The Happiness of God
By John Piper - Copyright 2003 by Desiring God Foundation, www.desiringGod.org, published by Multnomah Books
A Study Guide prepared by Milt Reynolds
Part 2: The Happiness of God (page 31)
God is uppermost in His own affections. The Westminster catechism could well be written from the viewpoint of God:
The chief end of God is to glorify God AND enjoy Himself forever.
Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God's ultimate goal. These he performs for the sake of something greater: the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself.
The Sovereignty of God (page 32)
The foundation of God's happiness and ours, is His sovereignty. God has the right and power to do whatever makes Him happy:
"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases." Psalm 115:3
If God is sovereign and can do anything He pleases, then none of His purposes can be frustrated and He must be the happiest of all beings.
God's purposes cannot be thwarted: (page 33)
"I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'" Isaiah 46:9-10
His sovereignty covers calamities (page 34)
"Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" Lamentations 3:37-38
This was Jeremiah the prophet's confession after seeing the destruction of his people, laid in ruins, babies fainting in the streets from hunger and young women and men slaughtered without pity (Lamentations 2)
The murder of Christ (page 35). The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act, yet it was part of God's ordained plan:
"This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Acts 2:23
There is no such things a mere coincidence: (page 37)
"For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses. Psalm 135:5-7
The struggle with God's sovereignty (page 37). How can we say that God is sovereign over all things, and so completely unfrustrated and happy, yet He permists much that is contrary to His own commands in Scripture? How can we say God is happy when there is so much sin and misery in the world?
Jonathan Edwards was full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty, seeming a horrible doctrine to him. But he experienced a "wonderful alteration" in his mind, answering all objections and finding the doctrine "exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet." (page 38)
Edwards suggested that God is able to look at the world through two "lenses": narrow and wide-angle.
Looking at a painful or wicked event through His narrow lens, God sees the tragedy of the sin for what it is in itself, and He is angered and grieved:
"I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 18:32).
But when God looks at the painful or wicked even through His wide-angle lens, He sees the tragedy of the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees all the connections and effects forming a pattern or mosaic, stretching into eternity. This mosaic in all its parts, good and bad, brings Him delight.
This is related to distinguishing two kinds of willing in God. God's will of command is what He commands in Scripture, His revealed will. God's will of decree is what He infallibly brings to pass in the world, His sovereign will. (page 39)
God's will of command can be seen in biblical commands to love or obey or learn.
God's will of decree can be seen in His permitting sin, although hating it, for the greater purpose of holiness and mercy.
The death of Christ (page 40). The death of Christ was the will and work of God the Father:
"We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God... It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief" (Isaiah 53: 4, 10).
Yet surely God did not delight in the agony of His beloved Son and the wickedness that brought Him to the cross. Sin in itself, and the suffering of the innocent, is abhorrent to God.
With a narrow lens, God hates evil, but with a wide-angle lens, God is filled with joy in creating an eternal mosaic of redemption and righteousness.
God's Happiness is in Himself (page 41). God is absolutely sovereign over the world:
- He can do anything He pleases
- He is not a frustrated God, but a deeply happy God
- He considers all His works in relation to redemption
- He rejoices in all His works
What does make God happy? What one thing does God pursue in everything He does? What is uppermost in His affections? At this point is would be well to study Appendix 1: The Goal of God in Redemptive History. (page 308)