How Big is Our God?
We have a beautiful worship space here at West Point Presbyterian, don’t we? Large beams... the high vaulted ceiling… beautiful windows. You can sense the history that emanates from this place. It’s a majestic... inspiring, spiritual place of worship, prayer & contemplation… at least for us home folks, right? Even if we ARE unapologetically partial.
But, instead of this place that we’re most familiar with, try to picture the Temple… in Jerusalem… back in Isaiah’s day. Some of you are thinking, well, I don’t have a frame of reference for the Temple, I can’t imagine it! So, try to imagine a huge cathedral, or the largest church that you’ve ever been in… The temple was surely larger than that. It’s certainly larger than any church that I have ever been in. The largest church that I’ve ever stepped foot in is the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Maybe some of you have visited Notre Dame, or St. Peter’s Basilica, or Westminster Abby.
The story’s told, that back in the 1930s when the Duke University Chapel was being built, a farmer made a special trip into Durham, North Carolina, just see this gargantuan church that he had heard about. And when he got there, he looked around… walked from one end of the building to the other… and as he made his way out, he said, “ain’t no such building.”
Again the temple in Isaiah‘s day, was much larger than even the grandest of cathedrals that most of us have visited. In fact it’s inner and outer courts could easily hold a quarter million people as they worshiped. I suppose the closest I’ve ever experienced anything like that (Church related) was when I went to the Georgia Dome several years back for the Billy Graham Crusade… and the Georgia Dome only seated about 70,000 people.
So again try to imagine the largest church… the largest cathedral… maybe even the largest stadium you’ve ever visited...
And then, try to imagine God himself… appearing before you in that space. As you look up… one whole end of the building is opened up to the heavens… and God is seated on his throne. But it overwhelms you… as you realize that God is so big… so enormous in proportion… that the simple hem of his robe fills every inch of that huge space.
Of course, to add to the awesomeness of what you’re seeing... flying all around God are these heavenly beings with six wings. And they are so shamed, so exposed, by the glory of God… that they hide their faces and their nakedness… in respect… as they cry out before God: “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of host… the whole earth is filled with his glory.” Their voices are so majestic… so awesome… the sound literally shakes the foundations of the Temple.
Well, that’s pretty much how Isaiah described his experience in the Temple. He was so overwhelmed, so awestruck by what he had witnessed that he cried out, “woe is me! I am lost… I’m ruined… I am undone… for I’m a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips… yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of host.” The only thing on Isaiah‘s mind was, if heavenly beings covered themselves in shame before God… what in the world would happen to a mere mortal like Isaiah?
It’s all begs, at least in my mind, a very simple yet very profound question. How big is our God? I’m not talking about physical size… I mean how big... how expansive... how encompassing... is God in our own life?
The fact is... most of us (myself included), offer God a sliver of our lives... a fraction. This much, and no more.
When someone has the audacity to suggest something that’s beyond what we’re willing to accept… or beyond what we’ve experienced to be possible: Our instinct is to deny it. Like that farmer, who’d never seen such a huge church… we deny us existence… we say, “ain’t no such thing.” The fact is, our limited perception of reality leads us to conceive of God in human terms, so we have trouble perceiving (seeing, understanding) God as being bigger than our limited conception.
Of course, the doctrine of the Trinity is an example of the Church trying to overcome our tendency to limit God. The doctrine of the Trinity contends there’s one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Other religions cry foul! That’s not fair you Christians can’t do that! That’s saying 3 equals 1, and we all know that’s not right.
Of course, in essence, we ARE saying three equals one. We profess to serve God and three relatable persons… It’s beyond our realm of understanding to appreciate how Jesus could be the Son of God, and be one with the Father, and one with us at the same time! But he is! He’s our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Companion. We Christians have experienced one in the same… God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit even though at times we ourselves have trouble wrapping our minds around it - and have to receive that Truth by faith, don’t we?
Of course, if nothing else... the Trinity serves as a reminder to us, that God is bigger than what you and I could ever hope to appreciate or understand. God is greater than the greatest that you and I have ever experienced. God is beyond our greatest realities, and our most deeply held assumptions.
The Psalmist knew of this, and wrote, “what are humans that God is mindful of them?” After all we’re tiny creatures in the grand scheme of things, living on a minute speck of dust circling a flickering and faint ball of light, in an obscure, ordinary, insignificant galaxy in the vast expanse of the universe. If such an Almighty God were to really notice us, how would it make sense to think, that we could possibly be anything more than a nuisance or a curiosity?
Yet God‘s Word affirms - time and again - that God not only notices us, but he created us... he loves us. He cares for us. We are the apple of his eye.
Remember Isaiah in the temple? He thought he was, “as good as dead” because he had seen God. So he cried out, “woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips.” God heard Isaiah’s cry… and cleansed Isaiah‘s lips.
I mean, think about that for a moment. Here was a pesky little unclean lipped Isaiah, and there was this Almighty holy, holy, holy God. Who was Isaiah to be blessed by such an encounter? Like us, he was unworthy to stand before the majesty and holiness of God. He said of himself, “I a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips!.” But, not only did Isaiah experienced God’s presence and glory... God also cleansed and commissioned Isaiah, to share in the restorative work of God’s Kingdom.
It’s an amazing story. But then… God‘s grace is always amazing, isn’t it? God’s grace that would save a wretch like me? John Newton wrote a hymn that testifies to this grace. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me… I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.” John Newton had been a slave trader. He was a human trafficker, that’s what we would call him today. When he found Christ, or more correctly, when Christ found him… He turned to God, mourning the lives that he’d destroyed. He repented, and God cleansed him, God forgave him... and God used him.
But then, that’s how big God is. God can take the vilest of sinners… He can take the most unclean the unclean… and make them whole. There’s no sin, there’s no offense, there’s no transgression that’s beyond God‘s amazing grace. That doesn’t mean that grace is cheap. The price God paid for our forgiveness, makes God’s grace even more amazing, doesn’t it? God gave himself for us in the person of Christ, God came in the flesh to suffer the punishment that we rightfully deserved.
I think about that: who are we that God would die for us? Who are we that God even notices? That the Almighty, all knowing, sovereign God: who is larger than our grandest thought... is so gracious, that he forgives... he walk along-side us... comforting us in our weakness... and even numbering us among his children.
How big is our God? Are you & I guilty of trying to limit God? Do any of us really think for one moment that we have any problems any concerns... any temptations or griefs... that are too big for God to notice? Or to cleanse… or to heal?
Don’t try to limit what God can do. Open your mind to the possibilities of what God is actually doing in your life, right now. Let God be the Almighty in your mind and in your heart and your soul. Give God all of your concerns because he is big enough, he’s gracious enough, to see us through all of our problems, all of our vexations, all of our troubles. Don’t shy away. Give God all of your despair because He alone is big enough to forgive, to heal, and to restore.
For as we stand in awesome wonder at his greatness... and our insignificance... we also stand in the very real assurance that God loves us. Amazing grace, indeed.