This is our God - The Eternal God
Malcolm Horlock, Cardiff, Wales
The title "the everlasting God" is common to both Old and New Testaments. It was first used by Abraham at Beersheba, where he called "on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God", Gen. 21. 33. In the N.T., Paul spoke of the truth of the gospel, which was kept secret from eternal times, but which is now made known to all nations according to the commandment of "the everlasting God" (the same expression as occurs in Genesis 21. 33 LXX), Rom. 16. 25, 26; cf. Titus 1. 2.
Some creatures have both a beginning and an end-such as the beasts of the field, birds of the air and fish of the sea. Some creatures have a beginning but will have no end-such as angels and men. Only God has neither beginning nor end.
Looking to the past, the psalmist acknowledged that God had no beginning; "Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting", Psa. 93. 2. Looking to the future, the Lord claims Himself to have no end, "I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever", Deut. 32. 40. The lifting up of the hand was a gesture associated with the taking of an oath, Gen. 14. 22. The Lord summons the heavens as His witness while He swares that He lives for ever.
The physical universe as we know it is eventually to be destroyed, "folded up" by God with the same ease with which a man folds his garment, Psa. 102. 26; Heb. 1. 12. But God Himself will remain; His "years shall have no end", Psa. 102. 27. We do well to join the four living creatures and twenty four elders who, in heaven, give glory, honour, thanks and worship to Him who "liveth for ever and ever", Rev. 4. 9, 10.
The Lord is (i) the eternal King, (ii) seated on an everlasting throne, (iii) reigning for ever, (iv) over an everlasting kingdom. See: (i) "The Lord is King for ever and ever", Psa. 10. 16; cf. 29. 10; 1 Tim. 1. 17. (ii) Jeremiah encouraged himself, when Jerusalem had fallen and the descendants of David had lost their throne, with the knowledge, "Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation", Lam. 5. 19. (iii) "The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations", Psa. 146. 10; cf. Psa. 66. 7. (iv) Nebuchadnezzar confessed concerning the high God, "his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation", Dan. 4. 3. Nebuchadnezzar had recently discovered how insecure and unstable are the kingdoms of earth, w. 31-33. When his understanding returned, he blessed and praised Him "that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion", v. 34. It will never be said to God, as it was to Nebuchadnezzar, "The kingdom is departed from thee", v. 31. God has many heirs, Rom. 8. 17, but no successors!
God Does not Regard Time asWe Do. In the only psalm attributed to him, Moses wrote, "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night", Psa. 90. 4. This psalm is entitled "The prayer of Moses". Clearly, Moses enjoyed the truth that God is eternal. It was the song of Moses which noted God's claim to live for ever, Deut. 32. 40. It is in the parting blessing of Moses that we find the beautiful words, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms", 33. 27; cf. Isa. 26. 4.
In Psalm 90, Moses contrasted the eternal existence of God with the relatively short lifespan of man. The Lord is God "from eternity to eternity", v. 2 J.N.D. It was Moses, of course, who provided the Bible with its majestic opening statement, "In the beginning God". Yet he knew Him to be not only the beginning but the end, not only the first but the last. He is the great "I am", the One "which is, and which was, and which is to come", Rev. 1. 4, 8.
Moses claimed that a thousand years by man's reckoning are, in God's sight, as "a watch in the night". The Hebrews had three night watches (see, e.g., Judges 7. 19; the Romans had four, Matt. 14. 25) and Moses therefore likened a millennium of our time to just a few hours with God. We may wonder why Moses chose a thousand years as his unit for comparison. The reason undoubtedly lies in the context. This long period stands in marked contrast to the brevity of man's life. Men come to "destruction" (lit., are crushed or beaten small), v. 3. "Return", God says, "ye children of (mortal) men"; that is, to the dust particles (or, atoms) from which man was first made, Gen. 3. 19. Moses likens the life of man to a sleep, v. 5, to the grass which is soon cut down and withers, vv. 5-6, and to "a tale" (lit., a thought) which passes, v. 9. Compare Job 14. 2; 25. 6; Isa. 40. 6-8; James 4. 14. He draws attention to the short duration of man's existence here, v. 10-although he personally exceeded man's average lifespan by half a century, Deut. 34. 7. It seems therefore that Moses chose 1,000 years as being a period which exceeded the longest life of any man on earth, Gen. 5. 27.
From his meditation Moses drew a valuable lesson: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom", v. 12. The consideration of eternity helps us to put our lives, our time and our limited opportunities into proper perspective. David took up the same theme about 500 years later, "Lord, make me to know ... the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail (lit., lacking, not worth considering) I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age (i.e., lifetime) is as nothing before thee", Psa. 39. 4-5.
The apostle Peter also made reference to God's eternity; "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", 2 Pet. 3. 8. Peter's reason for mentioning God's attitude to time was, however, very different from that of Moses. The great prophet of the O.T. set this over against man's brief and fleeting life here. Peter was concerned to answer the sneers of those who mocked at the promise of the Lord's second coming, vv. 3-4. He did this by advancing three separate considerations: (i) the scoffers deliberately shut their eyes to the past catastrophe of the flood-God has intervened in judgment before, w. 5-6; (ii) God does not measure time as we do, v. 8; and (iii) the real reason for the apparent "delay" is not slackness on God s part, but His longsuffering towards sinful men, v. 9.
Peter asserts, not only that a thousand year period with men is just as one day to the Lord, but that a single day with men is as a thousand years to the Lord! Just one day in God's reckoning can be as important and significant as a millennium in ours. Events matter more to God than does the time during which they take place. In His Word, for example, God more or less ignores the 400 years which separated the burden of Malachi from the birth of Jesus. Yet He has devoted over 25 chapters to the events of the week in which the Lord died. God does not view or reckon time as we do. Still less is He governed or constrained by it as we are.
God's Timing is always Perfect.Although God is personally free from all limitations and constraints imposed by time, yet He recognizes it, and always acts at precisely the right moment. Consider: (i) David was surrounded by Saul's men; his case was hopeless, 1 Sam. 23. 26, 27. But then, with split second timing, God intervened to deliver His servant. A messenger brought Saul urgent news of a Philistine invasion and occasioned David's would-be murderer withdrawing from him so as to deal with the Philistines, (ii) In 2 Samuel 15. 31-32, David prayed that God would turn to foolishness the counsel of Ahithophel, whose counsel was as sound as if one "inquired at the oracle of God", 16. 23. No sooner had David finished praying, than he met Hushai the Archite. This was the man later used "to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel", 17. 14, and to bring about Absalom's downfall and Ahithophel's suicide, (iii) It was while Gehazi related "the great things" which Elisha had done that the Shunamite woman came with her request to the king, 2 Kings 8. 3-6. How timely for her! (iv) The fate of Mordecai and all the Jews was in the balance, Esther 5. 14 to 6. 1. For Mordecai at least, any later night would be too late! So "on that night" the sleep of Ahasuerus fled from him, 6. 1 lit., God's name may not be in the book of Esther, but His providential working is too obvious to be missed. Again, His timing was exact, (v) Later it was the life of the apostle Paul which was in the balance, Acts 23. 12-16. The Jews' plans were laid. Tomorrow Paul was to die. But God used the apostle's nephew to reveal the plot just in time, and Paul was escorted safely to Caesarea that very night, w. 17-33.
Are these cases to be dismissed as incredible coincidences? Or are they not rather examples of God's perfect timing as He works all for the good of those who love Him?
1.Let us rejoice that the eternal God is also "the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory", 1 Pet. 5. 10. Once we were among those who "shall be punished with (i) everlasting destruction (ii) from the presence of the Lord", 2 Thess. 1. 9. But "our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father . . . hath loved us, and hath given us (i) everlasting consolation", 2. 16, and now we share Paul's hope that we shall "ever be (ii) with the Lord", 1 Thess 4. 17.
In the light of future and unfading glory, Peter assessed the sufferings of the present as lasting only "for a season", 1 Pet. 1. 6 (= "a while", 5. 10).
When we read 2 Corinthians 11. 23-29 we are dumbfounded by the catalogue of his personal sufferings for Christ which Paul gives there. The apostle himself, however, regarded his afflictions to be but (i) "for a moment" and (ii) "light", 4. 17. "We look", he explained, "not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal", v. 18. To Paul, the sufferings of the present life were "not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed", Rom. 8. 18.
Let us trustGod to overrule all the situations of our lives with perfect timing. Neither His working for us nor His answers to our prayers are ever too early or ever too late. Well may we say with David, "My times (the changing circumstances of life, 1 Chron. 29. 30) are in thy hand", Psa. 31. 15.
Let us considercarefully how relatively short is the present life. Let us use to the full our time and opportunities; "redeeming the time", Eph. 5. 16; Col. 4. 5.
In the present day, many items and commodities which have fulfilled their useful purpose are reprocessed and recycled for use again. How solemn to realize that there is no possible way of recycling time that is wasted. Thought provision was made in the law for the reconsecration of the defiled Nazarite, Num. 6. 9-12, yet it was clearly stated that "the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled", v. 12.
4. Let us set our eyes firmly on those spiritual and eternal realities which will never pass away. In contrast to the "men of the world, which have their portion in this life", Psa. 17. 14, we have the eternal God as our "portion for ever", 73. 26. How paltry and unimportant do earthly possessions, power and position seem when we contrast them to glory without end.
Sin's pleasures are, at best, shortlived, Heb. 11. 25, and "the fashion (the outward appearance) of this world passeth away", 1 Cor. 7. 31. Therefore, let us go in for the "incorruptible" crown, 9. 25, knowing that our labour is not in vain in the Lord, 15. 58.
"Now unto the King eternal, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever",1 Tim. 1. 17 R.V.