The Attributes of God

book-1210030_1280A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

“He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet” (Psalm 18:9). “Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and justice are the habitation of his throne” (Psalm 97:2).
 

The greatest study one can ever make is to study the character of Almighty God as revealed in Scripture. We know that YHWH is the great four-letter “name” of the living God (with vowels supplied it is written Yahweh). God’s “attributes” and perfections are so glorious, no one can ever fathom them.

I began studying God’s attributes and compound names in 1972, and immediately began teaching them in various church meetings, not only here in Georgia, but in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina. These were some of the most blessed, enriching times I have ever experienced in the gospel ministry. None of us can ever study “who God is” too much. No wonder A. W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Absolutely!

“Concerning the character of God,” Bro. Henry Mahan once said, “what gross mistakes men make. I believe it is a mistake about the person of God himself that is the root and foundation of all mistakes in theology.” How solemnly true! Yahweh is transcendent, infinite, eternal, immortal, invisible, wise, sovereign, holy, just, righteous, yet is longsuffering, kind, gracious, loving, and merciful.

David said Yahweh “bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet.” Darkness? Yes, but we also read, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). No darkness! “The darkness and the light are both alike to thee” (Psalm 139:12). Both alike? What mystery! How can we understand this unless we believe wholeheartedly in God’s absolute self-sufficiency? God’s ways and works are indeed “past finding out,” aren’t they? They can never be fully explained by any creature. This alone is pure sovereignty.

“Clouds and darkness are round about him.” Then we are told, “A fire goes before him, and burns up his enemies round about” (Psalm 97:3). “Darkness,” yet “fire.” The purpose for fire is “to consume and burn up,” and it is the exception when it does not, as in the case of Moses when he saw the burning bush “not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). Along with mystery, we note what glorious majesty and honor belong to the Lord our God! “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Do we really believe this? His holiness burns in splendor, his righteousness is like the great mountains, and his vengeance shall be known to all his enemies.

The Lord Jesus Christ was “God manifest in the flesh,” the God-Man wondrously concealing his attributes as needed. Yet, he was fully God and fully man. Christ is our Mediator, and no sinner could ever “approach” the living God apart from this one Advocate (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 2:1). Otherwise, the all-consuming holiness of Jehovah would burn up all sinners immediately! Sinners do not flippantly do business with a holy God. Is this what you believe?

Yet, in condescending mercy, our Lord Jesus Christ says to sinners, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Yes, by faith “go to Jesus,” for what rich grace, love, and mercy flows to poor sinners through the cross of Calvary. This is why we exclaim with Paul, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33). “O the depth,” so let us all bow in holy wonder and holy worship of our thrice-holy God.

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You Are There

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Beyond our minds, outside of time,
In worlds unknown, upon a throne,
You reign Supreme, eternally,
And You are there, You are there.

Where can we go from Your presence?
Where can we go where You’re not there?

For we can’t see, what You can see,
We don’t know what our future holds,
But Lord You know, You’re in control,
You’re already there.

Creator of, all things above,
Complexities of galaxies,
You have fashioned ev’ry atom,
And You are there, You are there.

When burdened souls, can take no more,
On desp’rate peaks, through valleys deep,
You know our cares, You hear our prayers,
And You are there, You are there.

God of Wonder,
You are Other,
Too Wonderful for me.

Behind the lines

Psalm 139

Above Our Reason

When we grapple with the wonders of God our mind is quickly blown by His “Divine Glories.” Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the hymn-writer and thinker, penned the hymn below about the Wondrous, Mysterious King. 

In addition to hymns, Watts wrote a text-book on logic with a lengthy title appropriately named Logic, or The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth With a Variety of Rules to Guard Against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as in the Sciences.

Watts’ Wikipedia page states, “This was first published in 1724, and its popularity ensured that it went through twenty editions.”  And later it states, “Isaac Watts’ Logic became the standard text on logic at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale; being used at Oxford University for well over 100 years.”

With this background on Watts, and his logician abilities, come feast on his hymn titled:

The Divine Glories Above Our Reason

How wondrous great, how glorious bright,
Must our Creator be,
Who dwells amidst the dazzling light
Of vast infinity!

Our soaring spirits upwards rise
Toward the celestial throne;
Fain would we see the blessed Three,
And the Almighty One.

Our reason stretches all its wings,
And climbs above the skies;
But still how far beneath thy feet
Our grov’lling reason lies!

Lord, here we bend our humble souls,
And awfully adore;
For the weak pinions of our mind
Can stretch a thought no more.

Thy glories infinitely rise
Above our lab’ring tongue;
In vain the highest seraph tries
To form an equal song.

In humble notes our faith adores
The great mysterious King,
While angels strain their nobler powers,
And sweep the immortal string.

Infinite & Incomprehensible

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His age can never be given,
His past has an infinite start,
His universe cannot hold Him,
His Spirit exceeds every part,
His brightness is beyond knowing,
His splendor surpasses the stars,
His praise is sung by the heavens,
His choir is His glorious art,
His earth speaks to His perfection,
His works are a sign with His mark,
His moon directs tides and oceans,
His sun sends forth rays in the dark,
His mercy dares explanation,
His grace overwhelms sinner’s hearts,
His cross kills logical reason,
The Incomprehensible God.

Behind the lines

His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise (Habakkuk 3:3b ESV).

Mysterious God

William Cowper wrote one my favorite hymns and I keep coming back to it.

Cowper battled deep depression most of his life and poetry was often an outlet to help him cope with his struggles. He placed a title above this hymn, “Conflict:  Light Shining Out of Darkness,” but it’s most known by the first line “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”

I marvel at Cowper’s attempt to get his poetic arms around the Almighty, Incomprehensible, Sovereign God.  For His ways are higher than our ways. His wonders are beyond anything we can imagine. His grace is infinitely deep, and His purposes stand forever.

May we never lose the wonder of this God of Mystery. The God Who’s revealed Himself through His Word, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Cowper, may we take courage in Christ during our darkest days.

Conflict:  Light Shining Out of Darkness

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
GOD is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

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