Meditations in Meaning & Values 13: God’s Perfection
Eccles 3:14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
In our pursuit of seeking out meaning and values in our world, at some point any thinking person, and particularly a Christian, comes to a point of saying, “Couldn’t God have made the world so that sin couldn’t exist? Couldn’t it have been a good world where everything is good?” The Christian organisation, Scripture Union, used to have a film strip (I don’t know if they translated in into a more modern medium but that was what it was when I was a young Christian working with children and young people) called ‘Lost in Space’ and in it two young people end up on a planet far away from earth but what they find there amazes them. Everyone is good, everything is good. People don’t lock their doors, people don’t say bad things about one another and certainly never seek to harm one another. Of course it highlights just how sin-ridden this world of our is. But did God have to make it like that?
When you really start thinking about it you realise that Sin in a decision, a decision to be self-centred and godless. Adam and Eve chose that course and every single one of us who has ever lived since (except Jesus) has been like that. It’s because we have free will that we live like this. You may try to think of God inserting some sort of gene within us that won’t permit us to be self-centred and godless but at that moment we cease to have free will and we cease to be human beings. That would impinge on the very thing that makes us human beings who have a variety of feelings, a variety of ways of thinking, so we would also stop being creative in the way we are and there would not be authors or composers or designers and so on, because all of these thing flow out of who we are. Free will probably has many more effects within us that most of us have ever thought about.
But then we have the whole story of salvation, of the Son of God leaving heaven, coming to earth to be born in the form of a little child, growing up like every other human, revealing his Father’s love for three years, being taken and put to death for simply being good, being raised from the dead, being seen by his followers and then ascending back to his place in heaven at his Father’s right hand where he presides over his Father’s kingdom. Those are the facts and in the midst of them, that reference to being put to death failed to reveal the enormity of what he was doing, taking every sin of every person and taking the punishment for it (as only the eternal Son of God could) so that justice was satisfied. If there is going to be free will, there is going to be Sin and sins and justice is going to scream out, “That is wrong, that is unfair, it should be punished!” And so it was.
And then Solomon says, “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” It may have several meanings but it certainly applies to all that we have just been saying. The Amplified version has, “nothing can be added to it nor can anything be taken from it” which would suggest the completeness of what God has done. However the Message Version paints a more accurate picture or sense in context, I believe, “I’ve also concluded that whatever God does, that’s the way it’s going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God’s done it and that’s it. That’s so we’ll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear,” because this verse only follows a couple of verses on from that one we’ve already referred to twice in these studies: “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (3:11b)
Remember Solomon is saying it with a jaded feeling behind every word so I think the Message does actually capture best what Solomon is saying but that doesn’t stop us adding that cynical or jaded as he may be, again and again Solomon can’t help speaking truth, even though it may be “under the sun”. And the truth is that God has made this world and in that it could not have been made in any other way, it is perfect, despite the presence of Sin.
Now in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48) The Amplified version unpacks that as, “You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If I tell you that the word ‘perfect’ there means ‘whole or complete’ we see how the Amplified version gets it right in respect of us. But the big issue, that we so often miss, is that Jesus says his Father is perfect, is whole or complete. Perfect also means ‘cannot be added to’. If you looked at the work of an Old Master and said, “that is perfect”, you would mean that there would be nothing that could be added to that painting that could improve it. Now I have just dropped an intellectual and spiritual grenade under your feet! This is what the Bible teaches, that God is perfect which means that if you knew everything that could be known about Him you would not be able to improve Him or add to Him, and that applies to His being, His character and everything He says or does.
Do you see now the significance of Solomon’s words, “nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it”? Put Sin and its effects aside for a moment (because we’ve said they will have to exist if human beings are to be human beings) everything that you see God say or do to do with this world is spot on; it cannot be improved upon. When you understand it (and there is the challenge!) you will never be able to say, “He ought to have done….” whatever it was. What He did was perfect. We surely may not understand it and that is, as I just said, the challenge, to look at His world and look at His word and see it through fresh understanding. I have done that in respect of His judgments and it is an incredibly revealing exercise (and I hope to complete the book soon).
Look at God’s world with new eyes, look at His salvation with new eyes, look at all that is going on around you and your life with new eyes, and see the work of a perfect God, perfect work that could not be improved upon. It may require some serious thinking in you but the results will be invaluable. Be blessed!