There is a passage in Psalm 18 that recently caught my attention (again). It seems counter to the character of God:
To the faithful You show Yourself faithful,
to the blameless You show Yourself blameless,
to the pure You show Yourself pure,
but to the crooked You show Yourself shrewd.
It is true that He is faithful to the faithful, blameless to the blameless, and pure to the pure. But He is not exclusively faithful to the faithful, exclusively blameless to the blameless, or exclusively pure to the pure.
He is not sinful to the sinful – He is blameless to all. He is not filled with impurity to the impure – He is pure to all.
God is not manipulated by my personality. He does not cease to be powerful or pure or faithful merely because I am none of those things. He does not change like shifting shadows. If I am called to live a life above reproach at all times, in all circumstances, it is because that is the character of God.
And I am SO THANKFUL that is so. If only to the merciful did God show Himself merciful, then I and countless others would be in a hopeless state. It is only through witnessing God’s demonstration of His mercy that I can ever hope to demonstrate mercy myself. Only through God’s mercy working in me will His mercy ever surface through me to impact anyone else.
God does not withhold His mercy until we are merciful. God does not reserve His blamelessness for the blameless. God is constant, unchanging, un-manipulated by man.
So what is the psalmist saying?
I find it very interesting to watch people’s different personalities come into play during Bible study.
I have a friend for whom the world is filled with rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns. All around her she sees joy and love. Whenever we read a passage, specific things jump out to her – compassion, love, gentleness… Reading Isaiah, she saw a God who is loving and a message full of hope.
I have another friend who, through his personal history, has been taught that the world is filled with deceit, hurt, and people taking advantage of one another. Reading Isaiah, he saw a God of wrath, biding His time until He could smite someone. It may be wayward Israel if they did not return. It may be the enemies of ancient Israel. The recipient of the wrath was unimportant – the important thing was for God to smite someone.
How can two people reading the same book walk away with such different views of the message and of God. Their understanding wasn’t merely different shades of the same color. Their views were polar opposites.
I think this is to what the psalmist was referring.
God does not change His character according to the person involved. Rather, we tend to focus on the traits that we like or expect, according to our personality or personal history, and we ignore or overlook or completely fail to recognize traits that do not fit within our framework.
It appears that the God I see is a direct reflection on myself.
But it’s not about having the “right” view. If the crooked see God as shrewd, that does not mean that I, too, am crooked, if I recognize God’s ultimate intelligence and cunning. It’s not about picking the “right” traits to see. (Of course, that does not mean that any view is acceptable. God has revealed who He is. We must not ascribing a trait to God that is counter to who He is.)
Rather, as we pursue an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe and the Savior of our soul, our desire should be to know our God. Not just the aspects that come naturally or give us warm fuzzies. But to know all of God.
As I walk this earth, I recognize that this is a desire that will never be fully realized. And yet, it is a desire I must pursue with my whole being. And as I come to know the whole of God more, the God that I demonstrate to the world will become a closer representation of the true God.