There are times when I need to be reminded that God is not like me.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded of this twice.
The first occasion came from the study of Ephesians my church is currently in. For the past two weeks, the sermon text has been Ephesians 2:4-7
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
The first sermon my pastor preached on this text he focused on two words, ‘But God.’ For the Christian, these are the two sweetest words in all of Scripture. It is the answer to our condition apart from Christ in 2:1-3. Apart from ‘But God,’ I would be:
- Dead in my trespasses and sins
- Living under the dominion of Satan
- Under the control of my sinful flesh
- A child of wrath by nature
That all adds up to one big problem.
Why? Because God is holy and I am not. And because God is holy he must do something about my sin. It must be paid for. There were two options. God could have done nothing. God was under no obligation to save those who rebelled against Him. God did not leave me but I left Him. That’s the first option.
The second option is ‘But God’. God is not like me. It is not natural for me and truthfully it is still hard for me to be kind to someone who has turned their back on me. “They don’t deserve it,” I think. And that is where I am missing that I did not deserve anything from God. But God acted. He sent His Son at just the right time for rotten sinners like me. God the Father loved this world and sent His Son so that the canyon caused by our sin could be crossed. But that only happens because God did something, God took the initiative.
This is how God has always operated. This is who God is. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden who ran from who? Adam and Eve ran from God. They tried to hide from Him. Who was the one in pursuit? God pursued them and restored the relationship they had broken. The same is true in my life. My relationship with God was broken from the womb because even in the womb I was a sinner by nature. ‘But God,’ being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved me, He made me alive together with Christ, by grace I have been saved. God is not like me.
The second instance came from my Bible reading this weekend. My reading plan had me read the Old Testament prophet, Micah. It is a rather bleak and grim picture until the very end. The people of Israel had sinned against God and because of that they would be disciplined, they would go to exile. But that would not be the last word in the relationship. The book ends this way:
Who is a God like you,
forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not hold on to his anger forever
because he delights in faithful love.
He will again have compassion on us;
he will vanquish our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show loyalty to Jacob
and faithful love to Abraham,
as you swore to our fathers
from days long ago.
“Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance?” The answer is none. There is no God like the true God because He is God. (Read that again).
But what sets God apart from false gods in this passage? He forgives iniquity and passes over the rebellion of the remnant. He does not hold His anger forever. We learn in Exodus 34:6 that God is slow to anger. He is slow to anger and He does not hold His anger forever. Why does He not hold His anger? Because He delights in faithful love. God delights in keeping the promises He has made to His people.
Though His people have sinned against Him, He will have compassion on them and will vanquish their iniquities, He will cast their sins into the depths of the sea. “Who is a God like you?”
The answer is no one.
It is a good thing, a very good thing, that God is not like me and not like you. Who would want a God like me? I am quick to anger, and I can hold it over someone for a long time and for something very inconsequential. I am not very gracious, I would rather see justice given in all situations than exercise mercy. You do not want a God like me. I would be a miserable God.
And so would you.
‘But God’. Who is a God like our God? There is no God like God. He is the one who is rich in mercy and loves His enemies with a great love. God is not like me and that is a good thing. Praise Him for that.
Praise Him for that. My pastor last Sunday exhorted the congregation to sing loud in response to who God is and what He has done. Deep truth should never diminish our praise, but should always enhance. You’ve read the truth, now respond in praise.
Deep truth should never diminish our praise, but it should always enhance our praise. You’ve read the truth, now respond in praise.