Has anyone ever kept a secret from you? Maybe it was a birthday present or a special trip you were going to take or what your mom was planning to fix for dinner. If you've had this happen to you, then you can understand how important it is for others to tell us things that we cannot know unless they make it known. No matter how much you might want to know the secret, until someone tells you, you just cannot know what it is.
It is this way with knowing who God is. The only way that we could be thinking together about the greatness of God in this book is because God has shared with us the secret of who he is. We cannot discover who God is or figure him out on our own. We aren't smart enough to do this, and God is way too big for us even to try. One of the very first things we must learn about God is very humbling to us, and it is this: unless God had decided to show us who he is, unless he had chosen to make known his own life and ways, we simply could know nothing--yes, nothing!-- about him. We are dependent completely on God's kindness and goodness to make himself known to us, and for this we ought to be grateful every day of our lives. After all, there is no one more important and more wonderful to know than God. So how thankful we must be that God did not keep to himself, as it were. Rather, he showed us in rich and wonderful ways just who he is.
The Bible talks about several different ways that God has made himself known to us. One of the ways God has shown us some things about himself is through the world he has made. Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." And in Romans 1:19-20 Paul adds, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." As these passages teach, some of the very qualities of God's own life are shown through the world and the universe that he fashioned.
Think with me about some of the qualities of God that we can see by looking at different parts of the world in which we live. When you look closely at a flower, for example, you can see the knowledge and wisdom and beauty of God. How very, very smart God is! God is the one who figured out how to make living things grow, and they all grow according to a lot of very complicated rules that he put into every living thing. The flower we are thinking about came from a small seed, was planted in the ground and watered, and in time grew to be a beautiful, colorful flower. All of its beauty, and each of its parts, has come to be because God has designed just exactly how it would grow from that seed to the full flower. Indeed, God's knowledge is vast, his wisdom is beyond our ability to understand, and his beauty is shown in all of the beautiful flowers, butterflies, trees, and mountains of our world.
We've thought about something on the small side--a flower--so why don't we also consider something big. Think with me about the stars you can see at night. Maybe you live in the country where there are not many city lights, or maybe you've taken a trip out into the woods or to the top of a mountain. On a clear night, when you see all of those stars, it sort of takes your breath away, doesn't it? And to think that we can see only a very, very small number of the stars that are actually there. Just in our own galaxy (the Milky Way) where the earth and solar system are located, scientists estimate that there are about ten billion stars. And the Milky Way is an average-sized galaxy in a universe that contains hundreds of millions of galaxies. Wow! We cannot understand all of this, but it shows us how great and expansive and powerful God is--he made this universe simply by speaking it into existence. Yes, the heavens surely do tell us of the glory of God. His power and wisdom and beauty and greatness--indeed, his Godness--are all seen through what he has made.
Do you remember the story of Job? Job was a very wealthy and powerful man, but to test Job, God allowed Satan to take nearly everything from Job, even giving him sores and boils on his whole body. Job wondered why this happened to him, and he came very close to blaming God. Toward the end of the book of Job, God confronted Job and humbled this man who nearly accused God of doing what was wrong. God asked of Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements--surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?" (Job 38:4-11). Consider the greatness of the universe God made, and how detailed and exact everything is that God has fashioned! We truly do learn much about God's greatness and glory just by noticing the world all around us.
Another way God has made himself known is through how he has made us, his human creatures. Many things about our own bodies--how amazing are our eyes and ears and heart and brain and on and on--also tell us about God's wisdom and power, just as with the rest of creation. But in addition to this, God has made us with a deep inner understanding of things that are right and things that are wrong. When we lie to our brother or sister or to our parents, we can tell inside of us that this is wrong to do. When we clean up our room or take out the garbage when our mom or dad ask us to, we know in our heart that this was the right thing to do. Where did this inner understanding of right and wrong come from? In Romans 2:14-15 Paul writes, "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them." His point is this: people who don't even have someone telling them that it's wrong to lie or wrong to steal or wrong to murder still know in their own hearts about these things. God has taken something of his own standards of right and wrong and placed them in every human heart. So, not only is God powerful and wise and great, he also is holy and righteous and good. When we do wrong, we have no excuse, because we know from the inside that we should do what is right. God put this into our lives so that we would know about right and wrong and so that we would know that we are held responsible for what we do. But this also tells us about God--he always does what is right and good and worthy of praise. God is both great, and he is good.
Questions for Thought
1. Can you think of some parts of creation that show just how great or powerful or wise or beautiful God is? What do they show about God, and how do they do this?
2. Have you ever noticed that little voice of your conscience within you warning you not to do something wrong or encouraging you to do what is right? Can you think of any examples from the past week when you noticed this?
Psalm 19:1--"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."
Copyright Crossway Books. Used with permission.
Dr. Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a highly esteemed theologian and author in the evangelical world. Dr. Ware has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews and, along with Thomas Schreiner, has co-edited The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will and Still Sovereign. He also has authored God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, God's Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance. Dr. Ware and his wife Jodi have two grown daughters and one grandchild.
[Editor's Note: The above article is an excerpt from chapter one of Dr. Ware's book entitiled Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God (Crossway Books). This book is a tremendous resource to help equip anyone working with children to teach the essentials of the Christian faith in an understandable, chapter-a-day format. To read the moving Foreword to the book by the author's two daughters, go here. Dr. Ware was one of the featured speakers at the 2009 Children Desiring God National Conference.]