by David McAllister, Zambia
In the Old Testament, there are approximately 400 occurrences of the phrase "God of …". Certainly we will not consider all of them in this chapter, but we do trust that those we do look at will be to the edification and encouragement of every reader.
One of the 400 phrases is "God of glory" Ps.29.3. In a book entitled "The Glory of God the Father", it is perhaps an appropriate title with which to begin. In pondering the "glory of God" it is good to remind ourselves that He is the "God of glory", implying that glory belongs to Him; glory comes from Him; and glory is to be ascribed to Him. May these few lines help us to appreciate His glory more, and to ascribe to Him the glory which is His due.
Although we read "God of …" about 400 times, most references are not unique – many are repeated, especially "God of Israel", which alone accounts for about half of the total. As a rule, when a phrase "God of …" is quoted in this chapter, the first reference will be given, but the reader should bear in mind that often it is not the only time it appears. The others can readily be obtained from a concordance (or a computer programme!).
The tiny English word "of" is the key to this chapter. In the context, it signifies association; possession; identification. Thus, when we see the words "God of …", we are given an insight into that with which God is pleased to identify Himself; that with which He is prepared to be associated. So we learn much about God from what He is the "God of", since we see that which is in keeping with His character. Heb.11.16 states, "God is not ashamed to be called their God." Therefore, by considering of what, where, and of whom He is the God, we gain knowledge about God Himself.
As the chapter title indicates, we are dealing with Old Testament references. Of course, we are not living in Old Testament times, and we need ever to keep this in mind. The Old Testament is all for us, but it is not all about us. For example, while the expression "God of Israel" occurs about 200 times in the Old Testament, it occurs only twice in the New Testament, reflecting the fact that the Church is not Israel! Having said that, we will see that while times and dispensations change, God Himself is unchanging, and the Old Testament references have much that is true, irrespective of when, where and to whom they were written. Thus, there is as much to encourage us as there was to encourage the saints who first read them; rather, there is even more to encourage us, who, in the light of New Testament revelation, know Him as "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ".
We will consider the references to "God of …" in four sections, which will encompass most of the phrases:
- GOD OF PRINCIPLES
- GOD OF PLACES
- GOD OF PERSONS
- GOD OF PROVISIONS
GOD OF PRINCIPLES
The phrase "God of …" brings before us some great Divine principles, which belong to God, fully, supremely, and unchangeably.
We will look at four such. In each case, the context is man’s failure, against which God’s unfailing character is presented. It should encourage us in our day, when unfaithfulness abounds, to be reminded of His faithfulness:
"God of Truth" – Deut.32.4
The people of whom Moses is speaking are described here as having "corrupted themselves" and as a "perverse and crooked generation" v.5. In contrast God is presented as "a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he" v.4. There is no falsehood about Him. He is characterised by truth, in all its aspects. Thus we can depend upon His Word. In a day when God’s Word is under attack, not only by unbelievers, but also by many who claim to be Christians, let us never compromise on the total reliability of the Scriptures of truth, which are the very words of the "God of truth".
"God of Knowledge" – 1 Sam.2.3
These words come from the prayer of thanksgiving of Hannah. She speaks of those who talk "exceeding proudly" and with "arrogancy" v.3. Has there ever been a day worse than ours for men boasting of their "knowledge", and demonstrating all their pride and arrogance? How true is Rom.1.28: "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge", and its description of the sordid results of such foolishness. Hannah’s response to such people is also highly appropriate today: "the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed." As Paul says, "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain" 1 Cor.3.20. Let us not be intimidated by the so-called "knowledge" of godless men, and rather rest in the One "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" Col.2.3.
"God of Judgment" – Isa.30.18
Once again, the context is that of human failure: those who "trust in oppression and perverseness" v.12 – people characterised by false judgment. How apt this is to the present, when it seems that the criminal receives more sympathy than the victim; when "political correctness" is such that someone could be charged with an offence for quoting the Bible; when a nurse offering to pray for a patient can lose her job. We need to be reminded, as did those in Isaiah’s time, that "the Lord is a God of judgment". Unlike His fallen creatures, He always has, and always will, judge rightly. Of course, judgment has both a positive and a negative side and indeed, here in Isaiah 30.18, it is the positive side that is emphasised: "blessed are all they that wait for Him". We can be confident that God makes the right valuation of every situation and action – good or bad, and we can depend on Him to do what is right.
"God of Recompences" – Jer.51.56
Yet again, the context is human failure – in this case, the sin of Babylon, which God says He will "recompence" v.6. Why? Because "the Lord God of recompences shall surely requite" v.56. People still think that they can live as they please, with impunity, but God will "reward" commensurately in relation to what has been done. For unbelievers, the awful judgment of the great white throne will be "according to their works" Rev.20.13; for the believer, salvation is secure, but the "things done in his body" will be assessed 2 Cor.5.10, and he will "receive" them. This is a comfort to us: all that is done in His name, in accordance with His Word, with a true motive, will be rewarded 1 Cor.3.14; it is also sobering, for when it is not so, there will be "loss" 1 Cor.3.15. May God help us, so that all our life’s activity will be that which will receive His approval in that day.
So, as we consider Divine principles, the message is clear: we live in a changing, unrighteous world; but we have an unchanging, righteous God, on Whom we can depend. It is our responsibility to live in the light of these great characteristics of God.
GOD OF PLACES
The list of places with which God is pleased to associate Himself (in the Old Testament) is as wide as it is possible to be. We can see this even within the confines of the first book of the Bible: at one end of the spectrum, He is the "God of heaven" Gen.24.3, and at the other He is the "God of Beth-el" Gen.31.13 – an obscure wayside outpost.
We could glean much about God from the places with which He associates Himself, but we must content ourselves with one thought from each:
"God of Heaven" – Gen.24.3: His Deity
The phrase "God of heaven" occurs 21 times in the Old Testament. The material heavens and the dwelling-place of God are distinguished e.g. 1Kgs.8.27: "the heaven and heaven of heavens", but it is often difficult to know which is being referred to when the word "heaven" is used. However, this need not concern us unduly, as He is certainly the God of both. That He is God of "Heaven itself" reminds us of His deity: He was, is, and ever will be God, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto" 1 Tim.6.16. He is a God Who transcends all that is associated with time and space – truly worthy of our reverence and worship. That He is God of the material heavens also shows His deity: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork" Ps.19.1. In a day when His glory is denied, and men will believe any story, however ridiculous, in order to deny Him as the Creator, let us never forget, as we look up into the sky, that there we have a mighty declaration of the One Who made it all. As Paul says, "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" Rom.1.20.
"God of Heaven and Earth" – Ezra 5.11: His Universality
When we read "heaven and earth", the whole of the universe is comprehended, and the phrase "God of heaven and earth" reminds us that He is Lord of all. He made it all; He controls it all; He fills it all. "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there" Ps.139.7,8. The polytheist thinks there are many gods, each with his own sphere and influence in the universe; the pantheist sees "god" in the matter of the universe; the deist thinks God has no present interest in or involvement with the universe; the atheist thinks that there can be a universe without any God at all. We totally reject these and all other delusions: there is One God: He made everything; it is all His, and His alone. He is actively and intimately involved in every aspect of its operation. He is everywhere: "Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord" Jer.23.24.
"God of The Whole Earth" – Isa.54.5: His Sovereignty
While God is God of the whole created universe, yet the Scriptures show that the earth is the object of His supreme interest and involvement. He made it, and He has the right to universal dominion over it. Sadly, He is not acknowledged as such by the great majority of His creation. Yet He will be, and His sovereignty will be unchallenged. It is interesting that the passage from which this phrase is taken, Isaiah chapter 54, is speaking of the future Millennial age, when, as a result of the work of Christ, chapter 53, Israel’s barrenness, v.1, will be removed, and the one who is her "Maker … Husband … Redeemer …the Holy One of Israel …" v.5, will also be called "the God of the whole earth". What a blessed thought – the One Who is now "despised and rejected" Isa.53.3 – not only by Israel, but by the world in general – will be acknowledged as the Sovereign: "the God of the whole earth".
"God of The Hills … God of The Valleys" 1 Kgs.20.28: His Ability
Israel had defeated their enemies, the Syrians, in a hill battle, 1 Kgs.20.19-21. The Syrians planned another attack, mistakenly thinking that God was only "God of the hills", and not "God of the valleys" vv.23,28, and that thus, they, the Syrians would have the victory if the battle was held in the plain. But when the battle took place, the Syrians were routed, vv29,30. The reason is given in v.28: that Israel "shall know that I am the Lord." By giving victory in the valley, as well as in the hill, God was showing His people (and their enemies too) that He had no "weak areas". It is a lesson that we too would do well to apprehend: we, mortal men, have our "strong points" and our "weak points" – not so God. There is no limit to His power, His ability; no area too difficult for Him. And, to spiritualise the "hills and the valleys": whether we are, spiritually, on the "mountain top", or in the "valley" of sorrow, God is equally there with us in both circumstances, and able to help us, whatever our need may be.
"God of The Land" – 2 Kgs.17.26: His Purity
This phrase shows us that, while God is indeed the "God of the whole earth", yet there is a sense in which He is uniquely associated with the land of Israel. The context of this quotation is the bringing of foreigners into the cities of Samaria by the king of Assyria, 2 Kgs.17.24. These people "feared not the Lord", and God sent lions among them, which killed some of them, v.25. The people realised the reason: they "know not the manner of the God of the land." They had arrived in a country whose God was wholly different from the "gods" of the nations from whence they had come. Here was a God Who was holy, a God of righteousness, Who demanded holy, pure living of those under His jurisdiction. These people suggested a remedy: that someone who could "teach them the manner of the God of the land" v.27, would come and instruct them. Therefore a priest came and taught them "how they should fear the Lord" v.28, but, alas, they continued in their impure lifestyle. There is a lesson here for us: while we do not dwell in the literal "land", it does picture the "heavenlies" where we dwell with Him. God is a pure and holy God, and if He expected a standard of purity in keeping with His character of those who lived in the literal land, surely He does not demand anything less of us, who dwell in His spiritual inheritance.
"God of Jerusalem" – 2 Chr.32.19: His Identity
There is no doubt that Jerusalem was the place with which the name of God was associated. Long before David conquered it and made it his capital, while Israel was still in the wilderness, Moses spoke of "the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there" Deut.12.5,11,21; 14.23,24; 16.2,6,11; 26.2. Several references in 1Kings, 5.5; 8.16,18,19,29; 9.3,7, with many others in 2 Kings and Chronicles, show beyond all doubt that this place, where the Lord would place His name, was the city of Jerusalem, where His temple would be built. One example is 2 Kgs.21.7: "In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever." Many things marked out Jerusalem as being distinct from every other place in the land, but none was more important than this one: it was the place chosen by God with which His name was uniquely identified.
Jerusalem has a long history of identification with His name, and it will have a glorious future of identification with Him. It had a temple in the past, and it will have a temple in the future. But at present, in Jerusalem, there is no temple, no altar, and no sacrifice. Does that mean that today there is nowhere identified with His name? Not so! We read those precious words in Matt.18.20; the words of the One Who is God manifest in the flesh: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." A local assembly is that with which God’s name is associated in this present day. It is "temple of God" 1 Cor.3.16 – a sanctified place, where He dwells, and where He receives the worship that is His due.
Thus, while the assembly is not in the Old Testament, it is pictured, and one of the pictures is the city of Jerusalem and its temple; the place where God chose to place His name. What a privilege it was to the people in those days to be associated with the city of Jerusalem; what an even greater privilege is ours, to be associated with a Scripturally-gathered assembly, of which it is a picture.
"God of Beth-el" – Gen.31.13: His Generosity
The main reference to Bethel is in Gen.28.10-22, where God appeared to Jacob as he slept, and made such wonderful promises to him. Up to this point, there is little to commend in the character of Jacob. It was certainly not any merit on his part that caused him to receive this privilege; it was God’s grace to him. And what kindness did God show to him: He promised him the land, v.13; that his seed would be exceedingly numerous, spread far and wide, and be the means of blessing to all families of the earth, v.14; that God would be with him and keep him wherever he went, that He would bring him safely back again, and that He would not leave him, v.15. Jacob’s response, vv.16-22, shows his appreciation of God’s generosity to him, and his naming the place "Beth-el", meaning ‘house of God’. Thus when, many years later, God said to Jacob, "I am the God of Beth-el" Gen.31.13, and "Arise, go up to Beth-el" Gen.35.1, Jacob immediately knew what God was referring to: the place where He had "appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother". God was reminding Him of the dire situation Jacob was in when God met him there; of the blessed promises God had made to him, and the responsibilities this brought to Jacob. Thus, in "God of Beth-el" we are reminded of the unmerited favour and kindness of God to us, and, like Jacob, our hearts should ever be thankful to God for the many blessings He has lavished upon us.
The present writer is no expert in the geography of Israel, but, from what he can gather, there is nothing particularly significant about the site of Beth-el today. The impression gained is that there is not even complete certainty about its exact location. We do not know if the stony "pillow-turned-pillar" is still there or not. But we can enjoy the truth of Beth-el, not only in its lessons on the goodness of God, which is unchanging, but also in that of which it is a beautiful picture: a Scripturally-gathered assembly. We are not using our imaginations here: Paul writes to Timothy; "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" 1 Tim.3.15. Only a deliberate refusal to acknowledge the teaching of Scripture on the assembly can cause one to fail to see in the phrase "house of God" an allusion to "Beth-el", which means precisely that. Beth-el: the place of the Divine presence, Gen.28.16; of angelic activity, v.12; of Divine government, v.17; of holiness, v.17; has its counterpart today in an assembly, where the Lord is, Matt.18.20; which angels observe, 1 Cor.11.10; where there is Godly government, 1 Tim.3.5; and which is a holy place, 1 Cor.3.17.
Moreover, 1 Timothy was written so that Timothy and other believers in Ephesus would know what behaviour is appropriate in association with the "house of God". Jacob’s conduct with regard to Beth-el provides us with illustrations of suitable behaviour for us in regard to the assembly: awe and reverence at the knowledge of God’s presence, Gen.28.16,17; testimony to Who He is (the stony pillars of Gen.28.18 and 35.14 were doubtless very different from the "pillar" of 1 Tim.3.15 – which denotes a column which would support a building – but the thought of testimony is there in both); God receiving His portion, Gen.28.22; the incompatibility of association with the house of God and association with idols, Gen.35.1,2; worship of God, Gen.35.3,7,14; the need for those associated with it to be clean in character and life, Gen.35.2; and the absence of worldly adornments, Gen.35.4.
GOD OF PERSONS
As with the places which He is the "God of", He is also portrayed as associating Himself with a very broad range of persons. We will look at some collective groups whom He is "God of", before focusing on individuals:
"God of Hosts" – 2 Sam.5.10: The Conquering God
The thought of the "hosts" is that of an army, and it is significant that the first reference to the title is in connection with David capturing the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, and his subsequent becoming great, the comment being, "the Lord God of hosts was with him". Doubtless we are being left in no doubt that it was not in his own cleverness or might that David won this victory and established his throne in Jerusalem, but in the strength of the "God of hosts".
Who are the "hosts"? Surely the word refers to no mere earthly army, but rather to the heavenly armies, the vast hosts of angels, who do His bidding. We read of them in the first book of the Bible: "And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host" Gen.32.1,2. We read of them in the last book: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon" Rev.12.7. We read of them elsewhere too, for example that great army which surrounded and protected Elisha, 2 Kgs.6.17.
Thus we see the mighty power of God. While there are many humans with whom He is pleased to identify Himself; He is not limited to Adam’s race – there are legions of angelic hosts who are under His command, who rush to do His bidding; a mighty army which will never be defeated. No matter how many are our spiritual foes, well can we apply Elisha’s words to ourselves: "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" 2 Kgs.6.16.
"God of the Spirits of all Flesh" – Num.16.22: The Compassionate God
This phrase occurs only twice – both of them in Numbers (the other being 27.16). In both cases, the people of Israel are in great danger, due to a crisis of leadership: the danger of them all dying due to Korah’s rebellion, chapter 16, and the danger of them being left as sheep without a shepherd, because Moses was not going to lead them into the land, chapter 27. In both, Moses appeals to God, as the "God of the spirits of all flesh", to act in mercy, and spare His people. It would appear that, by referring to "spirits", Moses is emphasising that human beings are not mere "flesh", but spiritual beings, unique in God’s creation, and on this basis Moses makes his plea to God for their preservation.
In these days, when powerful voices in the world try to indoctrinate people into thinking that human beings are just the apex of a long process of evolution, it is good to be reminded that this is not so – man was created in the image of God, and has a spirit, which distinguishes him from other created beings on earth, and makes him the special object of God’s love and care.
"God of Israel" – Ex.5.1: The Covenant God
This is the most numerous of all the references by far. It speaks of God’s relationship to His covenant people – the children of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. A number of other "God of …" phrases also depict His relationship to that nation:
- Ex.3.6 – "God of Abraham", "God of Isaac" and "God of Jacob";
- Ex.3.13 – "God of your fathers";
- Ex.3.18 – "God of the Hebrews";
- Deut.26.7 – "God of our fathers";
- Deut.29.25 – "God of their fathers";
- 1 Sam.17.45 – "God of the armies of Israel";
- Jer.31.1 – "God of the all the families of Israel".
God made a covenant with Abraham, Gen.15.18-21, and confirmed it later to him, Gen.17.4-8; 22.15-18, to Isaac, Gen.26.2-5, and to Jacob, Gen.28.13,14. Although the nation springing from them failed, God often tells them that, though Israel will be severely chastened for her sins, yet He will not forsake her, e.g. Ps.89.31-34. At present, God is taking out of the Gentiles "a people for His name" Acts15.14, but, when "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" Rom.11.25, then Israel’s blindness will be removed, and she shall be saved, Rom.11.25,26. The reason Paul gives for this is most interesting: "They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes" Rom.11.28. He is a covenant-keeping God, and He will keep all the promises He has made.
This is clearly illustrated by the occurrence of the phrase "God of Israel" (or, rather, the lack of occurrence of it) in the New Testament: it only occurs twice there, and both of those are in the gospels – it never occurs in the Acts or the epistles. Yet many of its Old Testament occurrences are with regard to the future, e.g. Isa.52.12. To Israel, presently, it can be said, "Ye are not My people", but, in a future day, "Ye are the sons of the living God" Hos.1.10.
While the Church is not Israel, yet we can be encouraged by this: we have a God who keeps His promises, and, just as surely as He will keep His promises to Israel, He will also keep His promises to us.
Each of the individuals with whom God identifies His name is worthy of a full study. However, we must confine ourselves to looking at one major aspect of each individual; a feature with which God was willing to associate Himself – a characteristic that we should seek to emulate. We will consider them in the order they are mentioned in Scripture:
"God of Shem" – Gen.9.26: A Considerate Man
The background to this quote is an unsavoury incident: Noah is drunk and naked in his tent. His son Ham discovers him thus, perhaps unintentionally, but he is certainly at fault in his response: failing to cover his father’s nakedness, and also in telling others about it. Shem and Japheth behave honourably, in what we might call "damage limitation": they cover their father, while avoiding seeing his state. Noah pronounces blessing on the "God of Shem", thus indicating God’s approval of Shem’s action.
We can surely learn from the considerate behaviour of Shem. It is a good example in family situations, in that he respected and honoured his father, even though Noah was at fault. It is always a painful thing, for example, to hear a man speak ill of his own parents, even if there are grounds for it. Shem sets us a good example in assembly life too: as the people of God, we all have our faults, and sin is not to be "swept under the carpet", but, when there is failure, then Christian consideration and love should motivate us to limit as far as possible the damage that it will inevitably cause. One simple, practical, application of this is to avoid talking about such things to those who do not need to know. We recall, "charity [love] shall cover the multitude of sins" 1 Pet.4.8.
"God of Abraham" – Gen.24.27: A Called Man
There is so much that we could learn from the example of Abraham, but we will limit ourselves to the first point that is made about him in Hebrews chapter 11: "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went" v.8. All his subsequent blessings resulted from that, and his life from then on was lived in conformity to the decision he made.
This reminds us that we are a called people. We have been "called … out of darkness into His marvellous light" 1 Pet.2.9. We have been called by the gospel, 2 Thess.2.14. Space fails us to dwell on the hope of His calling, Eph.1.18, the heavenly calling, Heb.3.1, the holy calling, 2 Tim.1.9, and the high calling, Phil.3.14, but suffice it to note that all our blessings result from having responded to the calling in the gospel, and our lives ought to be lived in a manner consistent with it: "But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy" 1 Pet.1.15,16.
"God of Isaac" – Gen. 28.13: A Contented Man
In many ways, the life of Isaac was not as "dramatic" as those of his father or of his younger son. He did not journey as much; he had fewer "crisis" experiences in his life; though he lived longer than either of them. He was content to live his long life, in the way and in the place God desired. This is implied in the first mention of him in Hebrews chapter 11: that he "sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country" v.9. We see him content to submit to his father, even to the point of death, Genesis chapter 22; content to let his father undertake the finding of a suitable wife for him, Genesis chapter 24; he did not insist on his "rights" when others disputed over the wells he had dug – he just moved elsewhere and kept digging, Genesis chapter 26; he was content with the wife God had given him – his life is a shining example of lifelong fidelity to one wife – something that could not be said for his father, his sons, and more than one of his grandchildren.
It is not that he was without his sorrows: his mother’s death, Gen.24.67, Esau’s choice of wives, Gen.26.34,35 and Jacob’s trickery, Gen.27.33 were all painful to him. Yet, as his last recorded words show, he rested in the promises of God, Gen.28.2-4.
He has something to teach us in this: the value to God of a quiet, godly, exemplary life, lived in contentment, in the enjoyment of the blessings of God, knowing, even through its sorrows, that God is in control, and that His promises will not fail. God is happy to call Himself the God of all such.
"God of Jacob" – Gen. 49.24: A Changed Man
One thought that impresses the mind, on considering Jacob, is that of a man wholly changed by God. His name was changed, from Jacob (‘Supplanter’) to Israel (‘Prince with God’) Gen.32.28. This name change depicted a change in character. We see his "Jacob" character even from the womb, where he struggled with his twin, Gen.25.22, through his schemes to obtain the birthright, Gen.25.29-34, and the blessing, Gen.27.1-46. A series of life-changing encounters with God, notably at Beth-el, Gen.28.10-22 and Peniel, Gen.32.24-32, and the many sorrows he endured – departure from home, deception by his uncle, the death of Rachel, disappointment in his own children, and distress over the loss of Joseph for many years, resulted in a totally-changed man; a mighty man of God, who, at the close of his life, could speak with such dignity and authority to his twelve sons, Genesis chapter 49, in which, as he neared the end of his messages, he could speak of "the mighty God of Jacob" v.24.
None of us has, or will, experience the wide variety of situations that Jacob knew in his life; yet we too should be deeply thankful to God for the changes He has wrought in us. In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul tells his readers what they were before, and the great change salvation had made to them, in the present and in the future. The same is equally true of us. May we ever seek to walk in the good of that change: a change which is "not of works" v.9, but which is with a view to resulting in a life of "good works" v.10.
"God of Elijah" – 2 Kgs.2.14: A Courageous Man
What courage we see in the life of Elijah! He was prepared to confront a wicked, ruthless king with his sin, on several occasions, 1 Kgs.17.1; 18.17-19; 21.17-24, and to challenge the prophets of Baal, to whom the people were in thrall, to a public showdown, 1 Kings chapter 18. Truly he is an example to us of godly courage. It was not that he was impervious to fears and other weaknesses, 1 Kgs.19.3,10,14 and Jms.5.17, but this should encourage us all the more: a reminder that we depend, not on our own strength, but on God. We live in difficult days, when society seeks to marginalise those who stand for God. Let us learn from Elijah the lesson of courage, for our trust is in God.
"God of David" – 2 Kgs.20.5: A Caring Man
So much could be said about David, but we will pick out one point: the first time we see him in the Scriptures, 1 Sam.16.11, he is caring for his father’s sheep. This pictures the care he had for people too, as demonstrated frequently throughout his life: his care for the nation, 1 Sam.17.26; for his parents, 1 Sam.22.3,4; for Saul and Jonathan, 2 Sam.1.17-27; for his own children, 2 Sam.12.16; 18.33; and for Mephibosheth, 2 Samuel chapter 9.
It is not surprising that Samuel calls David "a man after [God’s] own heart" 1Sam.13.14, for he certainly had something of that caring, shepherd-heart of God for His people. May we have it too – a care for the people of God, that would seek their welfare, and a care for those still in their sins, that they would be won for Christ.
"God of Hezekiah" – 2 Chr.32.17: A Conquering Man
The context of this quotation, namely 2 Chronicles chapter 32, is Sennacherib’s verbal attack on Hezekiah and his people, who were besieged in Jerusalem. Sennacherib was backing up his military threat by attempts to demoralise the people of Judah, by the use of his servants’ spoken words, and by letter, in which he boasted, "As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of my hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver His people out of my hand" v.17. Hezekiah and Isaiah responded in the right way: they prayed to God, v.20, and in the next verse, we see Sennacherib, not only defeated, but dead. "Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" v.22.
So, in Hezekiah, we see a man who conquered, not in his own power, but in dependence on God. Paul tells us: "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" Eph.6.10, and in this we can have the victory over our enemy, Satan, of whom Sennacherib is a picture.
"God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego" – Dan.3.28: Consistent Men
Here are three men who refused to bow to the king’s image. Of their many admirable characteristics, we will consider but one: their consistency. There were many temptations for them to act otherwise: they were young men; they were far away from home; they were in an environment extremely hostile to their faith; there was a very high price to be paid for refusing to conform; the "everyone else is doing it" argument could be put forward; one could argue that bowing down was "not doing any harm to anybody". There were plenty of potential excuses for compromising their principles. Yet none of these things moved them. Circumstances did not change their stand. And this won great respect, not only for them, but also for their God: "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego" were the words of King Nebuchadnezzar, Dan.3.28.
How big is the temptation for us to compromise on principles – to change according to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. God is happy to be identified with those who, like these three men, are consistent. It is not easy, but it will win respect, and cause men to glorify God.
"God of Daniel" – Dan.6.26: A Clean Man
Of course, all that has been said of his three friends could also be said of Daniel, but we will focus on the first thing that is said about him: "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank" Dan.1.8.
The king’s provisions picture the things that would defile us. There is so much in the world today that is defiling – such as its standards, its values, its entertainments, and its literature. May we, like Daniel, purpose in our hearts not to be defiled by it. And the way to avoid being defiled by it is to avoid exposure to it, just as Daniel avoided taking in what the king provided. His "pulse and water" 1.12, were doubtless unappetising to the Babylonians, but they had to admit that he and his friends were the better for it, vv.15,16. Likewise, our "diet" of the Word of God has no attraction to the people of this world, but it is for our benefit – there is nothing of sustenance for us in this present evil world.
In considering the qualities which were admirable in all these people, we need to bear in mind that it was God Who wrought those things in them, and, in calling Himself "their God", God is indicating that they are characteristics that are pleasing to Him, for they reflect something of His own character. In this, they are all an example for us to follow.
GOD OF PROVISIONS
In closing, we will consider a few quotations from the Psalms, in which, several times, we have the phrase "God of my …". Evidently the Psalmist has an appreciation that this great God is One Who has an interest in him personally, and Who provides bountifully for him. We can rejoice that it is so for each of us too, and will briefly apply each to ourselves. We will consider them in the order in which they appear:
"God of My Righteousness" – Ps.4.1
We were unrighteous; now we are righteous. It is not our own righteousness, nor is it Christ’s personal righteousness but a righteousness righteously given by God, because we are "in Him". As Paul says: "not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" Phil.3.9.
"God of My Salvation" – Ps.18.46
What a blessing is the salvation that we possess! And it is all of God: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" Eph.2.8,9.
"God of My Life" – Ps.42.8
Is the Psalmist referring to his physical life, or to his spiritual life? And does he mean that God is the Giver of it, or that He is the Sustainer of it, or that He is the One Who is the Lord of it? We need not waste time over the issue, for all are true. And it is so for us. Not only is He the Giver and Sustainer of our life, and the Lord of it; indeed, Christ "is our life" Col.3.4.
"God of My Strength" – Ps.43.2
We cannot live for God in our own power. Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" Phil.4.13.
"God of My Mercy" – Ps.59.10
God is indeed "rich in mercy" Eph.2.4, and it has been fully extended towards us.
"God of My Praise" – Ps.109.1
In view of all His bountiful provisions, David knew that the Lord was worthy of his praise. He is worthy of our praise too: "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name" Heb.13.15.
On that note, we must close this chapter, with one final "God of …" quotation: "Blessed be the LORD, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah" Ps.68.19.