06122011 - Our God - From Everlasting to Everlasting
1 Chronicles 16:36
From Everlasting to Everlasting – The Infinity of God
When we think of the Psalms in the Bible we normally run immediately to the middle of our books and find the 150 Psalms written by David and others. We turn to those Psalms for encouragement and comfort. As an aid to our prayers we pray through those psalms. In those psalms we learn of God’s goodness, his faithfulness and his loving-kindness. We read of his majesty, his might and his mercies.
Here in one of the books, classified as ‘historical’ we find the psalmist David leading God’s people in a psalm of celebration as the Ark of the Covenant is brought into Jerusalem. The Ark is a visible sign of an invisible God. This is the LORD (Yahweh – the covenant making, promise keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Let’s look at this and see what we can learn about this God, the Lord, Yahweh and what our response should be to this God.
This is the one who has done wonderful things . . . who is ‘protective of His people’ . . . who is the God of Glory, maker of heaven and earth . . . who is judge . . . who is from everlasting even to everlasting (36) whose covenant is to be remembered forever (15). Because He is eternal, his people are able to ‘seek his face continually’ (11) and depend upon Him through all generations.
The WCF Shorter Catechism asks what is God and summarizes who He is with the answer:
God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth. Although God has communicated to us by and through his word so that we might understand in a small measure who He is, words cannot contain Him or nor can they adequately describe him. Often we try to come to terms with who God is by using words that describe what he is not. When we say that God is a spirit, we are saying that He is immaterial, that he is not of a material, physical substance. When we say that God is immutable we mean he's not mutable, he’s not changeable. And when we use the term infinite to describe God we’re saying that he is not finite. He has no beginning and no end, that He is from everlasting to everlasting.
When we say that God is infinite we are saying that He is unbounded, unlimited, unsearchable, immeasurable, incomparable, and incomprehensible. These are big words, both in size and meaning, and big words are needed to describe such a great and glorious God. God is so great that in comparison with Him “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’" (Daniel 4:35, NASB95)
When we say that God is infinite, we are referring to one of those ‘incommunicable’ attributes. This is one of those characteristics of God that we do not find in his created beings. Infinity contrasts God with His creatures. God is infinite; man is finite. God is infinite in all His attributes – his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth are from everlasting to everlasting, they are without end. But when we say God is infinite, we are mainly referring to His omnipresence and eternity. God is not bound by space, therefore He is everywhere. He is omnipresent. God is not bound by time, therefore He is eternal.
These are three concepts, that have been said by philosophers to be the most difficult to wrap our minds around them and two of them we use in our casual and common speech every day – time, space, and eternity. What TIME is it? Did you have a good TIME on your vacation? How much TIME did you spend travelling to Denver? The second word related to TIME is SPACE. Give me a little space. Are the astronauts still in outer space? It was difficult to find a parking space at church this morning. We walk into a restaurant and asked “Is that space available over there by the window?”
We are creatures limited by time and space. Augustine of Hippo in the “Confessions” asks, “What then is time? If no one asks me I know. If I want to explain it to someone who asks me, I don’t know.”
The other word is infinity. Time and space may be a little easier to wrap our minds around, but when we come to infinity that’s another matter. By definition infinity describes something that has no boundaries – no beginning and no end.
God’s infinity as to duration – time- is called His eternity. He has neither beginning nor end. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Re 1:8). This attribute is possessed by each of the three persons, who have a common and undivided nature. God is eternal whether you look backward or forward. God’s nature is not subject to the law of time. God is not in time; time is in God. God gave existence to time. There is no succession of time with God; to Him past, present, and future is "one eternal now." "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2Pe 3:8). God is no older now than in the days of David, or when the world was created; for time makes no changes in Him. "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him" (Da 7:13), But not ancient in days. Psalm 90:1-2 (NASB95) A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
He is without end. This is not difficult to understand. We think of men as existing forever, so it is easy to believe this of God. That which has no beginning, obviously could have no end. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Re 22:13) .
But we also say that He is without beginning. At this point God is incomprehensible because all that we see and know had a beginning. But whether we can conceive of life without beginning or not, we are bound to attribute this kind of existence to God. This may be argued the following statements:
1. That God is infinite can be drawn from His necessary self-existence. The existence of God is either arbitrary or necessary. If arbitrary, it must lie from His own will or from the will of another. If from His own will, this would suppose His previous existence, which would be a contradiction. If His existence is from the will of another, that other would be both prior and superior to him, and so be God and God would not be God. This would involve another contradiction. God then must necessarily exist. “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me." (Isaiah 43:10, NASB95)
2. That God is without beginning may be argued from His immutability. If God is not eternal, He must have passed from non existence into being, and this would involve a change. “But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end." (Psalm 102:27, NASB95)
"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Mal 3:6).
3. The eternity of God may also be argued from His attributes, several of which are said to be eternal. His power is expressly said to be eternal: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" (Ro 1:20). His knowledge is from eternity: "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Ac 15:18). His mercy is said to be from everlasting to everlasting: "But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him and his righteousness unto children’s children" (Ps 103:17). His purposes are eternal: "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:" (Eph 3:11). His love is called everlasting: "The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness." (Jeremiah 31:3, NASB95)
4. The eternity of God may be concluded from the covenant of grace which is styled an everlasting covenant: “Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, Ordered in all things, and secured; For all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow?" (2 Samuel 23:5, NASB95) It is called the everlasting covenant not only because it will endure immovable forever, but because it was from everlasting.
5. The incommunicable name of God is Yahweh, which means "The Existing One." "That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, Are the Most High over all the earth." (Psalm 83:18, NASB95) God exists naturally and necessarily, which means that there is no cause of His existence. He is the great First Cause, and therefore cannot be the effect of any other cause. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb 13:8). There are no wrinkles on the brow of the eternal God. There is no feebleness of old age with Him.
So we today, as God’s people did then during the time of David, can (and should) give thanks to the Lord because He is from everlasting to everlasting. As the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem the invisible, eternal God in a sense became visible in space and time without leaving his position in relation to the universe he was wholly present with his people and wholly present everywhere – not contained by time and space.
We read in Hebrews 8:5 that the things in the tabernacle and the temple were but shadows of heavenly things. As the temple of God is opened in heaven (Rev. 11:19) what do we see? - The Ark of His covenant appearing in His temple. The Ark was the shadow of the reality that we see in Jesus Christ – the only Redeemer of God’s elect, who being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person, forever. The invisible, eternal God became visible in space and time that we might see God and know him (John 6:46).
“The incarnation means that He by whom all things are comprehended and contained by assuming a body made room for Himself in our physical existence, yet without being contained, confined or circumscribed in place as in a vessel. He was wholly present in the body and yet wholly present everywhere, for He became man without ceasing to be God. He occupied a definite place on earth and in history, yet without leaving His position or seat in relation to the universe as a whole.” (Space, Time and Incarnation, Thomas F. Torrance p. 13)
In that one point in space and time, the eternal took upon himself our humanity, that there might be a point of contact – the infinite with the finite has taken upon himself our humanity that we might see and know that this eternally infinite God is real and we might have eternal life.
John 6:46-58 (NASB95)
46 “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.
47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
48 “I am the bread of life.
49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.
58 “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
So we have this table set before us . . . this sacrament is a means of grace given to us by the eternal son of God that we might see and know the goodness of our God – our everlasting father.
As we take of these elements – sensible signs – we as worthy receivers, not in a corporal or a carnal manner, but by faith are made partakers of Christ’s body and blood, with all His spiritual benefits, to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.