Vol 6:2 (Feb 1960)
God in Daily Experience
A tourist in the East, awed by the magnificence of a temple he was visiting, remarked to his guide that those who had built such an ornate structure in tribute to their god must have been a very devout people. Much to his surprise he was told that he had completely misunderstood the purpose of the building. Those who erected it, said the guide, had no thought of paying tribute to their god. Their purpose was rather to enclose him! They did not want him to interfere with their lives, so they put up this splendid edifice to shut him in. It was an effective way, they thought, to guard against the inconvenience of a too active deity!
The attitude of those temple-builders strikes us as quite strange. But is not that of many around us very much like it? Their thought seems to be “Let God keep His place. Let Him not assert Himself too freely. We may need Him to account for the phenomena of existence, but let Him remain back in the shadows. There may come a time when we shall want His help, but meanwhile let Him not intrude.” And they wonder why God—the God Whom they have bowed out of their lives—does not stop their wars, end their distresses, and smooth their pillows. How inconsistent humans can be!
Just now, however, we are thinking particularly about the attitudes of those who, through a genuine faith in God’s beloved Son, have been brought into a vital and saving relationship with Him. Certainly some of us, at times, give the impression by our conduct that our concept of God has little effect upon the character of our lives. Is it possible that we have enshrined Him—enclosed Him— if not in marble, in a framework of doctrine which we have taken no pains to understand?
Are we satisfied to have formulated clear definitions of His character and attributes, while our knowledge of Him seems to make little impression upon our daily thinking and behaviour? Doctrine has tremendous value, and a clear knowledge of it is of great importance. But it should lead to a knowledge of God Himself to an acquaintance that is vital, experimental, intimate. And that knowledge will affect one’s life; it will issue in suitable conduct (See John 13:17. Col. 1: 9-10. 2 Pet. 1:8. James 3:13).
The Omniscience of God.
He “knoweth all things.” His wisdom is infinite. “There is no searching of His understanding.” All our doings are fully known to Him (1 John 3:20. Psalm 147:5. Prov. 15:3; 5:21). He is fully informed as to our every thought and motive (Psalm 139:2. Heb. 4:12-13). Through Jeremiah He poses the question, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?” (Jer. 23:24). How distressing such thoughts as these can be to an awakened sinner! But what shall be said of us who are believers? Can we be aware of all this and live carelessly? Should it not have a formative and restraining effect upon our every thought, word and action? Should we not search our hearts and challenge each motive as to whether or not it is pleasing to the ALL-Seeing One?
There is also, in the fact of God’s omniscience, much to reassure the Christian in need of comfort. God’s knowledge not only extends to the farthest reaches of the universe; it not only includes the millions of mighty orbs moving in limitless space. It condescends to the “way” of the feeblest believer (Isa. 40:26, 27). Omniscience has numbered the very hairs of the believer’s head, the Lord Jesus tells us, and He adds, “Fear ye not …” (Matt. 10:3031). If, then, the remembrance of God’s omniscience would cause us to walk carefully, it can also be a source of truest encouragement.
The Omnipotence of God
too, has a message for us. His POWER is without bound or limitation, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Nothing is too hard for Him (Gen. 18:14). And He is OUR God — OUR Father! Is this not full of meaning for us as we meet with difficulties and perplexities from time to time — some of which defy solution? Should we not face them as Daniel’s three friends did, with a triumphant “Our God is able …” (Dan. 3:17). He IS “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think …” (Eph. 3:20). What a shame that we so frequently are overcome when, through our God, we might be over-corners!
The Omnipresence of God
is another of His attributes. He is everywhere. He fills all space. The Psalmist, in Psalm 139, cannot conceive of the possibility of evading Him. Wherever he might think of fleeing — even at the farthest reaches of the universe — God would still be present. Is this frightening? To one treading the paths of sin it may well be! But to one who knows God and loves Him it is not so. The Psalmist, in fact, finds in it an occasion for joyful praise. To him it was a reason for the greatest encouragement, for, he says, God “is nigh unto all them that call upon Him … in truth!” (Psalm 145:18).
It needs to be pointed out, however, that while God is everywhere present, to many of us His presence is a matter of doctrine only — doctrine that is very poorly apprehended — and not a fact of present, joyful experience. God loves to reveal Himself to the trusting, obedient soul. And when He does so He sets the life aglow with a reflection of His own glory (2 Cor. 3:18). It was this kind of revelation of Himself that the Psalmist was longing for when he said, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1). His manifest, realized presence is something we may well covet. Let us be satisfied with nothing less!
The Holiness of God
is another facet of His character that greatly needs re-emphasizing in our day. It was the remembrance of this that brought from Job long ago the humble confession, “Behold I am vile … I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 40:4; 42:6), and that wrung from Isaiah’s lips the cry, “I am undone …” (Isa. 6:5). In more recent days, too, it spoke loudly to the consciences of men and women, impressing them with a sense of the awfulness of their sin and warning them of certain judgment. But today there is a tendency to think of God as a sort of indulgent patron, Whose wishes may be disregarded and Whose claims may be flouted at one’s pleasure. Little wonder that true repentance seems to be so rare an occurrence.
And what shall we say of the impact of God’s holiness upon the thinking and conduct of the child of God? Is it realized as it needs to be that a holy God has “called us unto holiness?” (1 Thess. 4:7). Have we appreciated the need to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God”? (2 Cor. 7:1). Are we noted for “holy conversation (conduct) and godliness?” (2 Pet. 3:11). Or have we forgotten the injunction, “Be ye holy, for I am holy?” (1 Pet. 1 :15-16) .
A proper appreciation of God’s holiness will inevitably lead to reverence. It is said of a celebrated scientist that he removed his hat each time he heard God’s name mentioned. That was a wholesome gesture, but one which would, in days like the present, be considered out of place and much too sanctimonious. There is today, even among Christians, a great lack of the spirit of reverence. It is noticeable in our manner of speaking, in the lightness and even frivolity too often seen in some of our gatherings, and even in the language of some of our modern hymns and choruses. A proper sense of what is due to a holy God would correct all this. Is it not time that we gave serious thought to the matter? Can true spirituality survive, or can any measure of Christian decency be maintained, where there is not due recognition of what the character and presence of God demand?
The Righteousness of God
for our present purpose, need not be too critically distinguished from His holiness. (Generally speaking, His holiness is an expression of His character, while His righteousness marks His dealings with His creatures.) “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works” (Psa. 145:17). He is “a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deut. 32:4). “He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). To that judgment every individual is exposed who does not know Christ as Lord and Saviour. To the believer, however, amid the perplexities and turmoil of life in this topsy-turvy world, the remembrance of God’s righteousness brings reassurance and hope. Confronted by situations he is unable to understand he echoes Abraham’s confident exclamation: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). Misunderstood and perhaps misused he can look forward to a time when “the Lord, the righteous Judge” will put right all that is now so wrong (2 Tim. 4:8). Meanwhile, like his Lord before him, he can commit himself in confident trust to “Him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23).
We close with only a brief reference to
The Love and the Faithfulness of God
His love had its fullest expression when He “sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). In not sparing Him, God made it clear that He was ready to “with Him also freely give us all things” — meaning, we take it, “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (Rom. 8:32. 2 Pet. 1:3). How fully the Christian is provided for! Loved as Christ Himself is loved! (John 17:23). “Blessed with all spiritual blessings …” (Eph. 1:3). And let us remember that the God from Whom all this comes is a faithful God! His Word can never fail (Titus 1:2. Heb. 6:18. Isa. 40:8). His promises can never be voided (Neh. 9:7,8. 2 Cor. 1:20). His covenants can never be broken (Psa. 89:34. Num. 23:19). What wonderful grounds of encouragement, comfort, and assurance! And what a challenge to faith!
Goodness, mercy, loving kindness, and many others of God’s perfections we have not space to deal with. May the Holy Spirit create in each one of us a deepening desire to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).