God

Above All

God is above all nations and His glory is above all the heavens (Psalm 113:4). How is God above? In the following ways:

  • He is physically above all. You cannot travel to a location that is physically beyond God. There is nowhere His glory is not present. No church or Temple or universe can even contain Him (II Chronicles 6:18).
  • He is universally above all. There is nothing in the universe that shares authority with Him, because He created all and everything belongs to Him.
  • He is theologically above all. He is Lord. He is supreme. His Word is the only and final Word. There is nothing that trumps His will.
  • He is incomparably above all. Because He is transcendent, there is nothing that we can liken to Him. He is so above all things that there is nothing even on the same plane as Him.
  • He is nationally above all. He rules every nation and people group and tribe and tongue. Countries may have Presidents or Prime Ministers or Dictators, but they are all #2 in charge under God Himself.

And we could go on and on with a list of how He is above all, couldn’t we? The point is that no one or no thing is higher or will ever get higher than Him. What a clearly obvious reason to praise God!

There are too many alive today who view God – at best – as AN authority in their life and not THE supreme. Too many people think their time is equal to God’s time; too many people think their agenda is equal to God’s agenda. Too many people think their goals or priorities are equal to God’s goals or priorities. The only agenda I should have is God’s agenda.

Who Is Like God?

 

In Psalm 40:12-28, we read,

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.

“All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, and the silversmith casts silver chains. Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, when He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. ‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. 

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

The question: who is like God? The answer: no one! God is transcendent.

In his classic work Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes about the incomparable nature of God,

Image result for knowing god“Look at the tasks I have done, he says. Could you do them? Could any man do them? ‘Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basked, or weighed the mountain on the scales and the hills in a balance’ (vs. 12). Are you wise enough, and mighty enough, to do things like that? But I am, or I could not have made this world at all. Behold your God!

“Look now at the nations, the prophet continues: the great national powers, at whose mercy you feel yourselves to be. Assyria, Egypt, Babylon – you stand in awe of them, and feel afraid of them, so vastly do their armies and resources exceed yours. But now consider how God stands related to those mighty forces which you rear so much. ‘Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; … Before him all the nations are as nothing: they are regarding by him as worthless and less than nothing’ (Isa 40:15, 17). You tremble before the nations, because you are much weaker than they; but God is so much greater that the nations that they are nothing to him. Behold your God!

“Look next at the world. Consider the size of it, the variety and complexity of it; think of the nearly five thousand millions who populate it, and of the vast sky above it. What puny figures you and I are, by comparison with the whole planet on which we live! Yet what is the entire mighty planet by comparison with God? ‘He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a net to live in’ (Isa 40:22). The world dwarfs us all, but God dwarfs the world. The world is his footstool, above which he sits secure. He is greater that the world and all that is in it, so that all the feverish activity of its bustling millions does no more to affect him that the chirping and jumping of grasshoppers in the summer sun does to affect us. Behold your God!

“Look, fourthly, at the world’s great ones – the governors whose laws and policies determine the welfare of millions; the would-be world rulers, the dictators and empire builders, who have it in their power to plunge the globe into war, think of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar; think of Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler. Think, today, of Clinton and Saddam Hussein. Do you suppose that it is really these top men who determine which way the world shall go? Think again, for God is greater that the world’s great men. ‘He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing’ (Isa 40:23). He is, as the prayer book says, ‘the only ruler of princes.’ Behold your God.

“But we have not finished yet. Look, lastly at the stars. The most universally awesome experience that mankind knows is to stand alone on a clear night and look at the stars. Nothing gives a greater sense of remoteness and distance; nothing makes on feel more strongly one’s own littleness and insignificance. And we who live in the space age can supplement this universal experience with our scientific knowledge of the actual factors involved—millions of the stars in number, billions of light years in distance. Our minds reel our imagination cannot grasp it; when we try to conceive of unfathomable depths of outer space, we are left mentally numb and dizzy.

“But what is this to God? ‘Lift you eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing’ (Isa 40:26). It is God who brings out the stars; it was God who first set them in space; his is their Maker and Master—the are all in his hands and subject to his will. Such are his power and his majesty. Behold your God!” (Knowing God, pgs. 86-88)

Ways to Respond to God’s Holiness

Image result for god's holinessYou might be interested to know that the holiness of God is referred to more often than any other attribute. Thomas Watson once said, “Holiness is the most sparkling jewel of his crown; it is the name by which God is known.

When you see angels worshipping in heaven, they are not crying, “Mighty, mighty, mighty” or “Omniscient, omniscient, omniscient” or “Loving, loving, loving.” They are saying, “Holy, holy, holy.

What does holiness mean? The word “holiness” comes from the Hebrew word qadas meaning “to separate” or “to cut” (the Greek equivalent of hagios). The idea is that God is separated or cut off from sin and evil; He is a cut above all unrighteousness and a cut above everything He created. Charles Hodge gives this definition in his Systematic Theology:

“Holiness, on the one hand, implies entire freedom from moral evil and, on the other, absolute moral perfection. Freedom from purity is the primary idea of the word. To sanctify is to cleanse; to be holy is to be clean. Infinite purity, even more than infinite knowledge or infinite power, is the object of reverence.” (Systematic Theology, pgs. 150-151)

It means simply that God is without sin and is separated from all evil. He doesn’t see the holy standard and then meet it; He is the standard. God doesn’t need to change, because he is already perfectly holy. He does not do any wrongdoing. God’s holiness means that He is separated from sin and devoted to being the standard of all holiness for all.

This was what Moses was confronted with at the burning bush. When he approached this theophany, the Lord warned him

Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exod 3:5).

He told Moses, “You are coming to a place void of sin and you are a sinner. Be warned!”

Isaiah had a similar confrontation when he had a vision of God in Isaiah 6. He had a vision of God sitting on his throne surrounded by cherubim, angels and other sentient beings. He saw them saying “Holy, holy, holy” and telling him the entire earth was filled with His glory (Isa 6:3). The foundation shook, smoke filled the room and Isaiah proclaimed,

Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa 6:4).

He was utterly humbled with being in the presence of the holy standard as an unholy man. Men like Moses and Isaiah demonstrate how we are to react to God’s holiness.

When confronted with God’s holiness, some people grow in bitterness; others resent His holiness; some just get enraged; some just trivialize God’s attributes all together. But, the godly reaction to God’s holiness should be thanksgiving and trembling.

J.I. Packer, On the Truthfulness of God

Image result for knowing god packer“The words of human beings are unstable things. But not so the words of God. They stand forever, as abidingly valid expressions of his mid and thought. No circumstances prompt him to recall them; no changes in his own thinking require him to amend them. Isaiah writes, ‘All flesh is grass…The grass withers…But the word of our God will stand forever’ (Isa 40:6-8 RSV). Similarly, the psalmist says, ‘Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens…All your commands are true…You established them to last forever’ (Ps 119:89, 151-152).

“The word translated true in the last verse carries with it the idea of stability. When we read our Bibles, therefore, we need to remember that God still stands behind all the promises, and demands, and statements of purpose, and words of warning, that are there addressed to New Testament believers. These are not relics of a bygone age, but an eternally valid revelation of the mind of God toward his people in all generations, so long as this world lasts. As our Lord Himself has told us, ‘The Scriptures cannot be broken’ (John 10:35). Nothing can annul God’s eternal truth.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)

George Ladd, Describing the Kingdom of God

Image result for george ladd“The Kingdom can draw near to men (Matt 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15); it can come (Matt 6:10; Luke 17:20), arrive (Matt 12:28), appear (Luke 19:11), be active (Matt 11:12). God can give the Kingdom to men (Matt 21:43; Luke 12:32), but men do not give the Kingdom to one another. Further, God can take the kingdom away from men (Matt 21:43), but men do not take it away from one another, although they can prevent others from entering it. Men can enter the Kingdom (Matt 5:20; 7:1; Mark 9:47; 10:23), but they are never said to erect it or to build it. Men can receive the Kingdom (Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17), inherit it (Matt 25:34), and possess it (Matt 5:4), but they are never said to establish it. Men can reject the kingdom, i.e., refuse to receive it (Luke 10:11) or enter it (Matt 23:13), but they cannot destroy it. They can look for it (Luke 23:51), pray for its coming (Matt 6:10), and seek it (Matt 6:33; Luke 12:31), but they cannot bring it. Men may be in the Kingdom (Matt 5:19; 8:11; Luke 13:29), but we are not told that the Kingdom grows. Men can do things for the sake of the Kingdom (Matt 19:12; Luke 18:29), but they are not said to act upon the Kingdom itself. Men can preach the Kingdom (Matt 19:7; Luke 10:9), but only God can give it to men (Luke 12:32).” (George Ladd, The Presence of the Future)

Living Under the Shadow of the Almighty

John G. Paton is one of my favorite missionaries. Paton was a Scottish missionary who died at the age of 83 in Australia after serving the people of the islands of New Hebrides for approximately 40 years. Maybe Paton is best known by his nickname which was given to him by Charles Spurgeon; Spurgeon called him “the king of the cannibals.” He was given this nickname because the New Hebrides islands were primarily populated by an unreached group of rivaling cannibalistic tribes and it was this rough bunch Paton felt called to preach the Gospel to.

In the early days and weeks of the Paton family living there, he got used to many tense nights as these tribal peoples would visit the area around the home to investigate and other times just to try to scare them away.

Paton writes in his diary of one particular evening when he was convinced they were going to burn their newly built home down to the ground with him and his family in it. Paton and his wife prayed God would deliver them. When daylight came, they were amazed to see that their attackers had left.

1 year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. And remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief’s response was a question: “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present and told the chief so, but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the home. They were afraid to enter this house – not because they feared the Patons – but they feared this place where the Most High was protecting.

Psalm 91:1-2 reads, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

God is a refuge. If He wasn’t, then the psalmist wouldn’t “abide under the shadow” of His God.

In the Ancient Near East, a house was more than a place to “hang your hat.” Homes were places of protection for the benefit of guests at no cost to them and at great cost to the homeowner. The home was a place of safety, not just for the family, but for any who needed a place to flee their enemies or to escape the weather or a predator. A home was a metaphor for protection.

Also, in this area of the world, there is little shade and the sun can be dangerous and oppressive. So, shadows also become metaphors for care and protection. The figures of “the secret place” and “shadow” depict protection and security. God Himself protects those who trust Him. God is a home for His people.

You know, many talk of the omnipresence of God or the protection of God. Many people understand theologically that He is a refuge. Others know what it means to run to God when they are in trouble. They know what it means to see Him as a refuge when they are in danger to.

But not enough people live under His protection. Some people look to God as a refuge, others run to it; but few live there. Not enough people live there and too many think they know what it means or just simply look for His protection when there is danger.

This psalmist lives “under the shadow” like a baby bird does it’s mother. God is the One to whom one must flee for refuge in dangerous and insecure circumstances. He will never cast his confidence to another.