We’re using times of quiet to do some deep thinking. Last time I suggested that we begin by thinking carefully about the attributes of God. This time I’d like to suggest taking the obvious next step: thinking carefully about his works.
The attributes of God have to do with who he is; if we were describing a human friend, we’d refer to his “personality”—that is, his characteristics, what he is like. God’s works, on the other hand, have to do with what he does. And the Scripture commends thinking in that direction specifically—
- I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds (Ps 77.12).
- I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands (Ps 143.5).
Organizing your thoughts around his works can get a little complicated, if you’re trying to be theologically precise. Officially, the works of God are just three in number: creation, providence, and miracles. Creation is the work by which God brings all things into existence; providence is the work by which he maintains and directs those things; and miracles is anything that doesn’t fit into the first two categories. (Theologians have offered more technical definitions of the word miracle, but I’m inclined to see shortcomings in each of those definitions, and so I use this as a simple, practical workaround.)
Some would make miracles a subcategory of providence, and most would see two other subcategories as well: preservation and government. The former is God’s maintenance of what he has created (think science), and the latter is his direction of the affairs of people and nations (think history).
The question is further complicated by a theological concept called “inseparable operations” in the Trinity. This is an attempt to highlight the unity of the Godhead by asserting that all the works of God are performed by all three persons in the Trinity. The standard exceptions are that the Father eternally begets the Son, and that the Father and the Son (unless you’re Eastern Orthodox) send the Spirit—or rather, that the Spirit “proceeds” from them.
(Can I say “them,” if God is One?)
As you can see, the attributes of God, which are infinite and thus beyond our complete comprehension, make our meditation on his works complicated as well.
There is constant opportunity here for wonder and for worship. If you think you understand it, there’s something you haven’t thought of.
But God, in grace, has revealed himself in his Word and in his works, and the fact that he’s infinite doesn’t mean that trying to understand and know him is a fool’s errand. We cannot know it all, but we can know—and experience—what he has revealed of himself.
I’ve organized my daily thanksgiving prayer around God’s works as well as his attributes. I thank him for Creation—and as anyone born in the American West knows, there’s a lot of creation to be thankful for. Its beauty and grandeur are beyond words, from the complexities and mysteriousness of subatomic particles, to the cell, to Yosemite Falls, to the interworkings of biomes, to the Great Wall of galactic clusters in the ubercosmos—or as D.A. Carson put it, “every galaxy, microbe, and hill.” Even in its broken state, God’s work of creation commends him.
I thank him for his providence, before I existed and since. It took me just a few minutes to jot down a whole catalog of good providences from which I have benefited. Some were painful, and some were not, but all were from God’s hand and have worked good in my life, my mind, and my soul.
I thank him for his miracles, most especially the work of new birth, and all the works that led up to it and have proceeded from it.
God is unspeakably good in his works. The more I think about the topic, the more convinced I am of his might and of his love.
God is great, and God is good.
Next time, we’ll suggest one more topic for deep thought.