Alongside reading David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved, a new book on universalism, I’ve been reading David F. Wells’ book (next two links to more on the book, as I haven’t reviewed them yet!) God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients Our World, and will soon start Peter Sanlon’s Simply God. One of the things that I found troubling in That All Shall be Saved, which I didn’t note in the review I wrote particularly, was the picture of God as somehow impotent and transcendent, so different from us that it was not clear how we mere humans could have anything to do with such a being. I was reminded of Rowan Williams’ excellent little book God With Us, which echoes an older post I wrote about the twin truths of the Gospel as an account of God’s movement, God With Us, God For Us. Reading David Wells’ book, though, I came across this beautiful account of what it means to say that God is for us:
“That God has thus planned our redemption from all eternity delivers a declaration louder than any thunderclap. It is that he is for us, that he has always been for us. He was for us in the far reaches of eternity. It was there that he took thought of us even before we existed. It was there that he planned to act for us. This plan was there from the very beginning. He planned to do this knowing that once we fell into the disorder of sin our fist would be raised against him. But his grace preceded us. It preempted our refusal to submit to him. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He refused to abandon us as orphans in the world. On the contrary, from all eternity he planned to effect our rescue and adoption.“
What a stunning truth!
What a stunningly gracious God!
Not for nothing does Wells go on: “Can we find a more reassuring word than this?“.
To say that God is with us is a beautiful truth – we need look only at the life, Cross, Resurrection and commission of Jesus, and the ever-working power of the Holy Spirit, doing what the Father is doing even now. To say that God is for us is a beautiful truth too. It is reassuring, stunning, mind-boggling, and shocking.
And yet it is also what we might see every time we see a rainbow.
Everyone, I think, understands the concept of a storm, the idea of being swirled around by wind and rain, and the terror or at least unsettling of thunder and lightning. Yet when a rainbow comes, it is a reminder that God is for us. Couple this truth with the wonder of Wells’ words above, and we have a wonderful picture of a God who is for us, and for the things that he has made, in a way that is simple and tangible.
Do you smile at rainbows?
Genesis 9:8-17 reads thus:
“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenantwith you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbowappears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”“