Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

Your God Is Too Small

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

In 1951 J.B. Phillips in his book ‘Your God is too small’ described how society had surrendered a vision of an all powerful creator God for an image of a deity which was variously conceived of as the old man in the sky, the policemen of the conscience or a parental hangover. People no longer believed in the God of the Bible argued Philips because sociologists and others had re-categorised faith as being a prehistoric necessity of prehistoric man which has no place in the modern world, where man’s own achievements have rendered any sort of conception of God obsolete. At best God was seen as a fluffy pink duvet who may ease our discomfort, should we find ourselves, through bad luck, lying on a sociological bed of nails and an economic pillow of broken glass. Nearly sixty years on, the situation described by Phillips has, if anything, become worse rather than better.

A marvellous antidote to making God too small is Psalm 139. It paints an exalted picture of God, yet does so in stunningly personal ways. In particular:

1. God sees and knows everything

‘O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain’. (Psalm 139:1-6)

David might have made this point in the abstract; instead he makes it deeply personal. This God knows him so thoroughly that he knows every movement his body makes, and every habit of his life, but also every thought he entertains and every word he speaks — even before they are formulated.

2. God is omnipresent, and therefore inescapable

‘Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you’. (V. 7-12).

Yet again, the thought in the text is not abstract. When David asks, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” it is pretty obvious that there is a part of him that wants to get away from God. But it cannot be done. If he were to fly to the heavens or descend to Sheol, if he were to travel as far east or as far west as might be imagined, if he were to hide in the darkness — nothing could hide him from God’s searching gaze. By the end of the psalm, it is clear that he does not want to escape from this God.

3. God is the Creator and providential Ruler

‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you’. (V. 13-18).

Here David does not hark back to the initial creation, but to his own formation in his mother’s womb — which formation is nothing other than a work of God, for all its terrifying complexity. Nor does this God relinquish control once the creature is made: ‘…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’. (V. 16). This truth does not compromise human responsibility, but increases our faith. Perhaps it is the sheer breadth of such knowledge that prompts David to write the last two verses of this section: God’s thoughts cannot be numbered, for they are more numerous than the grains of sand by the sea — which is no exaggeration at all.

4. God is utterly holy

‘If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’. (V. 19-24).

David’s response to evil people is merely a function of his loyalty to God. What saves it from mere vindictive self-righteousness is the fact that in the light of this God’s holiness, David is resolved to deal with any evil in his own life. Our God couldn’t be any bigger than knowing everything, being everywhere, being creator and ruler, together with being perfect in holiness. And yet this majestic God wants a personal relationship with you and me. How great is our God!

Have a good week reflecting on how big our God is,

Pastor Barry

25th October 2009

Back to top