There are a lot of movies these days, but let’s be honest. Most of them are pretty forgetful. However, there are a few that catch our attention because they have such unexpected twists and turns. I’m thinking of the 1982 movie with Robert Redford named “Sneakers”. Or for a slightly younger crowd, there are 1999 movies starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment titled “The Sixth Sense”. Remember how surprised we were when we suddenly realized that the psychiatrist Oops! I will not give it away to anyone who has not seen it yet. But you get what I mean. We remember these movies because they surprised us. They were unpredictable and yet satisfying.
Guess what? God is like that. It is impossible to pin him down, fully understand him or even guess what he will do next. There are definitely some things we know about him because he has revealed them to us. For example, God has revealed that He is infinite and eternal; He is merciful and loving; He is gracious and patient. I could list a hundred different writings to demonstrate my point. But you get the idea. God has told us many things about Himself and we understand them.
But there are things about God that we just can’t understand no matter how hard we try. So we have to add the list above such adjectives as indescribable, unpredictable, unpredictable, unreadable, inexplicable, mysterious and enigmatic. Try as we might box him in, he refuses to be pigeonholed. God is always about doing His own will and getting His own glory. The problem is that we final creatures do not always know what it will be. So we cannot predict what he will do next. Take, for example, His coming to earth in human form (John 1:14). No one could have predicted it! And who would do anything like that? It’s too unexpected, too surprising. It sounds crazy, except there is enough evidence to know that it actually happened.
Now, if you heard or read the message of “Time is now” to begin serving God with all your heart, and you have decided to do so, it is time to get to know this seemingly incomprehensible God. But the first thing you need to know is that God is not a heavenly Sugar Daddy. He is not a fairy godfather, waiting to grant you every wish. Many people believe that God is there to fulfill their every whim. They are quickly disappointed. God loves us without measure, and His goal is to shape us into His image. His goal is not to make us rich and happy in this life, but to prepare us to reign with Him in glory in the next life. This means that we may not get everything we want or ask for here on earth. But in heaven it will be glorious!
On the other hand, God is also not a cosmic cop waiting to crack down on our every transgression. Many people see God this way and cannot get past it. Guilt rules their lives, and it shouldn’t be. Feeling guilty enough will not earn forgiveness from God. All sins were already forgiven two thousand years ago on the Cross of Calvary. We just have to ask. If we root, we must be sorry, ask for forgiveness and move on. This is what God wants us to do.
So what is God anyway? That’s what God wants us to discover! God came to earth in the form of a man, Jesus, and he showed us what God is like. He is like Jesus: loving, caring, gracious, compassionate, forgiving. Yet he is also holy and perfect. He wants a relationship with us, but he never wants us to forget who he is.
So is it possible to get at least a little clarity on his character and goals? Of course. We do this by examining what is revealed about him in Scripture. And there’s a scripture that sums things up pretty well. Isaiah 46: 9-11 says:
“Remember the former things that have long passed, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me who declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things that have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established and I will do all my well-being”; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my purpose from a distant land. Truly I have spoken; verily I will bring it to pass. I have planned that, for sure I will do it. “
First of all, we must remember that He is God and that we are not. He is not here to serve us. Rather, we are here to serve him. But he does not treat us like slaves. We are so lucky to be a part of “His good pleasure.” We just have to trust that He loves us and will work in us and through us for both our best and for His glory. It is important to have all this in mind as we look more closely at his character.
Another thing we discover from the very first words of the Bible is that he is very creative. Genesis 1: 1 tells us, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He didn’t have to create anything. But he wanted to. Why? We may never know, except that it did praise Him for doing so. So he did.
But we’re not done yet. Let’s look at what he created. He created a world teeming with life and beauty and goodness. He did it wonderfully, with sights and sounds and smells and tastes and textures that could only come from him. He didn’t have to. He could have made the world black and white, and food could have been tasteless and so on. We would never have known the difference. But he didn’t. Why did he create such extravagance and beauty? I did it too our pleasure. This is one more thing we are learning about him. He loves us and wants us to enjoy His creation.
And back in the beginning, there was little need for rules. In fact, God had only one rule for Adam and Eve. Unfortunately, they chose to break it. That is why there is so much sin and pain and death in the world now, and why we need so many rules. And yet the world is still a beautiful place.
One more thing we learn about God as we read and study the Bible is that God is constantly pursuing man and creating relationships. In fact, in their article “Why It Is Both Possible and Impossible to Know God,” Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley said: “Certainly, if theology was man’s quest to discover God, it could never break free from agnosticism. But Christian theology arises from God’s persecution of man. ”1 In other words, if it were always only us trying to understand God, it would be hopeless. But it is not. God is constantly pursuing man and revealing himself. Why? Because He wants to. Because he wants a love relationship with us.
We also know that God is about restoration, not retribution. Rendering is a last resort with him. And it all started right back in the beginning. For example, see Noah, which is found in the sixth chapter of the very first book of the Bible. If the math in the genera is close, Noah was born just over a thousand years after Adam and Eve were created. It sounds like long, but when Adam lived to be more than nine hundred years old, literally Noah just missed him! But we know that humanity was so corrupt at that time that God was already planning to destroy them. Since God had called humanity good in the beginning, he would never completely destroy them. And to prove it, he chose Noah, the only faithful person left (Genesis 6: 8). Through Noah, God saved humanity from the devastating flood.
Then God chose Abraham, a descendant of Noah’s son Shem, to whom he could bestow his love and care (Genesis 12: 1-4). As we know, Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. God chose Jacob and renamed him Israel (Genesis 32:28). Jacob / Israel had twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel. God’s plan was to give so many blessings to the tribes of Israel that the other nations would stream to them to serve this wonderful God (Genesis 22:18). The Israelites should follow God fully, and tell the world about him so that they too can come and worship. As a side note, this is the same thing Jesus has called His disciples to do: remain uninhibited from the world while sharing God’s love for the world and deliver them from their sin.
Unfortunately, the Israelites chose not to share God’s love with the other nations. Instead, they turned inward and kept everything secret. But God never stopped loving them. He never removed them. He may have disciplined them for their wrongdoing, but he has always promised them restoration.
And when we talk about discipline, this is one of the objections I hear most often. People say that God in the Old Testament was not loving at all. Rather, he always punished people. He was nothing more than a great big man, waiting to hit unsuspecting innocent people. However, the truth is very different. What people miss is how long it took for God to punish someone. He told Abraham that he would give him the promised land, but he could not do it yet because “the sin of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). In fact, God waited 400 plus years for Israel to come in and destroy the inhabitants of the land and take it over (see Joshua and the Judges’ books for the full story).
Even after the Israelites had moved into the Promised Land and fallen into their own sin, God waited. And he sent prophets to warn them and warn them and warn them. See the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and some of the smaller prophets like Hosea for more information on this time. You see, decades and even centuries would go by while God waited. Only when sin became too much did God act. And it was never his first choice. Not only that, but God never did anything without first telling everyone what He wanted to do (see verse above with Amos 3: 7). And he always had a message of restoration to accompany the message of anger. The Israelites knew what to do, and they knew what was going to happen. If they chose to sin, it was their own fault when God started them out of the land. But when he was his chosen people, he promised them restoration. And that is still true today. Although the Jews have been temporarily deposed with the fullness of the Gentiles coming in (Rom. 11:25), God will again treat Israel at some point in the future.
The God we know today has not changed a bit. He tells us exactly what He expects of us, and He provided the Holy Spirit to help us. Yet we act surprised when caught in our sin. But we should not because God has put his moral code in our hearts. So some things about God are very easy to understand.
However, some things about God are difficult to understand. Why doesn’t he bring blessings on his beloved children? Look at Mary – she still bore Jesus, she had to go and have a baby in a barn (Luke 2: 7). Couldn’t he have made her life more comfortable? And look at Joseph where to take Mary as his wife, though he wasn’t sure of her circumstances. Did she play him? He had to take it on faith and live with the consequences (Mt. 1: 18-25). And then they had to flee to Egypt to save the life of baby Jesus (Mt. 2: 13-15). God could have miraculously saved them, but He did not.
And look at Jesus. He had to live a life just like us and suffer and die. God could have done something else. But he didn’t. Look at Peter, Paul and the other apostles. They died for what they believed. There was no picnic, no prosperity gospel, no fancy living. God often suffers his most beloved. Why? As I said before, we often forget that God is preparing us for eternity. In eternity it will always be his perfect will. So here on earth he does what glorifies him the most, and what is the best course of action for most people for the longest time. It may not be what we think we need. But we have to trust that God knows best. After all, we can only see a little on the road. God can actually look around the corner!
And yet …
Sometimes God surprises us by answering a prayer that we honestly did not expect him to answer. Sometimes he is so close and personal that we swear we could reach out and touch him. Sometimes He makes things so wonderful that we wonder why we ever doubted it at first. Is God frivolous? Not at all. We just don’t understand how he works. And we never do. We just have to trust that he has our best in mind.
Unfortunately, however, it is this uncertainty that makes us doubt him and his goodness and his wisdom. We think he doesn’t care or we don’t think he’s not paying attention to us. Because we cannot understand what he is doing, we do not trust him. And because we do not fully trust Him, we cannot fully commit to Him. This is all pasted right here. We want to trust, but we have what God has failed us to do. So now we are afraid to commit. It’s easier to sit on the fence and uncover our bets.
How do we solve this dilemma? There is no magic formula. You have to see God in the big picture to trust Him in the small. That is why I am so strongly in favor of daily Bible reading. Only when we can see his constant goodness and sincere love for those whom he calls his own can we let go of our doubts and begin to trust that no matter what happens, this is exactly God’s best for us at this time.
You see, when God chooses a people for himself, He never removes them. It is forever. He bestows His love and grace without measuring those whom He loves. It may not always come to us that way. But we must understand that one of God’s attributes is love. He simply cannot does not loves his children. That’s part of who he is. He came down to earth two thousand years ago and was born of a woman … for you and me. He, I speak of Jesus now, who was God in the flesh, who died on the cross two thousand years ago, already knowing that every sin we would ever commit died for us anyway.
I am reminded of a Hallmark greeting card I saw once. It said, “You are the answer to my prayers. You are not exactly what I prayed for, but apparently you are the answer.” We may not understand everything he does, but that’s okay. We just need to know that God loves us more than we could ever understand. And he has our best in mind. He will deal with us in this life until we are perfect. It may be painful, but it will be worth it.
So here it is. Because our own personal stories aren’t finished, we should start from here and make the ending way better than it could have been. As James R. Sherman said in his 1982 book titled rejection, “You can’t go back and start a new start, but you can start right now and get a brand new ending.” 2
It is time to get to know the God we choose to love and serve. He is a great God, a caring God, a loving God. And He will perfect us here so that we may enjoy eternity with Him in absolute happiness, free from sin and pain, and tears and doubt. Will we start looking for him?
1. Beeke, Joel R., Smalley, Paul M. “Why it is both possible and impossible to know God.” 2019, Crossway.org, www.crossway.org/articles/Why-Its-both-possible-and-impossible-to-know-God.com.
2. Sherman, James R. Rejection. Pathway Books, 1982, Golden Valley, MN.