserable transformation from such great good into such great evil! What a grievous loss, a heavy sorrow, an unmitigated plight! But, alas, unhappy me, one of the other unhappy sons of Eve who are far removed from God: what did I set out to do?, what have I achieved? For what was I striving?, where have I arrived?

To what was I aspiring?, for what do I sigh? I sought after good things and, behold, [here is] turmoil. I was striving unto God but collided with myself. I was seeking rest in my inner recesses but found tribulation and grief in my inmost being. I wanted to laugh from joy of mind but am constrained to cry out from groaning of heart. I hoped for gladness, but, lo, as a result, my sighs increase!

0 Lord, how long? How long, 0 Lord, will You forget us? How long will You turn away Your face from us? When will You look upon us and hear us? When will You enlighten our eyes and show us Your face? When will You restore Yourself to us? Look upon us, 0 Lord; hear us, enlighten us, reveal Yourself unto us. Restore unto us Yourself—without whom we fare so badly—so that we may fare well. Have compassion upon the efforts and attempts which we, who can do nothing without You, direct toward You. [As] You summon us, [so] aid us, I beseech [You], 0 Lord, that I may not despair with sighing but may revive in hoping.

I beseech You, 0 Lord: my heart is made bitter by its own desolation; sweeten it by Your consolation. I beseech You, 0 Lord, that having begun in hunger to seek You, I may not finish without partaking of You. I set out famished; let me not return still unfed. I came as one who is poor to one who is rich, as one who is unhappy to one who is merciful; let me not return empty and spurned. And if before I eat I sigh, grant at least after the sighs that which I may eat. 0 Lord, bent over [as I am] I can look only downwards; straighten me so that I can look upwards. Having mounted above my head, my iniquities cover me over; and as a heavy burden they weigh me down. Deliver me [from them]; unburden me, so that the abyss of iniquities does not engulf me. Permit me, at least from afar or from the deep, to look upwards toward Your light. Teach me to seek You, and reveal Yourself to me as I seek; for unless You teach [me] I cannot seek You, and unless You reveal Yourself I cannot find You. Let me seek You in desiring You; let me desire You in seeking You. Let me find [You] in loving [You]; let me love [You] in finding [You].

0 Lord, I acknowledge and give thanks that You created in me. Your image so that I may remember, contemplate, and love You. But [this image] has been so effaced by the abrasion of transgressions, so hidden from sight by the dark billows of sins, that unless You renew and refashion it, it cannot do what it was created to do. 0 Lord, I do not attempt to gain access to Your loftiness, because I do not at all consider my intellect to be equal to this [task]. But I yearn to understand some measure of Your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand. For I believe even this: that unless I believe, I shall not understand.

The Serpent Spoke

The drama in Genesis 3 depicts the first couple, Adam and Eve, at their antithetical worst. The narrative asks to whom they should listen―God or the snake (3:17). Sadly, in the face of the serpent’s assault, they were clueless. Eve was exquisitely gullible. Adam was feeble and negligent. Both were bewildered and culpably unknowing. Their fallibility was on display for the entire divine court to witness.

From a literary point of view, Adam and Eve’s demise was the “prototypical tragedy.” Leland Ryken provides the details: an initial problem, an erroneous decision based upon folly and disobedience, resulting in self-induced affliction, unwanted epiphany, and ultimately punishment and exile. As a result, chapter three resonates with bitter irony as Adam and Eve experienced an inversion of the “rags to riches” story.

The drastic changes unleashed by Adam and Eve brought about chaos and turmoil in every sphere of existence. The 17th century Czech Reformer, Jan Amos Komenský, explained in vivid fashion what the reversal implied for Adam and Eve in everyday experience, even in their own marriage (Gen 3:16). Indeed, these realities became increasingly apparent in the developments recorded in Genesis 4–11:

For what is in relation to people as it ought to be? What stands in its proper place? Nothing. Everything is upside down, everything has gone wrong, for all the order, all the government, all the noble features are scattered … Instead of unity, there are discords, quarrels, and rages, secret malice as well as open hostility, fights and wars. Instead of righteousness, there are injustice, robberies, thefts; everyone greedily amasses only for himself or herself. Instead of purity, there is lechery, both internal and external; there is adultery, infidelity, misconduct, and lewdness, both in the mind and in speech. Instead of truthfulness, there are lies and gossip everywhere. Instead of humbleness, there is arrogance and pride, preening and boasting; one rising against the other. Woe to you, miserable generation, how deeply you have sunk into wretchedness!

According to the Bible, this is world we live in―“under the sun” according the Solomon (Eccl 1:3) or as Paul says, “the present evil age” (Gal 1:4). All of the tragedy and brokenness we observe and experience arose because Adam and Eve listened to the snake rather than God (Gen 3:17).

Which makes me think of two questions:

How does the serpent speak to us today?

What tragedies and brokenness result from listening to him?




In the Bible, the word “therefore” has a very important function. The frequent use of the term is related to what scholars call the indicative-imperative dynamic. The indicative is a statement of redemptive fact or divine truth. The imperative is the command or application that results. “Therefore” points to the logical inference between the indicative and imperative. It can be either actual (or literal) or implied (as a logical implication). Let’s look at two examples:

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. (Lev 11:44, ESV)

Indicative                                 Inference                     Imperative
I am the Lord your God    therefore                     consecrate yourselves for I am holy                                                                      and be holy

 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19, ESV)

Indicative                                 Inference                     Imperative
he first loved us                    because                        we love

The indicative indicates a theological assertion, and the imperative expresses an ethical or religious obligation. The term “therefore” (actual or implied) functions as the rational link between fact and the action that should result. Here are two other examples:

 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [indicative]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations [imperative]. (Matt 28:18b–19, ESV)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God [indicative], to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship [imperative]. (Rom 12:1, ESV)

How does the indicative-imperative dynamic apply to our life here and now? Let me provide two illustrations.

A classic example of the indicative-imperative formula concerns the men of Issachar: “From Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32, ESV). They discerned what was important in their time. God had raised up David as the new king (indicative) and they knew what to do about it: commit their forces to serve in his army (imperative). They did not act without thinking or think without acting. Indeed, we face a similar challenge today. We must discern what is really important and know how to respond. If we want to become heirs of Issachar in our time, we must learn how to think utilizing the indicative-imperative dynamic of the Bible.

The second example is from Deuteronomy 6:4–5, the famous Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God,  the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (NABRE). The indicative assertion concerns the divine nature: “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” Yahweh Elohim, by definition (the indicative), is the personal absolute and only God. As David asserted, “There is no one like you, Lord, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears” (1 Chron 17:20, NIV).

The imperative is also absolute: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” Given who God is, our response must be universal―with all our being and total devotion. In fact, the “therefore” of the Shema underscores a holistic spirituality that presumes both orthodoxy and orthopraxis. For this reason, when asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:4–5 with Leviticus 19:18:

 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! [Therefore] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

 As you can see, “therefore” is a very important word in biblical theology. We must learn to think with both the indicative and the imperative. Discernment entails “what” and “why” thinking (indicative and theological), as well as “how” and “when” thinking (imperative and pragmatic). Otherwise, we might act without thinking or think without acting.



“My People Are Foolish; They Know Me Not”

Jeremiah 4:22 announces a dramatic rationale for the impending judgment upon Israel:

For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are “wise” — in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.

This verse shows that Israel did exactly opposite of what knowing God demands. They did not repent of evil, fear the Lord or listen to his voice. As a result, they became totally disoriented in thought and desire, piety and ethics. They did not know what truly matters or what to do about it. They were spiritually illiterate and ethically worthless. Their lack of knowledge made them clever only for unrighteousness and idolatry.

Verses 23–26 present the spiritual and social disaster that befell God’s people when they became willfully ignorant and foolish:

 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

These verses portray creation undone because God’s people had “no understanding”! Jeremiah expressed the scene in the most vivid imagery: the earth returns to chaos, echoing Genesis 1:2 (“without form and void”). A reversal of creation has occurred, and the earth is lacking human understanding of God. God’s image-bearers ceased to display the glory of God or fulfill their mission on earth―because they were “stupid children”!

From this passage, we see quite clearly that ideas have consequences. Especially wrong ideas about God, produce catastrophic results. Likewise, ignorance has consequences. And as this passage so evidently demonstrates, willful ignorance about God produces negative consequences in idolatry, personal ethics, and social disorder, which amounts to a reversal of creation.

It is amazing, however, that the principal reason given for the reversal of creation is human stupidity!

For my people are foolish.
They know me not.
They are stupid children.
They have no understanding.
They are “wise”—in doing evil!
But how to do good they know not.

“Oh, The Depth of The Riches and Wisdom and Knowledge of God!”

Paul expressed this proclamation in Romans 11:33, knowing that the nation of Israel was being undermined by pagans and how God hardened Israel’s hearts due to disobedience (Rom 9–11). Earlier he exclaimed, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (9:2–3).

Why could Paul praise God’s great wisdom, knowing the terrible fate that befell his nation?

Because he realized that only through Israel’s failure to acknowledge their Messiah would the gospel go to the ends of the earth. Clearly, Paul’s worldview was broader and deeper than his nationalism or his Jewish heritage.

Who could praise God for this unexpected wisdom at that time? Certainly, only those more committed to the kingdom of God than lesser priorities, like culture and tradition and personal welfare.

Imagine our age and our social-economic context today. Could we confess God’s great wisdom if all that we are accustomed to were reversed or even destroyed―for the sake of his kingdom? What if the gospel advanced through the suffering of our nation or the loss of its power and prosperity?

For example, biblical scholars teach that perhaps the greatest threat to the gospel and church today is consumerism. Can you imagine a civilization without consumerism? What would happen to us, our lifestyles, and our churches if consumerism ceased to exist as we know it?

What if natural disaster (solar flare, earthquake, disease) or manmade conflagration (terrorist attack or regional nuclear war) destroyed our economic or communications infrastructure? What if God permitted this to happen in order to promote the gospel and purify the church? Would we be able to declare, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God”?

So, the question for the Christian is, where are our priorities?

Is it a certain lifestyle?
A particular economic or political system?
A specific nation or culture?
Is our biblical worldview deep and broad enough for whatever happens?
Could you and I acknowledge God’s wisdom, even if our world were changed radically?

According to the Bible, God has higher priorities and long-term goals that might be different than our comfort, political-economic preferences, advanced technology, or vaunted civilization.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”