Lord, Thank You for Who You Are
There was a teacher at my (Christian) high school who would begin every class with prayer, and every prayer would start out the exact same way - “Lord, thank you for who you are.” I don’t think that my high school self really understood the point of this statement - isn’t it like thanking someone for having brown eyes? - but as I reflect on what we studied this past Sunday I can find so many things to be thankful for about who God is.
In our sermon, we looked at the second half of Genesis 18, where Abraham intercedes with God on behalf of Sodom. In Children’s Church, the kids studied the book of Jonah, where Jonah...doesn’t really intercede with God on behalf of Nineveh. In these two narratives we see God’s interaction with sinful man in different lights, but both point me to different elements of God’s character that I am so, so thankful for. So in the midst of a season that’s (rightly) focused on thankfulness, I want to share those things with you.
First, in God’s interaction with Abraham discussing Sodom, he says, “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.” We see here His perfect justice displayed so clearly. He does not mete out His justice arbitrarily, or capriciously - He dispenses it where it is warranted, and He takes great pains to show us that. God doesn’t need to go into Sodom and Gomorrah in order to know the sin that is taking place there - He knows everything - but for our benefit he makes it clear that He is concerned that He does not judge wrongly.
In graduate school, one of my pastors would tell a story about ministry work He did in Eastern Europe shortly after the fall of communism. His translator on one of his trips was a man who had suffered greatly at the hands of the Soviet Union - much of his family had started to death - and he struggled to believe in Christianity because Stalin had died peacefully in his bed, and where is the justice in that? But our God is not a God who ignores sin, and we see in the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative that will continue next week that God brings justice.
But on the flip side, in God’s interaction with Jonah surrounding Nineveh, we see that He is equally concerned with mercy and repentance. Upon hearing Jonah’s halfhearted message, the Ninevites wholeheartedly repent of their sins, and God relents from sending His judgement. Jonah bitterly, but correctly, identifies God as one who is “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
I often struggle to reconcile these two different treatments, and truly they are only reconcilable if we look to Jesus, on whom all God’s judgement was poured in order to allow us to receive His mercy and grace instead. He is the perfect intercessor, who doesn’t just ask God to find righteous people where there aren’t any, but makes people righteous so that God may relent from disaster.
So in this season of thankfulness, I am so, so thankful for who God is. His perfect justice means that all the sin in the world will not go by unanswered. And through the intercession that I receive from Jesus, the sin that I see in my own life does not doom me to judgement but instead allows me to experience HIs perfect mercy and righteousness. So in that knowledge and hope, won’t you join me in thanking God for who He is?