20 July 2011

Uncommon Grace: Good God

IT SHOULD GO without saying that the creator of the universe exercises control over that universe. To be sure, he exercises that control in ways that are not so evident to the naked eye. Now, I don’t intend to suggest that “control” here means something close to “puppeteering,” but it ought to come as no surprise that the creator God has created the world with principles and laws that reflect his rule. Freedom may abound, but not outside the order with which he himself has gifted his universe. Consider the care of the earth, the rain that is needed for growth, the grain that is needed for life—we needn’t hesitate to ask such things from God and to give him credit when such things occur:
You show your care for the land by sending rain;
  you make it rich and fertile.
You fill the streams with water;
  you provide the earth with crops.
This is how you do it: you send abundant rain on the plowed fields
  and soak them with water; you soften the soil with showers
  and cause the young plants to grow.
What a rich harvest your goodness provides!
Wherever you go there is plenty. (Ps. 65:9–11)
God waters the mountains, the psalmist sings, so that the earth is supplied with plenty of water. He makes sure the hay grows for the livestock so that they can plow the hard ground. He calls forth the vines so that people can cultivate them and drink wine and be happy. Indeed, they’ll have “faces glowing with health, a people well-fed and hearty” (The Message, Ps. 104:13–15). This is, of course, not to deny the existence of such evils like flood, drought and famine; it is, however, to admit that the blessings of rain and feast are the rule, not the exception. God is happy to feed his creation (Ps. 135:5–7), giving us the blessing of ordinary seasons (Gen. 8:22) while keeping the tumultuous waves where they belong—in the sea (Jer. 5:22).

He does all these acts of kindness, and we’d be missing the point entirely if we became anxious over how much control he actually has, as if our lives are to be spent clenched in the dreadful anticipation that God is going to zap us at any moment. This principle actually applies across the board to everything that happens. Just because God acts on something does not mean that we humans are unable to simultaneously act on that same thing. The two are not opposed. God is no puppet master, and humans are not God. So long as we keep these two facts in mind, we might be less inclined to think God is out to get us.

His control ought to give us comfort. Why? Because God has said he is good: “My love is constant, and I do what is just and right. These are the things that please me. I, Yahweh, have spoken” (Jer. 9:23–24). These characteristics, in other words, are his trademarks; they’re what he’s known for, and he delights in those who practice them. No doubt, if the creator God were a God filled with hate, then we’d have much to fear (the wrong kind of fear, that is). But such is not the case. His control, his rule, is good because he himself is good.

*This is part three in what I'm thinking will be a six-part series.


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