It’s very easy to remember that God loves us. We regularly read about it, hear sermons about it and tell each other it. But does this love cause us to respond by burning up in love back to God? Or do we box God down into a more manageable God? Does knowing God's love for us lead to a desire to repent? To do a 180° turn, on those parts of our lives which we know aren't right, that aren't godly. I know I regularly confess (but not repent) to sins which are "only little" or "just a natural response" to a situation. This confession doesn't lead to repentance because, I perceive the sins as "only small", so I don't ask God to change my thought paths. I don't do a 180° turn, because I know God will forgive me because he loves me.
How often do we use this love as an excuse not to truly repent? To merely confess and then keep going on in the same direction as before. And I wonder how much of this is coming from a lack of fear of God. We remember so many of God’s attractive characteristics that we forget that HE IS GOD. As in GOD, when was the last time you actually thought about what the word God meant.
I’m currently doing the Soul Survivor Bible in a year, and a couple of weeks ago there were two passages from the old testament which really challenge my perception of God.
This first one was from Psalm 18:7-13
“The earth trembledand quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming firecame from his mouth, burning coalsblazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soaredon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him-- the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presenceclouds advanced, with hailstonesand bolts of lightning. The Lordthunderedfrom heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded”
That challenged my perception of God. Big time. This wasn’t a loving Father figure, which God is, but this is a powerful God, burning with a righteous anger. An anger which I am saved of because of his love, and yet I continue to live in sin, confessing but never really repenting of the sins which angers him. Why aren’t I willing to repent, to turn back to God and walk away from my sins. Is it because I don’t fear him? When I read a passage like the one above I do. And whilst I’m fearing him due to the imagery involved, the power of God, I think my fear needs to go deeper, this shouldn’t be a terrified fear but a fear which invokes me to respect him, to live in awe of him and to grow in my submission of him.
The second passage helps me to do this more. It is quite a large passage it only started off as a few verses from the NIV which spoke to me about creation, but when I read the passage in the The Message translation the whole passage made more sense but just seemed to shout out at me about the power and majesty of God. So here is the majority of Job 38 and I’ve annotated again the parts which really blew my mind about God.
Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much! Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that! Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured, and who set the cornerstone, While the morning stars sang in chorus and all the angels shouted praise?
And who took charge of the ocean when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb? That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds, and tucked it in safely at night. Then I made a playpen for it, a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose, And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place. Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’
“And have you ever ordered Morning, ‘Get up!’ told Dawn, ‘Get to work!’ So you could seize Earth like a blanket and shake out the wicked like cockroaches? As the sun brings everything to light, brings out all the colors and shapes, The cover of darkness is snatched from the wicked-- they’re caught in the very act!
Have you ever gotten to the true bottom of things, explored the labyrinthine caves of deep ocean? Do you know the first thing about death? Do you have one clue regarding death’s dark mysteries? And do you have any idea how large this earth is? Speak up if you have even the beginning of an answer.
Do you know where Light comes from and where Darkness lives So you can take them by the hand and lead them home when they get lost? Why, ofcourseyou know that. You’ve known them all your life, grown up in the same neighborhood with them!
Have you ever traveled to where snow is made, seen the vault where hail is stockpiled, The arsenals of hail and snow that I keep in readiness for times of trouble and battle and war? Can you find your way to where lightning is launched, or to the place from which the wind blows? Who do you suppose carves canyons for the downpours of rain, and charts the route of thunderstorms That bring water to unvisited fields, deserts no one ever lays eyes on, Drenching the useless wastelands so they’re carpeted with wildflowers and grass? And who do you think is the father of rain and dew, the mother of ice and frost? You don’t for a minute imagine these marvels of weather just happen, do you?
“Can you catch the eye of the beautiful Pleiades sisters, or distract Orion from his hunt? Can you get Venus to look your way, or get the Great Bear and her cubs to come out and play? Do you know the first thing about the sky’s constellations and how they affect things on Earth?
“Can you get the attention of the clouds, and commission a shower of rain? Can you take charge of the lightning bolts and have them report to you for orders?"
I find that passage really makes me consider God afresh. Despite it being several thousand years since Job was written, we (as humanity) are still no closer to knowing how the world was created. And yet God knows. Why? Because he dreamt it all up, he designed it and at his word it came into being. God commands Day and Night, the weather, controls the constellations (that section is even more powerful in the NIV) he knows about everything. And yet, how often do we box him up, to do things in our own strength. THIS IS THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE and we’re saying to him, just stay there God, I’ve got this sorted. If we box God up we’re not going to grow in a righteous fear of him, we going to stay in a happy, comfortable place safe in God’s love, but not fully realise who God is.
He is a God who loves, the perfect Father, but he is some much more than that so why do we so often limit God the Father to just that? He is a God we can’t even start to get our heads around. He is power and righteousness. He is a creator and he designed you and me. He is justice and salvation. He is so much more than we could ever understand so next time you remember that God loves you, remember just who that God is.
Jess Vaughan is a Student Forgee. She graduated from the University of York last summer