An Amazing God!

An Amazing God!

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Scripture: Psalm 23:1-6

Scroll through these images. There’s something amazing about each of them.

elderly man balancing on top of an empty bottle with his
A man balancing on top of bottle by his hand
A sunrise near Kalamazoo, MI
A sunrise near Kalamazoo, MI
Blue surf caused by ostracod crustaceans (Maldive Island)
Blue surf caused by ostracod crustaceans (Maldive Island)
Hair standing up 3 feet on end
Hair standing up 3 feet on end
Matchsticks standing on end in a design to look like a basketball shoe
Matchsticks standing on end in a design to look like a basketball shoe
Gigantic sand castle
Gigantic sand castle
Natural cloud swirl at sunset
Natural cloud swirl at sunset
Ant pushing a water droplet
Ant pushing a water droplet

Here are some amazing facts about the human body.

  • There is 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body.
  • You body has 7 octillion atoms (that’s 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). Compare that to only 300,000,000,000 stars in our entire galaxy.
  • Every thirty minutes you body produces enough heat to boil 1 gallon of water. Over the course of 24 hours, you could boil 48 gallons of water by your body heat alone.
  • Every twenty-four hours the blood in your body travels 12,000 miles. That’s four times across the United States every day.
  • Your eyes are equivalent to a 576 megapixel camera. This top-of-the-line $6500 Nikon has a resolution of less than 21 megapixels.

There’s a lot in this world that truly amazes us; there are things things are nearly impossible for us to fully comprehend or understand. Take, for example, the scientific concept that the universe is constantly expanding. With every passing minute we sit here, the “edge” of the universe is moving out further and further; outer space is getting more expansive by the moment. Creation is literally still unfolding with no end in site. It will go on forever!

Take that idea of an ever-expanding universe and picture this: the galaxy which is millions of light years across easily fits into God’s hands! Talk about amazing! Now, compare the immeasurable expanse of the universe to the size of a human being. Size-wise, you and I are beyond insignificant; we’re beyond beyond insignificant. And yet, the God who holds the universe in his hand easily sees and hears and knows each of us intimately, as though we were the only element of all creation. In fact, the mystery of our faith is that he lives within each of us!

“Amazing” doesn’t even come close to describing God. There’s not a word in the human lexicon which expresses the magnitude of God’s nature and being. He’s beyond our ability to adequately describe. We limited to words like awesome, unbelievable, astonishing, bewildering, wondrous, marvelous, magnificent, and amazing. But they all fall short of summing up the essence of who God is.

So our starting place is that it’s impossible to fully grasp the amazingness of God. To help us better wrap our heads around God, Jesus would compare our Heavenly Father and the Kingdom of God to earthly realities we can understand. For example, he said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed.” He compared the Kingdom to “a man who sowed good seed” and “a treasure hidden in a field.” These comparisons help us understand the realities of God.

Likewise, the psalmists did the same thing. Today’s psalm, however, takes it one step further; it informs the reader what God is. Psalm 23 opens with this bold proclamation:  “The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.” What does a shepherd do? They take care of and protect their flock; they provide for the animals’ every need; they lead them to pastures where they can eat, to watering holes where they can drink, and away from harm. According to Psalm 23, God does all these same things for us because he’s our ‘shepherd.’

As a young child I was always confused by the second half of v. 1 because the archaic language of the King James Version of the Bible. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. What I heard was “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” (a single sentence/statement). I always wondered why anyone wouldn’t “want” the Lord. Fortunately, today’s modern translations clear up that confusion. The second part of that verse is better translated “I lack nothing.”

Let that notion sink in. As our shepherd, he provides for all our needs so that we can say that we lack nothing. Nothing! If you sit with that truth long enough you might begin to grasp how amazing God really is. Let it roll around in your mind and heart that God has met all of your most important human needs. Even if you can’t identify exactly which needs he’s met, let the notion of it absorb into your mind. And even if you’re not sure you believe it, at least consider the significance of it AS IF it were true. What an absolutely amazing God!

If this statement about God is true–that in him we lack nothing of ultimate significance–what difference would that make in your experience of life? How would it affect that way you experience God? I lack nothing I really need.

Let me share two quick stories from my junior high years. Through most of 7th grade I was bullied by Sheldon. He identified me early on as an easy target because I had demonstrated that I wouldn’t fight back. So the physical bullying went on for quite some time. When I complained about it to my parents, they’d ask me if I wanted them to get involved. “Of course not!” I’d say. “If he gets hauled into the principals office he’ll know I said something, and that’ll make his bullying even worse.” At some point, however, it must have gotten to be too much. Either I gave them permission or they just decided to do something. So my father talked with the principal, and guess what happened? The bullying stopped!

Story #2. In 9th grade (9th grade was part of the junior high school system in Ann Arbor at that time) I went to vocal Solo & Ensemble  and received a score of 1. There are a number of criteria for earning a 1, and one of them is singing all the correct lyrics. But as it was for me that day, during one of the songs I forgot the lyrics. My father, who was accompanying me on the piano, tells me that I simply sang other lyrics until I remembered the correct words, where I got back on as written. Even though I forgot the correct lyrics, because I sang the song with a high level of feeling and emotion, the adjudicator gave me a 1 anyway.

The next week I sat down with my music teacher who wanted to talk through the adjudicator’s comments. At the end of our conversation he informed me that because I forgot the lyrics, I shouldn’t have been given a 1. You can imagine how that felt. I was crushed.

My father, a well-respected music teacher in the school system, who’d been teaching for many, many years by that time, and who had children of his own, took the opportunity to privately speak with my teacher, who had no children of his own, and who had only been teaching for a hand-full of years. In their conversation, Dad relayed to him why the adjudicator decided to give me a 1. My take was that Dad took that opportunity to offer a friendly perspective on how to use his role as a teacher to lift up and encourage his students, and to celebrate their accomplishments.

In those two instances, my parents met a real need of mine. Safety and self-esteem. Human needs that I couldn’t meet in myself; I needed someone from outside of me to meet them. Meeting these needs helped me to grow and become a more emotionally whole person.

If a human being can meet such a need, imagine what our Heavenly Father can do for us. One of the most important tenets of our Christian faith is that God meets our deepest and most important emotional and spiritual needs, even to the point that we can say–regardless of our life situation–“I lack nothing.” Believe it or not, there are homeless men and women who will affirm this notion, that despite their homelessness they’re connection to God enables them to say, “I lack nothing.” Clearly, they know they lack a home, but they’re affirming a deeper, spiritual reality. Likewise, there are prisoners who are in for life who can say, “I lack nothing.” There are some who are unemployed, divorced, and grieving who can say of themselves, “I lack nothing.” To me, that’s amazing. And it points to an amazing God.

On the screen is the Hebrew verb, yasha.  It has multiple meanings:

  •  to rescue
  • to defend
  • to preserve
  • to make free
  • to attain victory
  • to bring to safety
  • to heal
  • to save

In one word it’s the answer to practically everything we human beings seek after. I think that yasha is what we spend our entire lives seeking after whether we realize it or not. Every person here needs what this word points to — help, freedom, victory (over any of the many struggles we all have), healing. And yes, in one way or another we all seek after salvation, which comes in different forms: liberation, safekeeping, redemption. Spiritual salvation is ‘good standing with God,’ and who here doesn’t want that? In Hebrew, salvation in the fullest sense comes from yasha.

And from the word yasha comes the Hebrew word, yeshua, which literally means “salvation.” Here are two passages in the Old Testament that speak of God becoming our yeshua, our salvation.

  1. Exodus 15:2 — “The Lord is my strength and my power; he has become my salvation [yeshua].”
  2. Isaiah 12:2 — “God is indeed my salvation [yeshua]….Yes, the Lord is my strength and my shield; he has become my salvation [yeshua].”

In this context, the salvation we need is found not in a ‘what’ but in a ‘who.’ Our liberation/safekeeping/redemption/salvation is not found in having lots of money, or our authority over people, or having warm home, or even in our loving relationships. Having those things may make us comfortable, and may even contribute to a feeling of well-being, but they aren’t the source of our salvation. Salvation is found in God.

So, God would not only create the universe (which is expanding at that!), but he would also be the One who would become our HELP, DEFENSE, PRESERVING, FREEDOM, VICTORY, and our SALVATION. God would become the answer to our greatest and deepest human needs. God would become our yeshua.

Question: If yeshua means “salvation,” is there a difference between the following two statements? 1) God would become our salvation. 2) God would become our yeshua. On the surface, they seem the same. But there is a significant difference by looking further at the Hebrew.

In Hebrew, ‘yeshua’ is both a regular noun and a proper noun, a name. In Hebrew, yeshua (the noun) is also Yeshua (a proper name, such as Drew. In English we would capitalize the first letter). In the Greek translation of the Bible, Yeshua becomes ‘Iesous.’ When translated into Latin, it’s ‘Jesu.’ The English translation is ‘Jesus.’ So Jesus is Yeshua. Yeshua is Jesus. They are one in the same. Scripture tells us that God would become our salvation. He would become Jesus. This, of course, is the entire crux of Christmas, God becoming the human being, Jesus.

You see, the ancient hope was that one day God would become our Yeshua, our salvation. And so he has! In Jesus Christ, God has become our rescue, our help, our freedom, our healing, our victory (over sin), and, ultimately, our salvation. He became the person Yeshua/Jesus in order to become the answer to every deep human need.

The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff–they protect me.
You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my  head in oil;
my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the LORD’s house as long as I live.
— Psalm 23 (Common English Bible)

What an amazing God he is. The One who created this, and this, and this, and yes, even the ability to do this squeezed himself into one of these, who eventually grew into this man, who is our salvation. Indeed, what an amazing God he is!

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