If you are paying much attention in Christian conversation these days, you will know that people are asking some interesting questions. Today, people are starting to call into question the goodness of God for his standards in a variety of areas. Some question God’s standards for gender and sexuality. Some question his standards for marriage. Some question God’s standards for social justice. Some just question God’s goodness in the Old Testament law.
In many of these instances, the questions about the goodness of God boil down to a simple thought. We believe that we understand justice, goodness, and righteousness better than God. We wonder how God can be perfectly right and put forward standards that we, in our modern and enlightened minds, find quite uncomfortable. The alternative, of course, is to say that Scripture is flawed and can only give us the best understanding of flawed men from centuries earlier.
You might say, Christian, that you do not face these temptations. You do not want to compromise the word of God. You would never consider yourself better at justice or righteousness than God. But, consider how easy it is for you to feel ashamed of God’s standards when they do not match the common, cultural expectation.
Let’s see just one simple point from Isaiah 40 that might help us as we look at the goodness and perfection of God in comparison to cultural expectation. I believe that keeping this in mind will give us a far better starting point for thinking through the things of God.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
In this little section, Isaiah asks some questions. And those questions have an obvious answer. Who can scoop up the entire ocean and hold it in the palm of his hand? Obviously, no person can do this other than the God who made the world. Who can measure the universe by stretching out his hand? Obviously, again, the answer is that nobody but God can do this.
Next, Isaiah takes his questions to questions of wisdom and counsel. The prophet showed us with his first question that no human being even comes close to being able to compare with the Lord. And he wants us to keep those thoughts in mind as we consider the goodness and the justice of the Lord. Think again about these questions that end verse 14, “Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” What is the answer? Nobody taught God these things. Why? Nobody could. Justice and knowledge and righteousness are not things apart from God. God himself determines what is just, what is right, and what is perfect.
Draw the comparison so as not to miss the point. Can you pick up an entire ocean in one hand? No, that is ridiculous. Can you teach God anything about justice or about how things ought to go? No, that is ridiculous, just as ridiculous as thinking you could pick up an ocean. Do you get this? You and I have as much ability to question the ways of God about marriage, sexuality, gender, the church, worship, the law, or any of his ways as we have to pick up the ocean. We cannot come close. The concept is ridiculous.
When you see that you cannot question or teach the Lord, it should humble you. When you remember that God defines justice, it should make you turn to him to learn it rather than attempting to justify his ways to a lost world. When you recall the greatness of God here, you should turn to the word, listen to God speak for himself, and surrender to the perfect ways of the Holy One.
The sweet thing here is that God has revealed himself and his ways in his holy word. The more we study his word, the more he will allow us to understand the reasons why he has commanded the things he has commanded. WE are, of course, to obey God regardless of whether we understand his rationale for his standards. But it is glorious to know that, as we learn the word of God, we can begin to understand him, learn his ways, and find the beauty in all he has told us.