One of the
most important things in life is that we have
the right sort of a god. Religion has a profound
influence upon the lives, not only of Christian
people, but of those who are under
Christian influences, and those who are under
false religions. It is important therefore that
we have in our mind a correct, tho of necessity
only a partial knowledge of God. There is but
one God, but the picture of that God that is in
the minds of men differs greatly. As this
picture differs in different minds, we differ in
our concepts of the reality.
Within the past week
someone wrote to me and spoke of God's "casting
men into hell, then watching them sizzle in a
lake of fire." This is a crude and altogether
erroneous idea of God. Nevertheless, one who
believes in such things cannot but be profoundly
affected by such a belief. The heathen idea of
God is often of a fearful being, vengeful and
terrible. Such a god inspires fear, a terror,
and often despair. The instinct of the worshiper
is to try to placate such a god. The heathen may
fear this type of a god, but he cannot love him.
Happiness cannot come into his life through such
a god. A god of this sort exists only in
imagination, but the effect upon the life is
just as real as tho such a god were real.
The idea we have of
God will profoundly affect our lives. The god we
have is the god we create in our lives; that is,
God means to us in our consciousness and in his
influence on our lives what we picture him to be
in our mental conception of him. Someone has
said, "God created man in God's image, then
straightway man created God in man's image." The
Greek and Roman gods had the form, the
characteristics, and the passions of the men who
created them. The gods of the heathen are made
in their own likeness mentally, morally, and
spiritually. In olden times a Greek said, "If
the camels had a god, he would have four feet
and a hump."
The development of
the idea of God among the Hebrews can be traced
in the Scriptures. Before Israel went into Egypt
the idea of God seems to have been of a
universal God, a God who was God of all the
earth and not of a special people. But during
the captivity in Egypt, surrounded as they were
by idolaters and they alone holding the idea of
the true God, he became to them the God of
Israel. After the Exodus he became to the great
body of the people little more than a tribal
God. He was viewed in the same light by the
nations round about them. It is true that the
most spiritual, including the prophets and
spiritual teachers, had clearer ideas of God.
But we do not find a general conception of him
any higher than a tribal God until we reach the
era of the Psalms. In these we find both
ideas—the God of Israel, and the God of the
earth and all nature. As we go on through the
Major and Minor Prophets we find a clearing and
expanding of the idea of God. This made an end
to idolatry in Israel.
In the Old Testament
Isaiah has the greatest conception of God. But
it is Jesus who reveals him as he is. The God
revealed by Jesus is a God of universal
character. He became not only the universal God,
but the universal Father.
The idea of God
develops slowly. When the gospel is carried to a
heathen land it is difficult for the people to
grasp the Christian idea of God. It dawns on
them only a little at a time. This is true even
in Christian lands. Even today the views of God
held by many people differ widely from God as
Jesus revealed him and as he is revealed in the
What sort of a God
have you, reader? Sum up the various ideas of
him you have and see what he is in the
aggregate. How does he impress you? How do you
feel toward him? Do your ideas of God bring
happiness into your heart? Do they cause you to
love him and trust him? Does contemplation of
him start the joybells ringing in your heart and
the song to come to your lips? To some people
God is a giant to be feared. We do not sing in
his presence—we try to hide. When we fear we do
not sing. If we fear God with this slavish fear,
how can we be happy?
One of the secrets
of the singing heart is to make a God who will
inspire us to sing. God in reality is a God of
that sort. If we know him as he is association
with him will be the source of life's sweetest
and most satisfying fountain of joy.
Jesus identified the
greatest source of human happiness when he said,
"That they may know thee." Again, he said to his
disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled.
Ye believe in God."
To him that was sufficient reason why one should
not be troubled. But some people believe in God
and it is that very belief which causes them to
be troubled. They do not see God as Jesus saw
him. The God they see has different
characteristics—characteristics that inspire
fear rather than love. They worship him with the
idea of placating him. They do not look upon
worship as communion with him, as a sweet,
soul-satisfying fellowship, the source of life's
greatest joys and blessings.
Perhaps it would be
of great value to all of us if we should read
the New Testament carefully with the idea in
mind of finding just what it teaches about God.
Let us try to get Jesus' idea of God and John's
idea and Paul's idea. When we have done so we
may be amazed to see how much our own ideas of
God have differed from theirs. God may come to
mean something entirely different to us.
Let us briefly view
the outline of the picture of God painted in the
New Testament. First, we are told that "God is
love." A God of our mind that we as Christians
fear is not the real God. John 3:16 tells us,
"God so loved the world," and Paul asked, "Who
shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
Again he says, "That ye may be able to
comprehend with all saints what is the breadth,
and length, and depth, and height; and to know
the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge"
(Eph. 3:18-19). We might profitably spend days
considering these Scriptures. Think of them,
dear reader, until they mean to you in your
innermost heart just what they say; until God's
character actually becomes love in your
consciousness. Then you cannot fear him, you
cannot shrink from him. You will love him.
gentle, forgiving, pitying character can never
inspire fear. We need not fear his justice, for
his justice is only for those who will not have
his mercy. Really to know God is to love and to
trust him. Note particularly the following
facts: Only those who will not believe have
cause for this slavish fear.
Those who have cause
for fear do not fear him, as it is written,
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Therefore, only those who have no occasion thus
to fear God do thus fear him. The true God is
the God of the open heart, the Father who loves
his creatures. He is not a God afar off. He is a
God who is near. He is not harsh, and stern, and
vengeful. He is high, and powerful, and
glorious, yet he condescends to walk with us in
the lowly vales of life. He condescends to talk
with us in the quiet of the evening. He has a
listening ear and a tender heart.
He is our Father,
and as our Father loves us as sons and
daughters. "Ye shall be my sons and daughters,
saith the Lord almighty" (II Cor. 6:18).
Sometimes an earthly father must be stern. But
his sternness is because he loves his son and
desires the best for him. The loving father
disciplines his son, not for the father's own
pleasure, but for the son's profit. The
sternness and the discipline are the special,
not the ordinary attitudes of God toward us. His
constant attitude is one of tender, solicitous
God is not only the
God of the open heart but he is the God of the
open hand. "He that spared not his own Son, but
delivered him up for us all, how shall he not
with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom.
8: 32). His promise is that he will "not
withhold any good thing from them that walk
uprightly." He desires that we be happy. He
desires that we be supplied with everything that
will contribute to our happiness. Truly he is
the God of the open hand.
He is also the "God
of all comfort" (II Cor. 1: 3). The Psalmist
said, "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me"
(Ps. 23: 4). Paul speaks of him on this wise,
"Blessed be God, the Father of mercies, and the
God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our
tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them
which are in trouble, by the comfort wherewith
we ourselves are comforted of God" (II Cor. 1:
3-4). The Holy Spirit is the "Comforter" (John
14: 26). Reader, is this the picture of God you
have in your mind and heart?
He is the God of
justice. The Bible says, "Shall not the Judge of
all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18: 25). A number
of times Jesus is called "The Just One." His
justice is always tempered with mercy. It is
never separated from his love. If we have the
picture of God in our minds that David had in
his mind we shall feel as he felt. He had
sinned. The prophet gave him the choice of three
evils as punishment. He said, "Let me fall into
the hands of God." God's promise to the
Christian is that he "shall not come into
condemnation." What then if God be just? "Mercy
rejoiceth against judgment." It is God's delight
to forgive; therefore if we submit to him we
need not fear his justice.
He is a faithful
God. "God is faithful, by whom ye were called
unto the fellowship of his Son" (I Cor. 1: 9).
Again and again it is declared that God is
faithful. Peter calls him "a faithful Creator"
(I Pet. 4:19). The Psalmist says, "Thy
faithfulness is unto all generations" (Ps. 119:
God is the God of
goodness. The Psalmist exclaims, "Oh how great
is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them
that fear thee" (Ps. 31 :19). And again, "He
loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is
full of the goodness of the Lord" (Ps. 33: 5).
"The goodness of God endureth continually" (Ps.
52:1). And again he says, "Thou crownest the
year with thy goodness" (Ps. 65:11).
He is not a God afar
off. Paul said to the Athenians, the Lord is
"not far from everyone of us; for in hum we
live, and move, and have our being" (Acts
17:27-28). "The Lord is nigh unto all them that
call upon him" (Ps. 145:19). And Jesus said,
"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of
the world" (Matt. 28: 20). And he has promised,
"I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
The foregoing is a
very partial picture, a very fragmentary outline
of the character of God. But if we study the
picture as it is painted in the New Testament
until God comes to be to us what he really is,
and if we then enter into relations with him
such as he desires to exist between himself and
us, we then shall know one of the secrets of the
singing heart. Too often God (to us) is only the
reflection of our fears and doubts, of our
consciences, and of our peculiar
characteristics. In reality he is what he
reveals himself to be.
To Moses God
revealed himself thus, "The Lord, The Lord God,
merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and
abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy
for thousands, forgiving iniquity and
transgression and sin" (Exod. 34: 6-7). He
promised Moses, "My presence shall go with thee,
and I will give thee rest" (chap. 33:14). Our
thoughts of him should not disturb us. His
presence shall give us rest.
We should dwell
before him in confidence and trust. He is a
friend that sticketh closer than a brother. He
is the Father of tender love and constant care.
He would enter into all our troubles, our
sorrows, our joys. He has said he would rejoice
over us with singing. He has said he would have
us without anxiety, he would have us abide in
his love, partake of his peace, to rejoice with
"joy unspeakable and full of glory," and sing
the songs of victory and trust.
One writer has said of the Bible,
"It tells us that at the heart of the universe
there is a heart, that God is love, that that
love is the moving spring of his