How Does God Show His glory?
Before we address the pleasure of God in all that he does, I want us to ask first, “what does it mean for God to show his glory?” The reason is because I want us to see from scriptures how integral, important and necessary to his glory the pleasure of God is in all that he does.
So how does God show his glory? Or what does his glory consist of at the very minimum? To answer that let’s look at Exodus 33:18-23.
In verse 18, after the Lord granted Moses’ request that His presence be with his people, Moses asked the Lord to show His glory, “Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”” Now notice the response of the Lord in verse 19, “And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” I want you to notice the I will’s in this verse:
- I will make all my goodness pass before you
- [I] will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’
- I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious
- [I] will show mercy on whom I will show mercy
The first two “I will’s” is basically explaining each other, the first one being the manner of the second. That is, “By making all my goodness pass before you, I will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’.” I say that because when the Bible speaks of the name of the Lord it always does refer to his glory, reputation, fame or weight. Look at Isaiah 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” Or in 1 Samuel 12:22, “For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.”
So the Lord’s response to the request of Moses is not to show him two glories but one, namely his name through proclamation, and He will do it by letting his goodness pass before him.
Now how about the last two “I will’s”? The first one, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious”- is just being explained by the second, “[I] will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” And as a whole they are qualifying what the glory of God is consist of, or what does it mean for him to act(in this case letting his goodness pass) for his name or glory. It means that for God to be acting for his own glory, he must do so out of the shear pleasure of his will. Otherwise He is not God. Do you remember how the Lord revealed his name to Moses in Exodus 3:14? It says, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”” When someone tells you “I am what I am, and therefore I do what I do”, what’s being said is that such person is doing what he does not begrudgingly, nor out of debt to someone, neither because of compulsion, rather he does according to his own pleasure. So for God to be God, that is, for Him to show His allegiance to His glory, His great name, He must do everything according to His own pleasure. Or to put it another way, God does whatever he pleases. Or God is pleased in all that he does.
The Pleasure of God in All That He Does
Now we’re ready to talk about the pleasure of God in all that he does. There are three explicit passages in the Bible that talks about this,
- Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”
- Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
- Isaiah 46:10, “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose”
God is God Because He Does What He Pleases and He Does What He Pleases Because He is God
Before we go to Psalm 135:1-12, let me just point to one observation from Psalm 115:3 and Isaiah 46:10 that relates the Godness of God to his being able to act always what pleases him. Notice that when the psalmist says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases,” he does so in order to distinguish the Lord from idols. It says in Psalm 115:2-7,
“Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat.”
Isaiah does the same thing in Isaiah 46:5-10,
““To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble. “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.””
Therefore we conclude from this passages that essential to the essence of God is his freedom, that is, his freedom to do what he pleases, and that all that God does must in the ultimate sense please him.
We Praise God For His Pleasure In All That He Does
Now in Psalm 135:1-2 it says, “Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord, who stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God!” Then in verse 3-4 the psalmist restates the command but this time providing the reason why we should praise the Lord, “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant! Now does this passage sound familiar to you? Notice those two words, “good” and “name”? We have seen that before in Exodus 33:19, “And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’” I think the psalmist is making a point that the reason precisely why God deserves praise is because when he the Lord shows his goodness, he shows his name, his glory, and he does so on the basis of his good pleasure. That is why we ought to praise him, because God does all that he pleases. Look at Psalm 135:4-5, first he points to what God did, and then to his character or essential nature, which correspond to his act of goodness and name, “For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession. For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.” See that? God does something, that is, he chose Israel, and God is said to be great or glorious. But then look at how Psalm 135:6 supports or clarifies for us how is God great in doing that, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”
What’s does it mean then? It means that God is great for choosing Israel as his possession because he does it according to his own pleasure. Or to put it another way, it pleases the Lord to show goodness to the Israelites, and because he is able to always accomplish his pleasure he is shown to be great. That’s why he deserves our praise!
But God Does not Delight In The Death of the Wicked Right?
Now one possible objection that can be made against this teaching that all that God does pleases him is Ezekiel 18:30-32, ““Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”” In this passage, it seems that God is forced to do something that he doesn’t take delight in.
There are three wrong ways to address this issue:
- One is to say that God only take pleasure in orchestrating the natural universe but not in the death of persons. One might say, “look at Psalm 135:7, God does what he pleases with regard to natural phenomenon only, ‘He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.'”
However, this is incorrect, because if you read further in verses 8-12 the death of the wicked is included in what pleases God, “He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants; who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan, and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.”
- Another way to address the seeming contradiction between Psalm 135 and Ezekiel 18 is to say that whenever the Bible speaks that God is doing what he pleases, they only meant that God is able to accomplish his purpose, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that He is pleased in all that he purposed.
Again this is incorrect because there’s an even more explicit passage that does talk about God’s delight in judging and killing people. Look at Deuteronomy 28:63, “And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” It says here explicitly that as the Lord took delight in doing good, he took delight in bringing ruin and destruction upon people.
So how should we address this problem then?
First, we must recognize that we are not God and it is impossible for us to exhaustively or fully understand the emotional being of God.
Second, when we try to make sense of seeming contradictions like this one, we must do so not by denying one over the other or at the expense of the other. The Lord did say in Ezekiel that he does not take pleasure in the death of anyone, and he did say in Psalm 135 and in Deuteronomy 28:63 that he does take delight in all he does and that includes killing, destroying impenitent sinners. Let both of these passages stand!
Third, we must recognize that God is able to look at all of history and all that he does in two ways, one through a narrow lens, and another through a wide lens. Meaning, when God considers death and sin by themselves, i.e. through a narrow lens, he doesn’t take pleasure from them. God is not a sadist who’s thirsty for blood. But when he look at all of history and all that he has done in relation to each other through a wide lens, including the death and final judgement of the wicked, he can and does take delight in them. Because in the death of the wicked, his righteousness, his glory, is vindicated and shown to be great and true and beautiful.
Therefore in the ultimate sense God is not cornered into doing something that will ultimately make him unhappy. No! God does all things according to his pleasure, and in that we should stand in awe and wonder, because God is absolutely, gloriously and joyfully sovereign. That’s our only hope if we are to be saved. Because no one can constrain him other than himself in being for his people.