[This post is in a weekly devotional series called Everything New. Sign up here if you’re interested.]
God is great;
God is good;
and we thank him for our food.
I must have spoken those simple words hundreds of times at the dinner table when I was a child, but I most certainly did not understand what they meant. Not really.
I liked the certainty in the cadence of the words. They marched out of my mouth, and as I ended with a pointed “A-men!” the deed was done, the prayer complete. Time to eat. If I wasn’t troubling over the fact that “good” and “food” only rhymed with my eye, not my ear, I think I took some satisfaction in having said something that seemed very important about God. Often the most important things you can say about God come in a single word.
Great. And Good. That is what God is like. That is who God is.
The so-called attributes of God are a way of gathering and synthesizing the biblical descriptions of God in the interest of knowing God as he really is. One way to summarize the attributes of God is to use the two categories of greatness (attributes of God’s being) and goodness (attributes of God’s morality). The difference between these two lies in describing who someone is, and describing what he does because of who he is. God’s greatness is about his ascendancy over this world, over the universe, over all reality. Greatness is about his being eternal, absolutely powerful, all-knowing, and other qualities that we will never fully comprehend. His goodness, on the other hand, is about his relational qualities, which we know by revelations such as “God is love” and “God is holy” and “God is right.” They also tend to be the qualities that were imprinted on the spiritual DNA of our lives when he created us. This is how God wants us to be, because we were made in his image.
So it should come as no surprise that the revelation of God that comes to us through the Bible is wrapped in the history and real life stories of hundreds of people across a span of thousands of years, written in three different languages, and from several cultures. The diversity of the Bible is not contradiction, but a gallery of God-encounters. It took all that for us to get enough portraits of God so that we could begin to know him appropriately.
God, the divine person, discloses himself to mortal persons. His descriptions are voice-to-ear, epiphany after thunder, and heaven to earth, as when God disclosed himself to Moses who was hiding in the cleft of a rock:
“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:5-7).
Psalm 95:3 says, “The LORD is the great God, the great king above all gods.”
God is not merely greater than other powers. His is a difference of kind, not degree. He defines greatness and majesty. [More next time on the greatness of God.]
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Click for more.