I’d like to “camp out” on MIQVEH, the Hebrew word for hope introduced last week, for the next few weeks. Last week we looked at three instances in which MIQVEH was used to describe God as our Hope. Today I’d like to look at the first time MIQVEH–“collection” or “reservoir”–is used in the Bible and what that tells us about God as our MIQVEH, our Source of Hope.
The first occurrence of MIQVEH is in the very first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis:
And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:10 (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
The phrase “gathering together” is translated from the word MIQVEH: “the MIQVEH of the waters He called Seas”. Here God is telling us that the boundaries of the dry land were defined by the accumulation of the waters into one place. This process is poetically described in the book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
who stretched the line on it?
“On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?
Job 38: 4-11 New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
God, our MIQVEH (and Job’s too), opens His defense of His sovereignty with a powerful account–using terminology that Job could understand–of the creation of the seas.
What is so significant about the Sea? The first point I’d like to make is its vastness. It is deep, still unsearchable even with modern technology. The pressure within it is incomprehensible, crushing probes and unmanned marine craft. It is a source of immense energy–as much energy as would be produced by burning up to 18 million tonnes of crude oil–that we are only beginning to “scratch the surface” of as a renewable energy source.
It is easy to feel in control when both our feet are planted squarely on terra firma: Man is able to build monuments to his own greatness and create a community to his own liking. The ground is a canvas on which each one of us may paint an illusory sense of our own godlikeness. On the ocean, however, one loses any notion of being in control; he is at the mercy of the wind, waves, and currents which he must learn to respect. Man must acknowledge his own limits in combating the “elements” if he is to traverse the blue safely. The ocean is overwhelming; when we travel on it, the smallness of our persons and our problems is swallowed up in its beautiful, seemingly endless vastness.
The vastness of the sea is a good analogy for the unsearchable and unfathomable mind of God and His limitless power in dealing with the affairs of man and the future of our planet. God is overwhelming. How can we say, God is my judge, I don’t have to give my account to anyone but Him flippantly? One could argue more effectively with the Sea than with God! He is that He is: no argument can change Him or persuade Him to alter course.
The currents of God’s nature run so deeply that we at best can keep up them on a superficial level; how many of us could survive the crushing depths of His personality or understand the savage turbulence in which His passion for us is wrought? Yet in His Mercy He doesn’t inundate us with things we cannot comprehend, He merely alludes to them. He makes His appeal to what He has kindly given us by His Grace: our reason. He calls us to contemplate His vastness for the purpose of inspiring hope so we can tread as lightly and navigate as purposefully on the land as we do on the MIQVEH of His waters, aware that “in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28 NLT).
To ignore the nature of the sea is to reject its great benefits and become subject to its great dangers. In the same way, the only way to receive hope from God is to acknowledge Him for who He really is, not what we wish Him to be or think He ought to be. We need to study Him to see what He is really like, not what our culture or feelings tell us that He is. If we ignore His true nature we cannot expect to benefit from Him. Jesus Himself asserted that the only way to know what God is like is to know Him; Jesus has seen the depths of God because He is God and He is the only way we can come to know what those depths are like.
I could stop here and I would have made an important point about the vastness of God inspiring us to put our hope in Him; however, there is a reason I highlighted certain verses in the passage from Job. Notice that in the creation of the Seas, boundaries were defined, and that is the second point that makes the Genesis 1:10 discussion of the Sea significant.
In scientific terms, the location and volume of the sea has to do with gravity, water tension, tides, temperature, etc. It can initially seem silly to think of God claiming to have put bolted doors on the sea, even if He were to speak metaphorically. However, it is not so silly, not even “unscientific” for God to say so.
In our science courses in school, we are taught about three states of matter (there are at least two more, plasma and Bose-einstein condensates): solids, liquids, and gases. What is the scientific definition of a liquid? A state of matter in which there is INDEFINITE SHAPE but definite volume. That is what leads us to say, “a liquid will take the shape of whatever container it is put in”. So when God was talking about telling the sea, “Thus far shall you come, and no further” He was saying in vibrant, triumphant language “I made the container for the seas! I decided their shape and created the basins! I limited where the ocean would be.” God, our MIQVEH, is the only One who can contain the powerful ocean; this puts His power in perspective relative to the ocean’s power and ours.
Does God, like the MIQVEH of the Sea in Genesis 1:10, have boundaries? I am guessing half of you would suppose not, given that He is supposed to be “omni” everything (including omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient); the other half may suppose that God is indeed limited because He is not perfect, just some higher “life-form”–if He even exists. I am here to tell you that God is not omni-EVERYTHING (although He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent), and THAT is what should give us hope; He does have limits and that is precisely what makes Him perfect!
There is an important principle to keep in mind when we are discussing God’s limits, what He can or cannot do and what He is and isn’t. First, let’s dispense with the silly notion that God can do everything:
…He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed…
Deuteronomy 10:17 (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.
Psalm 5:4 (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
..the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised…
Titus 1:2 [NASB] Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Let no one say when he is tempted, “ I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
James 1:13 [NASB] Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
According to the Bible, God cannot pervert justice, cannot tolerate sin, cannot lie, and cannot tempt. Those are definite boundaries on His personality. It is ridiculous to assert that because God is omnipotent, He could sin but chooses not to. Omnipotence is not omni-doing; it is having the absolute power to do every good (non-degenerate) thing.
God has no desire to do anything wrong and is not capable of it: this should give us Hope that He has absolutely no ulterior motive toward us; this was one of the teachings Jesus tried to instill in His disciples:
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.
1 John 1:5 (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
God literally doesn’t have it in Him to do wrong. He never becomes normalized or desensitized to evil, despite being omniscient; the Bible says He is angry at the wicked (with moral outrage and indignation) EVERY DAY (Psalm 7:11). Every time He sees sin, it is as the first time. He is relentlessly perfect and completely uncompromising. The principle we need to keep in mind is this:
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.
2 Timothy 2:13 (NLT) copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.
There’s another “cannot”. God cannot stop being Himself. God is Love. God is Good. So if anything we see is not loving or good as the Bible would describe those terms, then it is not originally from God.
God has definite limits on His nature; boundaries He cannot cross, not because He is inadequate to do so but the opposite, He would have to become inadequate to do so. He is that He is and cannot be anything other. Because He is consistently pure, we can safely put our collection of hopes and dreams, our MIQVEH, in Him and trust Him to always be Himself. Even when we change, He does not; He is always merciful, always forgiving, always powerful, always able to save.
So what about you?
Are you hoping in God according to His own definition of Himself, or have you redefined His boundaries to suit your “self-actualized” understanding of Him? If so, you may come to realize that redefining God undermines our hope;in reality, we don’t want Him to be any different than He is. We don’t want to give up our MIQVEH for a puddle of our own creation!
Are you toe-dipping in the tides; periodic touches of God’s Grace that make you feel better but don’t have enough “pull” to keep you from walking on your own two feet? How far can you go through life solely on your own creativity and steam? Where will your hope be when you realize how much you gave up to live independently of God?
Are you wading in the shallows: enough of God to provide some directional “tugging”, but not enough to surrender control of your life? How frustrating it may be to realize the fun others had diving into the Depths of God while you struggled to live in two worlds at the same time, “balancing” your spiritual and natural life independently of each other. You divided your resources; where will your hope be when you lose the natural accomplishments at death and have little spiritual treasure in heaven?
Are you willing to take the “plunge” of faith, placing your complete trust in the One who has seen the depths of God (Jesus) and related them to us, Whose strength is so great that if you immerse yourself in Him, the strength of your “underpinnings” becomes irrelevant? If so, He will carry you along by His Spirit to greater depths of Faith, Hope, and Love.
I sincerely desire that you would find your Hope in The Deep today.
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