The Attributes of God

We say that God is love, or that God is powerful. Such statements are meant to convey that God possesses certain attributes. Now, we must be clear that these attributes are not part of God. We say that God is a simple being. That does not mean that God is stupid or that the study of God is mere child’s play. Rather the simplicity of God refers to the fact that you cannot divide God up into parts, as you could a pizza. To say that God is simple is to say that God is indivisible. Hence, when we speak of the attributes of God, we are not saying that the attributes are part of God. Rather we are saying that of the one diamond, we are looking at it from another facet.

We do divide the attributes into categories: those that are communicable to human beings (such as wisdom), and those that are incommunicable, such as infinity. There are three incommunicable attributes of God. They are His infiniteness, eternality, and immutability (unchangeableness). Furthermore, these three incommunicable attributes apply to all His communicable attributes. He is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, etc. This is certainly what sets God apart from the creature. We must always preserve the distinction between the Creator and the creature. We erase or blur that line to our own eternal peril.

The communicable attributes are such as wisdom, knowledge, almighty power, holiness, love, graciousness, mercifulness, goodness, truthfulness, justice. All of these attributes humans can possess to a greater or lesser extent, though certainly not to the extent that God possesses them.

To a large (though by no means exclusive) extent, we are to worship God because He is all of these things, because these attributes describe our great God. Furthermore, let it be seen that these attrributes are by no means an academic discussion, but are part and parcel of the reason why God decided to save us from our sin. If God was not a merciful God, then there would be no reason to save us. If God were not just, then God wouldn’t need to save us by means of satisfying His own wrath against sin. That is the beauty of the cross: God satisfies both His wrath and His mercy in one stroke. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

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The Blame Game

Genesis 26:34-28:9
The question often arises when something bad happens: “Who is at fault?” I remember in my family, when I was growing up, if an accident happened, one member would often try to blame the other, and vice versa, at which point my father would say something like this, “After all, the most important thing is to assess blame.” We all love to assess blame, as long as it is not directed toward us. So, when we come to a passage like this, we like to find out who’s to blame. Let’s go along with that urge for now, and see where it gets us, going through the story person by person to see who’s to blame.

Let’s ask first, is Esau to blame? This is not an easy question to answer. We like to think that poor old Esau was a victim. We cringe at what Jacob did to him, and we sometimes wish that Jacob would have “gotten what’s coming to him.” However, if we look at a few of these details, we will see that Esau is to blame. For one thing, he married outside the covenant community. That’s the first thing we see in vv. 34-35 of chapter 26.

Furthermore, it never says that he married these women with his parents’ permission. Nevertheless, Isaac still loves him and wants him to have the blessing. But we have to remember that Esau had already sold his birthright. The blessing went along with the birthright. So, as a matter of fact, Jacob already owned the blessing. It was not Esau’s. Esau, by going along with his father, was trying to get around his earlier sworn agreement with Jacob. So Esau is definitely to blame. When Esau comes in later, a day late and a dollar short, he cries out with great bitterness. Nevertheless, Esau was to blame. Esau wanted to kill his brother, thus becoming another Cain. That is blameworthy as well, since no sin deserves another sin as a response. Then, when he saw that Isaac and Rebekah didn’t like his choice of wives, he goes outside the covenant community again to get a third wife, thinking that Ishmael’s daughter was okay. Obviously, the promise that God had made to Abraham about Isaac being the chosen seed meant nothing to Esau. So Esau only made the problem worse by marrying an Ishmaelite woman. What he should have done was to “have swallowed his pride and gone to Jacob with tears, seeking forgiveness from him and a share in the blessing as he identified with the promised seed to come through him”(Duguid, pg 41).

In Hebrews 12:16-17, we read this: “or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” He sought the blessing, not repentance. That is clear from our story here. Esau never wanted to repent of his sin. He only sorry that he had lost the temporal physical benefits of the blessing. That is what he sought repeatedly.

Is Rebekah to blame? Yes, she was. Firstly, and most importantly, she does not trust in God’s promises. God promised that the elder son would serve the younger. She has the same problem that Abraham had for so much of his life: she feels that she has to help God along. After all, Isaac is about to undermine what God had promised. So she needs to help God along. It’s like the man Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6 who had to hold up the ark of the covenant to keep it from falling. The Lord struck him down. The end in view was worthy, but the means used to get to that end were not.

Secondly, Rebekah is obviously to blame for getting her son to lie. She took advantage of Isaac’s weak eyesight in order to take for her son what already belonged to him. She should have trusted that the Lord would make things right. She says to Jacob that the curse should fall on her. Well, it does. She has to say goodbye to her son and never see him again. She fades from the story of Genesis after this. There is no mention of her death. The only other time we see her is when they take her bones to be buried along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rebekah is certainly to blame. However, she did believe that Jacob was the recipient of God’s blessing. She did trust that the oracle would come true. That is more than can be said for Isaac.

Is Isaac to blame? You bet he was. Isaac ignored the oracle given to Rebekah saying that the older would serve the younger. He tried to get around this by stealth. The family blessing was a thing that should have been given in front of the whole family. Instead, Isaac thinks to give it privately to Esau. This gets in his way when Jacob comes in and Isaac becomes unsure of who it is in front of him. He dare not call a witness, since that would give the game away. Everything depended on the fact that no one would know about it until it was too late. Isaac is to blame.

Isaac is ruled by his taste buds and his stomach. It is ironic, of course, since, through these very same senses, he would be deceived by his younger son. His sins come back to haunt him, though, when he finds out about Jacob’s deception. The text says that “he trembled violently.” That is something of an understatement. In Hebrew, the text reads “Isaac trembled with a great trembling exceedingly.” Isaac could not have more perturbed. He finds out that although he would have turned Esau into Jacob, Jacob has already been turned into Esau.

However, it is to Isaac’s credit that he does not take back the blessing. He recognizes God’s sovereign hand at work, and will no longer fight God, once he knows that his sin has been discovered. Nevertheless, Isaac is still clearly to blame.

Well, what about Jacob? I think we can see Jacob’s fault most easily. Notice that he isn’t really concerned about the morality of this deception. He is only concerned about whether he will get caught. He doesn’t want the curse to come upon him. But, as Iain Duguid says, “The tempter is easily able to reassure him on that score. He can appear as your fairy godmother, promising to wave his magic wand and enable you to attend the ball of your choice. What he does not reveal to you is that if you give in to him, the gilded carriage of your sin will turn back into its true pumpkin self long before midnight.”

Not only does Jacob actively participate in this deception, but he blasphemes while doing it. He calls in the name of the Lord in order to convince Isaac that he is really Esau. This is in verse 20. He lies outright several times, saying that he is Esau even after repeated questioning by his father.

Jacob also reaps what he sows. Even though he has the blessing, which includes a blessing of the land, he has to abandon the land because of Esau’s wrath. Jacob will in turn be tricked in similar ways by his uncle Laban, who switched daughters on him, and by his sons, who brought Joseph’s garments to deceive Jacob into thinking that a wild animal took away his favorite son.

We can see then that they are all to blame. The answer is, “All of the above.” This tells us that we all are also to blame. We sin just like these people. We are no different. We often use sinful means to get even a good and laudable result, thus caving in to Satan. We often ignore God’s plain teachings in Scripture like Isaac, and seek to go our own way. We often try to help God along, since His promises are so obviously in jeopardy, and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Often, we lie and cheat like Jacob in order to supplant our neighbor. Often we give up on spiritual blessings like Esau did, and try to get around God’s plain teaching on something.
Well, there is one more person to blame, and it might come as a surprise to you: Jesus Christ! At this point, I can do no better than to quote at length Iain Duguid: “Our Redeemer was also to be found dressed in clothes that were not His. But in the case of Jesus, the clothing that he wore at the climactic moment of his life was not the stolen finery of Esau but rather a purple robe on loan from the Roman sildiers an then a shroud borrowed from joseph of Arimethea. What is more, he took that path not in order to steal someone else’s blessing for himself but rather to take upon himself our curse…Jesus would graciously say to us what Rebekah rashly said to her son: ‘Let the curse fall on me.’ The curse that Jacob deserved for his trickery, the curse that you and I earn for ourselves every day by our manifold sinfulness, was laid upon him, so that the blessing that was rightfully his might be given to us, his undeserving people. Jesus wore the shroud of death that we deserved so that we might lawfully be clothed in our Elder Brother’s garments, the spotless robes of Christ’s righteousness.” Yes, Christ Himself was to blame, so that we would not be to blame! Christ took on our curse so that we might have His blessing. He became man so that we might become the sons of God. Do you trust in Christ? Do you trust in God, who will give you unimaginable grace to help you in time of need?

If you trust in Christ, then Christ has a new command for you: live no longer in sin! Don’t try to achieve a good and laudable result by sinful means. That is exactly what Satan tempted Christ to do, and that is exactly what Christ avoided, and so should we. We shouldn’t try to get our kids to behave in a certain way by lying to them, or concealing a truth that they need to know. We shouldn’t ignore God’s plain command when He says that we should only marry in the Lord. We shouldn’t dishonor our parents as Esau did when he married outside the Lord, and without even asking his parents’ permission. We shouldn’t despise the spiritual blessings that come our way, wishing for physical ones instead, as Esau did. Instead, we should look forward to that city, the New Jerusalem. When we see one of God’s promises, we should trust that God will honor that promise. We could go on and on about all the promises that God has given us in His Word. I will mention one: God has promised that if we are His children, He will never leave us nor forsake us. Do we believe that, or do we try to help God along, since we are in a depression, and God doesn’t seem to be getting us out of it. God is with you even in your depression, or whatever else it is that you are facing. If you are one of God’s children, then God is always there, even if you don’t see Him.

Oftentimes, we will blame God. We know we shouldn’t, but we do it anyway. It is characteristic of the whole human race since Adam. We blame God for what is our own fault. We blame God for not keeping evil out of the world, when we were the ones who brought it here in the first place! We blame God for not destroying evil, when we are often doing nothing about the evil! Why don’t we remember that God uses us as His instruments to eradicate evil from the world? We are to fight Satan tooth and nail.

So let us remember that we are all to blame, not someone else. Let us remember that Jesus Christ took the blame for us, and that he covered us with the Elder Brother’s garments, that perfect righteousness that tells us that we are no longer to blame. Let us remember that grace that God gives. Let us remember that it is grace. We cannot help God keep His promises. That’s God’s business. We are to be doing our business, which is to make disciples, fighting the work of Satan in the world.