The God who is Immense

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Westminster Confession of Faith

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)

Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:23–24)

I must admit that when I first came across the doctrine of the immensity of God I was a little amused. Of course God is big, I thought, why make a fuss about it? As I read on, though, I realised that I had made precisely the kind of mistake this understanding of God seeks to guard against

I once stood on top of one of the Twin Towers in New York, looking out from the roof of the largest building I had ever seen. Yet just over the way was an equally massive tower, its twin. Although both these buildings were vast, they were simply part of the skyline of Manhattan. Look out from the roof, and the mast on top the the Empire State Building was higher still. Go to New York today, and there are five skyscrapers taller even than that.

God’s immensity doesn’t mean that he is simply a very big being, bigger than anything else. It means that he is present everywhere. There is nowhere where he is not: as the old prayer has it, he is “everywhere present and fillest all things”. He is omnipresent, as the Psalmist points out:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7–10)

This means that we need never fear we are beyond the notice of God, or beyond his reach. We may feel a particular sense of God’s presence in an ancient church building, but he is as present in the plumbing aisle at B&Q.

Does God Change?

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) - “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) - As we age, the aches begin to dog our joints and names seem to evaporate from the tip of the tongue. Things which our twenty-year old selves thought were dull and boring, become familiar and comforting. Joy turns to sorrow, anger flares up and then ebbs into regret. Compassion pricks our conscience, and sympathy brings tears. God’s love for us does not wane or change, and it is already pure and total. God’s goodness is entire and eternal. He is a firm foundation for our faith. He is utterly reliable, and a safe haven for all our hope.

The Eternal God

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2) - “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17) - We needn’t look back to the events recorded in Scripture and think that they deal with a different God from whom we are separated by millennia. God is as present to us as he was to them. He is much “I AM” now as he was then. For God, forever is simply now.

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