a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 71
It is quite possibly our most tender picture of God's grace. Jesus Christ, at His lowest point, feeling rejected by those He came to save, beginning to feel His inevitable separation from the Father--at a moment when His loneliness had become almost too much to bear, He thought of ... us.
Knowing what was before Him, knowing that before Him lay the exquisite agony of the cross, our Lord Jesus raised our needs up to the Father.
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." John 17:13-16
How much easier things would be for us today if He had, instead, prayed "My prayer is that you take them out of the world right now." But He didn't. Acknowledging that, through Him, we would not be of the world, we would nonetheless remain in it.
So here we are. Citizens of the eternal kingdom, fellow heirs with Christ, yet living out our temporal existence in alien, even hostile, territory. And of course we know just how alien and hostile it can be. Even though most of us will never suffer the physical pain of persecution, we are only too well aware that the ways of this world are not the ways of Christ.
We see it in the media, with television commercials that do anything but point us toward holiness, movies that play to our baser instincts, magazine ads that grab our attention by their use of immodest displays of flesh.
We see it in the marketplace, where half-truths and outright deception are used to separate us from the contents of our wallet; where shoddy merchandise is advertised as `New and Improved!'; where we must, for our own protection, constantly assume that the person on the opposite side of the counter is trying to take advantage of us.
We hear and see it in politics, where one candidate will lie about the other, lie about him or herself, and lie to us about their intentions for tomorrow.
And, regrettably, when we run to what we believe to be safe territory, for sanctuary from the world, we discover that the world has seeped even into that sanctuary, so that in the church we see backbiting, duplicity, infantile political machinations, power grabs, and those for whom the church is little more than a social club.
The more we work in the world the harder it becomes to rise above it; the more we listen to the silky warblings of the world's voice, the harder it is to hear the voice of our heavenly Father.
Jesus was right: the world hates us for who we are and what we represent. In the Christian, the world is reminded of its own hopelessness and despair, its own condition of depravity. It sees itself for what it is--bounced back off the shining, reflective surface of redemption: a world lost and feeding desperately on itself.
So where do we turn? Where do we seek solace and rejuvenation? We may find it in God's word, but there we might also be reminded of our own inadequacies. The instruction of wisdom--even by the finger of God-- may inflict as much discomfort as righteousness.
We may find it in fellowship with those of like mind, but that dear brother or sister carries baggage that may become an obstacle for our search.
Where do we find the one reliable source to lift us above the heavy pressures of living as an alien in hostile territory? Where can we go to find relief, while we wait for the day when we'll no longer be pilgrims in a foreign land?
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3 KJV
It is in praise of Him that we will find our relief. As we turn away from ourselves, and toward the God of heaven, we will find Him as our hearts fill with His praise.
So, come, let us praise Him ...
In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Isaiah 63:9
How can we consider and glorify any attribute of God without beginning with His mercy, for it is His mercy that permits us to have a relationship with Him in the first place.
When our child stumbles and falls we reach down to help her to her feet. We brush off the dirt, and bandage the skinned knee. In this we are demonstrating the compassionate mercy of a loving parent.
When we stumble and fall, it is our merciful God who picks us up, brushes off the dirt, and bandages our wounds. He not only demonstrates mercy, but it is a quick, immediate mercy with which He comforts us _ the mercy of a loving Father.
"We may plead for mercy for a lifetime in unbelief, and at the end of our days be still no more than sadly hopeful that we shall somewhere, sometime, receive it. This is to starve to death just outside the banquet hall in which we have been warmly invited.
"Or we may, if we will, lay hold on the mercy of God by faith, enter the hall, and sit down with the bold and avid souls who will not allow diffidence and unbelief to keep them from the feast of fat things prepared for them." A.W. Tozer
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
"It is sometimes said, 'Justice requires God to do this,' referring to some act we know He will perform. This is an error of thinking as well as of speaking, for it postulates a principle of justice outside of God which compels Him to act in a certain way. Of course there is no such principle. All God's reasons come from within His uncreated being.
"Justice, when used of God, is a name we give to the way God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given situation." A.W. Tozer
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deut. 32:4
It is when we finally come to terms with the Lord's justice that we can be at ease over unpleasant events in our life. We may accept His love or mercy, even His righteousness, and still rebel against His hand in our life. We may believe that everything comes from Him and still complain about His decisions.
But when we finally apprehend the truth that God can do nothing that is not just, then and only then can we fully come to terms with His Lordship in our life. He not only is God, but He is an absolutely fair God. In this He has earned our trust.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever--holy and awesome is his name. Psalm 111:7-9
The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:7-10
I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will sing praise. Psalm 101:1
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 1 Chron. 29:11-12
"Since He has at His command all the power in the universe, the Lord God omnipotent can do anything as easily as anything else. All His acts are done without effort. He expends no energy that must be replenished. His self-sufficiency makes it unnecessary for Him to look outside of Himself for a renewal of strength. All the power required to do all that He wills to do lies in undiminished fullness in His own infinite being.
"God possesses what no creature can: an incomprehensible plenitude of power, a potency that is absolute. This we know by divine revelation, but once known, it is recognized as being in full accord with reason. Grant that God is infinite and self-existent and we see at once that He must be all-powerful as well, and reason kneels to worship before the divine omnipotence." A.W. Tozer
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephes. 3:20-21 NKJV
The human response to the Lord's abundant generosity is gratitude, and gratitude is played out in a tangible way in our service to God and His people.
Never let the anti-legalist--the grace fanatic for whom any "works" are seen as the believer buying his or her way into God's heart--never let this one remove for you the exquisite joy of serving Him from a grateful heart. We do live under grace, and there is nothing we can do that will impress God, or improve upon the grace He already bestows based on His love alone.
But nowhere does it say we cannot--based on the pure intentions of a grateful heart--give back gladly to our loving, generous Father in the form of service and praise, in recognition of what He has already done for us.
Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chr.16:8,34
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:8-9
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. Psalm 145:3-7
"Divine goodness, as one of God's attributes, is self-caused, infinite, perfect, and eternal. The cause of His goodness is in Himself; the recipients of His goodness are all His beneficiaries without merit and without recompense." A.W. Tozer
--to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:27
"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning." Daniel 2:20-21
"In the Holy Scriptures wisdom, when used of God and good men, always carries a strong moral connotation. It is conceived as being pure, loving, and good.
"The idea of God as infinitely wise is at the root of all truth. It is a datum of belief necessary to the soundness of all other beliefs about God.
"All God's acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time." A.W. Tozer
How bereft of hope we would be without God's wisdom--that inseparable companion to His truth. It is our safe, dependable anchor when the rough waves of living thrash all about us. Because of His eternal wisdom we can always know that when we come to Him we will receive His absolute, unflinching truth.
"To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his." Job 12:13
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. Psalm 147:5
By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. Proverbs 3:19-20
"He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding." Jeremiah 51:15 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. Daniel 2:22
There is surely no more precious attribute of God for the earthbound saint than His patience. The Old Testament saint referred to it as God's longsuffering--and, indeed (based on knowledge of a most personal nature), how sorely long He must suffer with some of us.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. Psalm 103:8-10
If we had nothing else for which to praise Him, we must, by common decency alone, praise God for His longsuffering patience. Grace? Yes, it is grace--it is God's personal form of daily, ongoing grace with which He loves and cares for us.
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Joel 2:13
"'He that hath seen Me,' said Jesus, `hath seen the Father.' Christ walked with men on earth that He might show them what God is like and make known the true nature of God to a race that had wrong ideas about Him.
"From Him we learn how God acts toward people. The hypocritical, the basically insincere, will find Him cold and aloof, as they once found Jesus; but the penitent will find Him merciful; the self-condemned will find Him generous and kind. To them He is friendly, to the poor in Spirit He is forgiving, to the ignorant, considerate; to the weak, gentle; to the stranger, hospitable." A.W. Tozer
"Neither the writer nor the reader of these words is qualified to appreciate the holiness of God. Quite literally a new channel must be cut through the desert of our minds to allow the sweet waters of truth that will heal our great sickness to flow in. We cannot grasp the true meaning of holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable.
"Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy." A.W. Tozer
"Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you--majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?" Exodus 15:11
"There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God." 1 Samuel 2:2
Exalt the Lord our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the Lord our God is holy. Psalm 99:9
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Psalm 105:3
"Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." Rev. 15:4
The Christian who speaks of a personal God, or a personal Savior, is referring to a God who is available. Herein lies the profound mystery and indefinable joy of Christianity--that a God of such utter and pristine holiness would deign to make Himself available to ones such as us.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:18-19
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16
"Canon Holmes of India told of seeing Hindu worshipers tapping on trees and stones and whispering `Are you there?' to the god they hoped might reside within. In complete humility the instructed Christian brings the answer to that question. God is indeed there. He is there as He is here and everywhere, not confined to tree or stone, but free in the universe, near to everything, next to everyone, and through Jesus Christ immediately accessible to every loving heart." A.W. Tozer
"Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you--majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?" Exodus 15:11
Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome ... Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell face down, and I heard the voice of one speaking. Ezekiel 1:22,25-28
"To think of creature and Creator as alike in essential being is to rob God of most of His attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature. It is, for instance, to rob Him of His infinitude: there cannot be two unlimited substances in the universe. It is to take away His sovereignty: there cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe, for sooner or later two completely free wills must collide. These attributes, to mention no more, require that there be but one to whom they belong." A.W. Tozer
The Lord reigns. He is clothed with majesty; The Lord has clothed and girded Himself with strength; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Thy throne is established from of old; Thou art from everlasting. Psalm 93:1-2 NASB
"From God's other known attributes we may learn much about His love. We can know, for instance, that because God is self-existent, His love had no beginning; because He is eternal, His love can have no end; because He is infinite, it has no limit; because He is holy, it is the quintessence of all spotless purity; because He is immense, His love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea before which we kneel in joyful silence and from which the loftiest eloquence retreats confused and abashed." A.W. Tozer
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lament. 3:22-23
Begin with Genesis 1:1 and read through the entirety of God's word--all the way through to Revelation 22:21. Read all about His `fierce wrath' and `vengeance'; read about how He sends fire from heaven to consume the wicked, how He floods the earth to swallow up its corrupt population; read all about how He demands blood sacrifice for the payment of sins...
Read every word, and when you have closed the cover, you will still be left with the unmistakable picture in your mind of a forgiving, compassionate God who goes to astounding lengths to love His people.
"Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!"
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided _
"Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!
Thomas O. Chisholm
Lord, God, I praise Your compassion!
I PRAISE YOUR JOY Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother _
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.
Henry van Dyke
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. 1 Chron. 16:27
Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27:6
God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Psalm 47:5
Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Psalm 66:1
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Luke 10:21
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15:9-11
The world (and many Christians) seem to know only the picture of a stern, angry God. But read how the prophet Zephaniah describes Him:
The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zephaniah 3:17
The word translated "rejoice" in this verse is a joy that expresses itself in the gestures of the body. It means, literally, to spin around. In other words, God dances over us with singing! His love for us is so full that, at times, it must be expressed physically.
Our God isn't a stodgy curmudgeon at all! He loves us and cares about us _ and sometimes leaps about with joy over us. We're usually the stodgy curmudgeons. We're the ones too inhibited, too proud, to demonstrate our adoration of the Lord. But He is never inhibited; God is never too proud to dance joyfully for us.
"Whatever God is, and all that God is, He is in Himself. God is ... the One who contains all, who gives all that is given, but who Himself can receive nothing that He has not first given.
"To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being. Need is a creature-word and cannot be spoken of the Creator. God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no necessary relation to anything outside of Himself. His interest in His creatures arises from His sovereign good pleasure, not from any need those creatures can supply nor from any completeness they can bring to Him who is complete in Himself." A.W. Tozer
Because I worship a complete God, I need not worry about His ability to keep His promises, answer my prayers, or deal with my foes. Because He is perfectly complete, He is perfectly capable of doing anything He has said He will.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God _ this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 11:33-12:13
I Praise Your ...
Issue No. 71
[1.] All A.W. Tozer quotations in this issue are taken from his book The Knowledge of the Holy: The attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (HarperCollins, 1992). (return to footnote 1)
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