We have a bird feeder hanging outside our kitchen window. It is specifically designed to feed goldfinches, although from time to time a chickadee may take some of the black niger seed.
Sometimes, as I watch these pretty little birds hang upside-down on the feeder, I wonder what they are thinking, if anything. Do they function entirely on instinct, or is there some sort of thought process going on in their tiny heads? They can see me through the kitchen window; and if I remain still, they will continue to feed and to challenge each other for the top spot. If I move too suddenly, they fly. If I move slowly, they don’t. Are they thinking, or simply acting on instinct and their past experience of these people behind the glass of the window?
Of course, we cannot know. Scientists may do all kinds of research, and come up with complicated answers, but in reality we cannot know.
Recently a brother read (publicly) from 1st Corinthians 2 where Paul is writing about the wisdom of God and man. In writing about these things, and God’s revelation to man, Paul writes: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” It is an interesting and profound statement; particularly in its context of the role of the Holy Spirit in revelation; but it also is helpful in emphasizing that we can, in fact, understand other people’s thinking because we are of the same spirit as they. Now, I know, sin has done some terrible things to us, and we need to remember that we all have ‘warped minds’ because of that, but meaningful dialogue is possible because we all have “the spirit of man.” Goldfinches do not have “the spirit of man” in them.
I would gather that one of the favourite passages of the Bible for many of God’s people is Romans 8. I know it is one of mine. Paul deals with many of the implications of the indwelling Holy Spirit: we walk according to the Spirit; we are able to cry “Abba, Father…”; we understand something of the “inheritance” that we share with our Saviour; we are able to enter into the wonder of the enormity of God’s love for us in Christ; we begin to appreciate the security that is ours because of the work of the Saviour; we know a little more of what lies ahead when all will be made right. These are some of the wonders of Romans 8. (as it is partitioned off in our Bibles)
As I was thinking about our goldfinch friends, my thoughts wandered to verses 25–28 in Romans 8.
But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
I have heard various thoughts expressed on these verses; the majority pointing to the “unutterable groanings” being ours, and that the Holy Spirit takes these and “re-phrases” them in an acceptable manner for the “one who searches the hearts”. That is not what Paul is saying here. If you could allow me to paraphrase: Paul is saying that we don’t really know what lies ahead, but we are anxious for it. We likely would pray incongruently with God’s plans. But the Holy Spirit does know what to pray for (for us) and so He does; with “unutterable groanings”. And of course, the Father knows what the mind of the Spirit is, and can answer accordingly. Amazing comfort for us in our anticipation of the “revealing of the sons of God.”