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“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.'” Revelation 15:2-3
Human minds will never more fully understand God’s justice than when we stand before Him in heaven. Then we will see Him face to face, even as He has always seen us [1 Corinthians 13:12]. Then we will know how all of His essence is one, even as He is also one [Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29]. Then we will see our finite existence from the perspective of a holy eternity.
God is just because all truth is His truth. And justice cannot operate without truth.
God is just because He is also good and loving and all-knowing and unchanging. He is just because He is also holy and sovereign and wise and all-powerful. He is just because He is also transcendent and everywhere-present and faithful and gracious and merciful. He is just because He is also self-existent and self-sufficient and eternal and infinite.
All of His character works together as one unit, rather than as separate entities. He is never more or less any of these qualities, just as none of these traits exists outside of His person. God is just, because that is who He is.
He is self-existent and self-sufficient, so His justice is not counseled by any created being.
He is unchanging and He is holy, so His justice never wavers to the left or to the right [Proverbs 4:27].
He is all-knowing and wise, so His justice has always faithfully extended grace.
He is all-powerful and sovereign, so His justice is precisely exacted.
But He is also good and merciful and loving and gracious, so He provided a substitution for the wages of our sins [Romans 5:8 & 6:23; 1 John 2:2]. A substitute to accept our condemnation so that, by His grace, we could be considered righteous [Romans 3:20-24, 5:9-11 & 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8].
He is transcendent and yet everywhere present, so His justice is always objective while His grace and mercy are always faithfully at hand.
He is infinite, so His justice is not limited in any way. He is eternal, so His justice contains all of our finite existence, but will endure for all eternity.
God is just.
Have you ever found yourself questioning this truth? Do you know others who question God’s justice? Often this is because we don’t like that God’s justice means there is a right way and a wrong way. But as God said to Cain nearly 6,000 years ago, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]?
“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8
God is good. And He is infinitely so. But what is that goodness? What does it consist of or pertain to? How and when does it manifest?
Many cultures have mythologies of gods that are sinister but powerful. The Greek and Roman pantheons were worse than the most corrupt human beings, acting selfishly in all their ways and disposed by whim to mistreat humans it suited their own immoral pleasures. Their character couldn’t have been further from the truth of who God is.
Good is the opposite of evil. God is not bad in anyway [Psalm 92:15]. He is morally upright, but more than that, He is generously kind and loving to all. His infinite goodness is the source of every blessing and joy, the source of our hope and the wellspring of His love and goodwill–mercy and grace–toward humankind.
He created for all our needs and faithfully provides for them, though we are unfaithful about cultivating our relationship with Him [Matthew 5:45] and though we fail to thank Him for His faithful beneficence.
He keeps His creation in motion, patiently waiting for more of mankind to turn and recognize Him as God [Genesis 8:22; 2 Peter 3:9].
He hears our prayers and provides us with His Spirit to overcome just as He did. Because He is good, we can have peace [John 16:33], joyful strength [Nehemiah 8:10], hope in Him [Isaiah 40:31] and contentment waiting for our heavenly home [Matthew 11:29 & 10:24]. Because He is good, He strengthens us in our present circumstances [1 Peter 5:10-11]. Because He is good, He made a way to reconcile with us so that we could spend eternity with Him [John 3:16].
But our present circumstances are exactly the rub for so many who choose to walk away from belief in God. They shake their fist at heaven and ask, If God is good, then why is there bad in the world?
God is infinitely good. But His adversary, the devil, is full of every kind of evil intent toward us. Satan is angry that he will never attain heaven and angry at human beings that we can be redeemed. And he does everything he can, in his limited power of deception, to keep as many of us from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 5:8].
God is infinitely good, but we, His Creation, are sinful and therefore predisposed to love self and thereby wrong others in pursuit of self [Matthew 7:12 & 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28 & 16:31].
As believers, we must realize that we were redeemed to be a light of God’s goodness to this world, just the way He intended us to be from the Creation [Matthew 5:14-16].
Does God’s goodness flow through your life to others? Do others understand that God is good because they see His good work in your life [1 Peter 2:12]?
“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31
God is good.
Many automatically respond to this truth with the pithy chorus, *All the time!* And while there is some truth therein, it is a limited truth turned into a reflexive, religious chant. How many reply in vain, having forgotten or never fully known what God’s goodness truly means?
And why don’t we realize the fullness of His goodness? Could it be because we don’t live it forward as we were created to do?
We were created in God’s image [Genesis 1:26-27]. So then each of His attributes were meant to be an integral part of our own character. But sin deposed God from the throne of our hearts so that humankind is not born basically good, as philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau surmised. Nor even basically evil, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued. Rather, we are born sinful–which means that we are separated from God because of our fallen human nature which itself desires to be its own god.
When self is god, then self gets to decide what is good. And self is only interested in what is good for self. God’s goodness, though, is panoptic and it is all-encompassing. God’s goodness flows from His infinite wisdom and omniscience. He sees all, hears all, knows all about all for all of created time, and He works toward the overarching good of everyone in all of human history.
That is quite the difference from our self-limiting goodness. Because when everyone does what is right in their own eyes [Judges 17:6 & 21:25], the result is that everyone visits evil on everyone else. Not always maliciously and intentionally, but even unintentional and accidental effects of our choices can bring great harm to others.
That is why scriptures implore us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48]. Not that we can actually, in this life, attain to perfect goodness at all times–we can’t. But we can become more like Christ everyday through the Holy Spirit working in us [Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 9:23; John 14:26; Romans 12:2; Galatians 3:26-28].
And just as God breathed life into the first man Adam [Genesis 2:7] and proclaimed that His Creation was very good, so also Jesus’ last breath on the cross created us anew to do the good works we abandoned after the advent of sin [Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30; Ephesians 2:10]. But only if we choose to accept God’s grace by faith. And only if we then choose to surrender our lives to His Lordship so that we may be His instrument of goodness in a lost and dying world.
Are you allowing yourself daily to be made into the image of Christ? Does God’s goodness flow freely through your life?
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
God is faithful. He does not tempt us–which leads to sin and death, but rather our own desires do [James 1:13-15]. Yet through it all, no temptation is so great that we are incapable of resisting it [Genesis 4:7]. And especially when we see and know that God faithfully provides a way to escape the temptations that come.
What are these escapes? Well, the original Greek term here is ekbasin which literally translates issue. Moreover, the Greek term commonly translated as endure it is actually hypenenkein or to carry on under it. I don’t know about you, but this renders a different image in my mind.
When we are tempted–which, remember, comes by our own sinful desires [James 1:13-15]–God will bring the issue to light so that we can carry on under the pressure of the temptation. You see, in a way, it’s like the Garden of Eden all over again for each us. Not that we each usher sin anew into the world, but we each face the choice to love God or love self.
Why is that Adam and Eve weren’t tempted to eat from the tree of life and live forever? That tree also stood in the center of the garden near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:9]. Satan played on their desires, but also their ignorance. Since they didn’t know death, they didn’t understand that life could be taken from them. So they chose the love of self. Question God. Ignore God’s words. Satisfy self’s desires. Gain more for self.
God told Cain that he didn’t have to choose sin as his parents had done [Genesis 4:7]. Though we are all sinners [Isaiah 53:6-8; Romans 3:23], willful sin is a choice. Willful sin can be mastered. Including the willful sin to deny God’s existence and refuse to understand His Word so that we can plea ignorance of the law–except we can’t. Satan played Cain’s desires, but also his anger. In the end, Cain chose the love of self. Reject God’s words–both His law and His preventative admonitions. Indulge self’s desires by satiating self’s anger. Gain more for self.
In both accounts, the sinners had a choice. Yes, the temptation was there. But so too was the more excellent way [1 Corinthians 12:31].
You see, the biggest deception about temptation is that, while we temporary indulge and satisfy self, we do not gain the more that we desire. On the contrary, we lose the very thing we seek [Matthew 10:28 & 39 & 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 & 17:33; John 12:25]–a full life [John 10:10]. All of the temporary riches and positions hold empty promises, but laying them aside to pursue the kingdom of heaven in this life brings eternally abundant life [Matthew 6:19-20 & 19:24; Mark 10:25; John 3:16].
Are you listening for God’s faithful voice in the midst of your temptations? Will you take His more excellent way so that you can carry on under the weight of them?
“Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 38:32-36
God asks Job so many questions leading up to this moment. Not because He needs Job’s counsel but, in true God fashion, because He wants to instruct him. In response to His own questions, God challenges Job further. Show yourself to be the God Satan told you you could be [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Go ahead.
Except that Satan lied, and even Job knows it.
All his life, Job faithfully praised our Creator God. Even when he lost everything and his wife told him just to turn his back on God and die [Job 2:9], Job held firm to his trust in the Almighty. His friends came with less than Godly counsel in his time of greatest loss. And at the end of very long, very judgmental tirades against their buddy, God had something to say.
Show yourself as mighty as I AM. And if you succeed, then you can be your own god. An impossible challenge.
All human strength–whether the might of brawn or sword or schemes–together cannot scratch the omnipotence of God.
Though we can observe God’s steadfast power at work in nature, we can only comply with His laws to maintain the life He created. We cannot create new plants out of nothing. We cannot make plants act other than He designed them to act [i.e. make oak trees grow underwater]. Though we have noted how life reproduces, science can never explain why life generates more life. But God made all things out of nothing [Genesis 1:1]. He designed their every attribute. And He knows the why behind life.
Though we can enjoy the beauty of the sun and stars, for danger of incineration and for sheer distance, we cannot even approach them. But God hung each in place. He knows their blueprint as intimately as He knows each and every one of us [Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7; Hebrews 4:12], and He alone fuels their light.
Though we build ships and airplanes to cross the seas and have circumnavigated the globe and dove to great depths, what human being can control the ocean? God not only reigns it in, regulating its tides, but He dug its depths with a Word.
Every creature, save one, obeys the Creator. Bees pollinate and make honey. Trees and grass scrub carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Cats keep mice populations in check. Ecosystems with their communities and food webs all work together in God’s design. All except for human beings.
We choose not to obey the stewardship commands given at the Creation [Genesis 1:24-26]. We choose not to love God and to love one another as ourselves [Matthew 22:38-29; Mark 12:30-31]. We choose to deny God’s power–though it is evident all around us–in an effort to try to usurp the control for ourselves.
But who are we that God should fear or answer to us?
Does your life flow out of a reverence for God’s omnipotence?
“This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar–the Lord Almighty is His name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me,’ declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” Jeremiah 31:35-37
God never changes.
Though many have come to believe that the God portrayed in the Old Testament possesses a wholly different character than the God portrayed in the New Testament. Let scripture assure you, that the God of the Bible is one and the same [Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29].
He created the sun, moon and stars to govern the light [Genesis 1:16 & 18; Psalm 136:9]. They mark out seasons, days and years for us. They have since the fourth day of Creation and they will until the earth shall be no more [Genesis 8:22]. We know this is true, because God promised us in His Word and His Word is truth [John 17:17]. His promises have never failed. And the governing light that He established will never fail.
In Jeremiah, we read that if in fact these bodies of light did fail, then God would no longer recognize Israel as His chosen, holy nation. And if human beings could actually measure heaven and plumb the depths of the earth, then God would hold all of the descendants of Israel responsible for their sins and reject them, rather than forgive them.
So is this evidence of the harshly hateful Old Testament God who is seemingly contradictory to the loving God of the New Testament? Not at all!
God declares this impossible circumstance to illustrate that He is unchanging and His love faithful despite our sinful shortcomings. The sun, moon and stars will continue as long as the first Creation. The seas will remain. And even in the end times when God’s wrath is visited upon the earth, mercifully only one third of the sun, moon and stars are blotted out, and only one third of the sea rendered useless [Revelation 8:8-12]. Even then, God’s love for His chosen people and all people will stay His hand and extend His forgiveness.
But in the new heaven and the new earth neither sun nor moon, neither stars nor seas will exist [Revelation 21:1 & 22:5]. Here Israel will cease to be a nation before God’s face–not because God has rejected His people–but because all the faithful in heaven will be one nation belonging to God. No people groups will be separate. Everyone will be citizens of one kingdom belonging to Jesus Christ.
Can you see God’s unchanging nature throughout scripture? If not, pray and read. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and reveal to you the truth of who God is.
A prayer of Moses the man of God. “Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm 90:1-2
God is eternal.
But what is eternity? Eternity is a human word to describe something that humans can never be. It is the best time expression that we have to try to explain the length of God’s existence as compared to our own.
Yet God exists outside of time.
He gave us the sun, moon and stars to mark the seasons and years [Genesis 1:14]. However, He Himself needs no such markers. To God, time doesn’t pass. He is. Timeless and needless of time.
He never ages, though He exists before our yesterday, in every today and tomorrow of human history. He never tires, though He modeled the Sabbath rest for our sake [Mark 2:27]. He never forgets His great love for us and, therefore, needs no day of remembrance [Isaiah 40:28].
He so transcends the bounds of created time that to Him a thousand years is like a day and a day is like a thousand years [2 Peter 3:8]. But here we must be careful. This doesn’t mean that God is ignorant of our days or that He disregards our finite existence. On the contrary, He loves us with an infinite and everlasting love though our lives are just a vapor that vanishes within moments [James 4:14].
For us, it would be like caring about every leg and antennae of every mayfly that ever existed and knowing them all by name. A mayfly typically only lives 24-hours and some only live for a few hours. As humans, we can’t begin to imagine that such biological minutia in our existence could be known in such detail to anyone. Most of us can’t even learn a dozen names per social studies chapter of the most important movers and changers in human history.
Yet, God knows every person who ever lived, is living and is yet to come. He knows every hair on our heads [Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7]. And he knows our inmost being [Psalm 139:14].
Though we can never–with finite minds–fully comprehend God’s attributes, we can receive His eternal love and forgiveness [John 3:16]. Though we have a definite beginning and God does not, He has made a way that we can share in His eternity. And in His great love for us, that’s exactly what He desires for every man, woman and child ever [2 Peter 3:9].
Will you come to know and love God the way He has first known and loved you? Will you accept His gift of eternal life? Will you share in eternity with God by grace through faith [Ephesians 2:8]?