Good morning. Today is part one of two parts from me, this week and next, hopefully increasing our personal knowledge of who God is, and what that means for each of us. Over the next couple of months we will also be exploring a few Psalms, and what I intend to do with this week's and next week's sermons is use the Psalm to demonstrate the Biblical expression of the character of God. Next week will be Psalm 2. So, I thought that I would read that now, then explore some characteristics of God, and next week, come back to the Psalm, and what we learn today, and build on it. I have printed a number of copies of this, so you can take one after, and bring it back next week (Lord Willing). Incidentally, if you were thinking that this would be an Easter message, it is, though not the usual message of the Easter Sunday resurrection. This message is all about God, and therefore, the reason Easter occurred in the first place. Now on to Psalm 2:
1 'Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 "Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us."
4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision.
5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure:
6 "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion."
7 "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, `You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'"
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.'
The name of God, or the word He, or His, or Him is mentioned 18 times in these verses. This is around every 11th word. The Psalms, tend to praise God, question God, talk to, or about God, describe God, and worship God. Now we will come back to dissect this Psalm next week. This week the question is: why is knowing God so important? The simple answer, according to Tozer, is this - 'He is God'. Three words, nothing more, yet absolutely to the point. He is God. He is not a rock, stone, tree, lump of concrete, carving of wood, a painting, sculptured marble, moulded brass or any other object that every other religion seems to have as their God. We cannot express God in this way, though many try. How can I say this, when the small c church has been creating images of God for nearly 2000 years? Maybe it is because they have forgotten what is written in Isaiah chapter 40, starting at verse 18:
'To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman moulds 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 skilful 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.'
We see pictures of an old man with long white hair. How can God be old, when He is timeless? Why would he have lost the original colour of his hair when he is perfect in every way. Grey and white hair are imperfections my dear fellow sufferers!!
God Himself provides us with all knowledge of himself. Some choose to distort that knowledge, usually in ignorance, rather than direct disobedience, in producing art forms, and stating that this depicts God doing something, or the Son of God, who is himself God in flesh. But, this first characteristic of God is that He himself stated that we must not try and create any form of image of Him, as in the Ten Commandments.
These Isaiah verses, I just read, tell us much about God. God created every star. Now I Googled the number of stars, and no-one can really tell us, except there are billions, someone writes, that a calculated guess is fifty thousand billion billion, that is fifty thousand followed by 18 noughts. What does the Bible say - 'He calls them all by name'. How can that be? Because He is God. We can't even get our heads around that capacity to name that many stars. Why is this important? Because God told us this in His Word, therefore, it must be important. Perhaps just to convince us of God's infinite ability to remember things. If He can call each star by its name, then we His children have no hope of Him forgetting us. Is that not a marvellous thought?
'He stretches out the heavens like a curtain.' What does this tell us about God? It tells me that he does not need to occupy space. This is an interesting concept, as we live exclusively in both time and space. Every second that goes by, for us is lost forever. God tells us that the world is coming to an end. There is a fixed point in time where time stops. We occupy a room, in a building, on a piece of land, on a continent, on a planet, revolving around just one star, in a universe that has fifty thousand billion billion stars, give or take a dozen, and God has stretched out the heavens like a curtain to hold it all in. Can he hold us together? That, my friends, would be the easy bit for God, we are small and easy to hold, to place under His wing, to lift up with wings of eagles when needed, to supply us with every need, as he hems in every part of space and time that surrounds us. It is in His hands, and He is God. Why is this important? It tells us that he cares for the every single atom and particle around us, including us, as he says in the last part of the Isaiah verses: 'By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing'.
I was thinking! I have a number of bad habits, things I do even though I should not, because I lack the willpower to stop. For example, despite the best of intentions, my abdominal girth measurement is somewhat larger than anything that is considered healthy. My waking up in the morning is less than gracious. And this is just two of the bad habits I have. If God has all that power, and He has told me this: '.assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, `Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.' (Matthew 17:20), why is it that I still do not use God's power to change my life. Perhaps it is because of the following, unrelated, but totally relevant words: 'this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting'. God tells us of His power, His greatness, we have the ability to tap into that very same power, yet may be we are lacking the prayer and fasting, the communion with God that makes it possible. I think that is because we do not know God as we should, because, I think that if I truly understood God, I would fear God as I should, and if I feared God as I should, I would not give myself so much food, because He provided me the body I have, and I should respect that, and therefore care for it. Sure, it is a mortal body, it will fail, that is not the issue here, it is my lack of respect for God, that I do the things I do, because I have not made God in my life, the total presence that He should be - that of the almighty, timeless, all knowing, all seeing, all loving, God. I see Him like he is depicted in art, rather than what He really is, unable to be drawn or captured in any visual art, as that makes God have boundaries He does not have.
Isaiah was not some ordinary bloke, though in essence he was. But he was a major prophet of God; he has a lengthy book of the things God got him to tell the people of Israel. What I am trying to say here, I am nothing at all, certainly nothing close to being an Isaiah. Why is this important in the context of what I just said? Because his respect for God was amazingly humble. In chapter 6 of his book he writes: 'So I said: "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."' Is this a major character of God that we are missing in our lives - the glory, majesty and holiness of God that reminds us every day that "I am a man of unclean lips"?
What we do is drag God down to something more human, something with size, with less glory than He has. In fact, the worldly Christian wants to take some of God's glory, not reflect it, and he believes that he is part God himself, rather than being filled, and cloaked by God. The human forgets the verse that says: 'I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another.' Isaiah 42:8. We should be as God centric as He, God, is God centric - because there is no other that even comes within 50,000 billion billion miles of being like God. But we are 'me' centric, and take, or try to take, God's glory for our own. We need to remember, and this is the Easter message part of the sermon, just a line or two:
'For He received from God the Father honour and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."' 2 Peter 1:17
Why is this the Easter message? Because, God He is God. This fact provides the basis for the perfect, the complete, the absolute Excellent Glory, and why God needed our sins to be taken from us, completely, once for all. For God to meet His own standards, we needed someone that was like Him, and not one skerrick less than this to take away those sins. God therefore, provided God in flesh, who had both glory and honour from God the Father, to bring about the most amazing sacrifice of all, as well as the only solution that could possibly destroy sin and death. And we think we can take God's glory for our own? How did we ever reach this most egotistical, and impossible thought, the greatest folly man could ever think of! I think that it is because we fail to grasp the enormity of His Excellent Glory, His character, and who God really is, because we humanise God. We make him in our thoughts to be like us - perhaps just a bit better. This brings me to another thought, who are we as humans anyway, that we think we can become like God?
Do you know how you stay together - as a living body? On the surface, things look pretty solid don't they? You can poke your finger at your arm, and it does not go through. However, if I popped your arm under a microscope, down to levels of atoms, and then a little more magnified, there are gaps, bits of electrons swirling around neutrons, separate from them. I suspect that when you think that your skin is crawling - you may feel that right now as I speak, it is just the constant movement of those atoms you are made up of, spinning away!
Science thinks itself very clever, and are now trying to determine how the atom and all its sub-particles, like quarks and gluons, and stay together. These brilliant men refuse to turn to the Bible where the answer was written thousands of years ago. 'Then God said' and it was so (Genesis 1). The obvious answer is the stuff holding everything together is that of God's voice, His sound waves - He spoke, creation occurred. Further, Colossians tells us in chapter 1:17 - 'in Him all things consist' God holds all things together, and he brought all things into being by his voice. Let us hope and pray that as the scientists dig, they will find God. Why is this important to know? I think that an important principle from knowing this particular character of God - in Him all things consist - is that we cannot take anything we do, say, build, or create, as our own. It is only through God that this is possible. So how can we want to be 'me' centric instead of God centric? Why do we discard God? Or put Him to one side, make Him more human? How can we even consider this? But I do.
As an aside, let us look at more science, just to demonstrate that what we anything we believe is modern is not modern at all - 'in Him all things consist. We carry mobile phones, which we talk into, and invisibly, and without sound, our speech pattern pops out another device, maybe the other side of the world. Is that science? No, that is God. He invented radio before we did. I say to you again, we need to truly believe in God's own words, 'in Him all things consist'. Consider this most amazing verse in Job 38:25 - "Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, And say to you, `Here we are!'?" This is what Christian scientific explanation tells us about this verse: 'The Bible here is making what appears to be a scientifically ludicrous statement-that light can be sent, and then manifest itself in speech. But did you know that radio waves travel at the speed of light? This is why you can have instantaneous wireless communication with someone on the other side of the earth. Science didn't discover this until 1864 when "British scientist James Clerk Maxwell suggested that electricity and light waves were two forms of the same thing.' We of course have not reached God's level of expertise in this area, he speaks of lightening; we manage radio waves. 'In Him all things consist.' God made radio possible, because He created it. We can use it for His purposes, or for our own. Guess what He would like us to be doing? Be God centric in our application.
This piece of knowledge tells us that God is the great communicator - a great characteristic of God is his communication. He listens to us 24/7. We listen to him - how much? I leave that to your own conscience to answer that. I trust it is a little better than me. He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit and His Word. He taps into our every thought. We don't have to prepare a special time, place, position, or any other thing to talk to God. We can talk to Him every place, every second, of every day. He tells us: 'Pray without ceasing'. We can therefore, listen, chat, do something, work, drive, eat a meal, and pray at the same time. I know that, because God tells us to pray without ceasing. Therefore, it must be possible, because with God, all things are possible.
Let us move to other characteristics of God that we need to fully appreciate and understand. Still in Isaiah, a book with verse after verse that describes the characteristics of God has chapter 9, verse 6 telling us: 'For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' Two words here tell us that this is God being described, and the New Testament tells us that this is the part of the Trinity known as the Son of God, whom we worship as Jesus Christ, our Lord. In the list we see 'Mighty God'. What a word - 'mighty'! God's character is triune, but the greatness, majesty, and might of the Triune does not diminish, no matter who is being spoken of. We can be sure that Jesus Christ is mighty, and as the Nicene creed puts it: [we believe] 'in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.' Note the other words in the Isaiah verse, 'wonderful, counsellor, everlasting, Prince of Peace'. Who do we seek counsel from? Who brings peace to our hearts? When we speak of God, of Jesus Christ to others, do we glow because we are speaking of someone wonderful? Is He our Light of Light - thus we can actually glow!!!
Let us jump to the New Testament, to that statement in Revelations 1:8: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Why is this important to know about God? It tells us God's timeline. He is the beginning and end; he was before, is now, and will be in the future. Without God where are we? We have beginning and end, but in Christ we have eternity. This is an impossible thought to consider, but I find it one of the greatest things about God that is so mysterious yet so obvious. God is without time. I have mentioned that. He was before, and will be after. What is after without time? Something unfathomable. Yet there will be seasons - how? 'In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.' See the mystery, God is timeless, yet in the New Jerusalem there are months. Why does God give us this information? We have twelve months now, God has twelve months. How long is each month, and how will they be measured as there is no night there? I love it. God provides a mystery, but no answer. He gives us a glimpse into His mind, in terms of reality of the future, but we have nothing with which to compare it. He is God. That is our knowledge. Accept that He is God. There is nothing we can compare that with, but we can have some knowledge, from the mystery of time in heaven, to the complexity of the Triune God who is infinite in time and space and holds us together, to Jesus Christ who walked on earth as man, and now is in heaven, readying the place for each of us, and there is the Holy Spirit, the internal voice of God if we dare to listen. See the need to enlarge our thoughts about God, remove our humanisation, and truly worship Him as the most Almighty Glorious Being.
Moving to another facet of this exploration of God, to know Him better, is His intimate knowledge of our every failing. God is all knowledge - nothing is new to God, we cannot teach Him anything, He knows it all, even our newest discovery He knew before the world was created as I mentioned with the mobile phone. He provides a catalogue of His own people's failures, their every method of sin, so we may learn from other's mistakes. But we manage to provide Him examples of every failure He knew we were capable of; we keep on doing those things He knew we would, but He Himself abhorred.
We cannot hide a single sin from God. We cannot gloss over a singe sin, and hope that God does not notice. He knows every glossing trick in the book plus some. This is an important characteristic to know about God. We may not think so, but life as a child of God makes us completely transparent to God. We are like glass. For us, it may be like a dark mirror when we consider God, but our state of soul to God is crystal clear. A sobering thought, another reason to exalt Him to the level He should be exalted.
What has this to do with the character of God? Tozer[i] puts it like this:
Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything. He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.
God is self-existent and self-contained and knows what no creature can ever know - Himself, perfectly. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." Only the Infinite can know the infinite.
In the divine omniscience we see set forth against each other the terror and fascination of the Godhead. That God knows each person through and through can be a cause of shaking fear to the man that has something to hide - some unforsaken sin, some secret crime committed against man or God. The unblessed soul may well tremble that God knows the flimsiness of every pretext and never accepts the poor excuses given for sinful conduct, since He knows perfectly the real reason for it. "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." How frightful a thing to see the sons of Adam seeking to hide among the trees of another garden. But where shall they hide? 'Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, 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. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.' Psalm 139 7-14.
The most incredible thing about all of this is that the modern church believes it knows more than God. It seeks to correct God, and change what God has provided. It proffers the excuse that the Bible was written thousands of years ago, and times have changed. They say that if God were writing it now, He would write it differently. A media report stated that 54% of Christian churches - and it used that term "Christian churches" support marriage of homosexual couples. They ordain practicing homosexual priests. Fornication is not preached about or against. They tell us that Hell does not really exist; God is a god of love and cannot punish. And so it goes on. How can anyone who knows and understands even the smallest amount of who God is, or even contemplate telling God that His book - His way, needs change - needs modernising? I say again, we have lost sight of God. We do not see God for who He is. We fail to recognise that as God is God centric, so must we be. As God is glorious, holy, infinite, full of love, but also absolutely just, filled with compassion but recognising that sin must be dealt with (i.e. punished), and if the human fails to take the freely offered grace, then hell and damnation must follow. We can do no better in our lives but to change, starting with the instruction found in Psalm 46:10 - 'Be still, and know that I am God' Next, it is a matter of 'pray without ceasing' as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, followed by verses 20-23: Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. All in all, remember at all times the opening verses of the Gospel of John: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.' We have His Word - study and meditate on it, we have His Light - reflect it, and use it to see His path, we are made by Him, he holds us together, utterly respect that thought, that knowledge, then each of us will know where our worship has to go, always, 100%, never less, God centric. To do this we must lose self. Ah, there is the catch.
I will leave you with Tozer's closing words of his most challenging book 'The knowledge of the Holy':
'This we can best do by keeping the majesty of God in full focus in all our public services. Not only our private prayers should be filled with God, by our witnessing, our singing, our preaching, our writing should center around the Person of our holy, holy Lord and extol continually the greatness of His dignity and power. There is a glorified Man on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven faithfully representing us there. We are left for a season among men; let us faithfully represent Him here.'
[i] Tozer, A.W. (1978) The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life HarperOne