Knowledge of the Holy: part 10

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

“We should banish from our minds forever the common but erroneous notion that justice and judgement characterize the God of Israel, while mercy and grace belong to the Lord of the Church….Wherever and whenever God appears to men, He acts like Himself.  Whether in the Garden of Eden or the Garden of Gethsemane, God is merciful as well as just.” (91)

In the midst of pronouncing judgement and the thorough destruction of His people to Jeremiah, God calls Himself kind, just and good (righteous).  How often we, as human beings, stumble over the notion that the God who claims vengeance in the Old Testament, is also the God who steps into time and takes upon Himself the punishment of all humanity in the New Testament.  And yet He is One.  It might behoove us to meditate on the words of Deuteronomy: Hear O Israel, the Lord your God the Lord is One.  His justice and mercy and goodness and grace all flow from the same source: Himself.  These attributes are complete in themselves and complete in their accordance with all others–that is, His justice cannot diminish His mercy, and His goodness cannot diminish His justice.  All too often, we falsely juxtapose His attributes, yet His justice flows from His goodness, it is not contra His goodness.

When we read Jeremiah or Job, we may find ourselves disposed to question the goodness of God.  Yet Tozer reminds us, “If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty, and heaven can be hell and hell, heaven” (82).  Thus, “God’s compassion flows out of His goodness, and goodness without justice is not goodness” (88).  We cannot know the goodness and mercy of God apart from His justice.  It is His justice that calls for our death as equitable payment for our rebellion.  It is His mercy that substitutes His own death for ours.  It is His goodness that sets up the law that we may understand His justice and so also His mercy.

It is important, I think, for our understanding of these attributes to remember that they are self-existent and self-sufficient. Had the Fall of Man never occurred, God would still be just, merciful, graceful and good.  Though we would have no context in which to know those attributes, they would still remain.  His grace does not depend on my sin.  We do not prove God’s grace and mercy by requiring it–(should my sin abound so that grace might abound?)–God’s grace and mercy simply are, and so His justice is, as well.

Because He has gone to such extraordinary lengths to reveal Himself to us, I think we often forget that we live in God’s story.  We are not merely “allowing” Him into ours.  He exists entirely independent of us, of our belief in Him, and yet if He was to withdraw His breath from us, we would be reduced to nothing.  If His mercy, kindness, justice and goodness were dependent upon my behavior, I would be in a precarious situation indeed.  It is precisely because these attributes are complete in Him that He is the strong tower to which I run for shelter.  And that is a relief indeed!

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