I’m glad that God is bigger than my theology, i.e., my study and understanding of him. If God is no bigger than what our finite and jumbled minds can make of him, then there is no real worship, trust, joy, and admiration for us to behold that which is beyond our own reasoning. And yet, we so often get frustrated and down-right surly about our limited knowledge that we come near to accusing God of being so secretive in his ways. But we can’t have it both ways: if we are to be awe-struck at something grand and awesome, we can’t complain than we don’t fully understand. That’s the aim of all knowledge of God in his word – it’s to see the incomprehensible and rejoice. So . . . let’s look at some big stuff about God and see if your God is bigger than your understanding of him, and yet find him all the more glorious to your affections.
1. God Sovereignly Ordains things that He Morally Opposes
Joseph’s brothers became jealous of his status in their father’s eyes, so they kidnapped him, lied to their father about his whereabouts, and sold him into slavery. Many more unfortunate and evil things happened to Joseph. But at the end of the story, Joseph confidently rejoiced, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).
Job’s life was satanically attacked and some of his family and servants were murdered. Satanic activity and murder and stealing are things that God Morally opposes, and yet, God Sovereignly ordained that these evils fall upon Job. Even Job understood this, saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” – (Job 1:21b, 22).
Samson was a sexual baboon chasing after prohibited Philistine women, doing “what was right” in his own eyes. But the reason why he was sinning, and acting against God’s Moral will, is because “it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines” (Judges 14:3, 4). The Lord brought the house down!
Israel was immorally attacked by her surrounding enemies and Israel then destroyed her enemies in battle. But the explanation goes like this: “For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed. . .” (Joshua 11:20).
Jesus’ cross was planned by God. All the lies that led up to his kangaroo trial and the murderous venom poured out on Christ, were all against God’s Moral will. But it was his Sovereign will that orchestrated the whole event (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).
Though this is all too much for my understanding, I rest in God’s sovereign hand over my life, especially when evil comes upon me. For I know that it too was from the hand of God for my ultimate good and hope in God.
2. God Can Stop You From Sinning but Sometimes He Chooses Not To.
Abimelech was going to have sex with Sarah because he was told that she was Abraham’s sister, and not his wife. But God stopped him in the middle of the night. Abimelech thinks that he chose to do the right thing and not sin. But the Lord said, “. . . it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Gen. 20:6).
The Sons of Eli were having sex with women as they, the young virgins, were serving at the entrance of the tent of meeting (this would be like the pastoral staff of a church having sex with the single women in the foyer before worship). Eli told them to stop their wickedness but his sons would not listen. The reason why is, “for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death” (1 Sam. 2:25). God used the Philistines to kill them (4:11).
In Christ, the reason why I do not sin more than I do is not because I’ve got more will power than others, it is because the Lord is restraining me.
Outside of Christ, the reason why you do sin is not because God respects your self-determination and exercise of free will, it is because he is planning to put you to death.
Even for everyone who does not know Christ, and has no Spirit to control their sinful appetites, you would be more wicked than you presently are if God were not restraining your sinful urges. God is merciful to the wicked every day.
Though this is all too much for my understanding, I will not deceive myself thinking that my choice for sin says something good about my will power. And I will not deceive myself thinking that my choice for good is because of my will power.
3. God truly feels anger and compassion at the same time, but not with the same passion.
“. . . though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men” (Lam. 3:32, 33). God angrily crushed Israel for her idolatry and wickedness. But like a parent who spanks a child, God did not want to do this but he did it anyway. And he did not do it “from his heart”, that is, he did not enjoy what he was doing in the same way that he enjoys doing good things.
Though this is all too much for my understanding, like a child who can’t sit down for a few minutes after dad or mom leaves the bedroom, I believe that God loves me when he hurts me. But he does not enjoy it like he enjoys playing with me: that’s his real enjoyment. He hurts me so that he can protect all the good times that he plans to have with me.
4. God hears the prayers of millions and empathizes with each one completely all at the same time.
Jesus is capable of weeping with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice – at the same time. He is a high priest who hears the prayers of all of his children at the same time and can stay fully engaged with every prayer without distraction. God can hear a thousand of his children cry Psalm 22, and hear another thousand sing Psalm 150 – all at the same time (Rom. 12:15; Heb. 4:12ff).
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. But I’m so glad that he can hear us all at the same time, with all of his emotions perfectly suited to each prayer.
5. God does not desire that any should perish but that all come to repentance, while at the same time he sees to it that many cannot repent so that they will perish and receive their just due.
God desires that you repent (2 Peter 3:9) while at the same time the ability to repent is a gift that God may or may not grant (2 Tim. 2:25).
Jesus spoke in parables intentionally to hide the truth so that some will not be able to understand and therefore repent, having their sins forgiven (Mark 4:11, 12).
Jesus calls sinners to come to him with genuine appeal, but at the same time, along with his Father, hides the truth of the gospel and only reveals the truth of himself to whomever he chooses (Matt. 11:25-30).
God hardened Israel’s heart against himself so that the gospel will go to the nations (Rom. 11:7-12).
“The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Prov. 16:4). The lost are like irrational animals, “creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed” (2 Peter 2:12). The only reason that Pharaoh existed was so that God might show that he was more powerful than the highest man on earth, destined to be destroyed (Rom. 9:17, 18).
Though this is all too much for me, I am humbled to the ground that God did not lock me up in my sin and justly leave me to die in my sins.
6. God is both fully God and fully Man at the same time, in Jesus.
He was born of Mary (Luke 1:31). He is Son of God (Luke 1:35). This is wildly beyond me, but at the same time, it is irresistibly beautiful. There is a real substitution for my sins – a real man lived a sinless life in my place. O what grace?!
7. He has written all my days in advance and yet calls me to live all my days for him.
Psalm 139:16 says, “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” For David, this truth did not result in a passive and negligent life. He did not cynically murmur, “Well if God is so sovereign and already has my entire life decided and written down, then there’s no point in getting involved and making decisions.” No, David took comfort in the fact that his entire life was in the Lord’s hands and at the same time wanted to turn away from every wicked way as God searched his heart (vss. 23, 24).
Though this is all too much for me, I take pleasure and comfort in the fact that this day, with all of its good and bad, including my own contributions to it, were written in advance. This does not make me feel like a puppet, but rather a son whose Father in heaven will leave nothing to chance for my own good.
I thank God that he is not like me. He’s much bigger.