This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for November 28) is written by Karen Rees. She and her husband, Benjamin, have served in Hong Kong since 1975.
God Is Omniscient (Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16, 23, 24)
By Karen Rees
What is their god like?
In the 35 years my husband and I have served in Hong Kong, knowing the answer to this question has helped us to share our God in a more meaningful way with the variety of people we’ve worked with.
The Chinese traditionally believe that the gods can’t be known. They rely on their ancestors to intercede on their behalf with whatever gods there are. Although the gods can’t be known, they can be tricked. The kitchen god, a lesser god, is an example. Its picture spends the year in the kitchen eavesdropping on the family. At year’s end it is burned and returns to the gods to report. But first its mouth is smeared with honey so it can say only good things.
Islam’s Allah is similar to our God in many ways, since Muhammad borrowed heavily from the Bible. Islamic folks believe Allah is compassionate, merciful, lord of creation, and king of judgment day. His moral standards are similar to those of our God. Islam does not accept the Trinity, however, and claims Jesus was but a prophet. Without a loving Savior, Muslims think they must save themselves by good works. But they can never know if they’ve done enough.
Hinduism has two main versions. Folk Hinduism believes in many gods, all of whom both reward and punish. It also includes much superstition and fear. Philosophical Hinduism holds that each person is god. God is all that exists, and everything that exists is god. This god is the one, infinite, impersonal, ultimate reality. No distinctions exist between people, plants, animals, and rocks, or between good and evil. If this sounds like New Age teaching, it should. Their religion is recycled philosophical Hinduism with an individualistic Western twist.
What is our God like?
The prayer of Psalm 139 tells us that our God is all-knowing. In fact, he knows us better than we know ourselves (vv. 1-4, 15). Being known intimately is dangerous. We hide guilty secrets because we don’t want to lose people’s respect. We guard personal information against identity theft. We conform to society’s expectations out of fear our real selves won’t be accepted.
Yet our God uses his knowledge for our benefit; he is a caring God. In verse 5, and even more clearly in verse 10, David says God protects and guides us. We can rest secure in him.
Our God wants to be known. Genesis through Revelation testifies to this fact. As we grow in our knowledge of God, we will realize, as David did, that full knowledge of him is too lofty for us to attain (v. 6). He is the all-knowing God, the Creator of the universe, our Creator, not a god who can be tricked by placing honey on his mouth.
God uses his knowledge to bring about what he wants in this world. Verses 13 and 14 declare that God created David. Even before his birth, God had ordained his days (v. 16). This realization must have encouraged David during the years he was running for his life from jealous King Saul, and also helped David refrain from killing God’s appointed king and solving his problem (1 Samuel 24:1-7). It certainly encouraged Daniel, a captive in Babylon (Daniel 2:19-22). It also should encourage us as our country faces uncertain times.
David ends Psalm 139 with a request (vv. 23, 24). He doesn’t ask God for a to-do list; he knows that “works” worship is secondary (Isaiah 29:13). He asks for inner cleansing so his “heart” worship will be acceptable. He knows that everything starts in the heart. He asks God to expose his blind spots and lead him in the right way, a way that reaches beyond death. He knows he worships a God who can do just that. This should be our prayer as well.
Today we don’t need to move to Hong Kong to meet worshippers of other gods. The mission field has come to us. We also have our own Western gods—money, sex, fame, power, naturalism, patriotism—that are looked to for meaning, direction, and a solution to life’s problems. These gods, whether home-grown or imported, are nothing but gods of straw. Only our all-knowing, caring God can provide secure rest for the empty, searching hearts of the world. This is the message we must share.
What attributes of God, from this lesson or elsewhere, encourage you the most? Why?
If we prayed verses 23 and 24, what would God tell us?
How can we best share our God with acquaintances who worship other gods?
Does knowing God is in control of governments affect our view of politics? If so, how? If not, why not?
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|Nov. 22: Matthew 6:1-8|
|Nov. 23: Proverbs 15:1-7|
|Nov. 24: Job 23:8-13|
|Nov. 25: Psalm 139:7-12|
|Nov. 26: Psalm 147:1-6|
|Nov. 27: Psalm 139:17-21|
|Nov. 28: Psalm 139:1-6, 13-16, 23, 24|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Karen Rees and her husband, Benjamin, have served in Hong Kong since 1975. They first served with Chinese and, since 1981, with Filipino domestic servants. Since women comprise 97 percent of their congregation, Karen, serves them through teaching, counseling, and helping with medical and job-related problems. Ben focuses on teaching, training, and literature production. Their aims are to keep new Christians in the church and to train them for effective service when they return to their home churches. In the last few years they have also been working with Sri Lankan Tamils and have had occasional opportunities to witness to Indonesian Muslim domestic servants. The Reeses have two adult children, Matthew and Megan.