Sunday, August 12, 2018

Psalm 68, Ephesians 4, and the Likelihood of Chance

I confessed to my friend Ted last week that I had done a crummy job of Bible reading lately. Well, for a long while, actually. I'm more likely to pick up a comic book than the Bible. I'm more likely to play Atari games than read the Bible. I'm more likely to do just about anything than read the Bible. Don't ask why. I don't know why. I have no excuse.

Ted in turn admitted the same thing to me. He has done a lousy job of staying in the Bible. With our sins confessed, we devised a plan to slowly but consistently read the Bible. Each one of us would suggest a daily passage to read, and then we'd share our thoughts on it the following day.

I suggested Ephesians 4. He decided on Psalm 68. Both of these decisions were made with the often ridiculed, but very popular Bible Roulette technique. I chose a book and chapter out of thin air, and Ted did the same.

But it gets a bit crazy.

My passage contains Ephesians 4:8

This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,

he took many captives

and gave gifts to his people.”(NIV)

And in Ted's passage, we find Psalm 68:18

When you ascended on high, you took many captives;

you received gifts from people,

even from the rebellious—

that you, Lord God, might dwell there.(NIV)

My Ephesians passage is quoting Ted's Psalm. Paul is looking back at what David wrote about God the Father, and he's reapplying it to speak of Jesus the Son. What a perfectly paired couple of passages to randomly choose for our first day of Bible study. We decided to spend the whole week on those passages, partly because of the commonalities between them. It gets better, though. At a prayer meeting at church on Saturday night, one of the first speakers picked up the microphone and read a Bible passage. By golly, it was Ephesians 4:1-6.

What are the odds? I believe God is sovereign, keeping the earth in orbit and directing things big and small. But I also believe that God allows free will. I don't know how those two things can coexist, but it seems to me that some things can only occur if God is calling the shots, and other things can only occur if God is allowing us dummies to make our own decisions. And sometimes I believe in chance as well. It makes sense to me that God put physics and time in place such that a random coin flip really might be random, but at the same time, the result is governed by the laws God created.

So these two passages, with the odds being against the random pairing: was it chance? Maybe. Was it God trying to drill something into my brain by exposing me to this text again and again? Could be. To be on the safe side, I should spend some more time in Ephesians 4 and Psalm 68. If God is trying to tell me something, I should make sure I get it before I move on. And if God isn't trying to tell me something, well, I feel pretty sure He's still okay with me hanging out in these passages a bit longer. Besides, no matter what I read in the Bible, it's infinitely better than a comic book. That's for sure.