Sunday, June 18, 2006

God the Father Almighty

Parents frequently teach their children a prayer that begins, "God is great. God is good."

Those words are simple enough for children, but they are also profound. They capture two important aspects of the character of God. He is great -- that is, he is almighty, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is also good -- great in mercy and kindness, a Father and friend to those who are His.

Healthy Christianity maintains thoughts of God's greatness and goodness in a careful balance. Unfortunately, that balance is frequently not maintained, and that lack of balance has at times seriously harmed those who grew up under it. If God is seen as great, but not good, he may be seen as harsh, distant, irrelevant, and an object of unhealthy fear (I say unhealthy, because there is a healthy kind of fear of God).

If God is seen as good, but not great, He is seen as a sort of kindly old man -- good hearted, but not terribly helpful or relevant to life.

Fortunately, the true God is both great and good. God is described in the Bible as a Father, a Friend, and as one who knows how to give good gifts to His children. He is merciful and full of grace. Believers can call upon Him with familial love and approach Him boldly because of what Christ has done in our behalf.

He is also the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

Isaiah Chapter 40, which is addressed to hurting people who have fallen under God's judgment, is one of the most eloquent in all of the Bible describing God's goodness and greatness. Following is a quick laundry list of what we learn about God in this chapter. Read it for yourself, and you may find great joy in meditating on these thoughts about God:
  • He speaks through Isaiah words of comfort and tenderness to a people who have gone through a period of judgment because of sin (vv. 1, 2).
  • His glory will be revealed to all mankind (v. 5).
  • His Word stands forever (v. 8).
  • His presence is a reason to proclaim good tidings (v. 9)
  • He is the Sovereign Lord who comes with power (v. 10)
  • He gathers his flock in His arms and carries them close to His heart (v. 11)
  • He has measured the waters and the Heavens with His hand (v. 12).
  • His mind is beyond our understanding or counsel (vv. 13, 14).
  • Nations are like a drop in the bucket and islands are like fine dust compared to Him (vv. 15-17).
  • He is beyond comparison and cannot be worshipped by means of any physical image (v. 18-20).
  • His throne is the earth and people are as small as grasshoppers next to Him (v. 22-24).
  • He has no equal and has created all things. He is Holy (v. 25-26).
  • He is the everlasting God who never gets tired (vv. 28).
  • He gives strength to weary and weak people (v. 29).
  • To those who hope in Him, He gives renewed strength to soar on wings of eagles, run and not grow weary, and walk and not be faint.

Those who do not know such a God should fear one of such power. Those who know Him should find comfort and confidence in God's goodness and greatness.

This is the fourth in my series of posts on the Apostle's Creed. The others can be found here, here, and here.


sanskritg said...

I believe what you are saying is true. But as long as the Fred Phelps of the world counter-act your argument through actions and not words on a website, it provides a big obstacle to getting that message to sink in.

HJ said...

Thanks for the comment. The man you mention is little more than a lunatic running a family sanitarium -- most if not all of his "church members" are relatives. Any movement -- religious or secular, left or right -- could be made to look bad if it's most demented adherent is held up as an example of what it is about.

sanskritg said...

Agreed. Maybe then, the "leaders" and influential members of the religious right don't help as "an example of what it is about." I refer you to Jim Wallis of the Sojourners and "God's Politics.

sanskritg said...

Pardon, I excluded an "instead" in there. Wallis is how I characterize your message, rather than Falwell or Robertson or Dobson.

I instead refer you to Jim Wallis of the Sojourners and "God's Politics.