Yesterday, we introduced the so-called minor prophets and talked about the idea that while the 'major' prophets (like Jeremiah and Isaiah) show us the greatness of our God, it's the minor prophets who really have a voice for His goodness. That's precisely because their prophecies are so intimate, so specific, so tailored to a certain time and place and people and are less about God's grand scheme for everything and more about His nearness right now.
That's not to say that it's not important to understand the greatness of our God. It absolutely is. We have to always keep our eyes for the big picture, for the grand scheme, for the scarlet thread that is woven throughout creation and that takes us from 'in the beginning' to 'forever and ever, amen.' We have to understand how big and mighty and powerful God is and how He's capable of managing the world that He's created. We have to maintain a vision for how He's working all things together for good and how everything fits into His wise design.
But at the same time, if our faith is constantly focused on how great God is - how big and vast and powerful and in control He is - then we start to lose our intimate connection with Him. We start to lose sight of how near He is. We start to let go of that deep love that He has for us.
This has historically been man's challenge with his gods (as we saw a bit last week when talking about Nebuchadnezzar) - when a god doesn't have a personal relationship with its people, it's easy to just become worshipers. To just bring offerings. To just do enough to earn the god's favor when it is needed. To spend your whole life trying to placate a god so that it isn't angry with you and might even do something nice for you out of all of its god-like powers. When a god doesn't have a personal relationship with its people, the whole relationship becomes transactional - give-and-take, approved-or-disapproved, tit-for-tat. And that's precisely the relationship that God doesn't want with us.
Yet, any one of us must be honest and say that it's easy for us to fall into that rhythm of 'worship.' It's easy for us to get transactional with God. It's easy for us to approach Him like any deities man has ever tried to curry favor with and to think that somehow, it's all about our getting it right and bringing the right offerings and doing the right things in order to have God 'like' us.
Never mind that He loves us.
And it's precisely because of this - it's precisely when we get into a mode where we are focused on the greatness of our God and start neglecting to study just as much His goodness that it's easy to create that distance between us and Him. It's easy to think of Him as just some God sitting in the heavens, waiting to either bless or curse us.
The truth is that this world is full of things that are bigger than we are. We don't really need another one. That's why this concept of God can get so exhausting so fast. It can make us feel small, and not in a good way. What we need is an understanding of the intimacy of our God. How near He comes to us. How close He draws to us. How small He makes Himself to fit all His greatness into our lives in all of these expressions of His goodness. We need to stop having a faith that thinks the end game is that God would 'like' us and start living as a people who begin knowing His deep love for us.
It starts with the kinds of messages that the minor prophets give us. And in our hearts, we know that. We know that's what our souls are looking for. Most of us are more moved to worship by one powerful, meaningful, intimate word about our very real lives than by a thousand words about the power of God to pull the universe's strings. We'd rather know from our own experience the tiniest bit of God's goodness than to have intellectual certainty about His greatness. Even if we were to come to a place where we could truly believe that our God likes us, it will never do for our souls what one heartbeat of His love does.
It's cool and everything that the God who made me also made the universe, but that's not a solid foundation for the kind of relationship that He wants to have with me and that my soul craves with Him. No, the foundation for that relationship is that the God who made the universe also made me. That's the kind of reminder that the minor prophets give us. That's the kind of refreshing grace that these intimate stories convey.
Great is our God. Holy, holy, holy. But good is He, too. Let us never forget that.