God’s Perspective (Part One)

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and of Jeroboam son of Jehoash, king of Israel (Hosea 1:1 CSB)

Think about a child’s impression of the adult world. “They make the rules,” he or she thinks. “There’s power for you! And they have the money, however much they moan about not having much—there’s freedom! Just think what we children could do with all that freedom and power!” (Compare Kidner’s comments.) Kids long to be adults; then all their problems will be solved! No oppressive adults telling them what to do, and with all the money they’ll have, they’ll be able to buy anything they want. All their dreams will come true! But what really happens when you become an adult?

Christians, too, can have childish dreams about God’s rule of the world. If only God would do things our way, we think, the world and national situation would improve rapidly and dramatically! Just speak a word of omnipotence, and all will be right! The Lord can calm a storm, can’t he? Didn’t he create the universe just by speaking? Yes, he did. Then it’s so simple, isn’t it?

Please excuse me for suggesting this, but perhaps we all are too simple-minded. We confess to believe what God has told us about himself, but then promptly forget all that we say we believe. We hear some truths about God’s sovereignty, holiness, justice, love or mercy, and quickly choose one of them, and then ride that one selected truth like some people will buy only one brand of vehicle.

What we forget is God’s ultimate purpose—to display his own majestic glory (Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). What we fail to consider is that God’s glory is not defined by one of his characteristics, but by all of them in harmony. To help us understand more about his glory, in the book of Hosea God pictures his rule over the world as a husband leading his family. The picture is surprising, even shocking! God presents the truth of displaying all his glory like this. It is not the picture of a husband who calls all the shots and whom no one dares to question. Nor does he present a husband with an adoring wife and perfect children. Instead, we read of a husband whose wife has left him and whose children are bent on destroying themselves. Some find this picture disgusting, but the Holy Spirit has not smoothed the rough edges to meet prudish Victorian standards of propriety. Without further introduction, let us turn to Hosea’s prophecy about God’s love to unlovely people.

God put his copyright on this message. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways… (Hebrews 1:1 NIV). He gives the publication data. This is like the information you find on one of the opening pages of a book. You remember—that stuff you had to write down to make a bibliography.

  • The messenger is Hosea. He was a prophet who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel. Nothing else is known about him apart what we read in this book. It does not matter that people know of you; what matters is that God knows you.
  • The time of God’s message through Hosea was during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel; in other words, during the eighth century B.C. The ministry of Hosea is God’s call to repent to a people on the brink of destruction. Compare this with Jonah. In Jonah a group of Gentiles repent, but God’s visible people refused to listen to Hosea’s message!

However, there is a publication problem in the opinion of some people. They simply do not approve of how God spoke through and by the prophet Hosea. What happened to him offends their ‘moral sensibilities’. First, we should realize that God sometimes had his prophets illustrate their message by performing some action (cf. Jeremiah 16:1-9; Ezekiel 5:1-4). God presented a play, and then handed out “Cliff Notes” explaining what the play meant.

Second, what God commanded Hosea was unpleasant and brought much trouble into his life, and God didn’t even ask for Hosea’s permission! The Lord does not usually lead his servants to walk on smooth, level, dry paths. Some of our paths are hilly, rocky, and perhaps mucky and swamp-like. Our mission is to serve God wherever he leads, regardless of the inconvenience or suffering that it brings (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10). This is not to say that we like suffering, but we value the glory of God so much that we persevere through suffering for Christ’s sake. Grace and peace, David

Fill Them, Lord (Part One)

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (NIV).

The letter to the Romans is a peerless explanation of the good news of justifying grace. Throughout its length, Paul opened gospel treasures. Our text is the concluding verse of the instructional part of Romans. How will the apostle sum up what he has said? He finishes with a prayer for his readers. Plainly, Paul wants his readers to experience the fullness of gospel grace. Therefore, he calls out to God Most High. His request can be prefaced this way. “Fill them, Lord. Fill them with the most wonderful of your blessings. Then they will be able to live properly for you.”

While I am thankful what the sound teaching I received as a new follower of Jesus Christ, I wish I would have known what is recorded here. It would have helped much during the early years of my walk with God. But none of us can change the past. Let us, then, go forward in the light of this truth!

The apostle worships the living God. Three general observations about this worship.

  • We are too brief in our prayers. We do not invest proper time in conversing with him. God is not a convenience store, where we rush in and rush out.
  • When we begin with worship, we show that it is our chief concern to honor God. If we’re not thinking this way, it shows a clear need for repentance in agreement with the first great commandment. We will then reflect the glory of the Holy One through how we pray.
  • Proper form. When we pray, it is good to address him with his characteristics that are most agreeable with errand we come upon. By so doing we confess his ability to provide what we ask. It is like getting in the correct lane on an interstate highway. In some places in our area, they have painted road markers on the lanes, so that drivers know ahead of time which lane to take. Learn the attributes of God and learn to get in the correct lanes.

Here we encounter a specific example of proper worship. To do this requires a Biblical view of God. A study of the prayers in the Bible can be a helpful refresher course on this subject. Learning from the prayers of the Bible is like having a professional instructor by your side. You not only do a better job, but you also know that you’re doing well.

Hope is confident expectation. Hope energizes every saint to endure in service to the Lord and others. Why is he called the God of hope? This is God’s essential character. He looks forward to the day of his appointed victory. Do you think that the Lord is in danger of losing? Perhaps this is what has happened to some people. They’ve counted heads and wrongly concluded that they were on the wrong team. They lack the zeal to pray with other believers. United prayer doesn’t excite them. They sit and stare at the news, which leads them into deeper depths of hopelessness. It is time to get out of that swamp of depression. Seek out prayer times with other believers. In the practice of prayer, you will experience that God gives hope. The apostle’s prayer depends on this fact. The Lord himself is the hope of his people. He is our portion, inheritance, and dwelling-place (cf. Psalms 73:24-26; 90:1; Revelation 21:3). Draw near to him this weekend. Lord, please fill your people!

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Six)

They will perish, but you will endure; all of them will wear out like clothing. You will change them like a garment, and they will pass away. But you are the same, and your years will never end (Psalm 102:26-27 CSB).

God is immutable. “The unchangeableness of God is linked to his eternity… but they are not identical. The eternity of God means that God has always existed and will always exist; nothing comes before him, nothing after. The unchangeableness of God (immutability) means that God is always the same in his eternal being” (Boice, The Sovereign God, p. 183).

It is important that we invest time to understand this attribute and listen carefully to what the Scriptures actually teach. It is hard to understand because creation and we change constantly. There are three general ways that God is unchangeable:

  • God is unchangeable in his being (Malachi 3:6).
  • God is unchangeable in his attributes (Psalm 100:5).
  • God is unchangeable in his purposes (Isaiah 46:10)

Having stated these three truths, let us think about them. First, God is unchangeable in his being (Psalm 102:26-27). This means that we always worship the same God. The living God is not in the state of becoming something; he is the “I AM”.  “God is the exact same God and not something different. The God of the New Testament is not different from the God of the Old Testament. He is not older, wiser, more knowledgeable, bigger or smaller, greater or lesser, stronger or weaker. Only ONE God, as the eternal I AM, is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Morey, Battle of the Gods, p. 211, his emphasis). This provides a rock of stability to us. If God could change, how could we ever depend on him? For example, what if his power was diminishing? We could not be assured of eternal life, because his power is necessary to sustain ours. Let us rejoice that God does not change!

Second, God’s attributes do not change (James 1:17). “What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our heavenly Father never differs from himself. In coming to him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when he will see no one. Neither does he change his mind about anything. Today, this moment, he feels toward his creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as he did when he sent his only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind” (Tozer, quoted by Boice, p. 187).

Third, God’s purposes do not change (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 33:11; Proverbs 19:21; Hebrews 6:17-18). What God has planned to do for Christ (Philippians 2:9-11), for his redeemed people (Romans 8:28-30) and for the wicked (Matthew 25:41) does not change. Neither does his word change (Isaiah 40:6-8).

Someone might ask, “But what about the few passages in Scripture that speak of God’s ‘repenting’?” (See Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14; 1 Samuel 15:11, 35.) Do these pose any problem to the doctrine of the immutability of God?

“First, we have already stated that the immutability of God concerns the being of God. None of the passages in question speak of a change in God’s nature, but rather describe some act of God. Second, all of these passages describe a change in God’s works in terms of his revelation, relationship, or attitude toward man” (Morey, p. 222).

When we say that God is unchanging, we do not mean that he lacks emotional expression toward his creatures in conformity with his holiness, love, and justice. The personality of God demands that he has emotions, like we do, because we are created in his image. When God tells us in these passages that he “repented”, he is revealing his sorrow over the evil situation that occurred, just as we would say, “I’m sorry I ever did that,” though we might make exactly the same choice again for various reasons of love, truth, or justice.

The historical outworking of God’s plan of redemption might appear to show that God has changed his mind (from the fall to the old covenant and then to the new covenant), but that is an apparent change only. God revealed his plan in stages, and now with the New Testament Scriptures, we have the full revelation of his plan (Ephesians 3:2-11; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Peter 1:10-12).

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Three)

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27a NIV).

God is infinite.

However, people are finite; we are very limited beings. A man might have many cars, but he can only drive one at a time. A woman might have many clothes, but she can only wear one outfit at a time. You might have a couple dream vacation destinations and the means to get to them, but you can only be one place at a time. And we could go on and on! To be infinite means to be without limits. When we use this term in reference to being, we say that God has no limits in regard to time (he is eternal), space (he is everywhere present), and power (he is all-powerful). To think of a Being without limits is beyond our comprehension, because as creatures we are limited in each of these ways. Therefore, we must be careful not to allow our limited concepts to restructure God’s revelation. We must accept by faith what he says, though we lack the ability to extend out to his unlimited nature.

Let us begin with the concept of God’s eternality. Our minds are bound to the concept of time. Everything about us is bound to the endless procession of seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. But God has no personal relation to time, because he created everything (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17). He stands outside of time, but he can and does act inside of it. God uses the word eternal to convey this idea about his being to us (Genesis 21:33; Deuteronomy 33:27; Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16). To help us grasp what he is like, he uses phrases like “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2) and “who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15 NKJV). We can also think of God’s “eternal power” (Romans 1:20). God lives forever (Deuteronomy 32:40), and reigns forever (Psalm 9:7; 146:10). His “years never end” (Psalm 102:27), so he is the “eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10). Consider also Psalm 90:4. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night (NIV).

“When we have enlarged our captions to the utmost, they still utterly fail to comprehend the vast subject. We stretch out thoughts backward and forward; but no beginning or end of God’s existence appears. To relieve our overstretched imagination, and to stop the unavailing effort to comprehend what is incomprehensible, we bring in the negative idea—no beginning, no end. Duration without beginning and without end, becomes the expression of God’s eternity… We dwell in time, a habitation with its various apartments; and we pass from one to another in order; but God’s habitation is undivided eternity. Our lifetime has its parts, childhood, boyhood, manhood, and old age; but God’s life is as indivisible as his essence” (Dagg, Manual of Theology, pp. 64-65).

God is unlike creation, which is subject to time and decay (Hebrews 1:10-12). Humans are bound by time and our life passes quickly (Psalm 39:4-5; James 4:14). His “years” and vitality never become less or diminish in any way.

The consideration of God’s eternal nature means has numerous practical benefits. First, God warns us not to judge him or to become overly curious (Job 38:4). Second, if we know the Lord, we can always count on him to “be there” for us (Psalm 48:14; 90:2), unlike family and friends that pass away. Third, we have a firm foundation for constant trust (Isaiah 26:4). By grace, we have the confident expectation of life with the Lord forever.

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part One)

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 CSB).

The life of the believer is to be about knowing God. I have written on other occasions that true knowledge of God involves a knowledge of facts, a knowledge of skills, and a knowledge of God’s triune person. We definitely need the knowledge of skill, about how God tells us to interact with him. Such skills are usually called “spiritual disciplines”. But to my mind anyway, to join “discipline” with a personal relationship sounds strange and very impersonal. We don’t refer to the husband-wife relationship as “marital disciplines”, do we? “Hi honey, I want to do some ‘marital disciplines’ with you!” Even the illustration is laughable at best. We know a person by interacting with him or her, by sharing life with those we love.

The true knowledge of any person requires accurate facts about him or her. My wife is not married to a tall, handsome, athletic, wealthy, charming guy; she is married to me, and any distortions of the facts about me would disrupt our relationship. It would set her up for countless disappointments. This is one reason why we need accurate truth about God.

What do we mean by the phrase “the attributes of God”? The attributes of God are those characteristics or qualities that mark or define God’s mode of existence or constitute his character. Before we consider God’s attributes, we need to keep certain preliminary points in mind:

  • Since God actually exists, he has attributes and we can discuss them (Romans 1:20).
  • When we consider God’s attributes, we are not talking about some made up ideas, because God has revealed himself so that he (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) might be known (Romans 1:19-20; cf. Acts 17:27).
  • What God has revealed himself must be accepted on faith (Hebrews 11:6). Limited creatures cannot possibly search out and comprehend God in all his majesty. But we can know the truth that he has revealed about himself.

What is God? The Lord God tells us that he is the Creator of all things and that he is living, triune, unlimited, personal spirit. From these words, we at once understand that his being is on a higher level than ours. God’s revelation of his attributes helps us to know more of his being. (The names of God also help us understand God better, but the study of God’s name is a different subject.) As Christians have studied what God makes known about himself in the Scriptures, various attempts have been made to classify God’s attributes to guide our understanding. Most attempts have divided them into two categories, such as metaphysical and moral or incommunicable and communicable. But it is difficult to sort all into just two types. We will choose another approach to find out what he tells us about himself as a living, triune, personal spirit.

  • Metaphysically – God is self-existent, infinite (eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent), invisible, immutable and incomparable
  • Ethically – God is holy, righteous (just), faithful and good
  • Intellectually – God is omniscient and wise
  • Emotionally – God is loving, gracious, merciful, patient and jealous
  • Relationally – God is transcendent, immanent and sovereign

As we study God’s attributes, we will seek to understand (truly though not exhaustively) the ideas about God that each attribute conveys. Next, we will contrast God’s being with ours, and finally briefly think about the significance of each attribute to our worship and way of life. Clearly in a short study like this, we will only be able to touch the surface of God’s revelation of himself. But hopefully this will whet our spiritual appetites to search the Scriptures more deeply.

As we study God’s revelation of his attributes, we must not forget reverence. We cannot put God under the microscope, view what we see, and then coldly catalog our observations. If we do not worship, we have not seen him and have become proud in our minds. Nor may we criticize God. We cannot call him to account or dare to “remake God” according to our opinions. The human mind is limited and twisted by sin. We only think clearly when we think in conformity with the Scriptures!

Grace and peace, David

Safe Place

dscn0074Deuteronomy 33:27a

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms… (NIV).

Life is filled with uncertainty, and many are feeling uncertain now. People across the world either long for change, or have recently experienced great political change, as in Great Britain and the United States. With change comes uncertainty, and people desire a refuge or safe place for their families and themselves. They like to think that a smart plan of action will provide the refuge they crave. For example, some talk of leaving the country or buying gold or getting involved politically. Others will vent by demonstrations, or by ranting and raving, or by listening to others do the same. Some will hide, like one well-known author who decided not to send out any tweets for a while. One the other hand, others will assume that they now have a safe place, because their desired change has come. Although you still hear their uncertainty as they admit that they don’t know what the change will mean for them.

Those who follow the Lord Jesus ought not to walk into the swamp of the supposed safe places of worldly people. We need to apply our faith to whatever uncertainty we presently feel. Our verse reminds us where our true place of safety is. The words of the verse were said as Moses concluded his blessing of the tribes of Israel, God’s old covenant people. He gave this blessing as his own death approached and Israel was about to enter the land. The people were about to experience great change, along with the uncertainty that a new home with new leadership would involve. Moses said that the people of God have a safe place, but that safe place is not a place but a person, the Lord God himself! This is good to know, because we can always have a safe place in the Lord, regardless of our circumstances. God is not only our Protector, and we commonly think and speak that way. God is our Protection. He is our refuge. Let’s ponder this truth. How is the eternal God our safe place?

  • The Lord is our refuge because of his covenant promises to us. The Lord never lies (Titus 1:2). We can rely on his word to forgive us (Hebrews 8:12) and to not forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In Christ, we have a new and better covenant that is established by our Great High Priest’s once and forever sacrifice of himself for us. So then, we can be confident that he will be our safe place.
  • The Lord is our refuge because of his perfections. God is holy or set apart from sin and far above all he created. He is sovereign, all-powerful, eternal and unchanging, all-wise and all-knowing, everywhere present, and fully self-sufficient. God is also love, good, patient, compassionate, and faithful. All that he is provides absolute safety for those who draw near to him by faith in Christ.
  • The Lord is our refuge because of his presence. God is with us. The great promise of the Lord Christ before he ascended to heaven is that he would always be with us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The Holy Spirit makes Christ’s presence real to his people. With the Lord of all with us, we can be confident during every change he walks with us.
  • The Lord is our refuge because of his providence. The events of life, however distressing from our vantage point, are under his control. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NIV).

My friends, let us trust in the Lord. We have every reason to approach the changes around us with confidence, because our hope is not in circumstances but the living God.

Grace and peace, David