Saturday, January 21, 2012

GOD IN A BOX

When it comes time to buy a new Bible, we've all pondered the different versions, type size, format and study aids that each kind affords. And when we make the final decision and purchase we bring it home and then . . . ?
We take it out of the box in which it is contained. That is, the physical Holy Book comprised of paper and ink.

In today's world we often hear the admonition, "Don't put God in a box" and I would like to examine this notion, for in some respects, it's valid, and yet in other cases, it decidedly and most certainly is NOT . . .

When Anne Kisly and I did a couple of rebuttal articles at TTUF on the novel, The Shack, (to review these, go to www.thetruthunderfire.com and type in "The Shack" at the search engine provided) we received a number of comments and responses from readers.
A few of those responses had the admonition of "Don't put God in a box", because we were critical of the portrayal of the Trinity in that novel, and of the statements and actions each of them made. It was the opinion of these readers that since God is Almighty and limitless in power and knowledge, He could do anything He wanted (even the things spoken of in that novel?).

Which is not exactly accurate: being God, there are some things He can't do! Such as the following -

God can't create a rock so big that He can't move it - that would entail His bringing into existence something greater than Himself, and since He is all powerful (omnipotent), this would be impossible.
God cannot learn: He knows everything (omniscience). He cannot travel, because He exists everywhere (omnipresent); He cannot lie as He is the embodiment of truth; God cannot change because He is perfect and immutable: were He to change He could only migrate from perfection to something less than perfection (and if He were to become 'absolutely perfect' it would mean that He was less than perfect before).

God cannot force anyone to love Him, because love is something that must be volitional or it is meaningless.

There are times and occasions when we inappropriately put God in a box; we see this even in the Scriptures:

PSALM 78:19, 41 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

We can put God in a box by questioning His power and His compassion; sometimes even against our intellectual understanding, our hearts betray Him by doubting His power and love for us. The Hebrews in the wilderness doubted that God could or would care for them and feed them (a number exceeding two or three million people!) in the midst of a barren wilderness. We can limit God - the Holy One of Israel, by our lack of faith and unbelief, just as they did.

MARK 6:5-6 
And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching (Compare this with the account recorded in MATT 8:5-11).

Even His own disciples struggled in their faith in the LORD (MATT 17:18-20), as well as those who were intimately associated with Him, like Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Both sisters expressed the same complaint to the LORD Jesus when He arrived only after their brother died:

JOHN 11:21 
. . . Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (and again in vs. 32).

In each case, a lack of faith restrained what the LORD would desire to do; preconceived notions and ideas about God, confined Him to a box of unbelief (He could have healed Lazarus, but now he's dead and so it's too late).

Another example I find interesting shows a mix of belief and unbelief co-existing in the heart of a distraught father on behalf of his ailing son:

MARK 9:21-24 

And He asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.
And ofttimes it [demonic spirit] hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

The LORD didn't leave the father to tend his son all on his own; He saw the faith of the man, and despite some doubts, brought healing to the boy, casting out the demonic spirit. Fractions of doubt, in the midst of believing God, He can deal with and work such things out of our lives. It's the wholesale and skeptical doubt and unbelief (like that of John the Baptist's father, Zacharias as found in LUKE 1:11-20) that allows no faith at all that seems to prohibit God from working in an individuals life and situation (but by no means deters Him from fulfilling His plan!).

Getting back to the children of Israel in the desert, under the leadership of Moses, its most notable that the only two people who successfully made the journey (out of the millions in the Exodus) into Canaan land were Joshua and Caleb; the only two that expressed faith in God's Word as He declared it to that nation (NUM 13:30-38).

We err when we limit God by doubting His Almighty power and His infinite love for us personally (too often its not a matter of believing God's ability, that He can do the impossible; but rather His willingness - does He really love me enough to answer my prayer?).

However, we commit another error when we believe God will do anything and in any manner He chooses, even if it contradicts His Word! Joshua and Caleb both believed God's Word, as did Abraham before them, and Noah before him - and countless others throughout recorded Scripture, and God proved Himself faithful by abiding by His Word.

This is a biblical 'box' that God willingly places Himself in! While His power and love are limitless, His character, His nature, His plan of action for the world are restricted by none other than God Himself as He inspired various writers to record Scripture that reveals such things to us!

AMOS 3:7 
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

ISAIAH 8:20 
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

God has declared through various (8 to be precise) biblical covenants, promises He has made to the people of the world, and specifically to the nation of Israel, and even more denotatively to such as Abraham and David.
He has bound Himself to abide by these 'agreements' some of which are conditional and requires the faithfulness and obedience of the recipient, and others are unconditional that reside solely in the responsibility of God Himself (such as the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants).

Let's  have a quick look at one of the passages that deals with the Davidic Covenant: Psalm 89 . . .

PSALM 89:3-4, 28-29, 34-36
I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,
Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.
My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.
His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.
His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.

That sounds pretty resolute doesn't it? A solid, biblical promise uttered from the lips of God Himself! There are Bible promise books of different varieties (I have one version myself) and as you look through them, understand that God has placed Himself in this 'Bible Box' and will keep His promises, but never in violation with His nature, character and overall plan for the ages.

At the same time, we must understand that these promises will hold up - even under the most dire and impossible of situations because God's Word is true, His power is limitless and His love unfathomable!
The two primary attributes of God are His holiness and His love:

Holiness of God - 

EXODUS 15:11 

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (See more on the holiness of God here: 1 SAM 6:20; PSALM 99:9; ISAIAH 6:3; EZEK 39:7; HAB 1:13; REV 4:8; 15:4).

Love of God -

DEUT 7:8-9 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

(See also: JER 31:3; JOHN 3:16;16:27; ROM 5:8; EPH 2:4-5; 1 JOHN 3:1;4:9,16)

Other attributes are His sovereignty . . .

(DEUT 4:39; 1 CHRON 29:12; JOB 9:12; PSALM 29:10; 47:2; 83:18; DAN. 2:20; MATT 6:13; ACTS 17:24 and ROM 9:19).

. . . and as mentioned earlier:

His omnipotence (JOB 42:2; PSALM 115:3; ISAIAH 43:13; MATT 19:26; LUKE 1:37; REV 19:6).
His omniscience (JOB 26:6; 31:4; 34:21; PSALM 147:5; HEB 4:13; 1 JOHN 3:20).
His omnipresence (DEUT 4:39; PSALM 139:8; PROV 15:3; ISAIAH 66:1; JER 23:24; ACTS 17:27).

And His immutability (PSALM 102:27; MAL 3:6; HEB 1:12; 13:8; JAMES 1:17).

Therefore in summary, let us 'let God be God' in all of His power and authority, not diminishing His ability in matters of faith, prayer and His love and good will towards us by putting Him in an unqualified box, but at the same time understand that He never contradicts His Word and so we can be sure that His attributes are unalterable which enables us to perceive that which is of God and that which is not. In this regard, we know where God is coming from - from His Biblical Box!

God bless you!

1 comment:

Aj Masih said...

James, what an amazing article. Well said! -Aj