I think that it’s a good idea. In some sense, I wish someone was doing that for us at every stage of our lives so that we can somehow remember that God is listening to our prayers. I’m afraid that what happens is that as we grow in wisdom and stature and knowledge, eventually we become our own reformed-type people, we get to the book of Romans, and we get overwhelmed by the general Greatness of God – so much so that when we get to Romans 8:26 and we hear the apostle tell us that we don’t even know how to pray, we somehow “grow up” past the place where a prayer like “God is Great, God is Good, let us Thank Him,” sounds like baby-talk. It sounds like something we have grown up past.
But then we have a week this like last week, where the real world intrudes on our systematically-precise faith. It’s a week where everyone in his right mind has to ask the question: “If this is the state of the world, how can God be even on-duty – let alone be Good?” I don’t know where you live or work, but this question came up this week as I talked to the people I know. The events of the world, the real dreadful tragedies of the world, made this a relevant question this week. And it made writing a Sunday School lesson about the attributes of God a lot less academic than I expected it would be.
We are studying the attributes of God this summer in this class, and there is quite a list of things guys like Tozer and Pink and Berkhof tell us about the qualities of God.
When we consider this God we are talking about from the Bible, we’re talking about the Omnipotent God whose very words speak the created order into being.
He’s the Transcendent God, the Holy God who is utterly unlike us.
He is the Self-existent God and the immutable God who does not need us for anything, and who has no needs to speak of, and who never changes.
He is the Omniscient God who knows everything, and cannot be taught anything – he’s never surprised or somehow set back on his heels so that he has to resort to Plan “B”.
He is an utterly just and righteous God who cannot abide sin and must punish the guilty.
They say that some attributes of God are incommunicable and some are communicable – that is, some are virtues which God alone possesses, and others are traits or virtues which we can emulate even though we will never get them perfectly right. And they say that all of these attributes, which are somehow distinct, are also not at all discrete – so you can’t really talk about God’s Just character, for example, without talking about His Long-Suffering. You can’t talk about his Omniscience without talking about this Immutability, and so on.
But in some sense, then, our expectations of God might be to hope that, at best, he ignores us. Because when we compare ourselves to Him, He might mean a lot of trouble for us.
Asking God for help could be like being the Tin Man asking Oz the Great and Powerful for help –
Me: um, God? May I have a new heart please?
GOD: YOU DARE TO COME TO ME FOR A HEART, DO YOU? YOU CLINKING, CLANKING, CLATTERING COLLECTION OF CALIGINOUS JUNK!
And he’d be right to say that to us – or to say nothing at all to us, to simply leave us to our disobedience, to our trouble, to our ultimate destination of whatever it is he might have decided it to be.
So what hope do we have in this world if the only person or authority who can help me that has all power, all knowledge, and who never changes? Shouldn’t I only expect him to treat me like the not-much-of-nothin’ that I am?
But one attribute, it seems to me, is the category without which God cannot be God. And it’s the one which we, sadly, somehow see as the preschool attribute of God – the one we hand over to children because they cannot mistake it or break it. I'm talking about the Goodness of God.
I'll be talking more about it in the coming weeks.