How Good Is God?
June 5, 2019
It is a miracle that anyone knows anything about God at all. The Bible does a sufficient job to explain the magnitude of God’s greatness and glory. However, the human brain is not able to fully comprehend who God really is. For example, one of the most basic attributes of God is His eternal nature. How can we as people relate to this trait? How do we identify with God’s eternal nature if we are finite, and have little knowledge of what eternity is? When we see a long line at a store, or wait in traffic that sets us back a few minutes, we compare this to eternity and say things like, “This is taking forever!” If a few extra minutes added to our schedules defines the extent of our experience with eternity, then we know far less of God than we probably think. Consider God’s aseity. This concept teaches that God is eternally self-existing and self-sustaining. Many people who wrestle with the idea of God as Creator, struggle to understand how God existed before everything. The common question is, “If God created all things, then who created God or where did He come from?” The Bible clearly teaches that God has no beginning and no end. He has always existed and will always exist. He isn’t dependent on anything for anything. He is sufficient in Himself to remain perfectly intact and supremely glorious. Our world doesn’t offer anything like this to compare God to. Our world is filled with decay, corruption, changing conditions with many variables that are unpredictable and result in the deterioration of life in some way. How then can we really know God?
This is just taking our mental capacity into consideration. The Bible also teaches that we are spiritually unable to know God too. Since all are conceived in sin and born spiritually separated from God, there is a massive gap that exists between us and God. How can close this gap? Who can reach out to God and touch Him? Who can approach God as a sinner in order to know Him and His glory? If not for God’s mercy, grace, cleansing, forgiveness, and sanctification that He does all by Himself, no one would know anything of God. The scriptures clearly say that none are righteous and that none naturally seek after God. If not for God taking the initiative to reveal Himself to us by His mercy and grace, we wouldn’t even care to pursue God to know Him, nor would we have the ability to do so anyway. It is truly a miracle that we can know God AND have some sort of relationship with Him.
The testimony of Job shows that Elihu understood this principle and was greatly humbled by it. In Job 37:19-24, Elihu explained these truths to Job in hopes to aid Job in humbling himself before God, turning from his self-righteousness and self-entitlement. As Elihu concluded his instruction, encouragement and exhortation to Job, he asked Job to speak up if he was compelled. Elihu gave Job an opportunity to speak, asking him to elaborate on the truths that Elihu had stated. If there was any more to say about the incredible and wondrous nature of God’s glory and goodness, Elihu wanted to hear it. Elihu did a great job speaking of the basic things of God’s nature. Elihu did all that he could to exalt the name of God, reminding Job about the basic principles of His goodness and glory. Elihu urged Job, that if there were any more that could be said of God’s glory, if Job could contribute to the conversation to uplift God’s name further, Elihu was open to hearing those words.
The reality was that Job had nothing more to offer, and Elihu knew why. Elihu explained Job’s weakness by exposing his own weakness. For all of the amazing things that Elihu said about the truth of God’s glory and greatness, it was like darkness compared to God’s nature as light. Elihu went on for three chapters of scripture, speaking some of the greatest theology in the entire Bible, but confessed that all he knew of God was nothing compared to what can be known of God. Elihu didn’t just confess his own weakness, but explained that this is an issue that we all face as people. Elihu stated that there is nothing a person can prepare to say about God that is not considered to be like darkness compared to the full splendor and brightness of His actual glory. For all that has been said well of God by history’s greatest theologians and people of faith, it is nothing compared to the true extent of God’s goodness. Our words and the total sum of them is insufficient to explain who God really is, how good He really is, how glorious He really is, and how excellent He is in all of His ways!
This goes to show that at the end of it all, we really know very little about God. Those who seem to know the most, still know nothing at all compared to all that is to be known of God. Elihu used the weakness of his own words as an example. Though Elihu spoke amazingly about God, he knew that his words didn’t even come close to scratching the surface about the true nature of God. Elihu asked, “Should God be told that I wish to speak?” Who is worthy to approach God on our behalf to interrupt His work so that we might have something to say to Him or about Him? There are some conversations between mere people that we feel inadequate to interrupt, yet a person feels worthy to interrupt God in His goodness to share our opinions as if they add value to His wisdom and work? Elihu’s point is that, when we speak of God in a good way, we are truly swallowed up in our own words. History has shown that when God is truthfully discussed long enough, all people eventually come to a point of confusion and the absence of words. All good discussions of God come to the point of silence because we cannot explain all that He is and all that He does. The sum of every good conversation of God ends in awe. We eventually get swallowed up in our own explanations so that we often confuse ourselves, trying to explain the unexplainable God who is infinitely great!
Elihu pointed to the practicality of what we can relate to in this life that proves how transcendent God is. Can we look up to the sun and enjoy the full splendor of its glory? Can we gaze into bright lights and take in all that they have to give? When we look into sun or other excessively bright lights, we are overcome by its intensity so that we cannot continue looking upon it. Our eyes can be severely damaged. Our vision will be greatly affected and hindered for a while with spots and blurriness. If our eyes are so weak to handle the brightness of the fading sun, how then can we expect to deal with the full majesty of God’s glory, by which the sun is lit? Clearly, we are weak when it comes to our ability to know and understand God as evidenced by our handling of common things in this life like the sun. These are the things we need to keep in mind when addressing God and pursuing Him. It is a miracle of God that we not only have interest to pursue Him, but the spiritual ability to do so according to His gracious provision. If not for the transcendent mercy and grace of God to make Himself known, our pursuits of wisdom, peace, and satisfaction would be futile unto our demise.
The scriptures show that Elihu reminded Job about how our understanding of God is able to take place, even if it is limited. When the wind blows, it clears the skies. That which was covered in the sky can be made clear by the wind that moves obstructions. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, He compared the work of the Holy Spirit to the work of the wind. Like the wind, the Holy Spirit cannot be seen, but we can see the effects of His influence to know that He is true and real. When comparing that teaching to the teaching of Elihu in Job 37:19-24, we see that the Holy Spirit is like the wind also in that He clears obstructions enabling clear vision. The wind is like the breath of God. The Holy Spirit is also called the breath of God. Thus, it is the breath of God that clears the skies in order that we can see the brightness of the sun, recognizing the power of its brightness, as well as our inability to fully know and understand it. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit clears the cloudiness of our lives to reveal a portion of God’s glory so that we are able to see some degree of His brightness, understanding how pitiful we are in comparison, but how blessed we are to know even a miniscule amount of His goodness.
After explaining these points to Job, it was almost as if Elihu could see God approaching in a whirlwind to speak to Job directly. Elihu spoke as if he knew God’s presence was near, giving Him a proper introduction. He reminded Job that God is awesome in majesty as if he could see a portion of God’s majesty approaching. Elihu reminded Job that God is Almighty, and as a result, cannot be sought by human effort. He must pursue us if we seek to know Him; but it was as if Elihu could see God’s presence coming to pursue Job and give him that privilege. Elihu reminded Job that God is excellent in power, judgment, and abundant in His justice. It was as if Elihu could see the brightness of God approaching somehow, able to recognize a form of God’s purity that revealed the perfection of His righteousness. Knowing these things of God, Elihu knew that God doesn’t exercise His power, glory, and greatness to oppress His people, but instead, build them up. God was indeed approaching. God addressed Job directly in the next chapter. Yet, as hard as God’s Word was against Job, it was not to oppress. God chastens those whom He loves. He does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked; how much less the pain of His own children?
Still, the manifestation of God’s glory and goodness to any degree is enough to make anyone terrified. The revelation of God’s perfection compared to our corrupt and decaying nature is such a foreign concept to us, that we are simply terrified in our confusion about how to handle God. Yet, God does not change the manifestation of His goodness for the evil or the faithful. He doesn’t change the quality of His goodness and glory for those who are evil compared to those who are faithful. This shows that God wants all people – evil and faithful alike – to fear Him! How should we respond to the miracle of God’s revelation? With fear and trembling! This isn’t to say that we should run and hide from God, but that we should fall on our faces and humble our hearts before Him, remembering the truth about who God is and the infinitely great and glorious nature that He makes known to us in digestible doses. It is surely a blessing to receive revelation from God and to partake of His wisdom and provision, but that blessing should be received with the most intense degree of reverence and humility, not self-entitlement like Job had expressed for some time. Elihu’s reminder about God was a good one, but for all that might be learned of God in that lesson, we must always remember that with God, there is always more, and it is always good! Praise God for His willingness to share that goodness despite who we are and our inability to receive it properly. Praise God that He is willing and able to conform us into His image on account of faith in Jesus, so that in eternity, we can be properly equipped to receive ALL the goodness, greatness, and glory that God has to offer!