ROMANS 11

A crystal-clear sky on any night is always a joy to behold. But if you are on the Chajnantor Plateau, at 5000 metres altitude in the Chilean Andes and one of the best places in the world for astronomical observations, it could be an experience that you’ll remember for your whole life. This panoramic view of Chajnantor shows the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) against a breathtaking starry night sky. In the foreground, we can see some of ALMA’s antennas, working together. The plateau appears curved, because of the effect of the wide-angle lens used. ALMA is the world’s most powerful telescope for studying the Universe at submillimetre and millimetre wavelengths. Construction work for ALMA will be completed in 2013, and a total of 66 of these high-precision antennas will be operating on the site. At the moment, the telescope is in its initial phase of Early Science Observations. Even though it is not fully constructed, the telescope is already producing outstanding results, outperforming all other submillimetre arrays. In the sky above the antennas, countless stars shine like distant jewels. Two other familiar celestial objects also stand out. First, the image is crowned by the Moon. Second, outshone by the glow of the Moon, it is possible to distinguish the Milky Way as a hazy stripe across the sky. Dark regions within the band are areas where the light from background stars is blocked by interstellar dust. This photograph was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador, Babak Tafreshi. Babak is founder and leader of The World At Night, an international project to produce and exhibit a collection of stunning photographs and time-lapse videos of the world’s landmarks with a backdrop of the most beautiful celestial wonders. ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA. Links  More about ALMA at ESO Joint ALMA Observatory  ESO Photo Ambassadors

Arrogance vs. Humility.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

These are the crowning words of chapter 11, the pinnacle of the letter to the Christians of first century Rome. But how often do we hear, read or even speak words like these in our everyday lives: emblazoned in national newspapers; discussed around tables at Starbucks or barbecues in back yards; texted, tweeted, face timed or messaged?

Rarely, if ever.

Why is it that the most significant truth and reality of life is often pushed to the sidelines and even ignored? Perhaps it is not ignored. Perhaps more people think thoughts like these than would admit to anyone but their closest friend or family member.

I heard a clip on the radio yesterday. People were given opportunity to read entries in diaries they had written as youths. One woman read out her entry, which asked deep questions about life and God: What is the meaning of life? Is there truly a God who is all-powerful and all-loving, able and willing to connect with me? As she read those words, the audience began laughing raucously in the background. Their laughter was not spiteful but seemed to be a demonstration of their being entertained. They thought it was funny that someone would consider God.

There are several themes in Romans 11, but the synopsis of God’s matchless wisdom is the epitome. To consider the vast gulf between how God thinks and how we think is perhaps the greatest crossroad we can come upon. To contemplate God’s great otherness with humility, and to breathe words like those in Chapter 11 in awe is one path. The other path is really just arrogance. It is ignoring, discounting, abusing, rejecting, or even finding entertainment in the concept of the greatness of God. It is making the assumption that we completely understand the full range of existential possibilities, and concluding we know God doesn’t exist. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous?

In most other areas of life arrogance and egotistic conceit are objectionable and offensive. Somehow, though, asylum is granted when God is the object of abuse.

And God’s response?

According to Romans 11, God has, is and will be doing everything possible to communicate His love and mercy toward every one of us. He wants to graft each of us into the “olive tree” of His Life. Why?

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” answers the apostle Paul. “How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” he extols. We know that God is merciful, and we know how He expresses mercy to us through Jesus’ redeeming work, but why He wants to be merciful to us – we don’t really know. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” These are rhetorical questions. The answer is: None. Not one of us know the full extent of who God is, beyond what He has chosen to reveal to us through His Son Jesus, and His Word, the Bible. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

These four verses bear repeating. They are full of grace and truth, and have the power to truly transform us if we lay them as the foundation of our thinking. They become the path upon which we step out each day in confidence that God is for us; He is wise enough to give us good advice on how to live.

Let’s do something with those words in Romans 11 so we think about them today. Write them on a sticky note. Save them on whatever device works for us. Memorize them. They are words of life and hope because they require us to humbly think about the infinite greatness of God. It’s a crossroad worth stepping into, and the path upon which it leads us is out of this world.

(Photo Credit: By ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org) (http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1238a/) [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

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