"The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
Deut. 33:27 (ESV)
The other day I was on my usual walk and I glanced up into the sky. And streaking across the heavens was a gigantic plane. I do not know what kind of plane it was exactly, though my initial thought is that it was a military plane, perhaps a cargo plane. What impressed me about it the most was the sheer size of it. It was somewhat low in the sky, so it seemed even bigger than it might have if it had been at a higher altitude. It seemed then to be the jumbo jet of all jumbo jets. And as I looked at it I was just struck by the immensity of the thing.
Usually I love watching planes make their course through the sky. I just like to marvel at the things. But something different struck me that day. It happened that there were a lot of fluffy white clouds hanging in the sky that day. And I noticed that the massive plane paled in comparison to the size of the clouds. It was like the plane became like a guppy next to a huge whale. Then in almost the same instant, I realized that the blue sky above the clouds stretched out like an ocean over them both. And then I thought how much bigger the sky was. Then beyond the atmosphere was a whole abyss of space.
Then I thought about how great our God must be. For he not only created all these things, but the Bible says he stretched out the heavens in the palm of his hand. Throughout the rest of my walk I simply stood in awe of God’s sheer greatness.
If there is one thing that we need most as humans, it is a big God. So often we are faced with our frailty and insignificance. But when we lift our eyes to behold how great our God is, we find ourselves wrapped in a blanket of security. When we pause in our daily lives to reflect on the insurmountable being of our God we find ourselves filled with a sense of wonder and awe. And after we have gazed upon God’s greatness we find ourselves possessing increased faith and a heart that burns more passionately with love for him.
That is my hope for you as we study our subject for tonight. The verse before us addresses a specific aspect of God’s nature—that of his eternality. It says, “The eternal God is your dwelling place (or refuge), and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
And I hope to increase your faith in God by thinking about the wonder of God’s eternality and the worth of God’s eternality.
First of all, it is important to consider the wonder of God’s eternality.
I. The Wonder of God’s eternality
Now When we say that God is eternal we mean that God has no beginning, He has no ending and he knows no succession of time.
A. He has no beginning
Now all of you probably know the first verse of the Bible. How does it go? “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Now when you read that, that is supposed to hit the delete button on all other gods. Those first few words of the Bible throw down the gauntlet and proclaim God as it (#1).
And in these few short words the book of Genesis says, “Before anything ever was, there was one thing: And that was God. Before there was squirrels, there was God. Before there was water, there was God.” As a matter of fact, God created time.
It is actually a funny way to think about it. It says, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, God was before the beginning. We can’t really comprehend that because we think in terms of time. How can you have something before the beginning? What the Bible is trying to communicate is that God is eternal: He had no beginning. God always was.
Now at some point your kid is probably going to come to you and ask you, “Where did God come from?” Or “Who created God?” And here is your answer. God had no creator. God didn’t come from anywhere. He had no beginning. He always was. He has existed eternally.
And that is a natural question for us as humans because we are beings that have beginnings. We look around and see that dogs have beginnings, and cars have beginnings. Everything came from something. But not God. God had no beginning. That’s part of what it means that he is eternal.
You could look at it from the other end too. When we say that God is eternal, we say that had no beginning, but we also say that he has no ending.
B. Has no ending
Now, again, everything around us tells us that everything comes to an end. But not so with God. Listen to these words from Psalm 90. “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
I don’t know if any of you took geometry in school. But sometimes in mathematics you have to indicate infinity in a linear way. And you do that by making a line with arrows on both ends of the line. What you are saying is that line stretches in an infinite direction that way and an infinite direction in that way. In other words, it never ends. That is what Psalm 90 is saying about God, “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” God does not have an ending point.
Now catch the significance of that to a Jew of those times. They were surrounded by polytheistic nations—nations that believed in a lot of gods. Those gods were always dying and then coming to life again.
Let’s take Egypt as an example. Egypt had a lot of gods. But their main god was Osiris, and Osiris had to be woken up every morning. Every faithful Egyptian each morning would start his day by singing a hymn to wake up Osiris (How would you like a god who you had to wake up every morning?) And Osiris was supposed to be the god of the vegetation. And they believed that in the Spring Osiris would arise from the dead, and as he would come to life he would bring to life all of the vegetation of the land. Then at the end of the season Osiris would die, and with him all of the vegetation would die too.
In contrast to this, Israel’s God never died. He never ceased to exist and he never will cease to exist. It’s not possible. He alone is the one absolute being. And all of a sudden, Osiris doesn’t look all that attractive, does he?
Are you starting to see the wonder of God’s eternality? We certainly are not looking at all the passages in the Bible that speak of God’s eternality. There are a lot more. I just want to give you an idea of what it means that God is eternal. And I want you to remember that those passages in the Bible are there to simply make you step back and say, “Whoa.”
But let me give you one aspect of God’s eternality. And this one should really blow your mind. We’ve said that God had no beginning and that he has no ending. But when we speak of God’s eternality we also need to keep in mind that God sees no succession of time too.
C. God sees no succession of time
What do I mean by that? When I say that God sees no succession of time I mean that he sees all time at once. We see history as it happens. We see things consecutively. That is the way we know things. Our knowledge is limited to time and the succession of time. But that’s not how God knows history. He is not watching history unravel like we would watch a TV show. He sees all of history all at once.
Most of you probably know the verse in 2 Peter that goes like this, “A thousand years in your sight are but a day.” That’s just the Bible’s way of saying that God knows no succession of time. A thousand years? That’s nothing to God. It’s but a day.
Now this might be a bit hard to grasp. The best way I can describe it is this way and this is still a little crude (Remember that all analogies break down somewhere): Let’s just say that you have read a novel. You finished it and you know that the butler did it and how he did it. Well, when you finish that book you know everything that happened in that book.
That’s kind of like how God knows history. All of history, even the stuff that hasn’t happened yet, is right now known to God. It doesn’t matter if it is the creation of the world or the second coming of Christ, all of it is alike known to God. He is the eternal “I Am” and therefore he is Lord of time.
Maybe that makes your head spin a bit. Well, good! It is supposed to. This is supposed to make you say, “Wow, my God is so great!”
Hopefully you now understand something of the wonder of God’s eternality. But let us also consider the worth of God’s eternality.
II. The worth of God’s eternality
Perhaps you have been sitting there and you have been thinking, “What’s the big deal? Of what benefit is this to me?” You want to know the worth of God’s eternality.
A. A dangerous question to ask
Be careful though. That can be a dangerous question. It can come from an attitude of selfishness. Just asking, “what is in it for me?” can reveal that you have no real regard for God. It can show that you only love him because of what you can get out of him.
I admit that I might not have presented it in the most palatable way, but don’t think that this should just be all about you. If you really are a Christian, just thinking about the wonder of God’s eternality should be enough for you.
I knew a boy once who simply loved cars. That was all he thought about. He had pictures of cars in his room and he had stacks of car magazines too. The funny thing was, he wasn’t even old enough to drive. He was only 10 years old. Asking “What worth is a car to me?” would have never entered his mind. It probably would have been a profane thing to him even to think of such a thing. He simply loved his cars, and he adored them.
That is the way the Christian should see God. Just as that boy doted over his cars, meditating on God’s glorious greatness is to be our pleasure. It should be enough for us to rejoice in God’s being eternal.
One of the things that we have lost in the church today is the ability to adore God. Do you know what it means to adore God? It is praising God for who he is. It is acknowledging his greatness and standing in awe of him. We’ve lost that in the church today. That’s mainly because we don’t know anything about him.
At the beginning of our service I always try to have a hymn that adores God—a hymn that simply dwells on the magnificence of who God is. And I try to do that in our opening prayer too. That’s why I call that prayer the prayer of adoration and invocation. We adore God for who he is and call upon him to bless our time of worship.
Let me ask you, do you spend time adoring God? Do you in your time of prayer simply gawk at who he is? Well, now you have every reason to. You can consider in your time of prayer and meditation the wonder of God’s eternality: he has no beginning, he has no ending, and he sees no succession of time.
But, having said that, let’s remember that asking “What benefit is this to me?” can be a good question too. As a matter of fact, God reveals this aspect of his divine character to us for our benefit.
B. A good question to ask
Our passage says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Here is a promise of your protection and care, even for all eternity.
Remember where the Israelites were at this point in their history. The people that Moses addressed were at this time wandering in the desert. They had no dwelling place or refuge in any physical sense to speak of. They lived in tents and were subject to the elements and the wild. But God was their canopy. He defended them. He provided for them. He was what supplied their safety and sustenance.
The same is true for us today. We might live in a technologically superior age, but we are really not in any better situation than the Israelites. What keeps the roof from caving in upon us today? What keeps us from being ravaged by man or beast? What keeps us from going mad? It is only the everlasting arms of God.
And what a wonderful privilege this is! Those who are not the children of God have no such fortification. Without the Lord they are subject to the miseries and storms of life. And they are left exposed to them without any protection. Moreover they have an eternity of misery to expect. For even the slightest sin against an eternal God requires eternal punishment.
But not so for those of us who are the children of God. We are like chicks nestled against their mother. We dwell under the shelter of the God who “has proved himself to be God since the beginning of the world (K&D commentary).”
Yesterday you saw how the wind thrashed about outside. The trees were whipped and bent. Anything that was not fastened down was tossed all over creation. Yet you were safe and secure in your house. That is how valuable the Eternality of God is. If you are a child of Christ, you shall always be in such a blessed position.
And we have the assurance that we shall be safe for all eternity. We know this because Jesus’ number 1 message was that he who believes in him would have eternal life.
If I might boil it down to one sentence, I would do it like this: The Lord reveals this attribute to us so that we might be rid of our worry. If he is eternal, it means he governs and supersedes time. Therefore we may trust that all our days are in his care.
In 1714, the people of England were anxious. Queen Anne lay dying, and she had no son or daughter to succeed her. The people worried about who would be the next monarch? They wondered what kind of changes he or she would make. Issac Watts was one of the people who had reason to worry. His father had been imprisoned under the previous regime because his views did not please the ruling family. As a young child, Watts had been carried by his mother to visit his father in jail. But Queen Anne had brought new tolerance, and freedom for Watt’s father. Now that she was dying, what would happen?
Watts turned to Psalm 90 and read the words, “from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” And on this occasion and penned what may be the greatest of his more than 600 hymns. In essence, it is a poem about time. It tells us that God stands above human time, and in Him all our anxieties can be laid to rest. I would like us to end by singing "O God, Our Help in Ages Past."
O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!
Under the shadow of thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling streame,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come;
Be Thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.