What would you say is the most important thing about you? Your gifts? Your looks? Your academic accomplishments? Your career? Your family? Your accomplishments? Your contributions to society? How much you are loved by family and friends? Your financial status?
I believe it was A. W. Tozer who observed that what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The most important fact about a human being is not what he may say or do, but what deep in his heart he thinks about God.
Why? Because what we think about God will determine everything else that we think or do or become. There is a spiritual law that says that we move toward our mental image of God. We tend to become what our conception of God is like. If our God has no standards, we will have no standards. If our God is cruel and uncaring, we will become cruel and uncaring. If our conception of God is pure and holy we will become pure and holy. If our God is loving and kind, we will become loving and kind. If we have no God, we will become godless.
One way to think correctly about God is to learn about His midot – His attributes. An attribute is something true about God. It is whatever may be correctly ascribed to God. It is whatever God has revealed as being true about Himself. It expresses his true nature and being. An attribute is not a part of God. It is how God is. I want to consider the attribute of the greatness and the infinity of God.
Of all that can be thought or said about God, His greatness and infinitude is perhaps the most difficult to grasp. Even to try and understand it is self-defeating, for this kind of knowledge requires us to understand something that we should realize we can never do. Infinitude means limitlessness, and it is impossible for a limited mind to grasp the Unlimited, and for the finite mind to understand the Infinite.
The problem is that we are trying to envision a kind of Being who is altogether foreign to us, who is unlike anything we have known in our universe of energy and matter, space and time. “Here we pass beyond our power of conception,” writes Novatian, “nor can human eloquence describe His greatness. His greatness cannot even be fully conceived. All mental effort is feeble. For God is greater than the mind itself. If we could conceive of His greatness He would be less than the human mind which could form the conception.”
We often misuse the concept of “infinite.” Infinite does not mean a lot of; it does not mean much of; it does not mean a great deal of, like when we say a teacher has infinite patience with her students, or an artist takes infinite pains with his work. Properly used, the word “infinite” can not be applied to any created thing. It can be used of no one but God. He alone is infinite. Everyone and everything else is finite. We speak of “unlimited wealth” and “boundless energy,” but no wealth is unlimited, and no energy is boundless, unless we are speaking of the wealth and energy of God.
When we say that God is infinite it means that He knows no bounds. God, and all that God is, is without any limits. When we say that God is infinite we mean that He is measureless. Measurement is the way created things have of accounting for themselves. Measurement implies limitations and cannot apply to God. Weight describes the gravitational pull of one body upon another body. Distance describes intervals between bodies in space. Length means extension in space. Our conception of measurement embraces mountains and men, atoms and galaxies, gravity and energy, numbers and speed, but never God. We can’t speak of measure or amount or size or weight and at the same time be speaking of God. Isn’t it obvious that all this does not apply to God? It is the way we see the works of His hands, but it is not the way we are to see Him. Nothing in God is less or more, large or small. He is what He is in Himself, without qualifying word or thought. He is simply God.
Psalm 145 declares: Gadol Adonai – Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, v’lee-g’du-lah-toh ayn cheker – and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, oo-g’du’lah-t’cha ah-sap-reh-nah – and I will tell of Your greatness.
Let’s see if we can understand something about the greatness of God. To help us, first let’s consider the works of man. Everything that man has built on the whole world – all the ships, all the cars, all the trains, all the buildings, all the houses and cities, all taken together would not fill up a cube 500 miles by 500 miles by 500 miles. New York City would be much smaller. It needs to be changed to: But our beautiful Planet Earth, about 8000 miles in diameter, contains not 500 cubic miles, but 260 billion cubic miles – about 2000 times larger.
And yet Earth is tiny compared to the great glowing sun. Our sun has a diameter of 780,000 miles compared to the Earth’s 8,000. There is room for over 1,300,000 of our Earths inside the sun! And our sun is not the largest of the stars. Antares, a giant star about 600 light years away, is almost inconceivably huge. Its diameter is approximately 700 times as big as that of the Sun. If Antares were placed in the center of our solar system, its outer surface would extend between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter – about 186 million miles from the core of the Sun! Our huge sun is a tiny weeny little BB compared to this great giant!
Some 427 light years away is another giant star, the red giant known as Betelgeuse. It is in the constellation of Orion, which is mentioned in the book of Job (Job 9:9): God makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; He does great things, unfathomable, and wondrous works without number. Betelgeuse may be even larger than giant Antares. Its diameter may be 800 times greater than that of the Sun. Try to picture this great gas giant, which would start from the core of our Sun, extend 93,000,000 miles to our Earth, go beyond Earth to Mars, go beyond Mars, part way to the orbit of Jupiter. It is as much as 300 million times greater in volume than our Sun; a difference in volume much like a beach ball compared to a large stadium!
Our closest neighbor star outside of our solar system is Alpha Centauri, 4 light years away. It takes light, going 186,000 miles per second, over 4 years to go to Alpha Centauri, the next closest star. In one year light can travel 6 trillion miles. It would take you driving in your car at a good speed about 30 million years to drive to Alpha Centauri! And yet in comparison with the vast expanses of space, Alpha Centauri is extraordinarily close!
The farthest light in the sky that is visible to the naked eye on Earth is the Andromeda galaxy. This cluster of stars orbits in space some 2.5 million light years from us about 625 thousand times farther than Alpha Centauri!
Speaking of galaxies, the most recent estimates are that there are somewhere around 200 to 400 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. We now think that there are a hundred billion galaxies in the universe, with untold trillions upon trillions upon trillions upon trillions of stars.
Most galaxies are three thousand to three hundred thousand light years in diameter and are usually separated by distances on the order of millions of light years. The largest galaxies can have more than a trillion stars each and be more than a half million light years across!
Nearby Alpha Centauri, and the rest of the vast Milky Way galaxy, and the much more distant Andromeda galaxy are relatively close to us. They are not the outer rim of the universe. We think that the farthest objects that we have been able to detect, powerful quasars, are 15 to 20 billion light years away. The universe is so huge that it is impossible for the human mind to fully comprehend it.
And yet all these huge stars are so spread out in the vast reaches of space, they are as thinly scattered in the universe as if one should go wandering around the Earth and find a pinhead every 20 miles or so, or if one should pour one quart of water over the entire surface of the Earth and have the water molecules evenly distributed.
Yet the Scriptures teach that God is bigger, greater, larger than the scope of the entire universe! The universe is finite and that God is infinite. He not only fills the universe but is larger than the universe.
The Almighty God, speaking to us through the prophet Jeremiah, asks three questions: “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “And not a God far off?” Answer: Yes, He is near. He is everywhere! Second question: “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. Answer: No – there is nowhere you or I can hide from this Almighty and all-knowing and all-near God. Third question:“Do I not fill the Heavens and the Earth?” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 23:23-24). Answer: Yes Lord, You and your presence fill this entire immense universe!
God is everywhere present throughout the universe, but He is bigger and greater than the universe. King Solomon prayed at the dedication of the First Temple, which was a special house where the Shechinah – the Dwelling Presence of God was manifested on Earth: Will God indeed dwell on the Earth? Behold, Heaven and the Highest Heavens cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!(1 Kings 8:27).
The Creator, speaking to us through the prophet Isaiah, again declares the same truth about His greatness: Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the Earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 66:1-2).
The author of Psalm 113 also understood the greatness of God: The Lord is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in Heaven and in the Earth? God is greater than the Heavens and the Earth. This great and high Sovereign is so much greater than the all the peoples of the world! He is so much vaster than creation that He has to lower Himself to look upon the universe!
Man and all his works, everything that he has made, including New York, are so small, so insignificant compared to this great God, that man and all His works are regarded less than nothing and meaningless. Isaiah 40:15-17: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the Earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance, and the hills in a pair of scales? Answer: Only the Infinite Creator, El Gibor, the Mighty God!
All the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; He lifts up the islands like fine dust (isn’t New York an island?). Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. In fact Isaiah tells us that reaching the point of nothingness would be a vast improvement!
Regarding the Son of God, Rabbi Paul wrote: He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things (Ephesians 4:10). Somehow King Messiah, the Lord Yeshua, is also bigger and vaster and greater than our entire universe!
God is great, greater than the universe. Why does El Shaddai, this Almighty God, still care for small, little corrupted-by-sin mankind? 3,000 years ago King David asked the same question. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man, that You take thought of him?
Because just as the Creator is infinite regarding measurement and size, all the other attributes of God are also infinite.
He is infinite in wisdom: Psalm 147:5: Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. He designed the elegant mathematical and physical laws that are woven throughout the universe. He knows every hair on your head, every sparrow that falls, each of the trillions of stars by name; He knows every atom and subatomic particle. He knows every prayer that is prayed by every human being, every word that is said, every deed that is done, every thought that we think!
He is infinite in power: Wise Job declared to the Lord: I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Jeremiah knew this too. Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the Earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You! (Jeremiah 32:17).
He is infinite in His power to save: The Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear (Isaiah 59:1). There is no person beyond His saving reach, no situation too difficult for Him to rescue.
He is infinite in time and eternity: Moses wrote in Psalm 90: Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the Earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Psalm 90:2). He is eternal, without beginning and without end. The Song-writer of Psalm 102 adds: Your years are throughout all generations. Of old You founded the Earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end (Psalm 102:24-27).
Human beings, nations, angels, can be great and powerful, but not good. But, the Greatest One is not only infinite regarding size, space and time, but He is perfect regarding His moral attributes.
He is infinite in righteousness: At the end of his long and amazing life, our wise teacher Moses declared to Israel in Deuteronomy 32:3-4: I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
To those who violate His righteous standards, the Most High is infinite in judgment: Hebrews 12:29:Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire”. Ultimately, the Eternal God will consume absolutely everything and everyone that is wrong, evil, bad, and unrighteous in the least degree.
He is infinite in His ability to atone: Romans 5:20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. However sin may abound, it still has its limits, because sin is the product of finite beings. But where sin increased, God’s grace abounded all the more. His grace is not only amazing, it is abounding! Thank God for His amazing, abounding grace!
He is infinite in love: His love is measureless. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God’s love has no bounds because it is not a thing, but part of His essential nature. His love is something He is. God is love. Because He is infinite, His love can enfold the whole world and have room for a million worlds beside. How wonderful to know that we have a God whose love is limitless!
He is infinite in His love, all encompassing in His patience, boundless in His goodness, unending in His mercy. There is no end to His life, His existence is infinite, His power all powerful, His justice is everlasting, His omniscience is without end!
Out of this infinite wisdom and strength and love, He made us in His image, so that we are like Him, so that we are valuable and precious to Him. And, He not only created us, but redeemed us when we became alienated from Him.
The only rational and reasonable response to the greatness of the Three-In-One God from each one of His creatures is to love Him; fear Him; serve Him, and to tell His other creatures who are so confused, to do the same!
[This message comes from A.W. Tozer’s excellent and inspiring book, The Knowledge of the Holy, and also Alfred Rehwinkel’s book, The Wonders Of Creation.]