Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Benefit from God's God-Centeredness

"As I live," declares the Lord Yahweh, "surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you," declares the Lord Yahweh.

"I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the Yahweh. As for you, O house of Israel," thus says the Lord Yahweh, "Go, serve everyone his idols..."

"...but later you will surely listen to Me, and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols. For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel," declares the Lord Yahweh, "there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I will accept them and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things. As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I will prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations. And you will know that I am Yahweh, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I swore to give to your forefathers.
There you will remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things that you have done. Then you will know that I am Yahweh when I have dealt with you for My name's sake, not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel," declares the Lord Yahweh.
- Ezekiel 20:33-44 -

This text is so glorious. I could probably spend a month making observations that would make my soul sing. But right now I just want to just bask in how awesome the God-centeredness of God is, and how God's pursuing His own glory necessarily is for our benefit.

In the passage above, the scene is Judah's impending judgment. Soon the Babylonians will come and destroy the temple and destroy Jerusalem. And they will be acting entirely according to the will of Yahweh, who credits Himself with the destruction of His people, His land, and His holy temple.

But He declares that that judgment is not the end of the story for Judah. No, He will surely restore them as a people, will give them back their land, and, as Ezekiel will tell us later on, will give them back their temple (Ezek 40-48).

But what's amazing is why God says He'll have mercy on them and graciously restore them. He declares that He will save Israel to prove Himself holy, and to ensure that His name be properly honored and not be profaned. You see, He is not content to simply cut off His people in judgment. That would not magnify His attractiveness. It would give the nations occasion to mock and jeer, "These are the people of Yahweh; yet they have come out of His land" (Ezek 36:20). "What kind of weak God is Yahweh that His people regard Him so lightly that they defy Him so greatly, that He must resort to such measures to punish them?"

But in the pursuit of His glory, to ensure that His compelling beauty be magnified in the sight of all the world, He will see to it that Israel worship Him. It's as if He's saying, "Oh, one day you will see how great I am. One day you will finally have your eyes opened to fully appreciate how beautifully glorious and delightfully satisfying I am. I will make sure of it. You will not get away with not worshiping Me!"

How awesome is that? God is emphatic about saving Israel not for their sake but for His sake. Here, He's said, "I will deal with you for My name's sake" (Ezek 20:44)! Later on He says, "It is
not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name. ... I will vindicate the holiness of My great name" (Ezek 36:22-23)! He is radically and recklessly God-centered.

But isn't it just lovely that it is precisely His love for Himself that we, as His people, experience as love for us!

That God's absolute commitment to His own glory is linked to my finding Him delightful and being satisfied by Him in worship is unspeakably glorious and the most lofty demonstration of grace that I could ever conceive of! God has designed this universe to work in such a way that His glory and our good are not only vitally connected and related -- they are the very same thing! It's not just that whatever God decides will glorify Him most will satisfy us most. It's that God's glory is our good! The good we are looking for is to see Him magnified!

That is absolutely astounding to me. I hope it is for you too. May your heart be captivated and worship at such benevolent grace from such a large-hearted God.

I want to add one thing in closing. I don't know about you, but as I ponder these things, I sense that I am loved in an infinitely greater way knowing that God is not acting for my sake or for my benefit per se, but rather for His own. If He was doing everything He does for my sake and not His own sake, I would feel less loved, because I know in my heart that I'm not worthy to be so highly regarded that way. God would seem smaller to me; He would be man-centered. But because He is unwaveringly committed to the glory of His name, He is magnified in my sight as utterly righteous and utterly worthy. And then, because it is His nature that, in tireless commitment to Himself I somehow benefit from that, well that takes my breath away. My God is a big God. My God is an amazing God. I feel more loved by God because He aims at loving Himself above all things, and loving Himself spills over into benefit for me.

I hope you feel the same way.


bluerust88 said...

Hey, I just wanted to thank you for posting this. Our class was talking about it, and i didn't understand it at all. To me, it looked as if God was being prideful, cuz in the Bible, it said to be humble and not prideful. And God talked about how he loved and would do anything for us. But when i read this, it was so clear to me, but one part i didn't understand, how is Gods love for Himself, expierence as love for us?

How is Him loving Himself beneficial for us?

Thanks, God bless!

Mike Riccardi said...

Hi Bluerust. Glad to hear you thinking through these things.

The answer to how God's love for Himself is beneficial for us is in understanding what love is. Love is doing what is best for someone -- doing for someone what will bring them the most true, abiding, satisfaction and joy.

And what will bring all human beings true and abiding satisfaction, or joy, is to see and savor the glory of God revealed in the face of Christ. This is what we were created for. God has designed our souls to be satisfied with Him.

So when God labors to manifest the glory of His name (God loves Himself), He labors to manifest to humanity what will most truly and abidingly satisfy them (God loves us). Because our greatest good is to see God exalted, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is loving.

Does that help?