1 Samuel 16:1–13; 1 Timothy 4:11–16
In the movie, The Princess Bride, Vizzini the Sicilian (trust me, it’s part of the plot) faces against the supposed Dread Pirate Roberts. The Dread Pirate Roberts defies Vizzini’s plans and expectations. Each time, the word, “Inconceivable,” escapes Vizzini’s lips. Finally, the “dumb” “brute” (again, a tongue-in-cheek part of the plot) looks at Vizzini and says, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”
In stories of God, “inconceivable” is often the underlying response. Even to this day, “inconceivable” is that thought that God would become a human being (we all know how bad of an idea that is) and then die for them. It’s, a Vizzini would say, inconceivable.
That God would promise a mere shepherd a place and a massive group of descendants, it’s well…inconceivable. That God would rescue these (now) slave descendants from the most powerful military in the world, walk them through standing water, create a covenant with them and, call them God’s people. It’s inconceivable.
If we Christians, our Jewish predecessors, and even our somewhat related (though tenuous at best) Muslim fellow Monotheists were really honest regarding the faith that we have been handed, we should be able to sympathize and even empathize with those who do not believe that God would do this. To them it makes no sense! It is inconceivable!
That’s part of our problem. We are so close to the issue (not, sadly, necessarily God) that we are often unable to see just how inconceivable our faith is. This is especially true for those who claim to only hold onto the “truth” they can see before them.
For Samuel, it had been inconceivable that people would not choose God. The reality was that the people themselves, had insight that Samuel may have forgotten. People are fallen, and even those bestowed with the duties (e.g., priests, seers, etc) from God can be bad people. Their choice of King was logical (to a point).
King Saul was, really, a valiant king. He did a few unwise things. He did play “priest”, which was a career (i.e., king) limiting move. God called the next one. The next one? Was a shepherd boy sent out to the far fields and not quite forgotten by his family. The selection of David was…inconceivable.
There is a reason why God talks to Samuel about seeing as God sees. Samuel thought it was inconceivable that the sons of Jesse who were present were not satisfactory.
This is also the underlying message of Paul to Timothy. Paul told Timothy that while it may be culturally and religiously inconceivable that such a young man (scholars put him at around 35-40, at this point) should be the “pastor-in-charge”, it was Timothy’s charge to fulfill.
While Paul supported the presbyters (we’d say elders, and Paul really did mean AARP elders who were deep in the faith), Timothy’s call was not to be taken lightly. In fact, what we know of Timothy was that he was likely a little sickly, and almost definitely the “quiet as a church mouse” type who avoided conflict. Paul was telling him that these people were his responsibility. He must not hide away from it.
Think on that. Paul, who was not shy about conflict, had “raised up” a person to fill his shoes who was not like him. Paul who got in the proverbial face of Peter, who had to have dramatic confrontation with Jesus to take the right path…Paul “chose” that timid guy? It’s (yep) inconceivable.
- Why is it important to not only recognize, but to also embrace, the inconceivable-ness of God?
- You might be offended (or know someone who is) that thinking about God as inconceivable. Why would such be offensive? Why might it help to understand God’s inconceivable-ness when it comes to explaining your faith?
- If you were to take “the brute’s” words of, “I do not think that word means what you think it means,” and apply it to the inconceivable-ness of God, what happens?
Lord, there is something to be said and to be grateful that we are finite. We cannot understand the depth of your joy or love. We also cannot understand the depth of your sorrow, loss, and mourning that you have experienced. Help us to be grateful for the mystery that is the inconceivable-ness of you. Help us to be grateful for what we do know. That you love us so much that Jesus came to die for us. Amen!