I have an app that prompts me to praise God as part of my morning prayers. My praise acknowledges His character qualities — who He is — rather than what He has done for me. Praise prompts me to remember He is a person in whose image all other people were created. Praise helps me understand why He acts in certain ways or gives us certain instructions. Praise lets me think about God from new perspectives.
As I read the Scriptures, I often look for more qualities and traits to praise. Thinking about the person behind the action leads me to new discoveries about Him. I recently noticed these verses in my Old Testament reading:
…Do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. (Deuteronomy 9:4, NIV)
This thought is repeated two more times in this passage so it must be important. At first reading it seems odd — maybe even harsh or critical — that God would keep emphasizing that the people are not righteous enough for Him to bless them with the Promised Land. These are God’s chosen people whom he promised to rescue and establish in their own land (Exodus 6:6-8). So why the strong words and what can we learn about God through them?
I believe God’s righteousness caused Him to speak this truth clearly and boldly. God is without sin and cannot tolerate sin. The people groups living in this strategic area He created have rejected Him completely. Their unrighteousness has made them God’s enemies. So He is taking away this land and granting it to the people who acknowledge, follow, and obey Him: the Israelites.
But the Israelites did not acknowledge, follow, and obey Him perfectly. The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land could have been completed in a few weeks, but it took them 40 years because of their sin (Numbers 14:34). Perhaps God’s justice requires Him to remind the Israelites of their own sin. It may prompt Him to remind them that they have not earned this land and do not deserve it. Justice may cause Him to make it clear this land is His gift.
There are many other surprising statements or actions of God recorded in the Bible. Here are a few verses that help us understand why we cannot always anticipate what He will do or say:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)
Although we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), His thoughts and plans are vastly different from ours. His reasoning is perfect; ours is not. His plans are perfect; ours are not. Unlike us, His motives are perfect. Far more life accepts and embraces God’s thoughts and ways as perfect and ours as imperfect.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3, NIV)
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand…Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt”? (Job 38:4, 8-11, NIV)
God spoke the heavens and the earth — and all that is in them — into existence. He did not follow a manual or consult others. His wisdom, creativity, and power were sufficient to create both the smallest and largest components of our universe…and everything in between. Far more life understands that our limited minds cannot grasp God’s wisdom and power.
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. (Numbers 23:19, NIV)
Can you even imagine never telling a lie or changing your mind? What would it be like to have all the information and confidence needed to get everything right the first time and never need to protect or defend yourself with lies? Far more life accepts that God is vastly superior to us and cannot be fully understood in this lifetime.
When I read ancient Greek and Roman mythology, I feel sad for the people who followed it. The gods are depicted with many of the same weaknesses we have. They lie, scheme, cheat, and steal; they suffer from jealousy, anger, lust, and greed. I wonder why anyone would be attracted to gods that are no better than themselves? Why would they worship gods who are so unpredictable and self-centered? The One true God, the God of the Bible, is not like those man-made gods. He deserves our praise, worship, and adoration. We may not understand Him fully, but we can trust Him fully. The better we know Him, the more this is affirmed.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17, NIV)
The Promised Land was a good and perfect gift that God gave the Israelites. Growing our relationship with God and one day seeing Him face-to-face is a good and perfect gift He gives us (I Corinthians 13:12). Praise helps us recognize the source and value of these gifts.
What confuses you about God? Who can you ask for help to understand Him better?
Which of His character qualities are most meaningful to you?
Praise God for who He is. Thank Him for the gift of far more life!
Copyright 2022, Shari Damaso