On Making God the Room….

 

We hear a lot about ‘making room for God’ from the pulpit, as though God is someone we need to squeeze into our overly busy schedule. I feel about this the same way I feel about the whole ‘God is my co-pilot’ stuff. In neither case is the conception of how we ought to relate to God anywhere near the mark. In fact it would be more accurate to say we should make God the room, than make room for God.

What I mean by this is that God should be not merely the reference point but the whole context out of which operate. God is not merely the source of our existence, he is the substance of our existence, the very life we have, and without God we would be lifeless, even if we are alive. Put another way if Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all. All our activities should be doxological and edifying to others. All our work, play, rest, eating, studying, relating and so on, must be seen from a Kingdom perspective and done in accord with that coming Kingdom, which is nothing other than the will and salvation of God finally and fully being manifested on earth.

Or to return to the original point, if God is not merely our ground of being, but the one who gives us life every day, the reason we get up in the morning, the focus of our praise, doing all to his glory and for his sake, then we have badly misunderstood what the Bible says about our relationship with God. God is both our creator and our redeemer. Both our sustainer and our example. Both our raison d’etre and the reason why we do what we do. God is both the source of love and the sort of love we should have and express. God is both alpha and omega, which does not merely mean that God is present at the beginning and the end, but rather God is the source and goal of all good things.

Frankly, we seldom relate to God with an adequate sort of understanding of what an enormous, overwhelming, awesome, all powerful being God is. We would rather domesticate God, turn God into our buddy, shrink him down to our size, to manageable proportions. Alas, for this, God will not be domesticated. He cannot be turned into a mere giant human being in the sky. God is spirit. God has no need of human bodies, human limitations, human weaknesses. The fact that his Son takes these on has nothing to do with either God’s basic nature or God’s having some sort of need to do so. God does so entirely for our own benefit, to save us from ourselves by being one of us. The old song “what if God were one of us/ just a slob whose on our bus” fails to even begin to understand either the basic nature of God, or for that matter the character of the incarnation of the Son. Jesus did not come to merely try on humanity, or hang out with us. He came to save us from ourselves, and for Himself.

I mention all of this because one of the major themes of the Bible that we seldom pay attention to is the exhortation about ‘the fear of the Lord’. It is said to be the beginning of wisdom, and I take that to mean in part that the coiner of that aphorism was reflecting precisely on the sort of things this post is discussing. If you really encounter and begin to understand God, it should leave you with your mouth hanging open, in wide-eyed amazement, and standing in reverent fear of a being so much greater than all of us put together in all generations. Of course the Bible is not talking about craven fear, the fear of something terrible about to happen, the fear when we get close to something truly wicked. The Bible is talking about a kind of respect and awe that totally prevents us from any attempt to cut God down to our size.

Think of it in a cosmological way. Consider our solar system for a moment. It’s a huge thing. And then think for a moment of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is an even more huge thing. And then think of all the other star systems and galaxies out there. Now imagine we were comparing planet earth to the whole rest of the universe. This is how tiny and impotent we are in comparison to God.

One of my favorite psalms, Psalm 8 expresses exactly what I am driving at here. It expresses the reverent awe and wonder, and yet also the knowledge that God has made us special, in his image, and it is pure serendipity. Listen once more to this psalm—
Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?[c]

5 You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their[g] feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Or think of the sailor’s prayer— “dear Lord be with today as I go to sea, for the sea is so big, and my boat so small”.

From time to time, it is a good thing for us to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of God, and how magnanimous he is to even have a loving and personal relationship with human beings. Thank goodness, as we learn about Aslan, that while Aslan is not safe, Aslan is most certainly good.

  • http://edbrenegar.typepad.com/ Ed Brenegar

    Thanks Ben. Well said.

  • anton

    Thanks Ben. It is wonderful to hear a biblical scholar actually believe in God. I am re-reading your book “What have they done with Jesus” to counter all the anti-Jesus sentiment espoused by books by Tabor and Ehrman.


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