The Unfathomable Greatness of God

When I was kid, we had a family-friend that we would spend time with named Thurl Ravenscroft. Thurl and my grandfather had been professional singers together in the same singing group for years. It was cool to be around Thurl, because he was a legit bass. Not one of those guys who just growls to try and get his voice low, but a man to whom God gave a unique low range instrument. 

You may not know his name, but chances are you have heard Thurl’s voice. He did voice work in many Disney animated movies in the 50’s and 60’s. If you have ever watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” than you have heard him sing, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

But what Thurl was most famous for was uttering one line over and over again as a cartoon advertiser. For 50 years before his death he voiced the character of Tony the Tiger, exclaiming again and again about Frosted Flakes, “They’re Great!” 50 years of making adds that always ended with those two words…They’re Great!

No disrespect to Thurl, but are they really? I like Frosted Flakes and I really like that sweet, sugary milk that is left in the bowl when the flakes are gone, but are they great?

We use that word ‘great’ in a lot of different ways. We have Great Lakes, Great Plains, Great Expectations and when I’m asked how I’m doing I will often respond, “I’m great.” Great is a flexible word and we use it in a lot of different settings.

What I want to remind us of this morning is that while we use that word ‘great’ a lot, only God is truly great.

When we compare anything to Him there is nothing that is great beside Him. He is great in a way that is beyond what we can fathom or comprehend.

We read in Psalm 145…

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
[2] Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
[3] Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

 

These verses declare the Psalmists intention to exalt and praise the name of God every day. How long will he proclaim the name of the Lord every day? He will do it forever. Why? Because God is great!

So, great that this passage declares His greatness to be unsearchable. The word translated unsearchable is a word that means to be beyond comprehension or explanation.

The NIV translates this phrase…

…his greatness no one can fathom (NIV)

Our God is great beyond what we can understand or fathom. 

This morning I simply want to take this time to remind us of three ways in which God’s greatness is unfathomable so that we can exalt our God all the more. 

1. Our God is unfathomably great in his creativity and power. 

Our God raises the dead, parts the sea, calms the water, heals the sick, gives sight to the blind. But even more than that, He made and sustains all things. 

Colossians 1:16-17 - For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus made and sustains all things visible and invisible. Think, for a moment, about the magnitude of that just with the visible creation.

We live on a big planet. When I was in college my dad and I drove from Minnesota to Connecticut straight through without stopping a couple of times. It was a 24-hour, 1250-mile drive that seemed to take forever. 

If we were able to keep going around the world it would take us 20 full-day drives like that to make it around the 25,000-mile circumference of the earth. We live on a big planet. 

But the earth is tiny compared to our sun. How many earths could you fit inside the sun? You can fit 1,300,000 earths into the sun. 

Now to give us a sense of the size of our solar system. Take our solar system and shrink it down so that the immense sun is the size of a basketball. 

If the sun was the size of a basketball and everything on our solar system was to scale, do you know how big Mercury would be? It would be size of a grain of sand. Do you know how far from the basketball size sun Mercury would go, to be to scale? It would go in the very back row of the sanctuary, 80 feet from the basketball. 

Do you know where Neptune would go? Neptune is the outmost planet in our solar system now that we kicked Pluto to the curb. To be to scale, Neptune would need to be placed at TCF Bank Stadium, at the University of Minnesota, two and half miles away.

If you shrunk our solar system down so that our immense sun was the size of a basketball our solar system would still be five miles in diameter. I can’t even imagine that kind of distance in space.

Then we are reminded that our solar system is one of billions of solar systems in our galaxy and that our galaxy is one of tens of billions of galaxies in the universe and our minds are officially boggled. 

Scripture teaches us that what is truly boggling is that Jesus made and holds all things together. 

Can you imagine the creativity and power involved in making and sustaining all things, from the largest of the galaxies to smallest of sub-atomic particles? 

Can you wrap your mind around that kind of power? No, we just sit with our mouths hanging open in awe, because our God is unfathomably great in his creativity and power. 

2. Our God is unfathomably great in His nature and work.

Much about God’s nature and work with humanity is beyond our capacity to understand or explain. 

Let me give you a few examples.

We see God’s unfathomable greatness in Jesus’s nature.

Is Jesus God or is he a man? We believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man in one person. This is where we begin to struggle because in our finite, material world you cannot fill something 100% with one substance and 100% with another.  

Take this glass as an example. I can fill this glass 100% full of orange juice, or I can fill this glass 100% full of grape juice. What I cannot do is fill this glass 100% full of grape juice and 100% full of orange juice.

In our world, it has to be an “or.” But that is not the case with the nature of Jesus. The nature of Jesus is not bound by the material laws that govern the glass. Our infinite God is not confined by the rules of this finite world. 

Jesus is 100% full of the nature of God and 100% full of the nature of man. How does God do that? How does that work? We don’t understand all the details because God’s ways are higher than our ways.  

But the fact that Jesus is fully God and fully man is essential good news. It’s essential because of how great a debt we owe to God because of our sin. How big is the debt that my sinful self, owed to an infinitely Holy God? It is an infinite debt. Only payment made by the infinitely holy God would be able to pay that infinite debt. 

The problem is that the debt wasn’t owed by God. It is human beings that have sinned and human beings who owe the debt. If there was going to be a second Adam, who could act as a substitute for sinners and pay their debt, he would need to be a human being.

There is only one who is fully divine so that as infinitely powerful and infinitely holy God he can pay the infinite debt we owe and is also fully human so he can pay it on our behalf. That is why salvation can be found in no other name!

Jesus being fully God and man is essential good news and is an example of the unfathomable greatness of his nature and work.

The unfathomable greatness of God’s work is the authorship of the Scriptures.

When the Pastor declares Colossians 1:16-17 to be the words of God is he correct? If he referred to it instead as the words of Paul would he also be correct? 

He would be correct in both cases because the Bible is both the word of God and the word of its human authors. 

We believe that each and every word of Scripture is entirely the word of God and entirely the word of the human author. 

How does God do that? I don’t know. His work is unfathomably great.

The unfathomable greatness of God’s nature is the Trinity.

Do we believe that God is three or is God one?

We don’t believe that the word between “three and one” is the word “or” we believe it is the word “and.” 

It is the incomprehensible reality that our God is one in essence and He is three in person.

Can you explain exactly how that works? No way! It is the unfathomable greatness of our God.

While I cannot explain it, I know it is good news because the design for all loving relationships flows out of the Trinitarian relationship. It is within the Godhead that God fully and perfectly participates in all three joy-filled aspects of love; He gives love, He receives love and He observes love. 

God has been joyfully and perfectly participating in all three aspects of love from eternity past and will continue to do so into eternity future. Within the Trinity he gives love from one member to another, while a second member receives that love and the third member has the great delight of observing that love.  

God has made us to invite us into loving community modeled after the love expressed in the Trinity. My wife loves God and God receives that love and I get to observe that love and there is joy and celebration for all of us in this act. On another occasion, I express love for my wife and she receives that love and God celebrates as he observes his children loving each other.

All of these opportunities to participate in giving, receiving, and observing love flow out of the relationship in the Godhead in which God perfectly and joyfully participates in love all within himself. 

How is it possible that God is three and one? How does that work? I don’t fully understand it and I can’t fully explain it. It is an example of God’s unfathomable greatness. 

God’s unsearchable greatness is His sovereign governance. 

When a choice is made, is that choice God’s sovereign choosing through which he is governing events and history? Or is it a genuine human choice for which we are fully responsible? 

The Bible indicates again and again that when it comes to choices it is not an “or” it is an “and.” God is completely and sovereignly in control of decisions and directions for nations and individuals and at the same time we make genuine choices for which we are responsible before our Maker.  

We see this truth in those who put Jesus on the cross. 

Acts 4:27-28 - for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

God planned and predestined the actions of these wicked people that would put His Son on the cross.

One chapter later when Peter is speaking before the Jewish leaders he says, 

Acts 5:30 - The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.

They were responsible before God for the choice they made to kill Jesus and Peter points that out to them.  

Were the actions of these men to put Jesus on the cross, God’s plan from before the foundations of the earth, or were they the choices of these men for which they were ultimately responsible. The answer is yes!

Another example can be seen in Genesis 50 as Joseph speaks to his brothers who sold him into slavery. 

Genesis 50:20 - As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

When Joseph was sold into slavery was that the wicked plan of Joseph’s brothers or was it God’s plan to save lives and provide for the chosen line in Egypt. The answer is yes! The brothers made a genuine choice for which they are fully responsible and it accomplished precisely what God chose to have happen. 

Since we are on a roll, how about Jacob and Esau? 

Did God choose Jacob over Esau, or did Esau forfeit his birthright through his own actions?

Romans 9:11-12 - though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger."

God clearly chose their paths before they were born. Then in Hebrews 12 we read the following,

Hebrews 12:15-16 - See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

Why did Esau lose his place as firstborn? Because of his faithless choices. The author of Hebrews is using those faithless choices to warn others because they too will be responsible for their choices. God chose and elected Jacob and Esau made genuine choices for which he was responsible.

We could go on with examples like this. We could look at how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Or we could read in Romans 11:8 about how God hardened Israel’s hearts and then read in Romans 11:20 how Israel was cut off because of their disobedient and faithless choices. 

The point is that when it comes to choices, the glass is 100% full with God’s sovereign election and 100% full with human responsibility. 

How does God do this? How does God sovereignly govern while people are making choices for which they are responsible? 

When writing about these things, Paul concluded in Romans 11:33.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

God’s unsearchable greatness is seen in his nature and His work. It is jaw dropping!

3. Our God is unfathomable great in his abounding love and mercy.

Ephesians 3 is a prayer from Paul for the Ephesians in which he prays that they would…

Ephesians 3:19 - …know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

God’s love and mercy surpass our knowledge and understanding. 

It is unfathomable that a Holy God would love me, a rebellious sinner, enough to send his son to take my sins and my punishment upon himself on the cross. 

Why would God do this? It is only because of his incomprehensible grace.

It is jaw-dropping, unfathomable love.

We remember that unsearchable love every time we come to the Lord’s Table.