THE HAPPY GOD
Article by James W. Johnson
The Apostle Paul prayed that God may be giving the saints a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of God (Ephesians 1:17). Or as it reads in the NIV, “ ... so that they may know Him better.” What was it that Paul wanted them to know better about God? This is how it reads in the Concordant Version:
1. The expectation of His calling
2. The riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints, and
3. The transcendent greatness of His power for us.
Most believers know that God is a holy God and that God is love. But few of us consider that God is a HAPPY God. To many ordinary people when they think about it, God, if there is a God, must be a hard, cruel being. They reason that if God is all-powerful and loving, then He wouldn’t allow all the pain and suffering around us. So, to such people, it is inconceivable that God is a happy God.
Let’s face it, if God were like He is commonly pictured, we wouldn’t want to live with Him for all eternity. Not only that, how can God be happy and watch all the pain and suffering in the world? After all, we only see a fraction of the misery of mankind, and that’s bad enough. What has God got, to be happy about? We couldn’t possibly know, unless He revealed it. We must search the Scriptures.
It is good news that God is gloriously happy. Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:11, that he was entrusted with the evangel of the glory of the HAPPY God. But what is God happy about?
First and foremost, God is happy about His Son. Matthew 17:5, “This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I delight. Hear Him!” Matthew also quotes Isaiah 42:1 in Matthew 12:18, “Behold, My Servant Whom I have chosen, My beloved in Whom My soul DELIGHTS.” So how do we explain verse 10 in Isaiah chapter 53? “Yet Yahweh desires to crush Him and He causes Him to be wounded.” We saw that God delights in His Son, yet He also delights in crushing Christ. “And in the blood of young bulls and he-lambs and he-goats, I do not delight” (Isaiah 1:11). God takes no delight in animal sacrifices, yet delights in crushing His Messiah. But Isaiah makes it clear that Christ did not suffer because of His own sins. “Yet He was wounded because of our transgressions, and crushed because of our depravities” (Isaiah 53:5).
Christ knew that He had to die, just as the kernel of grain must die. Christ prayed that if it were possible, the hour may pass by from Him. “And He said, Abba, Father, all is possible to Thee. Have this cup carried aside from Me. But not what I will, but what Thou!” (Mark 14:35-36). After long prayer, Christ knew that it was not God’s intention to carry aside this cup from Him. What state of mind was Christ in?
A few verses earlier Mark records (14:34), “ ... and He begins to be overawed and depressed. And He is saying to them, ‘Sorrow-stricken is My soul to death.’” Christ’s whole being was crying out to die. He sweated drops of blood. He needed strength to live before dying at Golgotha. So God sent “a messenger from heaven to strengthen Him” (Luke 22:43). Do you realize that if Christ had died in the Garden of Gethsemane or when scourged or while being led away to Golgotha, He could not have been the Saviour of the world? It was essential that Christ offer His life at God’s command. Not just die anyway. John 12:27-28, “Now is My soul disturbed. And what may I be saying, ‘Father, save Me out of this hour’? But therefore came I into this hour. Father, glorify Thy name!”
Just before Christ died, he prayed, “Father, I have glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me” (John 17:4).
It is important we understand how the Father could forsake the Son and hand Him over to the curse of the cross, not sparing Him pain and yet not ceasing to love Him. It is important because we need to understand that God can be a happy and loving God even when He beholds pain and suffering and the effects of sin.
Let us look at it first from a human point of view. Happiness is joy which springs up within a person. It is not dependent on outside influences. Paul was able to say he had learnt to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself in (Philippians 4:11-12). Paul understood why he received contentment and inner peace. “The disposition of the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:7). He also knew that, “ ... God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God” (Romans 8:28). So what is there to worry about? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Let us not forget what it says in Hebrews 12:2, “Jesus, Who, for the joy lying before Him, endures a cross, despising the shame, besides is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus could see beyond the suffering to the joy that lay ahead. Now if all this applies to Paul and to us, what makes us think that God is not happy? How can God give US peace through His spirit, if HE has no peace?
At the very moment Jesus “became a curse for our sakes” (Galatians 3:l3) and the wrath of the Father was being poured out on Him, He knew God loved Him, because He also knew that He was bearing it for the Father’s glory.
John 10:17, “Therefore, [for this reason] the Father is loving Me,” Jesus said, “seeing that I am laying down My soul, that I may be getting it again.” The Father rewarded His Son for the very suffering which was the Father’s curse.
Hebrews 2:9-10, “Yet we are observing Jesus Who has been made somebit inferior to messengers wreathed with glory and honour, so that in the GRACE of God He should be tasting death for the sake of everyone.” God is thrilled over the greatness and the goodness and the triumph of the Son, Whom He chose.
Philippians 2:9, “God highly exalts Him and graces Him with the name which is above every name.” All Christ’s pain and shame and humiliation and dishonour served to magnify the Father’s glory, because they showed how infinitely valuable God’s glory is, that such a loss should be necessary to demonstrate its worth. God DELIGHTED in bruising His Son because He knew it was essential to CHRIST’S glory, OUR salvation and God’s glory, fame and honour.
What else can we conclude, knowing that God is a happy God?
God is not lonely. He is not constrained by any inner deficiency or unhappiness to do anything He does not want to do. If He were unhappy, if He were in some way deficient, He might feel He needed something from outside to make Him happy. That is what makes us different from God. Deep inside we know there is something missing. We seek satisfaction from people or things outside of ourselves. But God is not like that. No one can give anything to Him in any way. “The God who makes the world ... is not attended by human hands as if requiring anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath to all” (Acts 17:25-26).
What has God done that He is happy about? The psalmist explains, (135:6), “ALL that Yahweh delights He does, in the heavens and on earth, in the seas and every abyss.” God delights in EVERYTHING he does. That word ‘everything’ includes bruising His Son and human suffering. It includes choosing some and not everyone to be His special people.
Let us examine some Hebrew and some Greek Scriptures that describe what God feels about His people - Ancient Israel and the Body of Christ.
Deuteronomy records what Moses told Israel, “Behold; to Yahweh your Elohim belong the heavens and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all that is in it. But Yahweh was attached to your Fathers to love them, so that He chooses their seed after them. You above all people has He chosen as at this day.” God had the entire world to choose from. Why did He choose Israel? It was not because they were the biggest or the best, but because He loved them. Why did He love them? He loved them because He chose them. God does not need a reason to love anyone. He loved them because He loved them.
Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV): “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” Can you imagine God singing over His people? Whether this is figurative or actual doesn’t matter. It shows what is in the heart of our happy God. He is singing with joy over His people.
To us today, Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4-6, “ ... He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the world... for the place of a son, for Him through Christ Jesus; ... (in accord with His delight, which He purposed in Him).” No-one can be full of delight and at the same time be unhappy. God had already decided to make us His children through Jesus Christ. That was what He wanted and what pleased Him, and it brings praise to God because of His wonderful grace. God didn’t do this as He went along and suddenly thought of a good idea. He purposed it before He laid down the foundations of the earth, and He DELIGHTS in doing it.
Christ knew that God conceals things from the wise and intelligent, but reveals it to minors (Luke10:21). This He says became a delight in front of Him. God also delights in blessing His people. Let us look first at the Hebrew Scriptures. Jeremiah 32:41, “I will rejoice in doing them good and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness with all my heart and soul.” Deuteronomy 30:9, “The Lord will delight in prospering you.” Psalm 35:27 tells us that He delights in His servants’ well being. Yes, it is true that all these words are directed to His people Israel. But it shows His heart. Israel knew from these and many other Scriptures that they would be the ruling nation. They would prosper, be strong and healthy and live in a grand and glorious kingdom on this earth under their Messiah.
If that were what we could share in the future, we would have cause for thankfulness. Because the nations would then be blessed through Israel. But that is not our calling. Today, in this life, we are not promised fame and fortune, health and strength. Even in the future, our blessings are not on this earth. But why should we receive any blessings? If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we often fail in crucifying the flesh and fighting our spiritual foes, even though God has provided a full set of armour. But our shortcomings should convince us that we are totally unworthy to receive God’s favour. It should also make us thankful for God’s mercy and grace.
When God reveals Himself to the heavenly hosts, they will see the riches of His grace and love much clearer, because it will be obvious that the objects of His favour are so undeserving and unworthy of His gifts. God has overcome every barrier that would keep Him from lavishing kindness on us forever. Christ was bruised to bear the condemnation that was a barrier between us and God’s goodness. But now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). He carried our griefs and bore our sorrows and triumphed over death, “so that in the coming eons He might be showing the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). “Now my God shall be filling all your needs in accord with His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
These aren’t the promises of a God who begrudges giving anything away, but the delights of a happy God. God doesn’t give out of a sense of justice, obligation or duty, but because it is the desire of His whole heart and being. But will it last? How long will it be before God’s earthly people and His celestial people get used to the glory and riches become commonplace?
If we wonder that we do not know God better. God is never bored, never tired, never depressed or moody. We have to sleep every day to renew our energy. Some days we are bored and discouraged. Other days we feel hopeful and excited. Sometimes we are up and sometimes we are down. But not so, God. The happy God will always delight in giving good things to His creation. God will do what He delights in doing, whether we understand what He is doing at the time, or not. Whatever we need to understand will be revealed to us in the future.
Why doesn’t God reveal everything at once? Perhaps one reason might be that we would be bored. But one reason must surely be the same reason He chose the base things of this world to give them the supreme place in the celestials. So that no human being could ever say they knew everything, that they were able to work it out for themselves, that they had counselled with God and He took up their ideas. So that no flesh will ever be able to boast before God.
Isn’t this all just wishful thinking? Is the most we can say, “We hope that we can share Christ’s glory and the other riches.”? It isn’t some vague hope, it is a certain expectation. God isn’t just stringing us along. He has much more at stake.
Our happy God is exhibiting His love to the entire creation, the whole universe, through us. He chose us before the recreation of the world. All the pain and suffering and grief that HE has experienced will not prevent Him from carrying out His purpose, to glorify and bless His chosen people. God’s name and honour and glory are at stake if He fails. But He won't fail, because it doesn’t depend on mankind.
We haven’t seen a fraction of the riches that will be lavished on us by a God who is not limited in power and glory. Why can we be so absolutely certain, so expectant? Because Christ led the way. The power that raised the lifeless body of Christ to His position of glory in heaven is the same power that will raise US to share in Christ's glory in heaven. When will this be? When the complement of the nations has entered in (Romans 11:25). When that will be, we do not know but there is no other prophesized event to happen first. We are not commanded to watch for signs of Christ’s coming, but to wait for God’s Son from heaven.
How will we be roused? I Thessalonians 4:16-17, “The Lord Himself will be descending from heaven. The dead in Christ shall be rising first. Thereupon we, the living who are surviving shall at the same time be snatched away together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”
We will not all be alive at that time, but we will all be changed in a brief moment. We shall all be raised imperishable. We shall have bodies appropriate for living in the celestials. For us to do this we will need power and that power can come only from God. It will happen whether we have been alert or been half asleep. It is important that we do not confuse our resurrection with that of the Hebrew saints. We need to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
God’s other saints will have a different experience. When Christ comes to set up His kingdom on this earth, He will land on the Mount of Olives, which will part in two. There will be saints alive at that time who will have gone through the Day of Jacob’s trouble, commonly known as the Great Tribulation. The saints who had died before them such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. will have to wait a further period of days, before they will be roused. They will have glorious bodies suited to an earthly environment. They will be Christ’s priests for the 1000 years, but those who are also kings will remain for the eons of the eons - a much longer period.
The scriptures to look at are Revelation 20:6 and 22:5. There is a clear distinction between Israel and the Body of Christ. If we do not differentiate them we shall be confused in our understanding.
We shall meet Christ in the air. They shall meet Christ on the earth.
Our dead shall rise moments before the living. Their dead shall rise 75 days after the living.
We shall have glorious bodies suitable for our new home in the heavenlies.
They shall have glorious bodies suitable for their new home on the earth.
We will have been spared that time of great tribulation.
God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, be destroyed or to suffer in an ever-burning hell, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:7-9). Since we have now been justified by Christ’s blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him? All of God’s saints suffer affliction. Some may be passing through a great tribulation at this very moment, but this is evidence of God’s fatherly care and discipline, not His indignation and wrath.
“This is all very well,” a critic may say, “but what about everyone else? Will your happy God be happy to see them burn in hell for all eternity?” Will people be able to get away with murder? Will anyone have committed the perfect crime? NO!! The Judge of the entire earth, will He not execute judgement? YES!!
Revelation 20:11-13 describes the time after the Millennium when all the dead will stand before the Great White Throne. Heaven and earth will have fled, so this is neither in heaven nor on the earth. These are all those who have not believed in Christ, for whatever reason. They will receive their just deserts according to what they have done, right or wrong. Everyone will receive justice. Their resurrection is not to eonian life. They die again. They are cast into the lake of fire - the second death. Is that it, then? Are the critics right? Are God’s favourites to have eternal life and the rest to suffer in the Lake of Fire, forever? If we just selected some verses from the Book of Revelation we might conceivably think so. But even there we would notice that the Lake of Fire for these people is the second DEATH. Not a second LIFE of torment. And we would notice that Death and Hades were also thrown into the Lake of Fire. Death will be destroyed never to exist again.
God is happy because He is working for our good. So that eventually He will be glorified through all eternity and for all humanity. Ezekiel 18 tells us that God does not delight in the death of anyone. But also He does not even delight in the death of the wicked (verse 23). 1 John 2:2 clearly states, “Jesus Christ the Just is the propitiatory shelter concerned with our sins. Yet not concerning our sins only, but concerned with the sins of the whole world also.” 1 Timothy 2:4, “God wills that ALL mankind be saved, and come into a realization of the truth.” Hebrews 2:10, “ ... in the grace of God, Christ tasted death for the sake of EVERYONE.”
Let us not twist these scriptures to mean that God would like to save everybody, but He must respect man’s free will, and allow some to be destroyed or suffer in an ever-burning hell. We need to know God better than that. God will accomplish what He has promised, despite mankind. Can puny man thwart the plans of an all-powerful, all-loving God? What would that do for the fame and honour and glory of our happy God?
Earlier, I mentioned that human beings know deep down that there is something missing in their life. That something is God. Today, believers have a down payment, a deposit, of God’s Spirit. But in the future, God will be ALL in SOME. Then in the consummation, at the finish, God will be ALL in ALL. Everyone who has ever lived will die, and then live forever. The great void in every life will be filled. God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. But now, we need to know God better - So that: We may understand the wonderful future we can expect. So that: We may realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given us. So that: We may begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us.
May Paul’s prayer be our prayer to our happy God!