Many accept the explanation that God’s ways are mysterious when teachings are incompatible with peoples’ idea of a loving God. Others may desire answers to understand God better. I am positively obsessed with the idea that some people may be more open or intimate with God if they could better understand certain aspects of God that initially cause confusion. The Bible at least doesn’t seem to claim that God’s character or His ways are a mystery and incomprehensible to the human mind.
The Old Testament doesn’t make specific mention of “mysterious” as it relates to God. Deuteronomy 29:29 says: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us…” The secrets things were unrevealed things, not mysteries. How was God going to bless all nations through Israel despite their rebelliousness? We now know that God raised a Savior from Israel to bless all. Isaiah 55:8-9 says about God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” God isn’t suggesting we cannot understand Him. God exhorts us to forsake our wicked ways and thoughts and turn to God’s higher, righteous ways and thoughts so God can have mercy on us and forgive us (v.7).
The word mystery or mysteries is referenced about 27 times in the New Testament. There are two themes involved. Jesus’ teachings were not purposely hidden but rejected and not pursued. Jesus did not prefer to speak in parables, but sometimes it is better to not speak the truth in a straightforward manner. When King David didn’t listen to God, God sent Nathan to confront in a form of a parable. Mark 4: 11-12 doesn’t suggest Jesus keep secrets: “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, they may be every seeing but never perceiving…” Jesus isn’t playing favorites who can hear or not hear: “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (verse 9). God’s direct message is only perplexing often to one’s heart not the mind. Truths of the faith are obtainable (I Tim 3:9).
The mystery of Christ is a second theme in the NT. God’s plan to bless all through Israel by way of Christ wasn’t fully revealed until NT times. Paul says: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2: 3-4). The mystery isn’t how God elects only some individuals before Creation to believe in Him and exclude others. Ephesians 1:4 says God “chose us in Him before the creation of the world to holy and blameless in His sight.” God’s predestination act is choosing Christ as the Savior for all who desire God’s gift (v.5). Ephesians 1:11 repeats again we are chosen through Christ. How is one chosen through Christ? “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (v. 13). God’s promise to Israel and all is now fully revealed.
The ultimate mystery for some is how God and suffering can co-exist. Much of suffering is either self-inflicted or inflicted by others such as wars, crimes, and injustices resulting from evil choices make by cruel and lawless people. Job doesn’t teach God is a mystery and cannot be understood by mere mortals. Did Job begin to assume God didn’t care by allowing his suffering? God didn’t answer Jesus’ request either to intervene with His undeserved suffering. God will go to great lengths to win others over while preserving freedom. God desires to turn as many people from evil as possible. Jesus’ suffering and our suffering may be the only way to lead us and others to our Creator’s unconditional and unbelievable love. It is not necessarily true that if God instantly stopped all suffering, whether from personal or natural evil, I or the world would be better off in the long-run. (For further elaboration see article at my blog under Tab – Is God A Mystery?)