Earlier in the year the designer Clemens Habicht produced 1000 COLOURS – a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It is credited with being the most difficult jigsaw puzzle in the world.
The puzzle has edges and corners, just like the jigsaws we all know and love. However, there’s no picture on the box of a fluffy dog, Swiss chalet or steam train to act as a guide when it comes to solving it. The picture on the box is of something called a ‘colour gamut’ – a complete subset of 1000 colours, each differing very slightly from its neighbour. Every individual piece of puzzle is a different colour. The solver’s task is to join them together with pieces of almost identical colour. The end result is a beautiful swathe of dark blues, progressing subtly to purples and reds. It looks like a shard from one end of a rainbow.
Habicht himself believes that completing 1000 COLOURS is not as difficult a task as it initially seems. He said this about his puzzle:
…you have a sense of where every piece belongs compared to every other piece. There is a real logic in the doing that is weirdly soothing, therapeutic…
In this month’s article, I want to reflect on the idea that God gives Christians the pieces of ‘Sacred Jigsaws’ and encourages us to join together in solving these holy puzzles.
In Old Testament times the words of God were communicated through the various prophets. Each one was possessed of an amazing authority. The phrase, ‘Thus says the Lord…’ is repeated over four hundred times from the Genesis to Malachi. Think, for a moment, about how it must have felt to have not the slightest doubt that you had received a message from God. It must have been wonderful to have such clear communication with the Almighty!
It begs the question: do Christians have the same authority to speak on God’s behalf today? If we come to a belief that God has given us a prophetic word, a dream, a vision, or a picture may we preface our explanation to fellow Christians with the words, ‘Thus says the Lord’?
I would be hesitant to do so. Let me explain why…
We read about the birth of the Church in Acts 2. After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, His disciples have gathered in a house in Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit powerfully anoints them in the midst of their meeting. The disciples then leave the house and proclaim the mighty works of God in myriad different languages, as the Spirit enabled them. Before long, the crowds ask what is going on. This gives Peter the opportunity to preach a magnificent sermon. It begins by quoting the prophet Joel:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”
It is clear that a new era is being ushered in where God’s word through Joel is being fulfilled. In the Old Testament times, the Spirit was poured on a few prophets. These precious (and often troubled) men and women were honoured recipients of God’s words. They formed a tiny minority within the community of God’s people. Peter’s quotation from Joel suggests that a time has arrived when the community of God’s people in its entirety will be given the prophetic word.
Not that everyone suddenly gained the clarity of Isaiah or the conviction of Ezekiel. As the story of Acts unfolds, it becomes evident that the Christians are receiving prophetic words from God, but that the message seems to be distributed among several members of the Church: it’s as though the Lord is giving them pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that must be brought together to make complete sense.
For example, Acts 10 tells of an encounter between Peter and the centurion Cornelius. Peter has three visions that he fails to understand; Cornelius has an angelic visitation and is told to fetch Peter to his house – he doesn’t know why. When these two men meet and talk, the various pieces of the puzzle fall into place. The Good News is proclaimed and signs and wonders accompany the ‘new style of prophecy’ being fulfilled:
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Two millennia on, I believe that the Lord continues to pour out His Holy Spirit on ‘all flesh’ and that the whole Church has a part to play in sharing and discerning prophecy. I believe that we need to continue to meet together and share ‘the pieces’ that God gives us. We need to pray together and ask that His Divine truths, purposes, plans and pathways will become apparent to us.