Terrifying and Trustworthy

Job Podcast

Over the summer my wife Emily and our oldest son Hudson went up to Colorado for a wedding.

One day they stopped at a place where Hudson could look at the mountainous sights through a coin-operated set of binoculars. He came home with a childlike obsession with binoculars. Ever since he received a set of toy binoculars for his birthday he can often be found observing life in the Stone home through those two lenses. There is unique power and joy in having far off sights being brought near to his experience.


If we take the binoculars of Job 11-14 and point them up to heaven we’ll see two primary truths about God, on which we must set our gaze and hope in lonesome suffering.

In chapter 11 Job’s third friend Zophar comes along and says, “Job, you deserve worse. You have secret sin and nothing is hidden from God. So you must repent if you are to be restored to wealth and health.” Job responds in 12:1-13:19 with a sarcastic rebuke of his friends’ counseling system, a system that is a failure in four ways: it’s cruel (12:1-6), it’s shallow (12:7-12), it’s safe (12:13-25), and it’s wrong (13:1-12). In 13:20 we find Job turning from his friends to speak with God and although the prospect of a miserable death haunts his minds, he nevertheless expresses hope in the possibility of resurrection (14:14).

As so often happens in this wonderful book, Job’s honest and eloquent ruminations his affliction reveal a grand vision of a God who is sovereign over suffering.


A stunning verse in chapter 13 encapsulates the God Job proclaims. Job is speaking to Zophar about his desire to plead his case with God and look at what he says in 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”

Do you notice the truth permeating truths about God?

First, God is terrifying. Job knows he is not perfect and that no imperfect man can stand in God’s presence and live. It is right to have terror before God. Mr. Beaver gets it so right in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when little Lacy asks if the great lion king Aslan is safe. Beaver reponds, “Safe? . . . Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” I am going to plead my case with God and He may kill, but still “I will hope in him.” Which leads to the second thing we must see . . .

Second, God is trustworthy. Job believes he is all alone before God, there is no one with him, but he reaches down the depths of his soul, to what he knows about God, and says, “I must have hope.” Terror before God doesn’t remove Job’s trust in God.

Is God terrifyingly trustworthy to you?

This post is adapted from my recent sermon, “Suffering with Zophar“, on Job 11-14.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On the Doctrine of God

Books are some of the best friends a pastor can have. How to know which friends to have is quite difficult, for as the inspired Preacher said, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Every so often I recommend three books for pastors on a given topic, hoping the suggestions might hone your book budget.

A consultant once asked RC Sproul, “What is the most important thing you can teach to non-Christians that they don’t know they need to know?” He answered, “That’s easy, the truth about God. They know that God is (Rom. 1), but not who God is.” The consultant then asked, “Ok, what about Christians?” Sproul said, “Well that’s easy too; they need to know who God is. I think the single most important thing we need is an awakening to the character of God.”

The Ligonier man speaks well here. At some level, every theological fallacy is rooted in a false understanding of God. Therefore, a pastor needs to regularly refuel and reteach his soul in the truths about God. One great way to do this is by reading books on the doctrine of God. Here are some mighty fine places to start.

0851512550The Doctrine of God by Herman Bavinck. Magisterial is the operative word here. Bavinck dares to ascend to heights of opening-line grandeur by starting off with the simple statement of, “Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics.” The old Dutchman knows the doctrine of God is foundation for all Christian theology and he proceeds to expound an incomprehensibly glorious God. This one needs to be read slowly and deeply, for you will not want to miss any part of this treasure trove of truth.

9780830816507mKnowing God by JI Packer. I continue to be amazed at the stunning success of this work. In 2006, Christianity Today voted this title one of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals. It has sold well north of one million copies. All that for a popular presentation of the classically Reformed understanding of God. Amazing! Read to know your God better and delight in Him supremely. If you read one book on this list, I’d make it this one.

0875522637mThe Doctrine of God by John Frame. His tri-perspectivalism may drive you crazy, but don’t let his novel method overshadow what is a fantastic accomplishment. Frame has an uncanny ability to bring clarity to the most complex issues of theology and philosophy. “I seek here above all,” he writes, “to present what Scripture says about God, applying that teaching . . . to the questions of our time.” His main contention is “God is Lord of the covenant” and all our understanding of His will and ways flow out of that center. Lucid in exposition, competent in various views, and rich in pastoral application; you’ll want this one on your shelf.


The Doctrine of God by Gerald Bray. Bray’s volume is one of the better entries in IVP’s “Contours of Christian Theology” series.

The Holiness of God by RC Sproul. Our worship and gospel hangs on the holiness of God. Few have done more to emphasize this central quality than Sproul. A justifiable classic.

Check out my past suggestions in the “3 Books Every Pastor Should Read” series here.

God’s Demanding Personality

Knowing God

“He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.” – Deuteronomy 10:211

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 is a pivotal part of Moses’ final sermon as the great redeemer prophet answers the question, “What does the LORD your God require of you?” As best I can tell, the verses command that no less than eight realities are to be true about God’s people. And these realities are grounded in at least eight different realities true about God Himself. So what we have then is a majestic summation of who God is and what God does. Five truths are particularly important to notice:

  1. God is sovereign. 10:14 says, “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.” To say that God is sovereign is to say that He is Lord. He is the One who is powerful over all things and the One who controls all things. Nothing in the highest realms of heaven or the lowest depths of earth are outside His authority. To say He is sovereign also means that no person or people group is outside His sovereign authority, for 10:15 says, “Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples.” Our God sovereignly rules over the universe, governing His creation and choosing His own people.
  2. God is supreme. 10:17 says, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords.” Our Lord has no rivals; He stands above, over, and beyond anything or anyone that sets itself or himself up as a power to be reckoned with.
  3. God is strong. 10:17 continues by calling God “the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.” His nature is exalted and glorious indeed. The word “mighty” has military overtones and in the immediate context it would have recalled God’s mighty deliverance of His people from Egypt, where He faced off in battle with the Egyptians and left their army floating in the Red Sea. To oppose this strong God is to guarantee defeat.
  4. God is sinless. 10:17 ends by saying He “is not partial and takes no bribe.” A refusal to take bribes and show no partiality was the ideal for an Old Testament judge. Partiality and taking bribes was proof that person was unrighteous or unjust, thus sinful. But our God is utterly sinless.
  5. God is surprising. Notice how this passage ends in 10:21-22, “He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.” To the Israelites this was proof that God is faithful to His promise for He made a covenant with Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. It also shows us that God’s sovereignty, supremacy, strength, and sinlessness means He governs and rules in surprising ways. He put seventy people in Egypt, enslaved them to a pagan ruler, and made them as numerous as the stars of heaven. It is normal for God to reveal His faithfulness by afflicting His people (Ps. 119:57). This is surprising to us.

How then are we to respond to this kind of God? In 10:12-13 Moses gives five basic responses, by saying God’s people are to fear, follow, love, serve, and obey.  10:16 sums up these five responses by saying, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” This language, however strange it is for 21st century ears, simply means that God’s people are to be covenantally set apart by faith. Faith is the summary response to God and 10:21 couples it with praise by saying, “He is your praise.” See then that God’s personality demands our faithful praise.

I am sure many of you have experienced the demands of personality without realizing it. For example, my son Hudson has a tender personality, he is the kind of child that will melt and wither under a disciplinary gaze from daddy. His personality in some ways demands that I aim to not be overly strong with him when I require his obedience and respect. Now Haddon, our little four month old, loves to stand – which he can’t do on his own. So if I’m sitting down and holding him, his personality that always wants to stand up means I will quickly prop him up so he can extend his legs and look around. Personality informs how we respond to one other.

And this is true with God. But see that His personality not only informs how we respond to Him, but demands how we respond to Him. His personality demands our faithful praise. I wonder what it is that regularly occupies your praise. As you walk through each day, what person or thing is most praised with your thoughts, words, and actions? If you find yourself praising things in this world more than the God of this world, could that reality be rooted in a small understanding of who God is? A large understanding of God is the bedrock of large praise for God.

We praise what we study and we study what we praise. What then do you study? Let the study of God be foremost in your life, for all the gold and silver in the world cannot compare to knowing God.

  1. This post is adapted from my recent sermon on Deuteronomy 10:18, “Father to the Fatherless.”