Herman Bavinck – God: Knowable, Yet Incomprehensible

Originally posted on The Old Guys:


1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

God’s incomprehensibility, so far from canceling out God’s knowability, rather presupposes and affirms it. The riches of God’s being—riches that surpass all knowledge—are in fact a necessary and significant component of our knowledge of God. The fact remains that God makes himself known to us in the manner and measure in which he reveals himself in his creatures.

~Herman Bavinck~

Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 56.

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The Works of Herman Bavinck on Logos Bible Software.

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1 Samuel 5:1-11, 7:1-2

Trouble for the enemy

After the Philistines had captured the Covenant Box, they took it to the temple of their god Dagon. Early the next morning, the people of the city found the statue of Dagon lying in pieces, flat on its face. The Lord punished the people of the city by letting bumps grow on their bodies. When they saw what was happening, they said, “We are being punished by the God of the Israelites.” And they took the Covenant Box to another city.

The Lord punished that city too, so the Philistines took the Covenant Box to another city. Wherever they took the holy Covenant Box, the people were punished.

Eventually, they put the Covenant Box on a wagon drawn by two cows. The cows headed straight for the town of Beth Shemesh in Israel from where it was taken to Kiriath Jearim. There it stayed for twenty years.

Can the enemy of God keep whatever he captures?

The Bible says that God’s enemy (the devil) has come to steal and destroy what belongs to God (John 10:10). He wants to take everything he can, and what he cannot steal, he will try to destroy. The devil hates anything that is pure and good!

God’s enemy has stolen our innocence and left us with guilt. The devil robs us of joy and leaves us with sadness and pain. He takes peace from our hearts and leaves us with worry and fear.

But Jesus died on the cross to take away our guilt. He has given us His purity and made us acceptable to God (Ephesians 1:4). He gives us joy in place of sadness (Isaiah 61:3) and puts His peace deep down in our hearts (John 14:27). The devil may take away our possessions for a while, as he did with Job, but he can never take away the treasure inside us. Paul said “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

Verse for today

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28


Being Like God . . . and Not Like God by Mark D. Roberts

Ephesians 5:1-2

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

According to Ephesians 5:1, we are to “Follow God’s example.” The Greek underlying this imperative reads more literally, “Be imitators of God.” Now that’s a tall order . . . and a wonderful one, too.

This isn’t the first time in Scripture that God’s people are instructed to be like God. In Leviticus 19:2, for example, God says to Israel, “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” A few verses earlier in Ephesians, we learn that we are “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24).

The basis of our potential to be like God comes from our essential nature. In Genesis 1, God creates humankind in God’s own “image” and “likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Like God, human beings are to exercise authority over the earth, helping it to become all that the Creator intended it to be. Yet, as you may recall, we were not created to be like God in every way. In particular, we were not meant to be like God in having “the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). In Genesis 3, the serpent tempts the woman to sin with the promise that she “will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:7).

So, we are to be like God in many ways. We are to imitate God in holiness, by living in a way that is different from what is common in our fallen world. We are to imitate God in righteousness, by obeying God so that our relationships are just and healthy. Yet, we are not to be like God in omniscience. There is some knowledge that is reserved for God alone. And we are not like God in ultimate sovereignty. Unlike God, we are called to obey one who is greater than we are. God obeys no one. We obey the one, true God, living our whole lives in service and submission to him.

Perhaps the way we are least like God is in the ability to save. Though we can receive God’s gift of salvation through Christ, and though we can share the good news of this salvation with others, we cannot save ourselves and we cannot save others. God alone is able to save. He does this not because of anything we do, but because of his matchless grace and abundant love.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what appropriate ways are you being like God? Are you ever tempted to be like God in ways that are not right, such as in trying to be Lord of your own life? As you think about how you might be like God today, what comes to mind? How might you rightly be like God at work? In class? Among your friends? With your family?

PRAYER: Once again, Lord, I am astounded by the honor and overwhelmed by the challenge of being like you. I want to be like you in all the right ways. And I want to stop trying to be like you in all the wrong ways. Help me, Lord, to discern wisely how I should be like you and how I should not be like you. In particular, I ask you to help me stop trying to be the Lord of my own life.

By your Spirit, guide me to be like you today, as I treat people with love and grace. Amen.


When God Says No

“There hath not failed one word of all his good promise” (1 Kings 8:56).

Some day we shall understand that God has a reason in every NO which He speaks through the slow movement of life. “Somehow God makes up to us.” How often, when His people are worrying and perplexing themselves about their prayers not being answered, is God answering them in a far richer way! Glimpses of this we see occasionally, but the full revelation of it remains for the future.

“If God says ‘Yes’ to our prayer, dear heart,
And the sunlight is golden, the sky is blue,
While the smooth road beckons to me and you,
And the song-birds warble as on we go,
Pausing to gather the buds at our feet,
Stopping to drink of the streamlets we meet,
Happy, more happy, our journey will grow,
If God says ‘Yes’ to our prayer, dear heart.

“If God says ‘No’ to our prayer, dear heart,
And the clouds hang heavy and dull and gray;
If the rough rocks hinder and block the way,
While the sharp winds pierce us and sting with cold;
Ah, dear, there is home at the journey’s end,
And these are the trials the Father doth send
To draw us as sheep to His Heavenly fold,
If God says ‘No’ to our prayer, dear heart.”

Oh for the faith that does not make haste, but waits patiently for the Lord, waits for the explanation that shall come in the end, at the revelation of Jesus Christ! When did God take anything from a man, without giving him manifold more in return? Suppose that the return had not been made immediately manifest, what then? Is today the limit of God’s working time? Has He no provinces beyond this little world? Does the door of the grave open upon nothing but infinite darkness and eternal silence ?

Yet, even confining the judgment within the hour of this life, it is true that God never touches the heart with a trial without intending to bring upon it some grander gift, some tenderer benediction. He has attained to an eminent degree of Christian grace who knows how to wait. –Selected

When the frosts are in the valley,
And the mountain tops are grey,
And the choicest buds are blighted,
And the blossoms die away,
A loving Father whispers,
“This cometh from my hand”;
Blessed are ye if ye trust
Where ye cannot understand.

If, after years of toiling,
Your wealth should fly away
And leave your hands all empty,
And your locks are turning grey,
Remember then your Father
Owns all the sea and land;
Blessed are ye if ye trust
Where ye cannot understand.


roots that drink from heaven

A man knocked on my office door and asked me if I would officiate his marriage. I asked him to sit down so we could chat about his plans, timing, and spiritual life. “Oh, I’m not sure you understand,” he said, “I’d like you to marry me today, like in the next hour.” The story is complicated, but his fiancée was from a country in Asia and was living in the US with a short-term visa. For numerous reasons he wanted to marry right away, but he didn’t want a civil authority to perform the ceremony. He wanted a church and a pastor.

While there were many factors at play in this man’s situation, he clearly understood that marriage was a holy thing. Even in his predicament, he wanted to ensure that he and his fiancée recognized God in their vows.

This impulse was right, for Scripture tells us that marriage is—at its core—not foremost about a human action but God’s action. Matthew described how the “Pharisees came and tried to trap [Jesus] with [a] question” (Matthew 19:3) concerning the appropriate conditions for divorce (a question designed to force Jesus to take sides in a heated religious dispute). But Jesus refused to answer the question on their terms. Rather, He reasserted the central biblical teaching that the union of a husband and wife is not a matter of human creation or human dissolution (Matthew 19:4-5). In marriage, man and woman are “no longer two but one,” Matthew wrote, because “God has joined [them] together” (Matthew 19:6).

Marriage is God’s idea. It’s one of the ways He makes His love visible in the world. The healing of broken marital relationships is His work. The poet Rilke described marriages as “roots that drink from heaven.” What a perfect description!


A Worthy Offering

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. —Genesis 4:7

I was delighted when a mutual friend gave my neighbor a Bible. But my neighbor told me she stopped reading it because she couldn’t understand why God would be so unfair as to reject Cain’s offering. “After all,” she said, “as a farmer, he simply brought to God what he had. Did God expect him to buy a different kind of sacrifice?” Sadly, she had missed the point.

It wasn’t that God didn’t like vegetables. Rather, He knew that Cain’s offering was masking an unrighteous attitude. Cain wasn’t fully committed to God, as expressed by the fact that he wasn’t living according to God’s ways.

It’s easy to worship God on the outside while stubbornly keeping territory from Him on the inside. Jude writes about outwardly religious people who use religious activities to cover the reality of their sinful lives: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain” (Jude 1:11). We can faithfully serve God, sing His praises, and give sacrificially to His work. But God doesn’t want any of that without our hearts.

Does the Lord take priority over our plans and dreams? Is He worth more than the sin that tempts us? When we express to Him that He is more worthy than anything or anyone else in our lives, it’s an offering He won’t refuse.

Lord, may our worship and our praise,
From hearts surrendered to Your ways,
Be worthy offerings of love
For all Your blessings from above. —Sper

God won’t refuse a heart that is surrendered to Him.