Beyond Our Ability to Know

Yael Eckstein  |  June 14, 2021

Painting of King Solomon outside the gate of Jerusalem.

After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening.” — Numbers 19:7

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Chukat, which means “requirement,” from Numbers 19:1–22:1.

Several years ago, I was trying to explain math fractions to one of my children. He just wasn’t grasping the concept until I decided to use Legos® to illustrate the idea. All at once, my child understood, and he broke into a big smile! He was so happy, and so was I.

It is our human nature to want to understand our world and how it operates. But sometimes, there are things that are beyond our ability to know.

King Solomon is said to be the wisest man that ever lived. God had offered to grant him any request, and Solomon asked for wisdom. With his divinely given intelligence, Solomon could understand the reasons behind every single one of God’s laws that are written in the Bible — every law, that is, save one.

Beyond Our Ability to Know

According to Jewish teaching, Solomon was finally stumped when he came to this week’s Torah reading about the laws of the Red Heifer. This is what Solomon referred to when he wrote, “All this I tested by wisdom and I said, ‘I am determined to be wise’– but this was beyond me” (Ecclesiastes 7:23).

As Solomon discovered, God’s wisdom is beyond us – both when it comes to His laws and also when it comes to our lives.

As human beings, we want so much to understand our lives. We’d like to see everything that has happened and will happen in a neat box all tied up with a pretty ribbon. However, God doesn’t work that way. As it says in Psalm 20:24, “A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?” No, we can’t understand how God works – and that’s a good thing.

Think about it. If we could understand God’s ways, then His actions would be limited to our intellectual capabilities. I don’t know about you, but I want a God who is limited by nothing! I want a God who can make sense out of my messy life when I can’t see a way to clean it up myself.

We all will go through things in life that we simply can’t understand. But God does, and that’s all that matters. As it says in Proverb 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord…lean not on your own understanding…and he will make your paths straight.”

Your Turn:

What are you struggling to understand in your life right now? Spend time in prayer to give it over to God and trust Him to guide you through it.