God’s Wisdom and Ours, “Knowing God”, chapter 10 (part 2)

Today we continue our reflection on the theme of God’s wisdom– as it relates to us, as explained by J.I. Packer in chapter 10 of Knowing God. This can be downloaded in yesterday’s post below. Please read this before considering these reflection questions.

For your reflection:

  1. Referring to pages 116-120, how can the lessons of Ecclesiastes help us today?
  2. J.I. Packer says that God’s wisdom is always and only a gift to us; and only as the means of our reaching his chosen ‘end’ for us– to know him and enjoy him forever. How might the following verses support this claim?

1Corinthians 1:18    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: 

  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 

20    Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

God’s Wisdom and Ours, “Knowing God”, chapter 10 (part 1)

Today we continue our reflection on the theme of God’s wisdom– as it relates to us, as explained by J.I. Packer in chapter 10 of Knowing God. If you have not yet purchased your own book, this can be downloaded below. Please read this before considering these reflection questions.

For your reflection:

  1. What do you think might be some of the most significant ideas in this chapter?
  2. Why do you think they are so important?
  3. How might you want to respond to what you have read here?

God Only Wise, “Knowing God”, chapter 9 (part 2)

Today we continue our reflection on the theme of God’s wisdom, as explained by J.I. Packer in chapter 9 of Knowing God. This can be downloaded in the post below. Please read this before considering these reflection questions.

For your reflection:

  1. God’s ‘wisdom’ only makes sense when we know God’s Purpose. What is God’s Purpose, to which he applies his wisdom?
  2. Chapter 9 considers the experience of a number of Old Testament characters who endured challenging situations and seasons. And yet, God’s wisdom was at work– both for them and in achieving God’s great Purpose. Can you think of seasons in your own life where God’s gracious wisdom was acting for your ‘good’ while also furthering his Purpose?
  3. It is comforting to know that God’s perfect wisdom superintends all situations in our life– even the tough ones. Throughout chapter 9 J.I. Packer gives practical suggestions as to how we should respond to the more challenging situations we face. What do you think of his suggestions? Are there others that you would add?

God Only Wise, “Knowing God”, chapter 9 (part 1)

You can download chapter 9 of Knowing God below. Please read this before considering the reflection questions below.

For your reflection:

  1. In your journal, write out J.I.Packer’s definition of ‘wisdom’. Do you agree with it? Would you change it or qualify it in any way?
  2. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

Welcome to GrowingDisciples for 2022

This year we aim to enrich our experience of growing as disciples of Jesus Christ by adding some new elements to our course, while also reshaping some of our existing patterns. We will continue to emphasise Bible Reading, Prayer and Growth Exercises, but with a new opportunity to engage with the work of influential Christian authors and thinkers.

During the month of January, we commence our bible reading in the book of Genesis– with additional readings from Job and Proverbs for those who wish to read every book of the Bible in full throughout the year. Navigation to the Bible Readings (and the whole site) is available at the top of this and every page.

In previous years our ‘Daily Devotional Videos’ have proven very useful as gateways into the text of the Bible, but perhaps they have also limited our engagement with the riches of God’s word: we might only have gone as far as they were able to take us in 10 minutes. This year, instead of ‘headlining’ our GrowingDisciples course as a daily publication, these video ‘snippets’ will now be embedded directly in our Bible Reading program, along with prompts for further reflection. We will still read through the whole Bible in a year, but our week-by-week Devotional material will be shaped around a different Christian book each month.

During the month of January our weekly devotional material is going to be based on J.I. Packer’s book, Knowing God. Please try to purchase a copy for yourself.

To begin our year of going deep with God, I encourage you to read the excerpt from Knowing God available here.

The Majesty of God, chapter 8 (part 4)

At the conclusion of Chapter 8 of Knowing God, referring to Isaiah 40, J.I. Packer asks if we have to been slow to believe God’s majesty. Just as he did through Isaiah to Israel in Exile, God would ‘shame’ us out of our unbelief.

“What is the trouble? he asks: have you been imagining that I, the Creator, have grown old and tired? Has nobody ever told you the truth about me?”

“The rebuke is well deserved by many of us. How slow we are to believe in God as God, sovereign, all-seeing, and almighty! How little we make of the majesty of our Lord and Saviour Christ! The need for us is to ‘wait upon the Lord’ in meditation of his majesty, till we find our strength renewed through the writing of these things upon our hearts” (p99)

Another Biblical character who was challenged to truly know the majesty of God was Job. No doubt, his was a hard road, but the blessing at the end of his ordeal was that he was beginning to know God, in all his greatness and majesty.

Job 38:1    Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

2    “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels  shouted for joy?…

Job 40:1    The LORD said to Job: 2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

3    Then Job answered the LORD: 4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.”

6    Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: 7 “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 8 “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? 9 Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? 10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. 11 Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and bring them low, 12 look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. 13 Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave.14 Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you….

Job 42:1    Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

How might Job’s response to the majesty of God help us in our response to God?

The Majesty of God, chapter 8 (part 3)

Isaiah 40:18-31 addresses Israel– in exile and downcast– with the Majesty of God. What is the basic nature of the comparisons made in this chapter? What questions does Isaiah ask the downcast Israelites? What rebuke is implied by these questions? How might we avoid the same rebuke?

18 With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?

19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it.

20 A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple.

21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

The Majesty of God, chapter 8 (part 2)

Reflecting on Knowing God, chapter 8 (which can be downloaded from yesterday’s post– scroll down), how does Psalm 139:1-18 highlight (i) God’s presence? (ii) God’s knowledge? and (iii) God’s power?

Psalm 139

1    You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts,  God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

The Majesty of God, chapter 8 (part 1)

Do we sometimes find that our faith is feeble and that our worship of God is flabby? Chapter 8 of Knowing God claims to identify the antidote. What is it? This chapter can be downloaded below.

As we continue our exploration of the character of God, now considering the Majesty of God, we are struck by the following quote:

“The Christian’s instincts of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God. But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby.”

For reflection:

  1. Remembering that ‘knowledge’ is a deeply relational concept in the Bible, and also remembering that God is fundamentally personal in nature; according to J.I. Packer in this chapter, what risks are posed by our easy description of God as ‘personal’?
  2. What is one thing that you might do to deepen your grasp of God’s majesty?

God Unchanging, chapter 7 (part 2)

Chapter 7 of Knowing God draws our attention to the unchanging nature of God— his immutability. [A copy of this chapter can be downloaded by scrolling down to the previous post.] God’s unchanging nature is affirmed by his self-disclosure to Moses, both in Exodus 3 and then reaffirmed in Exodus 34. God’s life, his character, his word and truth, his ways, and his purposes are eternally perfect and fixed.

So, for example, we read of this encounter at the burning bush:

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ 

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me 
from generation to generation. (Exodus 3:13-15)

That Hebrew phrase ‘I am who I am’ (literally, ‘Yahweh’), could also be translated in the future tense, ‘I will be who I will be’. God’s saving actions, promised in the rest of the chapter, will demonstrate his character — he will be shown to be the God who saves: ‘He will be who he will be’. But even before his saving actions on behalf of Israel, God’s character and name are fixed, as they have been for eternity: ‘I am who I am’.

God also reveals his unchanging nature in his declaration of his Name in the hearing of Moses in Exodus 34:

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD (i.e., “Yahweh”). And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…” (Exodus 34:4-7)

The phrase ‘love and faithfulness’, underlined above, translates the Hebrew word hesed. Careful studies of this word demonstrate that it connotes long-term, reliable loyalty of one member of a covenant relationship to another. It is an expression of God’s unchanging commitment to love his people. That this love is maintained to ‘thousands’ means that God will continue his covenant blessings to his people indefinitely—to ‘thousands of generations’, not merely ‘thousands of people’— so long as they do not break his covenant and thereby force him to unleash its sanctions. So God’s hesed love and faithfulness is another expression of his unchanging nature.

Our reflection today on God’s immutability, as revealed to Moses, encourages us with the truth that God does not change; from Old Testament to New Testament, from Bible-times to present times, and forevermore. He is eternally self-existent and independent, reliable and trustworthy.

How might you respond today to God’s immutability?

God Unchanging, chapter 7

I encourage you to buy your own copy of J.I.Packer’s Knowing God and read it all the way through, however we will only be sampling some highlights throughout this month of January. Part 2 of the book, chapters 7-17, explores God’s character in some detail. It aims grow depth in our relationship with God through a closer examination of the scriptures.

Today, we begin Part 2 of Knowing God by considering God’s ‘unchanging-ness’. A copy of chapter 7 can be downloaded below.

This chapter invites us to consider God’s immutability — he does not change. But in what sense does the Bible support this statement? Consider the following passages and write your own response to this question:

Psa. 90:1-4.  “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were bornor you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God… A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

Heb 13:8. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Ps 93:1-2. ” The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.”

1 Tim 6:15b-16. “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.”

Isaiah 40:28. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Knowing and Being Known

A further reflection on Knowing God, chapter 3

Throughout the Bible, God’s relationship with his people is described using the metaphor of a shepherd with their sheep. Famously, we read these words in Psalm 23:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

When Jesus comes, he elaborates on this relational picture by describing himself as ‘the good shepherd’.

John 10:11    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 

John 10:14    “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 

Take some time today to reflect on the relational dynamic of the shepherd and their sheep. As part of your reflection, you might like to write down the things that God does (“he”, the shepherd) and the things that we (“I”, the sheep) do.

  • How do you respond to God’s ‘shepherding’? 
  • How might this picture of God’s relationship with you form your view of God?