Psalm 50:21-23 (ESV)
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”
“you thought that I was one like yourself,” says God to the wicked. What a true thing. It is common to find those who do not desire to follow God reshaping the personality and character of God in their own minds.
Mark Dever tells a story of a conversation that he once had with a student. The student was disagreeing with Dever on his understanding of God. Beginning his description by saying things like, “I prefer to think of God as…,” the student denied key doctrines of the faith such as God’s holiness, justice, or his plan for atoning for sin. When the student finished, Dever said to him, “Thank you for telling me so much about yourself.” Dever knew that the student had revealed his own notions to the class, but the student had done nothing to tell the class what God is really like.
The tendency to redefine God is something that happens inside and outside of the local church. Just watch as people run up against doctrines that do not fit what they want to do at the present time. You will suddenly see people who redefine God’s standards. Who should be baptized? Who should be married? Who goes to heaven? What does God require? These all can change in a person’s view based on what they want at the time.
But God shows us from Psalm 50 that we are not allowed to redefine him. We may think he is altogether like us, but we are wrong. He is who he is. Remember, God even spoke is name to Moses as “I Am Who I Am.” We have no more right to redefine God than we have the right to redefine gravity, the sun, or oxygen. These things are what they are. No matter whether we agree with them or not, they do not change. God is who he is, and our definition of him or our opinion of him will not change him.
At the end of this psalm, God says, “to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” To one who does not assume that his ways are God’s ways, God will bring salvation. To one who does not think that he has the right to tell God what God must be or to do what he thinks God should do, God brings grace. God is great. He does not need us. And we have no right to define God as anything other than what God has revealed himself to be. Only when we see God as he really is will we understand our sinfulness, our need for his mercy, and his perfection. Only when we see God rightly will we repent of sin, cry out to Jesus for mercy, and find the salvation of God.
What then do we do? Allow the word of God to show us who God is. Let Scripture show us a God who is holy and just, merciful and gracious. Allow the Scriptures to show us that we are sinners who cannot add one single thing to God or his kingdom. We cannot do anything for him on our own. Then allow the word to show us that God offers us salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone. Let the Scriptures call us to cry out to Jesus for mercy. Then, when all is said and done, be amazed that this very same God allows us to join him on mission as we live out our lives for his glory in his grace.