If you haven’t mentally dismissed me as a heretic or blasphemer after reading the title to this blog entry, and instead have decided to read further, I must assume at this point you are reading with anticipation that I will make things right!
I will not disappoint you.
Not only is the title logically inconsistent, for how can an infinite, perfectly loving being fall short in any logically consistent way, but far worse than that, it is completely inaccurate Biblically! Unfortunately, however, if I am going to be honest with myself and with you, I must admit that I often think that He does. I believe at times that God has let me down. Now, when I begin to think this way, I certainly don?t repeat my thoughts out loud, since I’m far too concerned about what my believing friends might think of me should I do so. However, when deep disappointment and seemingly unfair events enter into my life, my knee jerk reaction (even as a believer) is often to blame God or question His motives. Battling this type of unbelief constitutes a significant portion of my personal struggle as a Christian.
Fortunately, a large portion of Scripture seems to be directed at quelling this type of unbelief. Now, I don?t know all of the angles from which Scripture attacks this problem, but there is one particular direction that Scripture takes that has captured my thoughts and imaginations recently. The majesty of God, His shear magnitude in power and character and being, especially as demonstrated in creation, is captured in Scripture using vivid language that pierces the heart of my unbelief. I’m so grateful that God condescends to describe Himself in Scripture using images and terms that I can explore and grapple with in my mind. He could have simply said, I am an infinite, perfectly loving being, so trust me. Though that is an accurate description and consequently a fair command, I can’t really mentally grapple with infinity, especially when life hurts. Infinity is an abstract concept that helps make the math work out better in certain situations; it is not conceptual bedrock on which I can shore up my feeble faith. Let me share with you a passage from Isaiah that I have been reflecting on recently. It is a bit long but please take the time to read it slowly and soak in how God is describing Himself
Isaiah 40:12-31 reads:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
Or weighed the mountains on the scales
And the hills in a balance?
Who has understood the mind of the Lord,
Or instructed him as his counselor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
And who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge?
Or showed him the path of understanding?
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
They are regarded as dust on the scales;
He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust,
Lebanon is not sufficient for alter fires,
Nor its animals enough for burnt offerings
Before him all the nations are as nothing;
They are regarded by him as worthless
As less than nothing.
To whom, then, will you compare God?
What image will you compare him to?
As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,
And a goldsmith overlays it with gold
And fashions silver chains to it.
A man too poor to present such an offering
Selects wood that will not rot
He looks for a skilled craftsman
To set up an idol that will not topple
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
And its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
And spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
And reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
No sooner are they sown,
No sooner do they take root in the ground,
Than he blows on them and they wither,
And a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal? Says the Holy One.
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens;
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
And calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength
Not one of them is missing.?
This passage in Isaiah proclaims that our God is an infinite God, but it does so with language and imagery that is anything but dry and academic. I can’t address every verse, or this blog entry would be infinite itself. But consider the first two lines in verse 12 alone. Think of the oceans that encompass the earth. The oceans cover almost of the surface of the earth, and the only places where they are even remotely shallow are near their coasts. In many places their depths are measured in miles. Yet our God is so vast that the volume of the ocean’s water is to Him like a few teaspoons of water is to me. Were the oceans even bigger than they are, they would still be inconsequential to Him!
Think of the second line in verse 12. To me, the universe displays God’s magnitude with such an astounding scale that I often find myself moved to tears as I think about it. The universe is so big that scientists have to use a completely different unit of measure to describe it. The distance between stars and galaxies is not measured in feet or miles, but rather in light years. In case you’re unaware, a light year is the distance light travels in one year. Bear in mind that light travels approximately 186,000 miles in one second! From this you can see that a single light year is an unfathomable distance. As a point of reference, the closest star to the Earth (aside from the sun) is 4.3 light years away. That is the closest star! This beautiful celestial structure called the ring nebula http://www.seds.org/messier/Pics/Hi-res/m57_9901scr.jpg is 2000 light years away. To put this distance into perspective, the ring structure itself is over 1 light year in diameter. Consider also that the light that formed this image left the ring nebula approximately 2000 years ago. 2000 years ago, the Creator of the universe willing submitted to death on a cross so that I might have the opportunity to gaze at an image of the something as magnificent as the ring nebula and weep with joy that I now have a personal relationship with Him.
Scientists still cannot determine how big our universe is even with the advent of telescopes like the Hubble space telescope that can look out into space without the hindrance of the Earth’s atmosphere. However, conservative estimates place the number of galaxies in our universe in the 100 billion range! A single galaxy may contain billions of stars, yet our God calls each one out by name (Isaiah 40:26) and their location and motion is held together by his powerful word (Colossians 1:17). Now as you reread the second line of Isaiah 40:12 and try to grapple with the idea that the dimensions of the entire universe, including all of the galaxies and stars within, is to God what a hand breadth (maybe a few inches but no more than a foot) is to me!!
As I write this the Christmas season is in full swing, and verse 18-20 cause me to shudder as I see all of the Baby Jesus figurines lying around. How so many people want a God they can box up neatly in Styrofoam! When I see these figurines and I read the sentimentalism that often accompanies them, I want to scream out verses 21-24! Can you name one historical world leader who has survived throughout time? Can you name one prince who has ruled longer than 80 years? Our God is not a God you place in a Styrofoam box! He came to earth in the form of a child so that he could grow up and be the perfect sacrifice for my steadfast refusal to submit to His obvious authority!
I wish I could do justice to these verses, but I can’t. I’ve only scratched the surface in my own mind. But, as I struggle to shore up my feeble faith, I return to these verses to drink in the magnitude of God. They have become very precious to me because they stretch my mind and humble my soul. I am not quite so important when I stand in the shadow of these verses. The God who has rescued me from the penalty of my sin and adopted me as His son; the God who has initiated and restored a loving relationship with me, is the same God described in Isaiah 40! Our infinite and perfectly loving Father NEVER falls short.