Secret Church: Who Is God? - Part 2
THE NAMES OF GOD (cont.)
Next, He is Adonai. As I mentioned before, this also means He is Lord/Master. And the picture that you have here is the word “Lord” with a capital “L”, and lower case “o-r-d.” What is being communicated is God having ownership, lordship, over all things. This really emphasizes His sovereignty, which we'll unpack in depth later on tonight. But Adonai emphasizes, well, two main things. Number one, Adonai emphasizes complete sovereignty in God.
Now, I want to show you this. Turn with me to Isaiah 6. This is another one of those instances where I want to show you why this is helpful when we're studying the Bible to know these different names of God. Look at Isaiah 6:1. I want to show the difference to you in your Bible, and you might want to mark the difference between capital “L” lower case “o-r-d”, and then capital “L” small caps “O-R-D”. Now look at Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah said, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord..." Here you have capital “L” lower case “o-r-d”. That's not the word Yahweh; it's the word Adonai. And Adonai is more like—in a sense—it's more like a title for God. When you see Adonai and Yahweh, picture Yahweh as the name of God, and Adonai as more of a title for God, kind of like President George Bush. President is his title; George Bush is his name. That's kind of the picture you have here—the differentiation between the two.
This is key, because when you look at Isaiah 6:1 and it says, "In the year that King Uzziah died," you are seeing some important historical context. King Uzziah had been a great king for most of his life, had followed the Lord, the country had prospered, and the people of Israel had prospered. But near the end of his life, he turned away from God. He died as a result of that, and the guy who took over after him was not doing a very good job. Confusion and anxiety were running rampant among the people of God. They didn't know what to do, or where to turn. And Isaiah says in the midst of that, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I looked up and I saw the Lord." He is saying, “I saw the sovereign one.”
Isn't it good to know that when confusion and anxiety is rampant in our lives, when we don't know what's going on around us, isn't it good to be able to look up and see that the Lord is still on the throne? Isn’t it good to see that He is alive and well? When kings die, He lives, and He reigns, and He is not surprised by what happens. He has complete sovereignty over all things. That helps us understand Isaiah 6:1.
Then you get down to Isaiah 6:3, and it says, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD..." That's the word Yahweh right there. But then you get down to Isaiah 6:8, and God’s commissioning comes in saying, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord," capital “L”, lower case “o-r-d.” You are seeing Isaiah say that he heard the voice of Adonai, the sovereign one, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
So Adonai emphasizes complete sovereignty in God, and second, Adonai emphasizes complete submission in man. This is when Isaiah submits. When the Lord calls, you go. You sacrifice the right to determine the direction of your lives.
If He owns all things, and He's sovereign over all things, then that means those who worship Adonai are stewards. I draw your attention to Joshua 5. When you look at this, Joshua is right outside of pagan Jericho, he is about to lead the people of God into their first major battle in the Promised Land in Joshua 5. You can imagine, he's probably very nervous. He's leading the people of God into this first major battle. What happens is that he's wondering by himself one night, and sees a strange man standing in front of him. And “Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ 'Neither,' he replied, 'but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.'" You are seeing the word for Yahweh right there. “Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and said, 'What message does my Lord...’" (Josh. 5:13-14). Right there, though, you see the word for Adonai.
You think about it, and put yourself in Joshua's shoes for a moment. And the picture is, don't miss this, you're the leader of the army of the people of God about to go into this first battle, you meet this strange character, you say, "Who are you for?" And he looks at you and he says, "I am commander of the army of the LORD." This is God revealing Himself to Joshua through this unique encounter. Joshua realizes he's not the leader of the army. God is the leader of this army. And he realizes as the leader of the people of God, he is still second in command. And this is why he bowed down, and said, "What message does Adonai have for me? I am a servant. Everything that I do, everything that I have, all my leadership has been entrusted to me by you, and I'm second in command to you."
This is a good reminder to every spiritual leader in this room: you are always second in command. To every man in this room who's leading your family, don't forget that you are second in command. You are not lord over your family, He is Lord over your family, and your job is to be on your knees asking, "What message does my Lord have for His servant?" This picture in Joshua helps us to see this.
Those who worship Adonai are stewards, and those who worship Adonai are servants. This is 2 Samuel 7, when David says at the very end, "You know your servant, O Sovereign LORD...you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant" (2 Sam. 7:20-21). The picture is that David is overwhelmed by the fact that he is a servant of Adonai.
“El Elyon” means that He is God Most High. This emphasizes God's power. Look in Genesis 14, when Sodom and Gomorrah get into a battle, and they lose. Lot, who is Abram's nephew, is taken away in the midst of the battle. So Abram gets his pals together, and says, "Let's go get Lot back." They go, win a battle, and they bring Lot back. Then they bring all the goods, and the people, back from the defeat of Sodom and Gomorrah.
When he comes back, he meets two kings. One of them is Melchizedek, the king of Salem, and the other is the king of Sodom. What happens is that in this conversation with Melchizedek, Abram gives him a tenth of everything of all they won in battle. But then the king of Sodom comes to Abram, and listen what happens middle of the way through this passage starting at Genesis 14:21-23, "The king of Sodom said to Abram, 'Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.'" So the king of Sodom said, “Keep the goods for yourself, all the goods, all the spoils of war. You can have those.” That’s a lot of goods that he's talking about there. Continuing on, "But Abram said to the king of Sodom, 'I have raised my hand to the LORD,'" here it is—“El Elyon”—"'God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.' I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me.'"
The picture is Abram saying to the king of Sodom, "My God is most high, and He owns all things. And I'm not going to take one thing from you so that you would be able to say, 'You gave this to me.' God owns everything and what I need, He will give to me." This is a picture of confidence in “El Elyon” as the God Most High.
It's a picture of the fact that God alone is high and exalted. “Elyon” literally means highest, or uppermost. You see this in Daniel 4. This is a great, great verse. This is from the lips of a pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar. Listen to what this pagan king says,
"I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?'" (Dan. 4:34-35).
You have a pagan king praising God as “El Elyon”, God Most High. God alone is high and exalted.
And second, God alone is able to meet all of my needs. Ladies and gentlemen, if this God possesses all things, then we need nothing from this world. They remembered that God was their rock, and that “El Elyon”—God Most High—was their redeemer (Ps. 78).
Next, “El Shaddai.” He is God Almighty, or the LORD Almighty. It's used actually seven different times as “El Shaddai” in Scripture, and then a number of other times as just “Shaddai.” I think 30 different times in the book of Job it's mentioned that way.
In Genesis 17, God is giving Abraham promises about how He's going to bless him, and bring a line through him that would be very fruitful. The picture is that He is God Almighty. God is all-powerful, and not just all-powerful, but God is all-sufficient. “Shaddai” can be broken down to literally mean: “sha”—the one who is—and “dai”—sufficient. He is all-sufficient. "May God Almighty grant you mercy...so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I'm bereaved, I'm bereaved" (Gen. 43:14). In other words, he's saying, “No matter what happens, God is sufficient. He will grant what we need.”
As “El Shaddai,” God is saying two things. Number one He's saying, "I guarantee my word." You look at Genesis 28:3, Genesis 35:11, this is God speaking to Jacob and—which, by the way, isn't that another great name for God, the God of Jacob, isn't that a great picture? Jacob was not the most stellar dude that you've ever met before. He didn't have a lot to bring to the table. But God associated Himself with him. I want to remind you, you're not the most stellar folks in the world. It's not about what you bring to the table. We are sinners in need of great grace, and God calls Himself our God. So that's not even in the notes, we don't need to go there. Okay, we need to move on.
“I guarantee my provision”—I will provide for you. "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, 'I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers'" (Gen. 48:3-4). He guarantees His provision.
That leads to this next name—Yahweh, or “Jehovah-Jireh”, which means the LORD will provide. This is that beautiful picture we have in Genesis 22, when God tells Abraham to take his only son, Isaac—who He has provided for him and promised to him—and God says, "Go and sacrifice your son on an alter." So He takes Abraham to the top of that hill, and Abraham is prepared to sacrifice Isaac. But at that moment, when he's about to do it,
“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horn. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord, It will be provided’" (Gen. 22:13-14).
This word for “provide” is a beautiful word. It literally means to see before. When you break down the name “Jehovah Jireh”, you see the word for “Jireh” means: to see. In fact, just in the Latin for provide, you can break down the Latin word “provideo.” You have “to see,” which is “video,” and “before,” pro.
The picture is of the God who sees everything beforehand. Now, let that soak in. We will never have a need that was not already known in the mind of God. Isn't that good news? Say you find out that you have cancer. Isn't it good to know that God saw that beforehand? An unexpected tragedy is hitting your life. Isn't it good to know that God sees before? When your husband, or your wife, or your mom, or your dad doesn't come back, isn't it good to know the Lord will provide? The Lord sees before. He is “Jehovah-Jireh.”
“Jehovah-Sabaoth”—the LORD of Hosts. “Hosts” literally means—armies, or multitudes. It is sometimes used to refer to angelic armies, and sometimes used to refer to earthly armies. 1 Samuel 1:3—now, just kind of keep this in mind—“Year after year [Elkanah] went up from his town to worship and sacrificed to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh...” That word for “LORD Almighty” is actually “Jehovah-Sabaoth.”
When you look in the book of Amos, you see Amos saying, "He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name" (Amos 4:13). I mention that one because “Jehovah-Sabaoth” is used most often in the Prophets. You will see how many times it's used listed in your study guide.
There's so much significance there, because in the Prophets, oftentimes you see God speaking to His people when they are in the middle of exile. God's speaking to His people when they are going through dark and difficult times, like when the Syrians were attacking Israel, the Babylonians were taking down Judah, and their earthly armies are being destroyed. God is disciplining them. Which is in a sense not comforting that God is the Lord of armies, because sometimes in the Old Testament He takes pagan armies and uses them to discipline His people. But the reason why it's used all throughout the Prophets is because He's reminding His people that He is the LORD of Hosts. He is the LORD of armies and multitudes, and He has the power to deliver them. They may be in exile, but God has the power to deliver them as they turn back to Him. God is the LORD of armies. God is LORD of the multitudes. God is the LORD who conquers any opposition.
Now, I want to bring you back to 1 Samuel 1:3 where we saw the LORD of Hosts with Elkanah going to pray. This is where it's used again in that same chapter. 1 Samuel 1:10-11 says,
"In bitterness of soul Hannah…"—Remember the story of Hannah? Lets keep going—"Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying,”—and this is where it is—"'[O Jehovah Sabaoth], if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.'"
We see this picture of barren women who wrestle with God all over the beginning of the Bible. We see it with Abraham, and like we just talked about, we see it with Hannah here calling out for Him to give them children. I just wanted to bring that to bear, because we do indeed have a God who conquers any opposition. And that doesn't just apply to armies that we face, it applies to any opposition we face. He is the LORD of Hosts.
“Jehovah-Rophe”—He is the LORD who heals. This is the picture in Exodus 15 when God sweetens the bitter water and promises Israel that if they follow His laws, then He will protect them from the diseases that He brings on the Egyptians. Look at the very end of Exodus 15:26 where the God said, "I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." Now, don't miss this—God didn't promise to heal. Instead, He said, "I'm the one who heals." He said, "Come to me, I'm the one who heals. I am the LORD who heals, the LORD who restores, the LORD who cures, I am the one who does these things." Psalm 103:2-3 says, "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases."
You might say, “There are people who have struggled with diseases, cancer, or whatever it might be, and didn't experience healing. So is He the LORD who heals?” He is absolutely the LORD who heals. He is the LORD who heals for all of eternity. He is the LORD who heals ultimately. And even when our bodies wither in this life, it's good to know we have a God who heals for all of eternity. He is “Jehovah-Rophe,” the God who heals.
“Jehovah-Nissi”—The LORD is my Banner. Exodus 17 is the story of when the Amalekites are in the way of the people of God, and Moses tells Joshua to go down and fight the Amalekites as he stands on the mountain with the rod of God in his hands. As long as he kept the rod lifted up, as a kind of banner, then they would keep winning the battle. Moses had people who held up his arms. That's the picture here in Exodus 17.
You get to very end of that passage, and Exodus 17 says, "Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, 'For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation'" (Ex. 17:15-16). The picture of a banner in that day was threefold.
Number one, it's showing us that the Lord is our banner of identity. When you raise up a rod, or a banner, we are confessing that He is the one around whom we revolve. He is the one who unites us together. The Lord is our banner. Second, the Lord is our pole of gathering. Armies in that day would have flags that they gathered around. He is the one that we gather around.
Third, the Lord is our flag of victory. Now, this is where Old Testament stories just come to life. Picture going through a battle in your life, and you get to the point where you're ready to raise the white flag. You are ready to surrender, because you don't think you can go on anymore. To see that not only is the Lord our banner of identity, our pole of gathering, but He is also our flag of victory. The Lord is our flag of victory.
It's an incredible picture, and Isaiah used the same picture when he talked about the coming Messiah who would be the conqueror in Isaiah 11:10—"In that day the Root of Jesse," this is talking about Jesus, "will stand as a banner for the peoples." He is “Jehovah Nissi”—The LORD is My Banner.
“Jehovah-Mekadesh”—the LORD who makes you holy. Now, this is a term that we see used all throughout the Old Testament, especially in Leviticus, that will talk about how God sanctifies things, making them holy. The root, which means “to set apart for divine use,” is used approximately 700 times in the Old Testament. This is why He says in Leviticus 20:8, "I am the LORD who makes you holy."
And this is beautiful, because the reality is that not one of us can be holy on our own. We need the Lord to make us holy. It must be this God in order for any one of us to be holy. This is why He says in Leviticus 11:44, and why it's quoted over in 1 Peter 1:15-16, "Be holy, because I am holy, and I am the LORD who makes you holy."
This is where we go back to the contrast between the temple in the Old Testament, and the temple in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, items used in the temple were sanctified for use before God. In the New Testament, our lives are the temples that are sanctified for use before God. God's temple is sacred, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, and you are that temple. You are the temple. He is the LORD who makes you holy.
“Jehovah Shalom—The LORD is peace. This is God when he comes to Gideon in the form of an angle in the midst of a tough time. Gideon has a conversation with the angel, and suddenly realizes this angel represents God. Gideon gets a little scared, and says, "'Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!' But the LORD said to him, 'Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.' So Gideon built an alter to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace'" (Judg. 6:20-24). God is our complete peace.
The word “Shalom” literally means complete, fullness, rest, which is what leads us to the fact that God is our perfect rest. There are times in our lives when we are disturbed, and times when we feel anxious inside. But Philippians 4:6-7 offers the peace of God that transcends all understanding, that guards our hearts and guards our minds in Christ Jesus. He is our peace, and our rest.
Or picture Mark 4:35-41, as the storms rage around the boat that the disciples are in, and Jesus stands up, He lifts His hand, and He says, "Quiet, be still." And what you have is a picture of peace amidst the raging tempest around. The LORD is our Peace.
“Jehovah Tsidkenu”—The LORD Our Righteousness. Righteousness literally means to be just, or upright; to be stiff; to be straight; to be right. He is our righteousness. It’s mentioned in Jeremiah 23:5-6 when He talks about raising up a righteous branch to David, “a King who will reign wisely"—this is talking about Jesus—"and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness."
God demonstrates His righteousness to His people. You see this in Leviticus 22 when He is making them holy. The reason He can do that is because He is righteous—He is completely right, and He is completely just.
But the beauty of it is, in Scripture, God not only demonstrates His righteousness, but second, God attributes His righteousness to His people. Jesus is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). He is the one who is our righteousness. Christ is our righteousness before God. How can you stand before this God? Only through Christ, our righteousness.
“Jehovah Shammah”—The LORD Is There. This is a great picture. When you read the whole book of Ezekiel, you see that it's not always a positive picture in Ezekiel. There are a lot of difficult things going on all throughout the book of Ezekiel, but there is hope. When you get to the end, it says, "The name of the city from that time on will be The LORD is there" (Ezek. 48:35). A lot of Ezekiel revolves around the temple, and how the glory of God had departed from the temple. So at the end of Ezekiel, the picture is that the LORD Is There. And we talked about the name that dwells in the city, or the name that dwells in the temple.
And so now you have to put this all together. Hope foretold in Ezekiel: The presence of God will return to His temple. That's what Ezekiel was promising. You look at—you might write this down—Ezekiel 37 in particular. In Ezekiel 37, He talks about how He's going to put His presence, literally His Spirit, in His people. That's what He says in Ezekiel 37. That’s hope foretold.
Hope experienced in the Book of Acts: The presence of God is here in our lives. It's the picture in Acts 2:1-4, when the Spirit comes down upon the people of God. “The LORD is here” is the message of Acts 2 at Pentecost. The Lord is here with us, His Spirit is dwelling in us. These tongues of fire in Acts 2 is a picture of God’s Spirit resting on us.
So what we’ve got is hope foretold in Ezekiel—He will be here, He will be with His people, He will be in His people. And then you have hope experienced in Acts; the Spirit lives in us. And then you have hope anticipated in Revelation: The presence of God will be our light forever and ever. The Bible says in Revelation 22, towards the end, "We don't need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God in and of Himself will be our light forever and ever” (Rev. 22:1-5).
Next, “Jehovah Rohi”—the LORD is my shepherd. I want you to turn with me to Psalm 23. This is a psalm that I'm guessing is familiar to many of us. Some people say it's almost over-familiar, or over-used. I just don't agree. I don't think you can over-use Psalm 23.
Not long after my dad passed away unexpectedly, I spent some time in Psalm 23, and just reflected on some things that are in this chapter. And I just want to share real briefly some reflections on this Psalm that were particularly impactful for me. Psalm 23 says,
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
A few thoughts, and reflections on Psalm 23:
- My shepherd's care is extremely personal. Do you see the personal pronouns all over Psalm 23? "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures...He restores my soul." You see this all throughout this psalm. There is an emphasis on the people of God all throughout the Old Testament, but this is an emphasis on each of us as individuals. I remind you tonight that when we talk about this God. He is your Shepherd. Not just the person beside you, in front of you, behind you, but He is your Shepherd. His care is extremely personal.
- My shepherd never stops giving to me. "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want" (Ps. 23:1). Sometimes the LORD takes away, but the LORD never stops giving. He never stops giving. He is our shepherd.
- My shepherd's provision is based on His grace, not my ability. Did you catch it? He makes me lie down, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul, He guides me (Ps. 23:2-3). He is doing the action here! Isn't it good to know that when we walk through difficult times, it's not about our ability to get through those times? It's about His grace that sustains us through those times. He does it. He is our shepherd.
- My shepherd's grace results in my Shepherd's glory. “He guides me in paths of righteousness.” Why? “For His name's sake” (Ps. 23:3). God has bound up His glory in providing for us as our shepherd. When we walk through difficult times, He is making His glory known in the way He leads us as shepherd.
- Because my shepherd gives me everything, He leaves me nothing to fear. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me" (Ps. 23:4). Why can you have no fear? Because this shepherd, even in the face of death, is a conqueror. So you have nothing to fear.
- My shepherd not only sustains me; He satisfies me. I love this picture in Verse 5, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." You are surrounded by enemies, and this shepherd prepares a feast, a table, before you. The presence of all that is evil surrounding you, all that is not good, all that hurts, and He prepares a feast in front of you. He not only sustains us, He satisfies us.
- My Shepherd pursues me with His love. Get the language here? "Surely goodness and love will follow me" (Ps. 23:6). He follows after me with His love. "Follow me all the days of my life."
- My experience with this Shepherd will never end. "I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Ps. 23:6). Ladies and gentlemen, you trust in this shepherd, and He will never leave you or forsake you. There is coming a day, Revelation 7 says, when we will "serve him day and night in his temple. The sun will not beat upon [us] nor any scorching heat." Here's why, "For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be [our] shepherd, and he will lead [us] to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes" (Rev. 7:15-17). Praise God! He is our shepherd. “Jehovah Rohi” is our shepherd.
Now we're going to look less at proper names, and more at different titles for God. You see God understood to be a Father to His people in Psalm 89:26, "...You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior." But, what's really interesting here is that there's a contrast here. Father is used only 15 times in the Old Testament to refer directly to God. One of them is here in Psalm 89.
Then you open up the New Testament, and you get to the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and in those four books alone, God is referred to as Father exactly 165 times. Only 15 times in the whole corpus of the Old Testament, but in the Gospels alone, God is referred to as Father 165 times. And what's beautiful about it is that all but one of those instances occur when Jesus is specifically teaching His disciples.
So the idea is that this is a name that we call God! It's is a privilege for those of us who are followers of Christ to call Him Father. The conclusion is that followers of Jesus have the unique privilege of calling God Father. I want you to think about this—already we have studied God as “El Elyon”, God Most High, God Almighty, “El Shaddai”, the one who heals, the one who restores, the one who is our banner! All of these names that give us the picture of the greatness of God, and yet, you and I, when we come before this God, do not have to bow our heads and say, "Oh, God, ground of all being.” He is certainly that, and we should attribute all those things to Him, but we have the privilege of bowing our heads before Him and saying, "Father; Dad; Abba." What an amazing truth to look to this God and call Him Father. May we never tire, never take for granted the privilege we have to bow our heads and say, "Father."
This is the picture. When we call Him Father, it really shows two things. Number one, we express our reverence to him. Mathew 6:9, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." This is so important to remember when we pray. When you think about a father figure, this is someone you revere. You're a child; He's the father. And the picture is that a lot of times in our praying, in our prayer lives, we switch the roles. We almost talk to God like He's the child and we're the father. "God, this is what would be best for my life. This is what would be best for you to do in this particular situation." We even often times have this idea that prayer is controlling God, or prayer is getting God to do what we want Him to do. That's not the picture of prayer that Jesus is giving us when He says pray to your Father. We express our reverence to Him as we bow before Him and say, "You are the Father, I am a child. That means you know what is best for your children." We express our reverence to Him.
Second, we enjoy our relationship with Him. It's reverence and relationship put together in one name for God as Father. Reverence and relationship—it's a picture of intimacy. To call God Father presupposes we have a close, intimate relationship with God. Like a son and a father, or a daughter and a father, what an incredible picture! You have intimacy with the creator of the universe! “You do not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed, we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” We're children. We're heirs. We are heirs of the glory that is awaiting us. If we share in His sufferings, the Bible says, we will share in His glory.
He is King. This is all over Scripture. The term “king” is used 2,800 different times, but not always to refer to God. But He is the great King above all Gods. He is the King of Kings, Revelation 17:14 says. He is our King.
He is Judge. We're going to talk later about the judgment of God, and the justice of God. Genesis 18:25 shows us this picture—"Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" Isaiah 41—I love this—He's judging false gods, He's telling false gods, "You set forth your arguments before me, I'm the judge of all false gods."
He is Redeemer. To redeem is to rescue, or deliver someone, or something by paying a price. This is the beauty of Job 19, when Job is going through the suffering that he's experiencing, and he says, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27). What a passage! I know that my Redeemer lives.
He is the Potter. "O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand" (Is. 64:8).
He is Light. 1 John 1:5, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."
He is the Rock. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deut. 32:4).
He is our Fortress. We started with this in Psalm 46, "The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (Ps. 46:11).
He is our Shield, Psalm 3, “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill (Ps. 3:1-4).
He is a Consuming Fire. This is the picture that you have in Exodus, when God reveals Himself on Mt. Sinai. Which then takes us to Hebrews 12:28-29, where we come before Him with reverence and awe, because our God is a consuming fire.
TITLES OF JESUS
I know that that doesn't even begin to exhaust the names of God. We didn't even get into the names of Jesus. That needs to be another Secret Church. I mean, Jesus is the alpha and the omega. He is the beginning and the end. He is the first and the last. He is the final amen. Jesus is the bread of life. He is Christ, our Creator, our Deliverer, Everlasting Father, He is God. He is Good Shepherd. He is the Great Shepherd. He is the Great High Priest. He is the Holy One. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the Great I Am. He is the Judge of the living and the dead. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is majestic and mighty and no one compares to Him. He is the Power of God. He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Supreme Sacrifice. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the very Word of God made flesh.
Jesus is all of these things. And we cannot reduce him to a poor, puny Savior who is just begging for you to accept Him. He is infinitely worthy of all glory in all of the universe. And He does not need you to accept Him; you and I desperately need Him. We need Him for every breath we breathe. The only way our heart is beating in this room tonight is because Jesus is giving it rhythm at this very moment.
God, restore the glory of the name of Jesus Christ in your church today. His name is good. His name is great. His name is worthy. God, make us a people who have deep reverence, deep fear for the name of God.
THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
Attributes of God. Now, what do you mean when you talk about attributes? Well, I want you to think about attributes in a variety of different ways.
All of God’s Attributes are Personal
First of all, all of God's attributes are personal, meaning they describe who He is. We're not talking about what God does here. We'll get to that in a second, and how that relates. We're talking about the essence of who God is—His essential nature. What's key to understand is that when we talk about different attributes of God, we are not talking about different pieces to the pie. I think we're going to look at 14 different attributes of God, and I'm not even saying that these are the only 14 attributes, but they're the ones we're going to talk about, and it’s really important not to think of these as 14 different pieces to God.
We have this tendency to think about God as having His love over here, His mercy over here, and His justice over here—that's not true. God in His very essence is love. Not just part of God is love, but all of God is love. All of God is mercy. All of God is justice. All of God is wrath. All of God is omnipotence. These are not just different pieces to a pie that you put together, they are all unified. Indeed the beauty of the attributes of God is found in their unity.
It's in the beginning of 1 John, just like we saw a second ago, where it says, "God is light" (1 Jn. 1:5). And the end of 1 John, where it says, "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:16). Sometimes we have this tendency to think, "Well, at this point in history, God was love, but in this other point in history, God was wrath. In the Old Testament we see God as wrath, but in the New Testament we see God as love." That's not true. God is love at all times in redemptive history, always wrath, always mercy, and always grace in all that He is. And the beauty is in how they all come together, that's what we're going to see. They describe who He is. It's not a collection of attributes that are just added together, but they are the whole of who He is.
All of God’s Attributes are Practical
All of God's attributes are not just personal, they are practical. What I mean by that is that they help us understand how He acts, and how we see His attributes at different points revealed in different ways. There's no question that at times we see the justice of God very clearly, but it doesn't mean that He's just at that point, and wasn't just at another point. We cannot ever say that God was more loving at this point in history, than at this point in history. You can't say that because, number one, He is all love. If you're all of something, such as love, then you can't be more of that something at any point.
Number two, you can't say God is more loving at this point than He was at another point is because of this next point—all of God's attributes are perfect.
All of God’s Attributes are Perfect
To say that He's more loving at another point than this particular point over here, implies that He wasn't perfectly loving at all points, and He is. Your Heavenly Father is perfect. All of His attributes are perfect. He is perfectly loving, perfectly gracious, perfectly just. His attributes are personal—they describe who He is. They are practical—they help us understand how He acts. And they are perfect. All of God's attributes are excellent, perfect, and complete in every way.
All of God's Attributes are Permanent
He doesn't gain attributes. He doesn't lose attributes. He is holy. He was holy. He has always been holy. He always will be holy. He has always been loving. He is loving. He will always be loving. His attributes are permanent, intrinsic, unchangeable qualities.
All of God's Attributes are Praiseworthy
We praise Him for His love; we praise Him for His wrath; we praise Him for His justice; we praise Him for His mercy; we praise Him for all of these. Now, these next two points are key. We're actually going to camp out here for just a minute, because we've got to be on the same page here when it comes to these two truths as we think about the attributes of God.
Truth number one, God's glory is His supreme passion. In Isaiah 43:6-7, God essentially says, "I've created you for my glory." A few chapters later when He's talking about what He's doing among His people, He says, I do this “for my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another" (Is. 48:11). We can go from cover to cover in Scripture and show from Genesis to Revelation that God is orchestrating all of history to put His glory on display. God's supreme passion is His glory.
Now, we don't think like this. If I were to ask you the question why does God love you? We would think, "Well, because I'm loveable." That's not what Scripture teaches. We say, "What do you mean?" God loves you for His glory. Why did Jesus die on the cross? "To pay the price for my sins." Well, yes, in part, but not ultimately. What did Jesus say in John 12 as He's preparing to go to the cross? He said, "Father, glorify your name" (John 12:28). Romans 3:21-26, “He did this to demonstrate His justice” (Rom. 3:25b), to demonstrate the character of God. Jesus went to the cross for His glory.
God lives, and God works to exalt Himself. God is a radically God-centered God. You're saying, "What do you mean? That almost sounds kind of selfish, that God lives to exalt Himself." Well, let's ask a follow-up question. Who else would you have Him exalt? At the very moment that God exalts anyone or anything else, He is no longer what? God. God alone has the right to exalt Himself. And all throughout Scripture, He is showing that right. His supreme passion is His glory.
We don't think like this. We grow up in Sunday School writing on our pictures that we draw, "God loves me," but we don't write, "God loves Himself" to send home. But the picture is that God is exalting Himself. Now, you're saying, "Well, what does this mean for us then?" God's glory is His supreme passion, and the beauty of it is found in the second truth, that God's glory is our supreme satisfaction.
Think about it this way—if God is perfectly, and infinitely loving, and all that is love is summed up in God, then what is the greatest way He could show love to you or me? By giving us what? Himself! Enjoyment in Himself! Glory in Himself! Knowledge of Himself! Knowing His glory is our supreme satisfaction. The beauty of it is that our satisfaction is found in fulfilling the purpose of God glorifying His own name.
This is where they come together. And this is so key! When we're going to talk about these attributes, we need to realize that this is the picture. When we think about God's love, or God's wisdom, and then think about when tragedy has hit. Or we think about hurtful things that have happened in our lives, and in the process we begin to point the finger at the love of God, "You don't love. You're not wise. Look at what you let happen." And we start questioning the attributes of God because our happy world has been turned upside down.
The picture is that God does not revolve in this universe around our happy worlds. Now this is difficult to grasp, and we're going to talk about God and evil later on, but the picture we have in Scripture is that the ultimate end of all things is the glory of God. And the beauty of it is that this involves the satisfaction of His people. When we understand this, we will see God's love truly. We will see God's love in all of its beauty, in an incomprehensible beauty. So just hold onto that, it's very important.
This is why the psalmist can say, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I might dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple" (Ps. 27:4). He knows his satisfaction is found in seeing the glory of God. Psalm 84:1-4, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."
Don't read Psalm 84 and think, "This means I need to be excited about going to church." Just stop going to church. "So did he just say stop going to church?" Yes! You are the Church! It's not Old Testament religion. You don't have to go to a place to encounter the glory of God. You and I have the privilege of experiencing the satisfaction of God's glory on a daily basis! So let our souls yearn, even faint, to experience His glory moment-by-moment, day-by-day.
And yes, go, gather together with other believers, and give Him the glory that He is due. But experience His glory as your supreme satisfaction on a daily basis and spurn everything in this world that would keep you from experiencing His glory. This is the way to live a God-centered life, and this is the way to supreme satisfaction.
Next, the attributes of God, His greatness and His goodness; that's how we're going to split them up. Some people split up the attributes of God into “communicable” attributes, and “incommunicable” attributes. Communicable attributes are attributes that we have in common with Him. Incommunicable attributes are attributes that He alone has. But I'm going to take greatness and goodness and kind of use those as two categories, and put seven attributes in each.
The Attributes of God ~ Greatness
Tozer said, "The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him." That's a strong statement. Are our thoughts unworthy of Him? That is idolatry, Tozer says.
The Greatness of God
His independence, His spirituality, His eternity, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His omniscience and His immutability.
The Independence of God
Let's start with independence. When we talk about the independence of God, we're talking about how God is both self-existent and self-sufficient. We'll take those one by one.
First, the self-existence of God. Does God exist? That's a valid question for our topic of discussion tonight. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God,'" Psalm 14:1 says. I want to be very careful here because the nature of the way this night is structured is that all throughout the night I’m saying things, saying truths, that I believe the Scriptures teach. At the same time, we're not taking time to unpack all of these things in-depth. It can almost seem like we're just callously running through these things. "Oh, there's a simple answer to question of God and evil. Okay, we can address that." That's not what I want to communicate, but I do want to give us some foundations to stand on. I just want to kind of give that caveat before we go too much further into this.
And I just want to say that, because what we're basically addressing here is atheism, and the idea that there is no God. But we need to realize that to say there is no God is a virtually unprovable statement. People say, “Well, the burden of proof is on theist—those who believe in God—to prove that God exists.” On the contrary, the burden of proof lies with the atheist. In order to say that someone or something is not there, you have to have searched out all possibilities that it might be there. If I'm going to say someone is not in this room then I have to search this entire room to see if that person is here.
In order to say God is not there, you have to have searched all knowledge to see if God is there. And if you have searched all knowledge, then that means you have all knowledge. By definition, then, you are god, and therefore you deny your own divinity with your statement that “there is no God.” It doesn't add up. It's an absolute negation, and it doesn't hold water. You have to at least admit that there is a possibility that God exists.
We go from that, and we say, "Well, how do we know God exists?" Well, I believe Scripture shows us that God has revealed Himself to us very clearly. And I want you to think about it in just three ways.
Again, this is like tackling the existence of God in two minutes. That's what I meant when I gave that caveat. I'm not saying it's this easy, "Oh yeah, well, I can answer that in two minutes, so we can move on." But these are just some foundations.
Number one, look at creation. It's important to ask, "Where does the universe come from?" You have things like astrophysical evidence, and scientists point us to this Big Bang theory that says there was however many thousands, or millions, or billions of years ago, a big bang that caused the universe to come into existence. The ultimate question is not what happened at that point. The ultimate question is, “What caused it to happen?”
“Ex nihilo nihilo fit” is a phrase that means “out of nothing, nothing comes.” So if I've got in my hand nothing, then what can you get from that? You get nothing. Out of nothing, nothing comes.
Now think about this in a threefold progression. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Does that make sense? If something begins to exist, then something has to cause it to exist. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause. What the Big Bang theory requires you to believe is that the universe began to exist, and was created out of nothing. This makes it very awkward for the atheist, or evolutionist who believes that the universe came into existence out of nothing. How did it begin to exist without a cause? Out of nothing, nothing comes. I think it was Aristotle who said, "Nothing is what rocks dream about."
The picture is out of nothing, nothing comes. Either you have to have faith that the universe just came out of nothing with no cause, or you have to have faith that there was a cause behind it. And this is where we come to intelligent design, which we'll talks about more in a second.
But I love this quote. It's one of my favorite quotes by a guy named Robert Zastrow, who was a one-time director of NASA's Institute for Space Studies. He says,
The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same... This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always believed the word of the Bible. But we scientists did not expect to find evidence for an abrupt beginning because we have had, until recently, such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time... At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
That is great.
Second, related to that, look at design. Look at design. And by this I mean, God leaves the imprints of His glory upon the design of the earth. He says in Romans 1:18-20,
"Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plan to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
In other words, God has revealed His glory through creation. That's the first part of Psalm 19—creation reveals the glory of God.
And you look, you look even at scientific pictures, and you look at the fact that if the earth was just slightly closer to the sun, we would all burn up instantly. If it was just slightly farther away from the sun that we would freeze over.
This is the picture. You have the illustration of the watchmaker—the intricacies of creation point to a designer that are behind them. Say you have a watch, take all the pieces of the watch apart, put them in a bag, and just shake it up. Will it come out like in the form of a watch? No, you have to have someone who will design it. This is the picture. And I praise God for many people, very smart people, very intellectual people, philosophers, scientists, who are working very hard when it comes to intelligent design. And there's actually a whole new movie out called Expelled, that talks about how these intelligent design theorists have been ostracized in the scientific community. But there is a lot of strong discussion going on around the idea of intelligent design.
Just so you are not misled, what's really interesting is that intelligent design is not just supported by Christians. Intelligent design, as a theory in science, is supported by non-Christians as well. It is even supported by people who don't believe in God, but who are at least willing to admit that there had to be a cause when this thing started, and that there had to be a designer behind the whole deal. One-time agnostic, Paul Davies said, "Through my scientific work, I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact."
Look at morality. What I mean by that is that, the existence of objective moral values points to a moral creator. Romans 2 talks about how all of us have a moral law written on our hearts. We all know the difference between right and wrong. We have an awareness of right and wrong. We have an awareness when we either do something wrong, or when we do something right. This comes from the moral lawgiver. If evolution is true, and there is no God, then on what basis do we have a moral law? There is no basis. If we're just the product of evolutionary processes, then there's no such thing as right and wrong, and there's no basis for a moral lawgiver.
Nietzsche knew this when he declared “God is dead” in the 20th Century, and he said that the 20th Century, as a result of that, will be stripped of meaning, as well as value and morality in life. He said it would be the bloodiest century we've ever seen. He knew, as an atheist who said, "There is no God," that this radically affects the moral foundations of a culture, because that strips the culture of the moral lawgiver.
Michael Ruse, an agnostic philosopher of science, shows this. He's right. He's says,
The position of the modern evolutionist is that...morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction...and any deeper meaning is illusory.
I'm not saying that if you're an atheist, then you can't live a moral life, or believe there are morals. The question is where does that morality come from? Where does that moral law come from? The question is: if God does not exist, then do objective moral values exist? The fact that we have morality written on our hearts points us to the existence of God.
Where did God come from? God was never created and never came into being. "From everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Ps. 90:2). The reality is that God has no origin. He is the uncaused One.
This is certainly a picture of faith. We talked about the universe coming into existence at some point in time; therefore, its existence has to have a cause. We're trusting that there is one who is uncaused. It takes a lot more faith to believe that the universe is uncaused, than it does to believe that God is uncaused.
God is entirely independent. Acts 17:25 says He is not served by human hands. He does not derive His life from any external source. All of us derive our lives from external sources, God doesn't. That means that God doesn't need us, or anyone for that matter, for anything. He does not need us for anything.
That leads to the self-sufficiency of God. God has no needs. This one of my favorite verses in Psalms. Psalm 50:10, “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” That is great. God says to His people, "Just in case you needed to know, if I were hungry, you would not be the person I would come to." He has no needs.
God does not need our companionship. Ladies and gentlemen, God did not create man because He was lonely. Sometimes we got think that God created us because He was lonely. God has perfect relationship, and fellowship, within Himself in the Trinity. We’ll talk more about the Trinity later.
He does not need our worship. God doesn't need our songs. He doesn't need our Bible study. He doesn't need our church attendance. He doesn't need your worship. At this moment, He is surrounded by innumerable creatures who are singing His praises and doing His bidding at every single moment! He doesn't need our worship.
Tozer said, “Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away.”
He doesn't need our companionship, He doesn't need our worship, and He does not need our discipleship. We talk about making disciples all the time here at Brook Hills. He doesn't need us. He doesn't need us to do that. Bill Bright, he's probably one of a handful of men who have had more effect on the cause of Christ in the world in the 20th Century, than anyone else before he passed away. Before he did pass away, he said,
Who is Bill Bright? I’m a little nobody among 6 billion nobodies. God has given me several things I think he’s wanted me to do, and yet there doesn’t seem to be any assurance time will allow me to finish some of these. He doesn’t need Bill Bright any more than he needs a twig on a tree. He created us in his image, and he loves us, and he esteems us, and we are of worth to him, but he can raise up sticks and stones to worship him. So, it’s not as though my departure is going to leave a big hole.
God doesn't need our discipleship.
The question is does this make us meaningless? If God doesn't need us, where is our meaning? I mean, we find our meaning in life oftentimes in being needed. I'm needed by my kids. I'm needed by my wife. I'm needed as a pastor. If we are not needed by God then doesn't that make our life meaningless? Our meaning in life is not found in God's need for us. Our meaning in life is found in our need for God.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the exact opposite of the self-esteem doctrine that dominates pop psychology in our culture today. It says meaning is found in you finding significance. That's not what Scripture teaches. In the search for significance, we see that what Scripture teaches is that God is infinitely significant and our significance is found in embracing His infinite significance. Our meaning is found in embracing Christ as the one who is infinitely significant. This is why He must be the center of our lives.
The beauty of it is that when you think about His love, you see that this is ultimate love. God is not compelled by some need to love us. There's not a need in Him that compels Him to love us. God chooses to love us with a totally love. This next blank we'll skip, and come back to it in just a second.
The truth is God needs no one, yet he works through anyone. This is the beauty here—God exists for Himself; we exist for God.
I have a quote here from Tozer, and I hesitate to even share it, because I am ashamed of what I was thinking right before I read it. But it gives you a little context. I remember I was sitting in an unreached village in Asia. We were hiking into these villages, basically smuggling gospel materials into villages of people who have never heard the name of Christ. We were hiking in and out of tough places to get to. Hard work.
But I remember the thought crossed my mind that God must be glad to have me on His team. And I read these words,
Almighty God, just because he is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God that is precisely what we see. Twentieth-century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God…. Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help. We commonly represent Him as a busy, eager, somewhat frustrated Father hurrying about seeking help to carry out His benevolent plan to bring peace and salvation to the world…Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God. An effective speaker can easily excite pity in his hearers, not only for the heathen but for the God who has tried so hard and so long to save them and has failed for want of support. I fear that thousands of younger persons enter Christian service from no higher motive than to help deliver God from the embarrassing situation His love has gotten Him into and His limited abilities seem unable to get Him out of. Add to this a certain degree of commendable idealism and a fair amount of compassion for the underprivileged and you have the true drive behind much Christian activity today.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind you of something. Your life, my life, your church, this church, Church at Brook Hills, and every single church in this room could drop dead and turn to dust, and God will still make a great name for Himself among the nations. God involves us in this mission not because He needs us, but because He loves us. This is a privilege. It's a privilege to be a part of declaring the glory of God to the nations. And it's a privilege we cannot forsake, and we needn't think that we are necessary for it. God will get His plan done. He will get His plan done in India. He will get His plan done in Pakistan. He will get His plan done in Afghanistan.
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