God the Creator or God the Created?

“You thought that I was altogether like you” (Psalm 50:21).

The psalmist identifies the greatest sin of humanity – idolatry.  Idolatry is turning God the Creator into God the created.  It is men and women creating God in the image of humanity – limited in all ways, angry, arrogant, impatient, jealous, and so on.  Estrangement from God over time due to rebellion from Him lends to people viewing the created order as somehow resembling the image of God.  The psalmist claims that this estrangement begins in the mind with disordered thoughts.  It is natural for us to think this way in our rebellion from God.  In fact, the greater the distance humanity is from God, the more individuals shake off the truth of God and form Him into the image of the creature.  Idolatry has no bounds in its creativity.  It takes that which exist in the created order and converts it into a god.  In doing so, certain consequences occur.

Love turns into hatred, and embracing God becomes rejection. Raising up other gods demonstrates hatred for God’s instruction, especially the first of the 10 Commandments,

“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

This instruction is not simply something in writing but the instruction of humanity’s design – created in the image of God.  If men and women are created in God’s image, then we bear the image of the one and only true God.  No other gods exist, for they are fictions risen from the minds of individuals.  Since God is righteous (50:6), His imprint of righteousness is on everyone.  It is an objective imprint that God stamps as good because it is the essence of His being and character; that is, He is internally consistent and faithful with all He is.  God is good and love and righteousness and truth.  Therefore, there is an objective good and rightness, and it resides in God.

Just as we create gods from that which exists in the created order, we think we can create our own good and rightness and make it our own truth.  When each person does this, goodness and rightness multiply by as many people that exist, and each person does what it right in one’s own eyes.  We develop our own “truth” after we have rejected God and the truth that He is.  We view ourselves righteous in our own eyes and claim, “Your truth may not be the same as my truth” and live in that fantasy world.  This is one of the major consequences of rejecting God’s instruction.  We take a path contrary to the way God created us – His design for our lives.  The world is a sad commentary of everyone doing what is right in one’s eyes.  Paul the Apostle gives a list of consequences that results from this action:

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies †among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:22-29).

The above is a vicious cycle of destruction, a destruction arising from a lie and rejection of the one true God.

However, the psalmist claims another way,

“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).

Praising God turns negatives and the cycle of destruction into life – eternal life.  Praise accepts God and His way for us.  It returns the good and brings order back to us.  God restores that good within us by faith in Him in recognizing Him as both God the Creator and Redeemer and rejects a god created in the image of a replica that exist in our minds.

Beauty of Holiness

Did you know that holiness has beauty?  The psalmist declares,

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2).

As we look around our world, we take in the beauty of nature.  The Sequoia sempervirens tower above all other trees demonstrating their strength and longevity.  The oceans cleanse our senses as we take in their freshness and powerful sounds.  The heaven gives off its strong morning light and mellow evening one as both orbs travel consistently across the sky in their unbroken routine.  We take assurance that as the sun sets one day, it will inevitably rise the next and give its warmth and brightness for energizing and enlivening our work and play.

However, the psalmist bypasses the earthly pleasures of creation and takes us to genuine worship apart from the wonders of creation.  He calls for worship “in the beauty of holiness.”  Whoever has ever described something like holiness as beautiful?  It has no physical dimensions.  It has no real fragrance nor can we hear musical notes flowing from it like that of a Stradivarius violin in the hands of a virtuoso musician.  It has no voice that sings as Joan Sutherland or Luciano Pavarotti.  It has no canvas that portrays the artistic splendor of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.  The beauty of holiness, according to the psalmist, surpasses these wonderful expressions of humanity, as beautiful as they are.

What makes holiness beautiful?  Two things.  First, the LORD Himself makes holiness beautiful.  Holiness means to set apart for the purpose for which it was created.  When a thing is set apart and expresses naturally what God intended, it is holy.  The earth and all its splendor in this sense takes on a sense of holiness, for it expresses God’s intended purpose.  It expresses the life and greatness God intended.  When God created it all, He declared that is was good.

We sometimes take that goodness for granted, and plow through the day under stress and pressure with our routines and ignore God’s wonderful intentions in the created order.  As we do so, we not only brush aside God’s intentions in creation that praise Him, but we ignore God’s intentions in our worship of Him.  Our action items interfere and bog us down with worry and anxieties.  Meeting deadlines and the distractions of the mundane takes us away from the extraordinary, that is, God’s intentions for our lives – the beauty of holiness.  Temptations enter the scene and lead us away from His purpose.  Things get ugly: broken relationships, bickering, distrust, arguments, tension, isolationism, factions, and related actions and attitudes.

Second, worshiping God in the “beauty of holiness” returns us God’s intended purpose.  Such worship turns the ugly things of life into something more beautiful than the surroundings of the natural world.  Peace with God is a beautiful position.  Assurance of His love and living in it is a beautiful attitude.  Jesus informed us of the greatest commandment in the law:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Love of God expresses holiness, because in doing so, this love sets us apart from the way the world loves: conditional and with self in mind.  Loving from the heart, soul, and mind encompasses the entire being – nothing left out.  This is holiness, and it is beautiful to God.  Love expresses worship.