A Mystery Story
but it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
My wife, Rosanne, enjoys surprises. But my choices for her surprises are not always what she really wanted. So, I rely on the “wish list”. Once she makes up her wish list, I get to choose when to surprise her with things that she will really cherish. One of the things that she loves is a good mystery novel. She just puts the name of her favorite author on the wish list and I know that I can get the next release. The gift will be a surprise without surprises.
Everyone loves a wish list. I remember as a child getting the Christmas Wish catalogue from Sears. We would pour over the pages, thinking, “Wow. Maybe I’ll get this. Or better yet, maybe that.” My brothers and I spent hours imagining how great it would be to get our wishes.
Did you know that God has a wish list for you? It’s not quite the same as the Sears catalogue or Rosanne’s surprises. It is a wish list that He fills out about you. You don’t get to see it in advance, but you know that it is really something special. In fact, it’s so special that you can’t even imagine how wonderful it will be. It is so gloriously surprising that you have never heard or seen anything like it. It is the wish list from heaven, sent special delivery to your door.
Paul introduces this thought to the church at Corinth with a shocking bit of personal background. He begins by telling his readers that he was nervous and shaky when he spoke with them on his first visit. He didn’t present himself as the magnificent apostle, called by Jesus to straighten out the good news to the gentiles. No, he came with great humility, demonstrated by his uneasiness. The only message he brought to them was the message of Christ crucified. God helped him deliver that message in spite of his weakness. The members of the church knew that it was not Paul’s fancy words they were hearing. It was the power of the Spirit working through Paul.
Now Paul is writing to this same audience. He adds an important thought. God’s wisdom is a mystery. It is hidden. The proof of this fact is found in the reaction of important people throughout the world. They never saw it coming. They had no idea what God was doing. As a result, they killed God’s Son. If they were really wise and important guides for the rest of us, they would have recognized who Jesus was. The mystery of God is that God revealed Himself in a way that human wisdom just could not comprehend.
The Greek word mysterion is the word “mystery”. It’s pretty obvious where our English word originated. This Greek word comes from an older word, mueo, a word that means, “to learn a secret”. Now you can see that every good mystery must ultimately be about a secret. It is the secret that gives the mystery its power. It is discovering the secret that gives the mystery its challenge.
During the Greek ages, there were many mystery religions. While the elements of these religious cults were not all the same, they all shared one common thread. Followers were sworn to secrecy about the rites of the religion. Secrecy protected the power associated with the ritual. We have similar groups today. Human beings have always wished to have secret power. Just look at the continuous fascination with super-human action figures. Hollywood understood long ago that power is the name of the game. This is no surprise to Christians. We have been taught from the beginning that sin is essentially about power – the power to be my own god. But God’s mystery novel does not follow the usual human plot line. It is all about weakness, not power. Power is the appeal of self-determination. Weakness is the submission to God’s determination. You can’t have it both ways.
This mystery of weakness is the reason that important people in Paul’s day were clueless about God’s story. They were looking for the God of great power. They wanted fireworks, a spectacle, demonstrations of magic secrets and most of all, total control. Unfortunately, this internal fascination with power caused them to look the other way when God showed up as a helpless baby. And even though Jesus performed some miracles, His demonstrations did not meet the requirements of those who were looking for advantages of power. Jesus “wasted” miracles on those who were essentially useless to the “greater good”. The rules wanted overwhelming strength against their enemies. Jesus only gave them God’s concern about the outcasts. In the end, it was this lack of “useful” power that caused them to reject Jesus and kill him.
Paul explains all this and then quotes Isaiah the prophet. The quotation is not exactly what you will read in your Old Testament, but don’t worry. Paul is using the Greek translation of the Old Testament as his source (because, of course, he is writing to Greek speaking Christians). Paul is also picking and choosing the words that demonstrate his message. And this is what he says:
God’s wish list for you is so incredibly tremendous that you can’t even imagine how spectacular it is. You have never seen anything like it. You’ve never heard anything like it. But you can be completely confident that God is preparing it for you.
Paul makes a simple comparison. Everyone admits that the only person who really knows what you are thinking is you. Don’t we say that all the time – “I can’t read your mind.”? So, says Paul, the only one who really knows that plans of God is God Himself. Unless God tells you what He is thinking, you won’t have a clue.
And that’s the best part of God’s mystery novel. He does give us clues. Lots of them. The clues are found in His words and deeds and in the words and deeds of those He has called into service. The stories of the Bible are not just history. They are clues about the mystery of God’s great purposes. The actions of Jesus are not just demonstrations of the incarnate Christ. They are clues about the nature of God. The words of every book in the Bible are clues about who God is and what he is doing. This is the greatest mystery novel ever written. And the best part is that it is non-fiction.
One of the constant themes of the Bible studies that I teach is the importance of asking “why?” Why does the text use this particular word? Why does the story include this little detail? Why did things happen this way instead of that way? Why? Why? Why? The more “why” questions you ask, the more you discover the hidden clues about this great mystery. The Bible becomes a living book designed to lead you to the conclusion of the mystery.
The next time you feel as though life is just not what you wanted it to be, take a break and read the world’s oldest and best mystery novel. But don’t read the words that you have heard so many times without pausing every other moment to ask, “Why?” Let God open your eyes to His clues. You will discover an amazing secret. God is preparing something so wonderful for you that you can barely imagine it. God is writing a wish list just for you.