Hope that’s not too creepy.
Addresses: Not So Easy
A pastor friend used to say this all this the time: “God knows your address.” Then, for a while, my husband started saying it all the time. I was always kind of underwhelmed by the saying. I was thinking, True, but … I’m supposed to be impressed by this? When the very hairs of my head are all numbered?
But for mere mortals, addresses aren’t always so easy.
When introducing yourself in Indonesia, your address is part of the standard introduction formula. Instead of, “Hi, my name is Jennifer Mugrage, and I’m from Idaho and I’m a writer,” you would say something like, “Hi, I’m Ibu Jeni, I am already married, no kids yet, and my address is ___________.” Instead of profession and region, you give marital status and street address.
The addresses are a little different too. Assuming that you share a city with the person you are meeting, you give number, street, and neighborhood, for example, “Number 18 Banana Alley, in Lower Kiputi.” In some neighborhoods, your house might not be a on street exactly, but on a little alley or down a flight of stairs. You give the nearest street plus neighborhood and do your best.
I was in Indonesia for some time before I found out why people give their street address when introducing themselves. The person you are talking to is supposed to memorize your street address on their first hearing, then later find it and come visit you! If you don’t come visit, you are at fault. And no excuses … after all, they told you their address.
This Herculean intellectual task is far beyond a mere language learner, whose brain is already overloaded with new words and who half the time can barely find her own apartment.
God is Savvy
So this week, it was brought home to me that we when say God knows your address, we are saying that despite His reputation, God is not some fuzzy-headed mystic. He is practical.
Check this out: at the end of Acts chapter 9, Simon Peter ends up staying in the coastal town of Joppa. He gets there sort of by accident: he’d been helping someone in Lydda, which was nearby, and then people in Joppa heard about it and asked for his help too, so he came. And then he stays in Joppa a while, with a tanner who is also named Simon. This was not where Peter normally lived. He was from Galilee originally, and it appears that after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter had been staying in Jerusalem. But now he is staying in Joppa.
At the beginning of chapter 10, we meet a Roman centurion (Roman: no nonsense!) who is “devout:” that is, interested in Jewish ethical monotheism. He gives to the poor and prays to the Jewish God, but he’s a not a convert. This man, Cornelius, lives in Caesarea, which is also on the coast but a few days’ journey north of Joppa. One day, while praying, Cornelius is visited by an angel. “Cornelius! Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
Wow! That is a very practical angel. Not only does he know Cornelius’s name and prayer habits, but he gives Cornelius, not a vague “word” that could mean anything, but an address.
In those days, people didn’t have last names generally. It would be [Name] of [Birthplace]. So “Simon who is called Peter” was pretty specific. Simon was a common name and there were probably many Simon of Galilees, but this Simon has an alternate name. And then the address. The angel gives city (Joppa); person that Simon Peter is staying with (Simon the Tanner); and then, though there is not more than one Simon the Tanner in Joppa but just in case you need more details when asking around, “his house is by the sea.”
In the ancient world, these are pretty good directions. It’s like giving street, number, and apartment number. It appears that Simon the Tanner’s street didn’t have a name, but his house was by the sea. And the messengers that Cornelius sent seem to have found the place with no problem.
God knows your address. Hope that doesn’t freak you out.