TO KNOW GOD
Job 7:17 reads, “What is man that Thou dost magnify him, and that Thou shouldest set Thy heart on him?” The answer does not lie in this question. We are, in ourselves, creatures void of good, wholly given to anarchy. There is no excellence in or about us that should cause God to set His heart on us. The answer lies rather in, “What is God?”
Thus introduces the greatest paradox, the most uncomprehendable fellowship-that of an infinitely holy God and His great love for a completely sinful people. We are, in a word, evil. What God is, therefore, must be overwhelmingly greater for He is not content to merely co-exist, but He is desiring to redeem, to regenerate, to glorify. The excellencies of God are infinitely greater than the depravity of man. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. In the issue of “What is God?” lies the heart of all that concerns men, be he unsaved or called a child of the King.
God is infinite, not only in the sense of immenseness and grandeur, but also infinite to the smallest degree of detail and perfection. The immensity of God stretches from the infinitely small to the infinitely large. Should our minds ponder the smallest possible detail and then move to consider the very largest, that which fills all in all, on both ends, God plunges further, beyond imagination, beyond thought. He exceeds our noblest impression. Our span of comprehension cannot conceive what God is. We must restrain ourselves from defining God by taking all “excellencies” and ascribing them perfectly onto one being. God extends perfectly onto one being. God extends beyond this. What we cannot understand of God, we must believe by faith. Nothing can compare with Him. He is above even our grandest imaginings; “’To whom then will you liken Me that I should be his equal?’ says the Holy one.” But though He is unsearchable, He is not unknowable. The Lord has given us faith, by the exercise of which, natural man can grasp the unseen, spiritual God. Though we fall vastly short in fully appreciating Him, we can still, for what we do know, worship Him forever.
The whole person of God immanently exists as one being, and all that He is defined as existing wholly within Himself. He is completely autonomous and is, therefore, outside of the realm of the crated. The concept of God is not to be thought of as the summation of an exalted being and His creation. The created, added to the eternal, does not form the Godhead. The Father exists in but the one form of spirit. The Creator is not to be confused with the created. To do so is to abase the personal to that of the impersonal. It is to relegate God to being merely an object or a force. The truth of a living and concerned God would become that of an inanimate power. Instead, He is self-existent and because of this, He is also necessarily independent. The creation adds nothing to Him. He alone totally possesses the concept of self-determination. He is the Almighty God who has created, though He did not need to. We are not the product of chance nor of a spontaneous exertion of power; we are the masterpiece of an awesome and loving God.
To study God is to study an incomprehendable unity. There can exist no disjunction within the Godhead. He is not merely a composite of all of His attributes. He cannot be “taken apart” and “put together” as we would a machine. He functions incredibly as one. Though He is known and described by His attributes, they are not what wholly form Him. It is rue that His mercy and His justice are different qualities, but the are so interrelated that neither can be fully and properly understood without the other. So it is with all of the Lord’s attributes. Only through those things which God as pleased to reveal concerning Himself, may we know Him. Yet even this present, limited revelation is so profound that lifetimes of extensive meditation can but apprehend the surface. Indeed, an eternity of constant revelation shall not exhaust the unfathomable God. But what we do comprehend commands our utmost awe and worship.
All that God does is in full satisfaction of all that God is. None of His attributes prevail upon another. God is wholly consistent within Himself; therefore, He can never act contrary to Himself nor can the situation ever arise in which He will. This, an aspect defining God’s faithfulness, will be discussed later.
There are aspects of God which find no manifestation except in His created creatures. These include, among others, His forgiveness, His comfort, His patience, and His mercy. Forgiveness cannot be directed toward the immaterial nor even toward the angels. Only man can experience forgiveness; to only man He exhibits grace. We are the sole expression of much of what God has to offer. Incredibly, these tremendous, divine riches find their gratification only in creatures such as ourselves. What God wants to give is awesome both in its excellence and in its abundance. The question lies then in what we are willing to take. Recognizing this should be sobering as we properly remember our undeservedness and unworthiness.
Given this, man has an intense need to believe that God accepts him. If man’s ways are perverted, then he must pervert God to conform to his ways. Man is willing to change anything except his own heart. He will “change” God, he will change his actions, he will change his morals, but only God can change his heart. To the wicked God says, “These things you have done, and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you.” Man will tend to picture God to be like himself. The arrogance of man will distort the immense contrast between himself and God in two ways: he will degrade his Creator by humanizing Him, or he will deify himself to a point of intrinsic righteousness. However, even man in all his wickedness can twist God only so much, and when he can no longer conform God, then he denies Him. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Thus, as a misrepresentation of God leads to and encourages sin, a proper concept of God produces the fruit of righteous. It is essential to have a right concept of who and what God is.
The Christian has been divinely placed into the unique position of being able to be conformed to Jesus Christ through the illimitable power of the Holy Spirit. There no longer remains any need to pervert God, but there is instead the one whom is now called Savior. There is ourselves because God has exalted us to a standing. Self-righteousness certainly has no consideration when one has been imputed with the very righteousness of Christ. With the unsaved, all enablement is dependent upon what the limited flesh can produce; on the other hand, the saved can draw from the omnipotent resources of the Spirit of God to be changed from “glory to glory”. The unregenerate can never achieve this heaven-high standard of Christ-likeness because the natural man is wholly impotent and limited in achieving the things of God.
For the Christian, to know and understand the nature of the Most High is our most vital function. It is our greatest motivation; it is our strongest fortress. Christianity cannot and should not be built upon anything but God. It is only He who is the rock; it is only He who is the head. The dignity of any individual or church rests solely upon the dignity of the Lord God Most High. The greater the turning or wandering, be it ever so noble, from this always central focus, the greater the worldliness and dullness of heart. God must be the quintessence of our daily Christianity. How we view God encompasses our attitudes, our actions, our motivations, our perspectives. It is what shapes our hopes and desires. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the vital necessity to know the Lord and to know Him rightly.
A proper attitude about God is necessary in order to have a proper perspective of ourselves. A wrong self-image is self’s view of self; a right self-image is God’s view of self. We can never understand how God sees us until we understand who God is. Only a diligent study of scripture will accomplish this. How we deal with trials, emotions, relationships, discouragements, or motivations are all directly determined by how intimately we know this mighty Being. Our security, our stability, our confidence rest wholly on God. We will have none of these things if we do not have God, and we will gain in these things only as we gain in knowing and trusting Him more.
“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou doest care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with the glory and majesty.” Our dignity, glory, and majesty are based only on the comparable qualities of God. Pride is based on self; glory is based on God. We will never see our true glory until we see it first in God. What God has done for the repentant sinner far exceeds that which we can accomplish by ourselves to the degree that God’s omnipotence surpasses our own abilities. Reason, of itself, will never produce a sufficiently realistic impression of matters; only revelation can show our true estate, be it alienated from God or glorified in His righteousness.
How we view God will determine the quality of our lives. Zephaniah 1:12 reads, “And I will punish the men who are stagnant in spirit, who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good or evil!” This verse states that if we do not see God as concerned, as One who does not do good or evil, then we will ourselves, be stagnant. A good indicator of how we miss-view God can be seen in our areas of weakness. A person who does not have the motivation to rid their life of sin probably does not comprehend God’s holiness. Someone who struggles with vengeance lacks an understanding of divine justice. Bitterness stems from a un-appreciation of God’s own love for them. What is the basis for rightly responding to trials and adverse circumstances if it is not based on the love and sovereignty of the Almighty? We are not instructed by words alone. What we need in our own lives, we must first comprehend in God. The Lord does not command us to do something which He has not already accomplished Himself. He can tell us to “reach the world with the gospel” because He has already died for the world. He can command us to “rejoice always” because for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame. The Lord does not expect us to repent of and resist any sing which He has not already completely defeated and triumphed over at the cross. The infinite Godhead has chosen to concern Himself with the affairs of men. He is the example set before us; we are not to compromise to anything lower.
This foundational concept extends too many, if not all, areas of understanding and obedience. How can anyone properly deal with guilt until they have first learned what forgiveness is? Should God be forever satisfied with the payment of His Son for the sins of the world, only to have His children do penance for their own? Should the death which satisfied the perfectly just God not satisfy those for whom it was necessary? Is our anger against sin so much greater that we must add to the efficacious suffering of our Lord? We must be pleased with what God is please, we must believe what God has done, and we must accept what God has said. To do any less than this is to that degree blasphemous. All of the understanding needed for complete trust and belief has been supplied in scripture.
Perhaps one of the most necessary areas of application for this is our fellowship with each other. Is it even possible to have a right relationship with other people when the necessary relationship with God is neglected? “We love, because He first loved us” is not only the theological basis but also the practical basis. To see and understand more clearly God’s responses and attitudes toward us is vital so that we will know what our own responses and attitudes toward others should be. If we believe in God’s forgiveness of our sin, how can we think of holding a grudge when someone offends us? Colossians 3:13 commands, “Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave, so also should you.” How dare we adjust our standards to anything other than those of the Most High. To do so defies all reason and revelation. Whom God has fully accepted in His Son, are we to determine their acceptance before us by some other criterion? Whom the holy God accepts, can sinful man reject? “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
To serve God, we must first trust Him, and to trust Him, we must know and understand Him. We are such creatures that we do not trust the unknown; we fear the dark. Faith functions on trust and bears its fruit through obedience. That obedience then produces a still greater understand. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.” This is a spiral leading upward into the depths of the Most High. Sin is its only obstacle. The purer our concept of the Lord, the greater will be our heart to serve both Him and others. Though there are infinite degrees of accomplishing this, we will grow in our love for God as we grow in understanding of God. As we mature in our comprehension of the Almighty, this maturation can only engender a response of love.
The greatest task to which the human heart can devote itself is the noble aim of comprehending to the fullest depth all that the Lord God has revealed about Himself. The infinite riches and the unrealized wealth of this worthy pursuit surpass all that the human heart can desire, all that the human mind can imagine. When reflecting upon who and what God is, one realizes how it is a pity for those who pursue solely those topics which the world has to offer, neglecting the knowledge of the great and glorious God who seeks to be known. How shallow and mundane to be an expert in a specific field or in a choice of interest when compared with the heart of those whose task is to discover all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ Jesus our Lord. The former is a life to pity; the latter is not to envy but to fulfill. May we be willing to do whatever is necessary to acquire this motivation and to achieve this goal.
When considering the issue of God, people are so much more likely to form opinions based on ignorance than with any other subject. And though this ignorance certainly serves as no deterrent for establishing opinions, it proves to be no motivation for seeking truth either. Satan has not only blinded the eyes of the world but has deceived hearts into believing that “ignorance is bliss.” This only further amplifies the necessity of the grace of God in drawing people to Himself for salvation. “For a fool speaks nonsense, and his heart inclines toward wickedness, to practice ungodliness and to speak error against the Lord.” God, the one most willing to reveal Himself, is also the one most misunderstood. It is the Christian’s task to not only discover spiritual truth but to impart it as well.
However, even as Christians, we tend to restrict ourselves in our understanding of God. We tend to focus on those attributes which meet the greatest need in our lives. Someone who feels unloved will concentrate principally on the love of God. One who despises the evil nature of man will center their attention on His justice. An insecure person will more likely ponder His faithfulness. Though this is good, we need to learn to expand our conception of the Almighty. He is not like putty designed only to fill in the voids on our life. Bu, much more, He desires to conform us to His beloved Son and to ultimately “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Since God is not composed of individual attributes but functions as a unity, in order to esteem more fully any aspect of the triune Godhead, we must also consider His indivisibility and totality. This can be easily seen in that a better comprehension of His love requires a thorough investigation into His holiness. To understand the demands His holiness places on a rebellious people such as ourselves opens the doors to greater appreciation of how His love results solely from who He is and not all from what we are. This type of relationship is both interesting and necessary when properly examining the attributes of God. Because He is not merely the summation of His individual parts, a proper study cannot consist only of a convenient dissection of such. However, because of our limited capacity to comprehend and reason, we are obligated to proceed in this manner. This is not a necessary evil, but it must always be remembered that God is one.
For what little we comprehend of God, He stands glorious and awesome. Yet to conceive of the full, immense grandeur of He who dwells in unapproachable light is above our finite ability. “Behold, God is great, and we know Him not, neither can the number of His years be searched out.” What He has chosen to reveal about Himself soars far beyond our limited capacity of reason and comprehension. Moses was permitted to see only His back, but He still bowed low in reverence and worship. In heaven when singing of the greatness of the Lord, the four living creatures kept saying “amen” and the elders fell down and worshipped. No man has beheld God, but He called us “in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” For what little our faith realizes, we now worship; can there be any question as to what our hearts shall do when we behold Him eternally by sight? “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? It is high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”
In this awesomeness, our hope lies. We are unfaithful creatures who will hope in that which we believe will be fulfilling. If we see the world as bigger than God, we will look at it for the satisfaction of our desires. A turning to idols is the result of a concept of a small and impotent God. But our thirsty souls will find the world a dry and weary land. Only Jesus Christ offers efficacious living waters. Only as we increasingly understand the Lord will our hope rest more fully on Him. How can we even but glimpse His magnificent love and tremendous generosity and then turn away to beg for dry scarps from the world? The result of an intimate contemplation of God will be a hope resting more in Him and less in the world. A god ward hope is the outpouring of proven charter. The mature man will hope in God; the carnal man seeks the world. “’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him.’”
We must draw our thoughts unceasingly to the Lord, incline our hearts to marvel at His greatness and be content to sit at His feet and learn. “Cease striving and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” As the sons of Korah in a song of love say, “because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.”