“YOU SURE LOOK LIKE YOUR FATHER!”

Many years ago, before my biological children were born, we were foster parents for several children who were placed, for a variety of reasons, in a nearby children’s home. 

As an “adventure” one weekend, we took our foster children to a Civil War battlefield, complete with canons and stacks of cannonballs.  It also had a museum and much for the children to interact with as they learned about what happened at the Chickamauga Battlefield so many years earlier. 

When we went to the cashier to pay for our souvenirs, the Park Ranger standing there looked at our family and said to our son, “Boy, you sure look like your Father!” and to our daughter he said “And, you really look like your Mom!”  We smiled at him and paid for our goodies, and then left. 

In the car, we chuckled about the Ranger’s well-meaning comments.  They were especially humorous since both children were in foster care and of no blood relation to us.  Furthermore, they were not brother and sister but were from two separate families. 

Ultimately, I did have two children, a son and daughter, and when they were in preschool, my husband left us and divorce ensued.

Then the Lord brought Bill into our lives and, 31 years later, we are still married and the “children” (now in their 40s) are very much in love with him.   

When Bill had taken our son to the store for some clothing, the cashier looked at the two of them and said “Boy, your sure look like your Father!”   Without correcting the clerk, without discussing step-relationships, and without missing a beat, our son said “Yes, I do.”

Father and son marathon cropped
Father and son running in a marathon.

We were thinking about these comments recently and I wondered if I looked like my Father.  Do you?

We have just concluded consideration of just a few of the attributes of God, the Father, and I thought we should bring those discussion down to earth.  Do we look like our Heavenly Father?

I know that we cannot be like God, we are merely creatures who are sinful and who live in a fallen world.  But some of the attributes that are of God can be found in us if we let Him live in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

For example, Eternality is totally outside of our experience, we are time-bound, temporal, finite.   But Mercy is something that we can extend to those who wrong us in some way.

Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence are attributes that no one would ever credit me with having, that’s for sure.  They reside within God and are not communicable to either you or me. 

Holiness is surely one of the attributes that sets God apart from the sinful creation ever since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.   But, Scripture says that we are to be holy. 

“For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.””

Leviticus 11:45

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.””

1 Peter 1:15-16

I cannot be holy on my own nor can I become holy through any effort or action that I take.  I am sinful and will be sinful all my life.  But through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, in the eyes of God, I can be holy.

Justice is another attribute of God that is tied to His Holiness.  God is repeatedly called Just in Scripture and we are told that His actions are always just. 

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18

While Justice is an attribute of God’s intrinsic nature, it is also something that we are commanded to be.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

Love, the attribute of God’s nature which Jonathan Edwards called “the sum of all Christianity”.  God loved us even when we were sinners and unable to approach Him even in prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, we were made part of God’s family because of His love.

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul uses the imagery of an olive tree into which branches have been grafted, the tree, rooted in Jesus Christ, is referencing the Jews while the branches that were grafted onto the tree reference the Gentiles. 

Adoption is another image presented in Scripture with respect to God’s love.  The Amplified Holy Bible renders Ephesians 1:4-6 as follows:

Just as [in His love] He chose us in Christ [actually selected us for Himself] [as His own] before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy [that is, consecrated, set apart for Him, purpose-driven] and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined and lovingly planned for us to be adopted to Himself as [His own] children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the kind intention and good pleasure of His will to the praise of His glorious grace and favor, which He so freely bestowed on us in the Beloved [His Son, Jesus Christ].

We have been loved by God, through Christ Jesus, and have been adopted into His family.  What does that mean for us here on earth, surrounded by so many who do not know Him?  We are to love each other and are to live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ so that men can see Him when looking at us.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

John 15:8-9

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

John 15:16-17

So, the question hangs in the air – do you look like your Heavenly Father?

          At church on Sunday morning?

          At the supermarket on Tuesday?

          At the work meeting where your project is being criticized?

          When someone cuts you off on the highway?

          When you can’t think because the neighbors’ dogs are barking?

Do you look like your Heavenly Father?  Do I?

 

Father, we so easily call You Father even though we had nothing to do with Your adoption of us.  Your grace in giving us eternal life came at the incredible cost of Your Beloved Son’s atoning death.  Your mercy was extended to us even while we were still wallowing in our sin. Oh, Father.  Your love and compassion is too wonderful for us to comprehend.  All we can do is thank You and pray that we would be transformed through Your Spirit into the image of Your Beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  May we look more and more like Jesus and, thus, more and more like You each day.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – Concluding thoughts

For the past number of weeks, we have considered a number of God’s attributes, looking at scripture and asking the Holy Spirit to help us understand and appreciate our God more and more each day.  I must confess that, while we have thought about 13 attributes, this is clearly not an all encompassing listing.  I would encourage you to do your own study of God’s attributes; I am confident that it will enrich your relationship with your heavenly Father. 

During the time of our study, we have considered:

  • Eternality – the attribute that attests to God’s existence from all eternity past as well as future. In short, God has always existed.  He is outside of time; indeed, He created time for His creation. 
  • Mercy – the attribute which we rely on daily as we come to God in repentance and seek forgiveness for the sins which we so readily commit against Him. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, God extends mercy to us because we are covered by His Son’s precious, atoning blood.
  • Goodness – the attribute which underlies God’s character. God IS good.  We have no way of knowing that which is good apart from what God has revealed to us.  Indeed, scripture teaches that there is no one who is good, “no not one”.  Goodness belongs to God.
  • Omnipotence – the attribute which highlights God’s power. There is nothing that He cannot do.  He has “all – power” – He is omnipotent.  While it seems that He is powerless at times when horrific evil raises its head, God is watching and waiting to take action in His time and for His purposes.  Rest assured, Beloved, God is not powerless – have faith and see what He will do.
  • Holiness – this attribute focuses on the “set apartness” of God. He is holy.  He is set apart from all that is sinful; from all that is unclean.  His holiness is shown in His glory and magnificence.  We are called to be holy as well, but our holiness can only come through Him; it is not intrinsic to our nature or our actions.
  • Omnipresence – the attribute of God which describes his presence in all places. He is all present.  Psalm 139 highlights this attribute beautifully.  There is no place where we can go that we will not be with God.  He cannot lose us because He is omnipresent.  When ask God to be present with us during prayer, we are acknowledging that we desire His presence and it is also a conscious reminder that He is, indeed, with us. 
  • Immanence – the attribute of God which is akin to omnipresence but wonderfully different. Immanence highlights the fact that He not only is present everywhere, He is working even through the minutiae of our lives to produce a love for and enjoyment of His Word and, in fact, of Himself.  God takes an active part in what is going on in His world.
  • Immutability – the attribute of immutability means that God will not change His mind when it comes to His ultimate will for His children’s care and protection.  God does not change – a characteristic that is totally foreign to us.  He is immutable.  He is the same today as He was before creation even existed. Therefore, since God does not change, we have confidence that His character will remain the same and that which He has willed, will, in fact, occur.   
  • Righteousness – this attribute means that God’s character or nature always leads Him to do that which is right.  We know that God is holy — righteousness is His holiness in action. We, too, are called to be righteous, but we cannot do so on our own merit.  Rather, we rely on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. 
  • Omniscience – this attribute is the third of the “all” or “omni” attributes and it refers to God’s all-knowledge. He is all-knowing.  There is nothing that takes God by surprise.  He knows each person, and even to the extent of knowing the number of hairs on your head. 
  • Justice – this attribute is tied to God’s holiness.  Disobedience, sin, demands punishment because God is holy.  In His mercy, however, God provided a ransom for us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  R. C. Sproul said:

The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross.  If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus, he was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God.  If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross.  Here is where our astonishment should be focused.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 121

  • Sovereignty – God is sovereign over all mankind or anything that mankind worships, nothing compares to our God and Lord. God’s sovereignty is a tremendous comfort to the believer because it enables him to have confidence that he does not need to fear, God is still on His throne and He is still sovereign – in charge – in control, no matter what might be going on in this temporal world.
  • Love – this attribute was called “the sum of all Christianity” by the Puritan Theologian and Pastor, Jonathan Edwards. God’s love, agape love, is total, unconditional and everlasting.  We don’t have to do anything before God will love us. The Holy Spirit said it through Paul’s writing: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This is the example of divine love for a being that can offer nothing … it is supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.

One final thought.  We have rather dissected God’s attributes, separating them one from another so that we could consider each of them in their fullness.  But, God is not made up of separate parts – these attributes exist in Him and they are all active at the same time, eternally.  Dr. Sproul says it like this:

God’s perfection applies to all of His attributes.  His power is perfect; it has no weaknesses or any possibility of weakness.  His knowledge is not only omniscient but reflects perfect omniscience.  There is nothing that God does not know or that He could possibly learn. … God’s love, His wrath, His mercy – all that He is — is perfect. Not only is He perfect, but He is eternally and immutably so.  There never was a time when God was less than perfect and there is no possibility that in the future He may slip into any kind of imperfection. What has been with God will be so forever.  His perfection is immutable.  It cannot change. 

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 198

Beloved, honor this incredible, majestic, holy God and be in reverent awe of Him and of His power, justice, mercy and love.  Come to Him and remember His attributes and give glory to Him, now and forever more.

Father, we cannot conceive of Your attributes in their fullness and beauty.  We have insufficient words or understanding to comprehend Your nature.  But, we bow in humble submission to You and declare Your greatness.  Forgive us for our unbelief, for our disobedience, for our refusal to help our neighbor.  May we reflect on Your attributes and may we praise Your holy name.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – LOVE

Scripture says that God is love. 

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

1 John 4:8

We know that there are three primary words for love in the New Testament that enrich its meaning in Scripture beyond what our English translation can provide.

First is Eros from which we derive erotic, or romantic love, sexual and physical; it is a love that desires to possess for personal benefit.

Second is Phileo from which we get Philadelphia and philanthropy, words that mean companionship and friendship.

Third is Agape love.  This is the New Testament Greek word that describes God’s love for us.   Agape love is the result of a decision that commits itself to the well-being of the beloved regardless of the condition or reaction of the one who is loved, and it is the type of love that comes from God.

God loves His creation, and more than the creation generally, God loves His people.  Moses expressed it like this:

“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 7:7-8

In other words, God’s love is not dependent on anything that we have or any action that we have taken.  It is not dependent on our position in society or the status of our bank account.  Indeed, we have nothing that God has not given us, and we can give Him nothing that he needs … He loves us because He is love.

The amazing aspect of this attribute is that it is complete, unconditional and everlasting love.  A. W. Tozer (1897 – 1963) said this about God’s love:

God’s love is measureless.  It is more.  It is boundless.  It has no bounds because it is not a thing but a facet of the essential nature of GodHis love is something He is, and because He is infinite, that love can enfold the whole created world in itself and have room for ten thousand times ten thousand worlds beside.

The Apostle John elaborates on this incredible attribute of our marvelous God when he says:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. … We love because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:9-11, 19

And now we come to the crux of the matter.  John said it well – “God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.”  This week, known by many as Passion Week, we have prepared for Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  It is truly a day of joyous celebration for the Christian. 

But, before we can properly arrive at Sunday’s celebration we need to ruminate upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, the Friday night when sin thought it had triumphed over mankind.  This is the supreme example of God’s Agape love.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinnersChrist died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:6-10.

We, who were wallowing in our sin and were deserving of nothing but death and judgment from a holy God, were granted righteousness and full pardon from the judgment that our sin surely deserved when Christ died for us.  His sinless life, His death on the cross, and His powerful resurrection from the dead provides us with His righteousness because He took our sin and paid for it with His precious blood on the cross.

That, Beloved, is Agape love.  We don’t have to get clean before God will love us.  We don’t have to do anything before God will love us. The Holy Spirit said it through Paul’s writing: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This is the example of divine, Agape, love for a being that can offer nothing … it is supreme love that is contingent not on the person being loved but on the nature of the One doing the loving.

This is the love that our Lord exhibited when He took our place on that cross.  It is the love that is evident when Jesus, suffering mightily on the cross, prayed for the soldiers who, even as He spoke, were dividing His clothing among themselves:

“”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

Luke 23:34

Love is a principle of action rather than of emotion.  It is a purpose of honoring and benefiting the other party.  It is a matter of doing things for people out of compassion for their need, whether or not we feel personal affection for them.

J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, p. 182.

This love that has been extended to us deserves our response in love extended back to God and then to others.

Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) was a Puritan theologian, pastor, and devout Calvinist, whose conversion centered on his coming to the realization that God is sovereign over all things.  In the book Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards calls love the “sum of all Christianity”.  And he renders the following exhortation:

A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God… If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming [to] Christians.  An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

May we relish in this glorious attribute of our holy God – Love.  And may we honor and glorify the embodiment of that love in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who endured unimaginable horror on the cross as He absorbed all our sin in Himself so that we could be called the children of God, all on the day we call Good Friday.  And may we live in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we glorify God through compassion and loving kindness as we share the good news of Jesus Christ and the glorious message of hope through His resurrection which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Sovereign God, I praise You and glorify You as only You are worthy of adoration.  Thank You for the love that has been expressed through the sacrifice of Your Son so that my sin has been paid for and my debt extinguished through His righteousness.  I bow in humble obedience to You, my Lord and Master.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.”

Psalm 116:5

Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?”

Psalm 71:19

To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. … Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.

Daniel 9: 7, 14

The righteousness of God is one of the most frequently referenced attributes found in Scripture.  It is tied closely to God’s justice, and the word “just” is sometimes used where other translations will say “righteous” in reference to God’s character.  When the Bible speaks of God’s righteousness, it means that God’s character or nature always leads Him to do that which is right.  We know that God is holy, and righteousness is His holiness in action.

צְדָקָה

The transliteration of this Hebrew word is tsedaqah and its pronunciation is tsed·ä·kä’. This Hebrew word is translated as justice or righteousness.  Strong’s concordance says this in its definition:

  1. righteousness (in government), such as a judge, ruler or king, of the law, and of the Davidic king Messiah
  2. righteousness (of God’s attribute)
  3. righteousness (in a case or cause)
  4. righteousness, truthfulness
  5. righteousness (as ethically right)
  6. righteousness (as vindicated), justification, salvation
  7. righteous acts

δικαιοσύνη

This is the Greek word for righteousness.  The transliteration of this Greek word is dikaiosynē and its pronunciation is dē-kī-o-sü’-nā.  Strong’s concordance defines this term in the following manner:  

in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God.  A) the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God; B) integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

Now, let’s consider some of the examples and scripture passages dealing with God’s righteousness.

Consider, for example, that God deals righteously with humanity.  Abraham expressed God’s righteousness in Genesis when he was speaking with God about Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Genesis 18:25

God expresses His righteousness when He loves the things that are good and hates the things that are evil.  This attribute leads God to do only those things that are right.  Thus, because He is righteous, He must judge evil and sin cannot come into His presence. 

Righteousness is like goodness and holiness, but this attribute differs from others because it requires works to establish it.  God is good and God is holy, but He refers to Himself as righteous because He works the good as well.

This connection between works and righteousness is seen in the very first book of the Bible.  God was speaking to Abram and promising to make him a great nation, notwithstanding the fact that his wife was barren.  After delivering this promise, scripture says:

“And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [God] counted it to him as righteousness.” 

Genesis 15:6

A multitude of other scriptures reference the connection between our works and righteousness.  Consider these as examples:

“And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.”

Deuteronomy 6:25

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Psalm 24:4-5

The Old Testament is not the only place where righteousness is discussed and commanded from God’s people. 

Jesus said:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33 

Then Paul wrote to the Romans and said:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 14:17

The connection between righteousness and action was expressed by James like this:

 “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;  and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness“–and he was called a friend of God. …  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

James 2:21-23, 26

While Christians are called righteous, we do not receive that commendation because of any ability to accomplish good works in ourselves.  Rather, we are considered righteous by our holy God because we reside in the righteousness of Christ.  In other words, Christ’s obedience is imputed to us and when we stand before God, God sees not us but the righteousness of His Son.

Paul expressed it like this:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–“

Philippians 3:8-9

Righteousness.  It is an attribute of God and we are commanded to follow God’s lead in doing works of righteousness.  Not to earn our own salvation, but to praise Him for the gift of grace and mercy in the atoning work of our Savior and Lord.

Father, I praise You for Your righteousness.  Through Your Son’s sacrifice, You have imputed His righteousness to us, and have covered our sins with His atoning blood.  Thank You for Your righteousness and mercy. 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – MERCY

Last week we considered Justice, one of the attributes of God which is difficult to discuss because, inevitably, we know that we have sinned and that when God metes out His justice, we will be found wanting, fully deserving His punishment.

This week we are considering the attribute of Mercy.  Mercy is the flip side of Justice.

Dr. R. C. Sproul contrasts God’s justice and mercy by reference to the land of Canaan when the children of Israel were going to overrun the people and claim the land as their Promised Land from God.

Of the multitudes of women and children living in Canaan, none was innocent.  The conquest of Canaan was an explicit expression of God’s righteous judgment on a wicked nation.  He made that point clear to Israel.  He also made it clear to the people of Israel that they also were not innocent.  It was not as if God destroyed a wicked people for the sake of a righteous people.  To the Canaanites God poured out justice.  To the Jews God poured out mercy.  He was quick to remind the Jews of that in Deuteronomy 9:4. 

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 119.

The verses referenced by Dr. Sproul are instructive here:

Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.  Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

Deuteronomy 9:4-6

To the Canaanites God poured out justice.  To the children of Israel God poured out mercy.

This is consistent with God’s character as He revealed Himself throughout scripture.  There is no deviation.

“And [God] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

Exodus 33:19

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13

Salvation cannot be earned, we cannot work to avoid the consequences of our sin.      

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Paul puts the very granting of the faith to come to Jesus seeking salvation from our sin in the hands of the grace of God.  Our works cannot obtain this salvation, so no one can boast that anything that we did accomplished it.  The grace of God gave us this gift, and that my friend is mercy. 

Mercy results in the withholding of that which is deserved so that the object of mercy is unharmed.

As we saw last week, sin, which is disobedience to God’s law, must result in punishment because God’s justice mandates such a result.  However, when God grants mercy to an individual, that judgment is withdrawn, and His mercy eradicates the infraction which otherwise deserved judgment.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”

Titus 3:4-5

The result of God’s mercy is that we can come to God as our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His Son and our Savior.  The writer of Hebrews says this about the result of God’s mercy:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16

We can come to God, with confidence, because He has showered us with His mercy.  Indeed, we can rejoice with Peter:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

1 Peter 1:3

God’s mercy is amazing.  Each person on this planet enjoys God’s mercy when He allows us to live, when He grants rain and sunshine, even though we sin and worship other gods, such as money, family, fame, fortune!  God does not destroy us instantly when we have such idols in front of our eyes, rather than focusing our attention on Him.  Instead, He has chosen to bless all people with His mercy now.  For those in His Son, Christ Jesus, we will receive His mercy both now and forever more.

Father, we are humbled and once again left without words to express our thankfulness and wonder at the gift of mercy that You have given to us.  May we walk in Your mercy and may we express Your love to others so that, by our words and actions, we may point people to Your Son, the giver of life and the sacrifice that atoned for our sin.  We are blessed beyond compare, and we praise Your holy name.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – JUSTICE

Aristotle said:

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.”

Unfortunately, in our world today, it seems that “the worst” has come to the forefront.  It seems that there is injustice everywhere you turn.  We hear of corrupt politicians, of immoral preachers, of lawless officials, of abuse of innocent children, of hordes of homeless and refuges leaving their homes and all that they have to save their lives.  Injustice has always been with us, but now we have instant access to television and media that can vividly show us the extent of injustice that exists.  No longer is it a line in the newspaper or magazine.  Now it is an image on the television screen, a digital reminder on the cell phone that horror is happening, all over the world.  And it never ends.

We look at the statistics and weep because there seems to be no hope; injustice reigns, and it seems that there is nothing we can do to stop it or avoid it.  Where is justice?  Does it exist anywhere?

Beloved – the Holy God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the Source of justice.  The God who loved us so much that He gave His only Son to be our Savior, is the God of Justice.

God’s justice is never divorced from His righteousness.  He never condemns the innocent.  He never clears the guilty.  He never punishes with undue severity.  He never fails to reward righteousness.  His justice is perfect justice.  (Emphasis added)

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 110

Scripture says much about justice, as it is one of the immutable attributes of our Holy God.  For example, when Abraham was arguing with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he focused on God’s justice. 

“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Genesis 18:25

The Psalmist writes:

The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Psalm 99:4

While there is an abundance of injustice in our world, we must remember that true justice will not be rendered in this world.  Those who seem to lie, cheat, steal, and kill with no seeming repercussions will be subject to justice in the true realm, the eternal heavenly realm.  At that time, each man/woman will receive justice at the hands of an immutable God who cannot be persuaded or bribed.

“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-18

Elihu, the fourth speaker in the book of Job, gave this comment about God and His justice:

“The Almighty–we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.  Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”

Job 37:23-24

Christ will look at each person’s heart, and if it is not covered by His righteousness, that person, not being pure, will receive justice, but it will not be heaven.   Indeed, Saint Augustine said:

“Punishment is justice for the unjust.”

All mankind would receive punishment because all of us fail the test of righteousness because we are all corrupted by sin. 

But, for the believer in Jesus Christ, we do not need to fear God’s justice, rather we are covered by Jesus’ righteousness and we will be received into the presence of God as His child.  Then we will find comfort for all the wrongs done against us and against mankind.

“For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.  He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.”

Psalm 33:4-5

After hearing of the judgment that King Solomon rendered when two women both claimed to be the mother of a newborn baby, we read:

“And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.”

1 Kings 3:28

In speaking to the Pharisees about their misuse of the Old Testament law, Jesus said the following:

“”But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

Luke 11:42

The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross.  If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus, he was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God.  If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross.  Here is where our astonishment should be focused.  …

The Cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God’s wrath. … With the concentrated load of sin [Jesus] carried, He became utterly repugnant to the Father.  God poured out His wrath on this obscene thing.  God’s holy justice perfectly manifest.  Yet it was done for us.  He took what justice demanded from us.  This “for us” aspect of the Cross is what displays the majesty of its grace.  At the same time justice and grace, wrath and mercy.  It is too astonishing to fathom.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 121-122

All will be judged and all will receive justice. This is a scary thought for one who truly knows his heart’s deceitfulness and is not a believer in Jesus Christ.  However, “for us”, those who rest in their faith in Christ, our judgment will be sheltered in Christ, and that we will be accepted by God through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. 

Look to the Lord, the Almighty Holy God.  He will bring justice to all mankind, in His time.  But we can be confident, whether we see justice now or not, that true and correct judgment will ultimately be rendered by our God.  Praise Him for this comfort and for this promise.  Rest in His love, Christian, and don’t be anxious about the injustice you see in the world.  It will pass away because God is victorious!

Next week we will consider the mercy of God, which is also present at the cross of Christ.

Father, I thank You that You execute justice according to Your providence and plan.  Enable me, through Your spirit, to do justice, and to love kindness, and help me to walk humbly before You, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – SOVEREIGNTY

Unlike centuries ago, we no longer have many sovereigns in our world today.  When we visited England, we stayed in London and went to Buckingham Palace, one of the homes of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is in downtown London and it takes up significant acreage with the palace, gardens and grounds.

2011-04 England 139

Looking at Buckingham Palace from across the grounds you can get a glimpse at the magnitude of the Queen’s residence. 

2011-04 England 152

Standing closer, we could see the guard making his route securing the sovereign, as we were on the other side of the gate looking in with a throng of others.  

We in the United States have a hard time with the concept of “sovereignty”.  Our whole corporate psyche is centered on freedom.  We believe that we were born free, to live as and where we choose while doing whatever it is that we want to do.  No caste system.  No one dictating what profession or job we must take.  No one telling us where we can or cannot live.  

Having a person over us who is sovereign is exactly what our forefathers rebelled against and it was the springboard for the Revolutionary War between our country and England.

So, when we come to the attribute of God that is titled “Sovereignty”, we have a hard time comprehending all that such term entails.  It is easy to speak the words that “God is in control of everything.”  But the reality of a Sovereign God is much more far-reaching than a platitude.

In Exodus chapter 18, we have a beautiful vignette of Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro:

“And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and [how] the LORD had delivered them. Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, “Blessed [be] the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, [and] who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.  Now I know that the LORD [is] greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, [He was] above them.“”

Exodus 18:8-11 NKJV

Jethro was glad for the deliverance of Moses and the children of Israel and, after Moses had described all that God had done in Egypt, Jethro rejoiced and praised the LORD who is sovereign over all.  Nothing that some people may attribute to a god is outside His sovereign control.

The Psalmist says this about God’s sovereignty:

“Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Psalm 115:2-3

God is sovereign over all mankind or anything that he worships, nothing compares to our God and Lord.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Proverbs 21:1

God is sovereign over other monarchs on earth – while the king might be making plans, the Lord God controls that which happens.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 16:33

As with kings, even the common man is subject to the sovereignty of God.  Men cast lots and then make their decisions based on that result, but God is the One who controls the decision that the lot mandates.

In fact, God is even sovereign over the actions of animals.

Recall what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 10:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

Now, remember Jonah’s free transportation in the belly of the great fish, and then, at the word of the Lord, his being catapulted from the fish onto dry land.  Jonah 2:10.   Also, remember how God gave Balaam’s donkey the power of speech when the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the street, but his master did not.  Numbers 22.

There is nothing outside the control of God’s loving hand.

  • Not the plans of the wicked even if they are dictators or despots.
  • Not the way our physical world works which sometimes seems to be in opposition to mankind such as when there are earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or droughts.
  • Not the actions of demons or even Satan, remember how Satan had to get permission to test Job and could only take action within the confines established by God.
  • Not even my own free will. Regarding salvation, we may believe that we accepted Jesus through our own free will, but even then, it is God Who quickens our heart to become aware of our sin and our need of His grace. 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:28, 38-39 

God’s sovereignty is a tremendous comfort to the believer because it enables him to have confidence that he does not need to fear, God is still on His throne and He is still sovereign – in charge – in control, no matter what might be going on in this temporal world.

We must remember that when sin entered the world, man had turned himself into a headlong catapult toward sickness, illness, pain, sorrow and death.  God intervened in Genesis 3:15 where we learn of a Redeemer, a Savior Who will pay the price of sin and redeem God’s children for Himself.  We all must die physically because of the curse of sin on our mortal bodies.  But, we don’t have to die spiritually if we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.   

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:31-32, 35, 37

Beloved, God’s sovereignty is an attribute that is hard for us to comprehend but it is the basis of God’s providence.  We know that God’s will, His providence, shall prevail because God’s sovereignty mandates it.  Nothing can defeat God’s will.  Praise His Holy Name!

God’s sovereignty + His love for His children

=

Unassailable confidence and comfort for the believer.

 

Father, there are no words available to express my praise and love for You and for Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Lord, I cannot comprehend Your sovereignty and all that such attribute entails, but I do have confidence in You and Your sovereignty brings comfort to my heart.  Thank You, Lord.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – OMNISCIENCE

We have thought about two of the “omni” attributes of God, omnipotence and omnipresence.  The third such attribute is omniscience.

Like the first two we studied, “omni” means “all”.  According to Merriam Webster, “science” is “the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.”  So, “omniscience” means that God knows all that there is to know. There is nothing anywhere that is outside the scope of His conception, understanding or attention.

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power [that’s “omnipotent”]: his understanding is beyond measure [that’s [omniscience”]”

Psalm 147:5 [with bracketed information added by me]

reading to grandchildren
Papa reading to young grandsons.

We have to study, read and learn lessons; in short, when we are born, we don’t automatically come equipped with all knowledge of our world, culture, society.  Much to the chagrin of our children, we have to be taught either by home schooling or in a school outside the home.

Evans Day 041
Learning sometimes involves detailed investigation!

Not so with God.  He does not study or learn for one simple reason – omniscience.  One cannot increase a knowledge that is already insurmountable.  God knows everything, period. 

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Romans 11:33

Further, with God there is no “maybe”.  Probability does not exist for God.  While we may consider rolling the dice as being an act of chance, such is not the case for God. 

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Proverbs 16:33

This verse in The Message reads:

“Make your motions and cast your votes, but God has the final say.”

God is omniscient.  There is one reality and God knows it in its entirety, as it exists by, through, and for Him.

“And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and he said to me, “Say, Thus says the LORD: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind.

Ezekiel 11:5

God is neither surprised by the way the world works itself out, nor shocked by the choices we make.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Hebrews 4:13

Because God is omniscient, God can work out His predetermined purpose and plan and His sovereignty will effect that plan.    

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”

Proverbs 21:1

Beloved, the attribute of omniscience is a source of security, strength and of faith, of comfort and of joy.  God knows everything about everyone, everywhere. He will not be surprised by anything that we do because He knows all things.

Such wisdom and knowledge is too much for us to understand or comprehend. Even as I write this post, I am amazed and in awe of our God, and I cannot fully understand or appreciate how vast His nature and knowledge is.  Like the attributes that we have considered previously, the very speaking of the word “omniscience” reveals the incredible majesty of our God, His infinite being and His holiness.  It also demonstrates the vast difference between our God and us. 

Isaiah spoke God’s words which eloquently illustrate this reality:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”

Isaiah 55:8

Praise Him for His omniscience.  His love is extended to us every moment of every day.  His omniscience results in God’s executing His providence which will accomplish His fore-ordained plan, including His working all things to the benefit of His children.

The hymn “These Great Things” as sung on the album Glory to the Holy One, captures the marvelous response to God’s wondrous ways toward His children.  In speaking about this hymn, Randall Van Meggelen said the following in an article entitled “For the Church: Singing These Great Things,” dated May 28, 2015:

Occasionally the sheer grandeur and incomprehensibility of God’s wondrous ways leaves the believer in almost speechless awe. “These Great Things,” from Glory to the Holy One, expresses such a state. In pondering “How can it be,” the hymn momentarily hints at the opening textual and musical motifs of the beginning of Charles Wesley’s magnificent hymn, “And Can It Be.” Both hymns assert believing submission in the truth of God’s glorious Word and humble wonder at the “mystery sublime” of God’s great works.

“These Great Things” contemplates Paul’s glorious indicative that, for the called, “all things by His grand design work good for us by love” (Romans 8:28). “No tragedy shall win, no curse for those He calls His friends.” Our good, accomplished through God’s perfect means, is to be called “His friends” and “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29) to the end that we would glorify and enjoy God in eternal communion (Westminster Shorter Catechism 1).

Here are the lyrics to this beautiful hymn.  I pray that you would let the words and wonder fill your heart as you listen and read the lyrics.

How can it be, this truth divine,
Declared by God above
That all things by His grand design
Work good for us by love

Called by our lord in purposed ends
No tragedy shall win
No curse for those He calls His friends
He saved us from our sins

Refrain

What shall we say to these great things?
Of mystery sublime
That if He is for us we can sing
Now and for all time

Foreknown by Him with
Hearts made new
To His Son we conform
No pow’r on earth can this undo
For those He’s made reborn

Refrain

First He did choose, and called He then
To surely justify
For those of the faith beyond our ken
He soon will glorify

Refrain

Father, I come to You and praise You for Your lovingkindness.  Through Your omniscience, You know me fully, and such knowledge is too wonderful and amazing for me to comprehend.  Your power and majesty is above all persons or powers, and yet You stoop to consider and love me.  Thank You Father.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – OMNIPRESENCE

In today’s world, we can go, quite literally, around the world.  While most of us cannot do that in person, we have the ability to travel to anyplace that we want to go, at least through technology. 

A striking comparison brought home how the 21st century has changed how we can be “present”, even across thousands of miles.  I came across my father’s pocket notebook from when he was in Europe during World War 2.  He said that he had written my mother, and it took 3 weeks to receive her response. 

In comparison, in the early 2000s, our son was in a war zone overseas during a long deployment.  At the cost of his sleep, he “skyped” home so that the children could see him and hear their father as if he was in the room with them, even though he was on the other side of the world.  But, he was not with them.

Our daughter went to Manila, in the Philippines, twenty years ago to work with a missionary doctor.  Given the machinations of the international date line and varying time zones, we put her on a plane on Saturday and when we returned to our home after church on Sunday morning, we had received a picture of her working in the clinic on Monday.  While we were excited to see that she was alright, she was not with us. 

Right now, the Winter Olympics are underway in South Korea, and I am certain that there are many parents, coaches and friends who have found their way to South Korea in support of the athletic competition.  Those of us who did not go to attend the competition in person can watch it in real time, and we can see their skill and cheer the wins and empathize with those who lost the round, but we are not with them, even though technology makes it seem as if we were.

All this to say, our saying that God is everywhere is a fairly understandable concept, much more so than in centuries prior to our own.

However, God’s presence is dissimilar to our presence in other places in every way possible.  God is everywhere at the same time.  In other words, there is nowhere that we can go, at any time, that God is not present.

God’s being everywhere at all times is known as “omnipresence”.  As with omnipotence, the “omni” means “all” and the “presence” means “existing, being at a place”.  He is existing at all places, at the same time.  This is sometimes referred to as “ubiquity”, meaning that God is everywhere present in the fullness of His being. 

In the Old Testament times, there were a multitude of gods in the land.  People thought of their gods in terms of territory or space.  For example, it was believed that the god of the Amorites lived in the land of the Amorites while the god of Philistia lived in the land of the Philistines, and the gods did not have power in areas other than their own geographical setting.  The plagues that God visited upon Egypt were targeted at the gods of Egypt, the Lord God establishing that He alone was God and that He had ultimate power and presence, even in a land supposedly ruled by other “gods”.  Indeed God repeatedly says that He is God and there is none like Him.

The God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac is not limited in space or territory.  Our God is omnipresent – He is everywhere at the same time.

The omnipresence of God was stated eloquently by Rahab, the harlot who lived in Jericho and who gave refuge to Israel’s spies prior to their conquest of the city.  We read her understanding of God in Joshua 2:9-11:

“”I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.  And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

God is so great that the heavens cannot contain Him.  1 Kings 8:27.   The prophet Jeremiah says God’s words:

“”Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 23:23-24

As I have mentioned in previous posts on The Ruminant Scribe, one of my favorite passages in scripture is Psalm 139.  David experienced all the emotions, great joy, desperation, guilt, fear, shame, redemption, and in this passage, he describes the omnipresence of God:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”

Psalm 139:7-10. 

I again would encourage you to read Psalm 139 in its entirety, and then contemplate the greatness of our God.  In the book of Acts, we read:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.'”

Acts 17:24-28

Since God is omnipresent, we cannot take ourselves out of His presence.  This is a comfort for the Christian who takes joy in God’s presence and in following Him throughout our day.  This attribute is, however, not of comfort to the non-believer.  Rather, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the God Who is aware of each and every act of disobedience and rejection of His Son, Jesus Christ.   

We cannot understand the omnipresence of God.  Job responded to questions from God, and he expressed his inability to understand God:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’  I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:2-6

We, too, cannot understand how God can be ubiquitous but yet can take actions locally, where we live and work each day.  It is a doctrine that we accept, and because scripture teaches it, we can do no less. It is a doctrine that gives both comfort and warning. 

Praise our God for His incredible nature and for the love that He has exercised on our behalf.

Father, I confess that I do not understand Your omnipresence, the ability to be everywhere at once and to be present with all Your attributes in all places at the same time.  I cannot comprehend Your greatness, Your power, Your majesty, Your holiness. I am finite and mortal, You are too great for me to comprehend.  But I believe Your word, I believe Your Son is the Christ, the Messiah, Who shed His blood for my sin.  I praise Your Holy Name.