4 Ways that God is Grand (Psalm 27)

Scott Kelly recently broke a record for the longest time in space. Kelly spent 12 months in space. Kelly went on record saying, “It’s not as fun as you might think it would be. It’s a type 2 kind of fun—a fun that occurs when it’s over.” Kelly went on to say, “The views, especially from space walks, are spectacular. The colors are more vivid than you ever expect.” Kelly also said something that many others who have traveled in space have said, “The more I travel in space, the more I feel like an environmentalist. It’s just a blanket of pollution in certain areas, something that we can correct if we put our minds to it.” Many astronauts have said, “When I see the earth from space, I see just how special our planet is. We need to take care of it. We also need to take care of each other.” Many who have traveled in space have noted how seeing the grandeur of the earth changes their perspective.

In similar regard, when we acknowledge the grandeur of God, our perspectives change greatly, as well. In the 27th psalm, David expresses his confidence in God’s protection even while facing his enemies. Due to David’s “reference to war (v. 3), and the concept of sonship (v. 10) favor this as a royal psalm.”[1] Some have called this a ““A Prayer of Praise.”[2] As we speak of the grandeur of God, we see at least 4 ways that God is grand.

1. The grandeur of God’s BEAUTY (27:4-5).

In verses 4-5, David notes the grandeur of God’s beauty. David petitions God, saying, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (24:4).[3] Notice that David uses four words in verses 4-6 “house,” “temple,” “dwelling,” and “sacred tent” “to affirm that wherever God chooses to reveal himself, that is where he wants to be.”[4] David wants to observe more of the beauty of God.

But what do we mean when we speak of the “beauty of God?” Does this simply mean that God is pleasing to the eyes and senses? Actually, it means much more. Norman Geisler defines God’s beauty as “the essential attribute of goodness that produces in the beholder a sense of overwhelming pleasure and delight.”[5] Wayne Grudem defines God’s beauty as “that attribute of God whereby he is the sum of all desirable qualities [sic].”[6] This is the positive side of God’s goodness. That is, God’s goodness is something that we should desire, something we should crave. Paul writes that the beauty of God, found in Christ, was given “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). People crave beautiful things. However, we often crave the baser desires of physical beauty or materialism. True beauty is found in goodness. True goodness is found in God. Therefore, God is true beauty.

2. The grandeur of God’s PERFECTION (27:1-3, 13).

In verses 1-3, David addresses God’s perfection by way of his trust in God. In verse 1, David writes that “The LORD is my light and my salvation” (27:1). Bratcher and Reyburn note that “Only here in the Old Testament is Yahweh called my light; this means he is the source of life and vitality.”[7] The Moody Bible Commentary notes that “the word light [sic] here, as elsewhere in the OT, is a metaphor for comprehensive salvation, spiritual and physical, both present and eternal.”[8] In verses 2-3 and also in verse 13, David continues to express his trust in God because he knew God was perfect and could be trusted.

When we speak of perfection, we are acknowledging another aspect of God’s grandeur which complements the aspect of God’s beauty. Whereas beauty is the positive aspect of God’s grandeur and goodness (being that he is something that is to be desired), God’s perfection is the negative aspect of God’s grandeur and goodness (being that he holds no flaws whatsoever). Grudem states that “God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him.”[9] God holds no character flaws. God holds no weaknesses. God can be trusted because he is the ultimate good. When we experience the presence of God, we should crave God’s presence much as did David. Do we have the same desire to be where God is?

3. The grandeur of God’s MAJESTY (27:6-12; Isaiah 6:1-7).

In verses 6-12, David expresses his trust that he would be “exalted above the enemies who surround me” (27:6). David’s heart sought to seek God (27:8). While David primarily speaks of his confidence in God, one could argue that David placed his trust in God’s ability to protect him because of the great majesty of God. The prophet Isaiah described the majesty of God the best that he could in Isaiah 6:1-7. He portrays God as “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1).

When we speak of the majesty of God, we are saying, as Norman Geisler notes, that “God’s majesty consists of unsurpassed greatness, highest eminence, unparalleled exaltation, and unmatched glory.”[10] God’s majesty is associated with his honor and strength (1 Chronicles 16:27), God’s greatness and power in (1 Chronicles 29:11), and so on. Majesty is rooted in beauty and splendor. Who looks at a pile of mud and says, “Oh, how majestic”? Rather, one observes the tranquil ocean, a rugged mountain peak, a vividly colorful flower, a mighty animal, or a distant galaxy and say, “Oh how majestic!” Rather than provide the “ooo’s” and “ahh’s” that accompany many of the physical observations of beauty, we should provide wholehearted praise to the majestic God when we observe and acknowledge his grand beauty.

4. The grandeur of God’s INEFFABILITY (27:13-14; Deut. 29:29; Job 11:7: Isa. 55:8).

This characteristic is not so much an attribute of God as much as it is our limitations in fully understanding the grandeur of God. David understood that there were some things that he could not fully comprehend. While he was facing his enemies, he did not know why he must face them. Also, he did not know what would take place. However, David could still say, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (27:13-14). As the commentators of the Moody Bible Commentary noted, this “does not indicate passivity or inaction, but rather trust and confident anticipation that [God] will take action.”[11]

 The term “ineffability” literally means “incapable of being expressed.”[12] When we speak of the ineffability of God, we are acknowledging the presence of mystery as it relates to God. Mystery does not indicate a paradox (something that is a logical fallacy or logically inconsistent). Rather, again as Geisler notes, mystery is “something that does not go against reason, but beyond reason.”[13] The trinity is not something that is logically flawed and goes against reason. Rather, the trinity is something that is difficult to explain and goes beyond the capacities of reason. We should expect such things with the Creator of the universe.

There are many things in life that we cannot know. God can be apprehended (that is, we can know certain things about God), but God can never be fully comprehended (that is, understanding every detail about God). But that’s okay. We can answer many questions about God. But, there are many questions that are beyond our comprehension. For instance: why does God take a good person in the prime of his life while he allows an evil person to live many years? Why does God allow bad parents to have children while many good parents are unable to have children? Why did God allow my grandfather to take his life? Why is my godly grandmother lying in a nursing home with the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s? While I do think that there are answers to these questions, you and I can never fully comprehend why. But what I have found is that if we can trust God in the things that are knowable, then we can trust God in the things that are unknowable.

So what can we take from this?

  1. God’s beauty means that his goodness is to be desired. Have you ever recalled a time of great purity and goodness? I recall it with my time spent with my grandparents as they were people of faith. Contrast that with a time where you were in sin. Sin makes one feel dirty. Seek out the beauty of God!
  2. God’s perfection means that he holds no flaws and serves as a perfect example for you. While we have heroes in this life of whom we try to emulate, the only perfect example is that of God. Be mature as God is mature.
  3. God’s majesty means that he is highly exalted and worthy of praise. The natural response of viewing a majesty scene of nature is to exclaim “Oooo! Ahhh!” The natural response of exposure to God’s majesty is that of total and complete worship. God is majestic and worthy to be praised!
  4. God’s ineffability means that we while we may apprehend some aspects of God, we will never fully comprehend God. Relish in God’s mysteries. If you are like me, you want to know. It nearly drove me crazy trying to figure out how God’s sovereignty fits in with human freedom. I finally had to settle for congruism which acknowledges that both divine sovereignty and human freedom mysteriously coexist. It’s okay not to know everything about God. In fact, it’s impossible that you would ever understand God completely. God is God and you are not. So, do as David did. Trust God despite your lack of divine comprehension.

 

© April 5, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: New Testament, Abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 828.

[2] Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 261.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

[4] D. A. Carson, et. al., eds, NIV Zondervan Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 1010.

[5] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 526.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 219.

[7] Bratcher and Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, 261.

[8] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2014), 784.

[9] Grudem, ST, 218.

[10] Geisler, ST, 524.

[11] Rydelnik and Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary, 785.

[12] Geisler, ST, 528.

[13] Ibid., 530.

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