When a river overflows, it exceeds its normal capacity. There is too much volume for the riverbed to handle and the water spills over and goes in various directions.
God’s grace, mercy, provisions. and knowledge also “overflow.” In Psalm 23.5, we read “You treat me [David] to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.”
An overflowing cup! Have you ever had one that overflowed? Here the “cup” is a metaphor for the goodness of God. It is more than we have imagined or expected.
There are of course times in our lives when the cup seems empty, but it is still there and can be filled again and again, often so that it “overflows.” Throughout our 65 years of marriage and our work in Wycliffe and SIL International Joice and I often gazed and gasped as our cup overflowed. Where did this come from? How could that have happened? What do we do now? God knows so much more than we do, and he cares for us in remarkable ways.
In Luke 6.38 I read one reason why the cup overflows: “If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated.” What a remarkable exchange: by simply giving to others, God not only gives back to us, but he packs it down and lets it spill over into our laps.
The reason the cup overflows is because that is the nature of God. He gives us beyond our expectations or abilities, far more than we “deserve.” His “love reaches higher than the heavens; your loyalty extends beyond the clouds.” His love spills over, out of the universe and world of our understanding and into the realms of heaven and beyond. This overflowing truth is “beyond us. It’s far too deep” (Ecclesiastes 7.24). As expressed in Job 11.8-9, God’s ways and thoughts “are higher than the heavens and deeper than the grave. So what can you do when you know so little, and these mysteries outreach the earth and the ocean,”
Today, with the Webb telescope, scientists can look into the farthest reaches of space. In a book called Beyond: Discoveries from the Outer Reaches of Space by Miranda Paul, I read that we can “Journey far beyond our solar system and explore the marvels of interstellar space. A wonder-filled poem and spectacular illustrations bring readers across the observable universe to encounter dwarf planets, black holes, brand-new stars, and other incredible phenomena.”
But how far can we go? Can you count the stars? The universe seems to be overflowing because that is the nature of God. We can’t get “beyond” what he has created. Whatever is discovered, there always seems to be more.
What is “out there” baffles the scientists, who keep looking, intent on finding out how and when the universe began. And yet it is beyond human comprehension because we are dealing with a God who does not reveal all his mysteries. We should remember the words of Jeremiah (32.17): “Lord God, you stretched out your mighty arm and made sky and the earth. You can do anything.”
When thoughts or actions are “deep” they are sometimes difficult to understand. David sang a song (Psalm 18) that expressed his deep feelings about the God who rescued him from his enemies. He called God his mighty rock, fortress, protector, shield, place of shelter, and imagined God “snorting” and shaking the earth. He saw a God who breathed out smoke and flames and rode on the backs of flying creatures, with his voice thundering from the heavens, roaring at the sea. God, it seemed to David, gave him “feet to run as fast as those of a deer” and his “arms to use a bow of bronze,” even as God was his shield. David ground his enemies “to dust and squashed them like mud in the street,” and he saw God’s love as never ending. What an “overflowing” song David gave us!
Sometimes we may want overflowing miracles and not see God in the ordinary, which is also overflowing with mercy and justice.
The tagline for our church is “Sacred, Simple,” but the opposite seems to be true in our culture, which is “Profane and Complicated.” May God can help us understand how both sacredness and simplicity can overflow in our lives.