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“Does God Really LIKE Me?”

Jan.20/13 Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10


Is there a God? If there is, what is He like? And - the most pertinent question of all - does He really LIKE me?

    These are questions that people have pondered from ancient times. As to whether there actually IS a God, philosophers and theologians over the ages have developed some arguments. The “cosmological argument” originates with Plato and Aristotle. One form goes like this: “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.The Universe began to exist.Therefore, the Universe had a cause.” Theists then jump to identify this mysterious “cause” as God.

    The “teleological argument” is an argument from design. William Paley developed the “watch maker” analogy: if you were walking across an open field and discovered a watch, you’d suspect it was made by an intelligent watch maker, it didn’t just happen by chance. So, by extension, the amazing degree of design and complexity we see in the universe suggests an Intelligent Designer.

    There’s also the “argument from morality”. Ravi Zacharias admits there are criticisms aimed at both the cosmological and teleological arguments, so one of the strongest arguments for God that Christians may use today is the moral argument. For instance, in Mere Christianity CS Lewis wrote, “conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver.”

    The more science progresses, the less support we see for some of Darwin’s theories (witness the fossil record and notable absence of missing links), and the stronger becomes the argument from design (from the ‘fine tuning’ of galaxies and planets to the amount of information and procedure tucked in molecules and the tiniest living cells). But even if you can persuade someone there IS a Supreme Being from any of these arguments, that doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be convinced it MUST be the God of the Bible. Some atheists and even liberal theologians find a discrepancy between the “God of the Old Testament” and the “God of Love” described in the New Testament. Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion writes, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    Michael Ramsden is a Christian apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He responds to Dawkins’ charge by pointing to the book of Jonah, one of the oldest books in the Old Testament; there God shows deep compassion for the people of Nineveh, while all the prophet Jonah wants to see happen is for them to be wiped from the map in revenge.

    In fact, it’s impossible to drive a consistent wedge between the so-called “God of the Old Testament” and “God of the New Testament”. God’s holiness, judgment, faithfulness, and lovingkindness are emphasized in both. Here are some key passages describing God’s essential qualities in the Old Testament. Exodus 34:6 “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Psalm 86:15 “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 145:8 “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” Did you hear that? RICH in love!

    Jesus certainly didn’t perceive any incongruity between His mission and the Old Testament; He said up-front in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Mt 5:17) God is not schizophrenic, of two different minds. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8) There are successive dispensations, yes – we don’t need an earthly temple and altar and sacrifices now because these were just pointers to the real thing which found its expression in Jesus at the cross – but God’s ultimate means of saving people has always been the same.

    Our Scripture passages today shed more light on who God is as He desires to interact with us – as His people of faith overall, and also individually.


God’s purpose for those who trust Him is not that we be obscure gargoyles or gremlins sculpted into the limestone in some dark recess of the heavenly cathedral (so to speak). His purpose is that we shine for His glory and reflect beauty in His direction, for His renown.

    When Isaiah wrote, the northern kingdom of Israel, the northernmost “ten tribes” had been ruled by wicked kings and been conquered and disbanded by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom of Judah held out longer, with some notably more godly kings in some cases, but they too caved in to idolatry and the occult so also were exiled when the Babylonians conquered them. It was a very shameful time for the whole nation. Wild animals and weeds took over where once there were prosperous towns and farms. It would seem there was little hope of the nation amounting to anything ever again.

    But when Cyrus the Persian king came to power, the Jews were allowed, even encouraged, to go back and rebuild Jerusalem. Over a century in advance, Isaiah prophesied the nation that seemed so disintegrated would be rebuilt.

    After Pentecost, New Testament writers understood by the Holy Spirit God was creating a people for Himself, not only Jews but also with Gentiles “grafted in”. So the promises that remained unfulfilled from the Old Testament would also apply to some degree to Christians, who would be part of the “heavenly city” one day. The apostle John had a vision in Revelation 21(2), “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” So as we review these Old Testament prophecies, in some cases we can see echoes in the New Testament where they apply to US who have believed in Jesus.

    One goal God has for us is SHINING - that our righteousness shine out splendidly to God’s credit, accentuating and augmenting God’s beauty, making Him look good, bringing Him honour. Isaiah 62:1b-3 “...her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory...You will be a crown of splendour in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” I’ve never held a crown or “royal diadem” – only seen them in pictures or fleetingly behind thick glass at the Tower of London. Such things are heavily guarded, kept under lock and key, because they’re so valuable - and beautiful. Gems and diamonds sparkle and shimmer in light of many hues. Who’s God saying will be this crown? US! “You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hand...” What quality of ours is it that will shine out? Our righteousness. “Her righteousness shines out like the dawn...the nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory.” Our right-thinking and right-acting shines glory upon our Saviour.

    The Daniel prophet recorded, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” (Dan 12:3) Jesus commanded, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) The apostle Paul urged the church at Philippi that they “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe...” (Php 2:15) Righteousness - good deeds - blamelessness - purity: have those things been priorities for us this past week? Do we stand out with shining beauty, or are we blending in a little too much to the dark and seamy background of culture?

    Louie Giglio pastors a large church in Atlanta and has done much work combatting human trafficking. He was invited to say the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration. But protests arose because of a sermon he’d preached some 20 years ago maintaining that homosexuality is sin. After some consultation with the White House, Pastor Giglio withdrew from the honoured event. According to CNN, “A spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee said the committee was 'not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural.'” Some “diversity”! I guess the committee wanted someone who would ‘blend in’ better rather than “shine like [a star as he held] out the word of life” in a “crooked and depraved generation”.


God has designed us for beauty and brilliance; He has also designed us for relationship, companionship, to find protection sheltering with Him. Psalm 36:5 says “Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” How vast is His love! How greatly we can trust in Him, confide in Him! V7b “Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.” What an intimate picture of finding shelter! Maybe we’ve seen chickens or ruffed grouse sheltering their baby chicks under their wings. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem’s refusal to accept Him as Messiah in Luke 13(34), “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

    God has designed the human heart to long for relationship, companionship, togetherness – not alone and defenceless or isolated. He offers this loving community to those who come to Him. Isaiah 62:4 uses the most intimate human relationship - marriage - to point to the closeness God desires with His people: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.But you will be called Hephzibah [literally ‘My delight is in her’], and your land Beulah [literally ‘married’]; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”

    How can we enjoy such close fellowship and intimacy with an Almighty, Holy, infinite God? What gets in the way of marital harmony? Spats, competing goals, unresolved hurts, poor communication. Some people go days without reading their Bible then wonder why God feels so distant. Communication and co-operation are essential! Back in Isaiah 50:1 before the exile the prophet likened the nation’s condition before God to that of divorce, not marriage: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away?...Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away.” If we want to experience spiritual closeness with God, we need to confess our sins and transgressions that would separate us from the Lord, making us feel ‘deserted’ or ‘desolate’. It’s the blood of Jesus shed for us that makes that forgiveness possible.

    Having a relationship with God, knowing His sheltering and protection, gives great assurance no matter what upsets arise in life. Bill Hybels suggests, “Sometime when you're in an airport, observe the difference between passengers who hold confirmed tickets and those who are on standby.The ones with confirmed tickets read newspapers, chat with their friends or sleep.The ones on standby hang around the ticket counter, pace and smoke, smoke and pace.The difference is caused by the confidence factor.If you knew that in fifteen minutes you would have to stand in judgment before the Holy God and learn your eternal destiny, what would your reaction be? Would you smoke and pace? Would you say to yourself, ‘I don't know what God's going to say--will it be 'Welcome home, child,' or will it be 'Depart from me; I never knew you'?’”

    Our confidence and assurance are based in God’s loving faithfulness, not any security this temporal world affords. Too many people suppose they can find security in money. The author to the Hebrews reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Heb 13:5) His shelter is what can truly protect.


(Our last heading doesn’t start with SH like Shining and Sheltering but it does have an SH in it - cheriSHed.) “Does God really LIKE me?” Yes! When you’re in His Son by faith. We saw in v4 that weird word (also happened to be the name of King Hezekiah’s wife actually) - “You will be called Hephzibah” - literally “My delight is in her” - “for the Lord will take delight in you...” Last week on Facebook I saw the most darling picture of the three recently-born triplets in our community. So cute! It’s natural for parents and grandparents to delight in their offspring, to want to share pictures, to cheer them on as they take their first step or say their first word. God delights in those who become His children by receiving Jesus. Isaiah 62:5 adds, “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Have you been at weddings where it seemed hard for the groom to keep his eyes off his beautiful bride? Do you think towards the end of the celebration the newlyweds are anxious to get off to their honeymoon so they could just be alone with one another, rejoicing in their new life-partner? Of course! Scripture’s saying that’s how God the Father derives enjoyment from His people - like a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

    Psalm 149(4) says, “For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” (Ps 149:4) There’s that ‘crowning’ idea again! Zephaniah 3(17) “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zep 3:17) Who do you look to for approval? To your classmates? Your teacher? Your co-workers or boss? Your neighbours or relatives? When you yield your life to Jesus, you’ve already got the approval of the most important being in the universe – God Himself is rejoicing over you, cherishing you! The apostle John exclaimed in his first letter, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1Jo 3:1) The Father rejoices in His ‘kids’.


God really does LIKE you – the born-anew, forgiven and cleansed you. Jesus says God has even numbered every hair on your head! (Matt 10:30) That’s not difficult for Him who knows all the stars in the universe by name. But it’s amazing. According to Psalm 139(1,4,6) God knows when you sit and when you stand; he knows the next word you’re going to say before you speak it. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me...”

    God really likes you, if you’ve given yourself to Him. He shelters and cherishes you, and has a plan for you to shine beautifully in His Kingdom. But what if you don’t see yourself that way? What if you’re just too aware of all your blemishes and failures and weaknesses?

    In May 1987 the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the following. “A rock hound named Rob Cutshaw owns a little roadside shop outside Andrews, North Carolina.Like many in the trade, he hunts for rocks, then sells them to collectors or jewelry makers.He knows enough about rocks to decide which to pick up and sell, but he's no expert.He leaves the appraising of his rocks to other people.As much as he enjoys the work, it doesn't always pay the bills.He occasionally moonlights, cutting wood to help put bread on the table.

    “While on a dig twenty years ago, Rob found a rock he described as ‘purdy and big.’ He tried unsuccessfully to sell the specimen, and according to the Constitution, kept the rock under his bed or in his closet. He guessed the blue chunk could bring as much as $500, but he would have taken less if something urgent came up like paying his power bill. That’s how close Rob came to hawking for a few hundred dollars what turned out to be the largest, most valuable sapphire ever found.The blue rock that Rob had abandoned to the darkness of a closet two decades ago -- now known as ‘The Star of David’ sapphire -- weighs nearly a pound, and could easily sell for $2.75 million.”

    You’re not just a big blue blob – you’re like that sapphire awaiting the Master Jeweler’s finishing touches. Commit your future to the Lord and “You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isa 62:3) He sees the treasure you really are, and He also knows best how to apply the finishing touches that will make you shine for all to see.

    Famous Christian journalist and author Malcolm Muggeridge observed towards the end of his life, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction.Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.” You can trust God with polishing off the rough spots, to transform you into a shining jewel! Let’s pray.