When was God at his best? When can we point and say that's God at the top of the ladder?
God created the heavens.
All of us would probably turn to Genesis where it says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." What more could God do than create the heavens and the earth? That has to be God at his best.
A Russian cosmonaut once declared that there was no heaven because when he traveled in the Sputnik, he looked out and didn't see a heaven. He only went to the backyard! Our galaxy, what we can see with the naked eye, is considered small. Yet, if you could walk from one side of our galaxy to the other, you would be only halfway after a million years. God created the heavens.
The United States and Russia fight over who's going to rule the earth. God's got worlds without end. He created the heavens and the earth. We need not search further. That has to be God at his best.
Take a look at the earth: its vastness, majesty, and its many mysteries. Start on the West Coast and look at its beauty. God took dry land, the desert, and decorated it with plants, like cacti. What beauty! Travel from the desert country and follow the California coast, going north toward San Francisco and Portland and Seattle. See the beauty of God's creation, and see how God has made an incredible world.
Then travel to the south, states like Mississippi and Alabama, and see all of their beauty. Go into Florida, and see what they have to offer.
Then look at the beauty of the eastern coast, and at the beauty of Canada, with its enchantment. Go to Europe. Go anywhere. Every place you go has something unique and beautiful. God created the heavens and the earth.
God's creation can be contrasted with trying to build a sandcastle on the beach. A wave comes in and washes it all away. Yet what God created is stable, including the sun that has never needed repair, and the moon that has never needed an electrician. Therefore, we would have to conclude that God was at his best when he created the heavens and the earth.
That's God. If you want to see him at his best, walk out and look at his greatness. God has bedecked the sky with globes of light called stars, and there are more stars in the sky than there are grains of sand on the earth. That has to be God at his best.
God created human beings.
No. I think not. That was pretty good. But several verses later in Genesis 1, God said, "Let us make man."
I disagree with the poet, James Weldon Johnson. He said that God was lonely. For what? Loneliness is a human trait, a product of the Fall. James Weldon Johnson said, "God was lonely, and he sat down beside the riverbank and thought." About what? Where did that thought come from?
Often we confuse human characteristics with the greatness of God. That's why we don't consider God to be that majestic; we try to make God just a little bigger than ourselves. So that's what we would do. We would go and think.
Everything is in the present with God. He doesn't have to think. James Weldon Johnson said that God sat down and thought; he was lonely and said, "Let us make a man." Erase all of that. It's poor theology. God, without thinking, just made man.
Man who can put a baboon's heart into another human. Man who can build an airplane that can get me here to preach, and take me back home. Man who can invent medicine that will ignore all others parts of the body and specifically work on that part for which it was invented. How can that medicine know it's supposed to work on my eye rather than my toe?
Man with the ability to think. Man with the ability to remember. Man with the ability to deal with difficulties and bring about solutions.
And God made man and woman. He gave them many different abilities. Someone can play that organ, because God made man. A singer can sing to the glory of God, because God made man. Someone can understand trigonometry, because God made man.
I was in Joplin, Missouri, a couple of weeks ago. That's eight miles from the home of George Washington Carver. I didn't know he had the spiritual testimony that he has. I went to a memorial park for George Washington Carver, who created about 300 different things, from a peanut to nitroglycerin.
Carver said an interesting thing. It testified to his beliefs. He said, "I never take but one book into my laboratory." When asked which book he said, "The Bible. And I have never invented anything. God has just revealed to me what was in the peanut."
But all that man is, all that man has created, all that man has done, is because God created man. Included, of course, at all times is woman.
So let's conclude that it was God who created the heavens and the earth, and God who made man and woman. That was God at his best? No.
God performed miracles.
There are those who suggest the many miracles God wrought in the Old Testament, including delivering the Israelites from bondage. Look at them coming out of Egypt with everything they would need, even after Pharaoh had denied them for so long.
Look at the miracles that happened with Moses and Aaron as they confronted Pharaoh. That must have been God at his best. Pharaoh went to his icebox, and frogs leapt out. Pharaoh went to his bed, and it was covered with lice. Pharaoh went to get a drink of water, and it was blood. That must have been God at his best, delivering Israel from bondage.
No. No? I know when it was. It was when he cooked quail and sent them down with the manna. It was when he got water from a dry rock. Not just a little water, but enough for the millions, plus all of their livestock. That had to be God at his best. No. That's not our God. He's better than that.
God sent his Son.
To see God's greatness is to take a look at him when he looked at man. God made man. Man failed. Everything about man failed. That's why you can't think of your phone number! You've been through the Fall. We have to use computers!
It was when God looked at the condition of man and concluded that there is no one who is righteous; they should all perish and deserve it. God saw that. And this great God, who is completely just, showed another aspect of his character called love. He harmonized justice with love by the sacrifice of his Son.
Think of people who deserve their sentence. They think, We're not guilty. We are guilty. All of us are guilty.
Yet, God looked at us through eyes of love and mercy, in spite of his justice, and worked out a judicial agreement with his Son. And Jesus, being the kind of Son he was, accepted the responsibility to come down and die a substitutionary, ignominious death for us.
How great! That's greater than I.
I have a 21 grandson, Edward Victor Hill, III, who lives with me. We call him "Third." He is gorgeous. He thrills me to death. He does something cute every week. My grandson comes up with something new that makes me increase his amount in my will. The other night the church had my family come forward. The congregation gave me a present. They gave my wife a present. They gave my son and his wife a present. But they didn't have a present for Third; they couldn't find it.
I gave him the microphone and said, "That's all right. Third, say, 'We love you.'"
Just as soft as he could say it, he said, "We love you all."
Then one of the ladies said, "Oh, here's his present."
Third loudly said, "We love you all!"
I want to be frank with you. If I had to give Third for you, to keep you out of hell, you'd have to go. That's true. You'd go to hell if I had to give up my grandson. But God, who has a love I cannot comprehend, who has a mercy and grace I cannot touch —I'll understand it when I get to heaven — loved me so much that he gave his only begotten Son, who knew no sin, so that we might become children of God. Heirs. On our way to heaven. Bound for glory. Already have a foretaste of it. When he did that, that had to be God at his best.
No. Because God became flesh so that his promises and agreement would be fulfilled. We'll have to go to the cross. We'll have to see Jesus, who is God, hanging. He could have called ten thousand angels. He only needed one. But he died alone. He dropped his head, and two worlds had a fit. Before he died, the went out, so that could die in peace. That had to be God at his best, when he died, was wrapped in a burial cloth, and sealed in the grave. That had to be God at his best.
No. Because we've had tracks leading into graveyards before. Moses' tracks led into a graveyard. Solomon's tracks led into a graveyard. My mamma's tracks led into a graveyard. But there were no tracks on the other side. We've buried great teachers from other religions. They're still there. Buddha is still there. Mohammed is still there. Confucius is still there. But early Sunday morning we have something strange on our hands. Jesus arose and declared, "Divine power is in my hands. I have the keys to bust death, hell, and destruction. And I'm alive forevermore."
Jesus died for our sins, rose for our justification. That's God at his best.
No. That's too great for me. I cannot understand this. It's too much of a mystery. I have to find something that will make it simpler.
And God forgives our sins.
I believe I see where we can see him at his best.
After Jesus had risen from the dead, he said a strange thing: "Tell my disciples and Peter." We can peek through the Scriptures and see him talking to Peter. I know what he's doing, because Peter denied him, then Peter cursed and told that woman many untrue things. So I believe if we get close enough we might expect to hear Jesus sending Peter to hell. Instead this guilty, Peter, who should have been condemned by our Lord, was forgiven.
Listen to what Jesus said to Peter in John 21: 1517. Jesus asked, "Do you love me?"
"Yes, I love you, Lord," answered Peter.
Now I'm beginning to see Jesus. I can't comprehend God's creation of the heavens and the earth. That doesn't really get me. I can't deal with Christ dying on the cross. I understand it, I believe it, I know it, it's my hope; but it's too big for me to take in.
But Jesus talked to a backslider like me and asked, "Do you love me?" There shouldn't have been any question about Peter's love for Jesus. Jesus should have said, "Get out of here, Peter. Go on to hell."
Yet, there is somebody here as guilty as Peter, or worse than Peter. God wants to talk with you. What great love. He wants to have a private conversation with you. Somewhere tomorrow, today, tonight. You know what he wants to talk about? He wants to talk about how much he loves you, and he has an assignment for you in spite of your background.
Now I can really know who he is. He is a sin forgiver. He's the one who purges and cleanses us. That has to be God at his best. The one who is talking to Peter has to be Christ at his best.
He wasn't his best when he created the heavens and the earth; not when he made man; not when he called the Red Sea to separate; not when he sent manna from on high; not the virgin birth; not the miracles of the resurrection of the dead. But continuing to talk to lost mankind has to be God at his best. No.
But God is at his best when he saves lost souls.
Would you like for me to tell you when he was at his best? It isn't even in the Bible. God was at his best nearly 51 years ago, with a little country boy, whose mother couldn't make enough money to feed him, and who some people in the country helped raise. At 11 years old, walking down Grandma Jodi's lane, this great, big, old God came all the way down and got right into my heart. Then he got up in my head. Then he got all over me. I didn't know what was happening to me; I didn't understand it. I had to go home and tell Mamma about my experience. She said, "I think God has saved you, boy."
That is God at his best — when he saved me. When he — the great God of the universe — came all the way down and got into the heart and spirit of an 11 boy.
He's here tonight ready to do it again, over and over. Every time he saves a lost soul, that's God at his best. Not the moon and stars. Not the hills and mountains. Not the trees and valleys. Not the rivers and lakes and oceans. But God picking up a drunkard and making him a preacher, picking up a prostitute and making her a singer, picking up people down and out and putting them on their feet, causing us to stand and say, "Glory, he saved me. I'm saved." That's God, the Savior, at his best.
God is at his best when he's saving. I am but a wretch. It took a miracle to put that sun in place. It took a miracle to put the moon in space. But when he saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole, that was God at his best.
E.V. Hill was the pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California.