God – Outside or Inside Your Box
* Every one of us has boxes around our house. When you move, you pack everything in boxes, label the box to identify the contents, and then unpack that box when you’re ready. Additionally, boxes are used to keep things. At our house, Deb is notorious for putting things in a box of some kind, labeling it, and then storing that box until it is needed. Putting things inside a box gives us the sense of organization and control. As long as it is in the box, all is well, we know where it is, and things never get messy. We love things “in the box” so much that our kids even have a toy called “Jack in the box.” That toy works like this; Jack only pops out when we want him to, he only stays out as long as we want him to, and he goes back in when we say to.
* For all of these reasons (and more) the phrase “outside the box” has come to mean outside the norm, without the normal restraints, and even not under the normal controls or constraints. So anything in the box is under control having the appearance of normalcy while outside the box is outside the norm and under less control.
* As we have read our scripture and heard Paul’s stirring song of praise for God and many of His attribute, it is very clear that Paul views His God as a God who is “outside the box.” That is, a God who not under Paul’s thumb or under control.
* So today I ask, “What type of God do you have? “Is He inside or outside of your personal box?”
* What would it mean to have God “Inside my box?” He would become;
1. A Managed God – Now, think about that just a second. This would mean;
a. I Create God – Have you noticed that some in our culture do not like the Biblical view of God? In Genesis 1:27 God says (as He speaks to the Angels and other Heavenly Bodies), “Let us make man in our image” and today the attitude seems to be “Let us make God in our image.” On a cultural level, we can see this happening in many ways (too many ways to name). This week I read an article as to how the “Gender Neutral” prayer book for reformed Jews and even the “Gender Neutral” Bible allowed the readers to construct their own image of God. On a personal level, we tend to create God in our image when we don’t care for what He says about specific actions and activities. Some don’t like the fact that God gives boundaries for our behavior. Immorality will never know the favor of God as neither with gossip. When we don’t like something there is a tendency to adjust our ‘god’ and make him a respecter of our thoughts & decisions. Having a God I create gives me the power to keep him tucked away. However, this is simply the first reason we Keep God in our Box. Next,
b. I Control God – I submit this is HUGE for in our Americanized church culture. We are a culture of people afflicted with OCD. Our desire is to control everything from our finances to our families to our faith. Truth is, if we are allowed to we will attempt to control someone else’s life. I mean, if we can control our concept of our God, then why can we control our church, staff, preacher, friends, spouse, and boss? If I can control God, then I know exactly how He’s going to work. He is predictable, He is contained by my little concept, and He is always there when I need Him while, at the same time, He doesn’t have the influence or the power to even change my mind, let alone my schedule, priorities, or life. Literally, He works with my permission. Now, most of us would say, “I don’t believe that about God! You have to be talking about the pagans.” While we say these things, isn’t it true that some would be upset if something truly unusual happened this morning? For many, I want ‘my’ time of worship to be what “I” like and want and little thought is given to what God likes and what God wants. Truly, a God we can control is an oxymoron.
c. I’m Comfortable with God – While it may be true that God desires for us to find “comfort” from Him, it is equally true that scripture records no one who was ‘comfortable’ in His presence. At the burning bush, Moses hid his face in fear. Isaiah withdrew saying, I am unworthy, unclean, and undone.” On the aisle of Patmos John feel down before God in fear. Every time God comes near to an individual, He (and His angels) always begin with “fear not” because mankind is anything but comfortable in the presence of deity. Yet today in an effort to make God more approachable He has been made into something He’s not. There is a great difference in being comforted and comfortable. When we become comfortable, the awe is gone, the wonder has passed, and even the fear has subsided. With all due respect to everyone who desires to make themselves comfortable with God, this could be a subtle attempt to create God in our own image, that you might keep Him in your box and under control.
* Allow me to submit from our scripture that God was never to be kept in a box, be completely understood on earth, let alone “controlled.”
2. A Mysterious God - We all know what a mystery is, it is something we cannot figure out. (Kind of like the stimulus package) Candidly, we cannot figure God out because everything He does is on a different level than us. Look at the way Paul begins this song of praise. “OH”: it is an an expression of surprise, awe, and wonder. Our God is not just an awesome God, but He is also a mysterious God. 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen or ear heard or have we thought of, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” This is important for a “God who is out of the box.”
a. He has unfathomable riches. Some of synonyms for unfathomable are deep, bottomless, or immeasurable. Fishermen have an instrument on their boat which gives them the depth of the water. This helps them KNOW where to fish. At some times in the year, it’s better to fish shallow while at other times, it better to fish deep. Let’s make this parallel, man’s riches are shallow while God’s riches are beyond any gauge.
* When Paul says, “Oh, the depth of His riches” He is telling us that God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are beyond what we can even conceive. His physical riches extends beyond cattle on a thousand hills, He even owns the Hills, and the galaxies. But the greater riches extend to things like wisdom and knowledge. Some-times we forget that the greatest treasure is not found in silver and gold, but in other, more intangible things like all that He knows & understands. It’s easy to say He knows it all, but to understand that concept leaves us guessing. May I suggest that it’s important for our God to set the standard in all things?
* How about just a couple of areas in which He set the standard as “unfathomable”? First, there is Love. No one can know the height, width, depth, or length of His love. It reached from Heaven to Calvary to a Tomb to a room in my heart. What kind of God gives His only Son for His lowly creation? A God of unfathomable love. Were He a God in your box, He would be limited by you and your love, but He’s not. Next, there is grace. Knowing what grace is helps us to understand that God grace is matchless, endless, and extends beyond what our mind can conceive.
b. He has unsearchable judgments. What exactly does this mean? Unsearchable? Does it mean that His judgments are in such disarray that no one can pull it together? Does this means that God’s judgments are so different and always unchanging that no one can figure out what he stands for or is against? Actually, it means almost the opposite. We all know that God judges based on His laws, precepts, and commands. But, we cannot fully understand His judgments because of limited capacity.
c. He has untraceable ways. Think about this; God has unfathomable riches (wisdom, knowledge, love, grace, etc.), He has unsearchable judgments (in other words that we cannot investigate) and He has untraceable ways (the KJV says His ways are ‘past finding out’). Based on Psalms 77:19 this is an inference to God leading the children of Israel through the Red sea and the waters erased the footprints. This imagery teaches you and I the Jehovah God (the God outside the box) cannot be figured out. We can see the evidence that He is working in our minds these evidences are proofs that God exists, loves us, and is always working, yet we are called to faith. That is faith is an unseen God, with an unseen hand, & abundant love.
* Have you followed me thus far? The God we keep inside the box is a managed God; one that we have created, control, and are comfortable with. The God outside the box is just the opposite. He is a mysterious God who is unfathomable, unsearchable, and untraceable. So how do we interface with Him? How do we know Him? Verses 34-36 tell us.
3. A Marvelous God – Psalms 118:23 says, “This was the Lord’s doing: It is marvelous in our eyes.” We serve a mighty marvelous God. Verses 34-35 ask a couple of rhetorical questions which are taken from Isaiah and Job that affirm the mysterious and marvelous nature of our God. Verse 36 gives us a clear picture of this marvelous God.
a. In His Attitude – We begin with this thought “From Him are all things.” How does this denote His attitude? We are people with a rebellious, selfish, and sinful nature. God’s attitude about sin is the same today as it was in the Garden of Eden. He has no room for sin in His Kingdom or His presence. For us this means that without any help we are a doomed people. Our sinful nature keeps us separated from almighty God. However, God’s attitude toward mankind is also the same as it was in the Garden of Eden. He created us with the desire to enjoy us and have sweet ongoing fellowship with us. When you couple His desire with our need, His attitude was that there must be a way for us to have our fellowship restored. So, “from Him” came His only son, Jesus. God’s attitude is expressed in this way, “He gave or sent Jesus.” It wasn’t a request; it was a mission for Jesus. That is, to restore fallen man to God.
b. In His Actions – We continue with “Through Him are all things.” God sent Jesus to takes our place. Jesus was God’s only “begotten”, His “One and Only”, or His uniquely distinctive Son to take our place on the cross and our punishment for Sin. If we choose to keep God inside the box, He will never do something like this because, humanly speaking, it makes little sense. God’s actions toward us demonstrate a love which we cannot understand, but we can know it.
c. In His Activities - We response with “To Him are all things.” Not to get to complicated but for clarity, consider this; the Greek for “to” is “eis” which means “into, to, towards, for” and even carries the sense of being “among”. When I consider this marvelous God, Jehovah, being among us I am reminded of the first chapter of John and the second chapter of Acts. John 1 tells us that God “dwelt among us”, “took us residence”, or better said, “Pitched His tent” among us. Then in Acts 2, we all know that God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit to dwell with us.
* Today I don’t ask ‘If you believe God is in a box’ because no one would say they believe this. What I would ask is this; “How do you treat God?”