During this Thanksgiving season, I have a confession to make. It’s easier for me to be thankful for some of God’s names and attributes more than others.
It’s effortless for me to rejoice in God’s attributes of love and faithfulness. I savor His forgiveness and provision. It’s easy for me to be thankful He is my Savior and Healer.
However, I don’t delight as easily in some of God’s other characteristics. How can I understand a God whose nature is incomprehensible? Where is the joy in descriptions of God the Father as a Consuming Fire and Jesus as a Man of Sorrows? And I struggle to be thankful that God is a holy and jealous God.
All That He Is
But being selective about which names and attributes we praise God for produces a problem. In effect, we create our own god by worshiping the attributes we want Him to have instead of worshiping all that He is.
For example, some focus only on God’s characteristics of love and mercy. They don’t want to think about His holiness, righteousness, and judgment. Problem is, they end up with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin.
Others may focus on God’s holiness and judgment to the exclusion of all His other characteristics. They create a fire-and-brimstone god who is unloving, unmerciful, and uncompassionate.
God is love and He is holy. He is merciful and He is just. He is righteous and He is compassionate. He is all these things and more. To truly know Him, we must learn all that He is—not just a few characteristics that appeal to who we want Him to be.
Think of the facets of a diamond that combine to reflect its brilliance. The names and attributes of God combine in a similar way to reveal the transcendence of His nature and the glory of His ways.
So in the spirit of thanksgiving, let’s spend a few minutes addressing several names and attributes that don’t seem to generate as much of our attention . . .
Isaiah 40:28 tells us no one can fathom God. The world tries to explain Him. When they can’t, they dismiss Him. Even as Christians, we want to understand Him. But God does not owe us any explanations.
Why should we be thankful for this attribute? Because if we could understand everything about God, He wouldn’t be God. I don’t want a God who is no more complicated than what my mind can grasp. I want God to be beyond my complete understanding, because that means His nature and ways are higher and greater than we are.
This name of God, originally found in Exodus 17:15, is often misunderstood. In Old Testament times, a banner was the king’s standard. Sometimes it was a flag or a metal ornament on a tall pole. The king marched under this banner. In war, his soldiers would see it lifted high to encourage them in battle.
Why should we be thankful for this attribute? The Lord is faithful to lead us in all circumstances. Our enemy, Satan, battles to defeat us. But as we march under the Lord our Banner, we are safe and we will be victorious because our banner is the cross of Christ.
The Bible tells us God’s name is Jealous. “For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). The word jealous has negative connotations in our culture. Jealous people are unreasonable and often petty. They aggressively protect what they have and are suspicious of the faithfulness of others.
Why should we be thankful for this divine attribute? When God says He is Jealous, He’s not jealous of us; He’s jealous for us. He knows what’s best for us. When we choose our own way, pursuing people and things other than Him, He knows we will suffer. God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. He is jealous for our eternal good.
Why should we be thankful for this attribute? God is an impartial judge, but He gives us the choice as to where our sin will be judged—at the cross or at His throne. His impartiality means that no matter what we’ve done, no matter how deep the sin, Christ paid for it. His blood covers it all. No exceptions.
A Consuming Fire
Hebrews 12:29 tells us “our God is a consuming fire.” It may sound harsh, but this name describes God’s holiness. Because He is holy, He takes sin seriously . . . and we should, too. The smallest sin is an affront to His holiness. This can make us uncomfortable, because we know we are sinful. How many times have you heard or used the phrase, “I’m only human!”
Why should we be thankful for this attribute? This fire, which will consume His enemies, is also a refiner’s fire for you and me. Just as extreme heat burns away the dross in precious metals, God’s consuming fire purifies us. His Holy Spirit works to sanctify us—to set us apart from a sinful world to a holy God.
Man of Sorrows
Isaiah prophesied this name hundreds of years before the birth of Christ (Isa. 53:3). Consider what Jesus Christ experienced when He took our sin on the cross. Betrayal. Torture. Excruciating death. Separation from His Father. It’s painful to even think about it.
Why should we be thankful for this attribute? Christ suffered all this—even the Father turning away from Him—so you and I would never have to know the sorrow of the Father turning His face away from us.
May every name and attribute of God motivate us to joyful praise and cause us to be thankful. Every name. Every attribute. Because together, they are the glory that is our wonderful, awesome God!