God does what he pleases: Psalm 115
Today’s reading: Psalms 115-118.
Many in the world deny the existence of Jehovah. Some are atheists, and some worship other gods which are only idols. As the psalmist says (paraphrased here), their idols can’t lift a pinkie to do anything either good or bad. On the other hand, God’s actions are limitless.
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. Psalm 115:3
John Piper has done much to explore this topic, discussing it most fully in his book, The Pleasures of God. Let me credit him for developing the following ideas. Let’s start by realizing that the idea of pleasure has two aspects: the pleasure to do whatever one chooses, and the pleasure one enjoys from his or her actions. The first pleasure is the freedom of choice, an exercise of the will. The second pleasure is a feeling or mood, an exercise of the emotions. In the first case , one does what he pleases; in the second he is pleased by what he does. God is able to enjoy both of these pleasures.
For I know that the LORD is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places. Psalm 135:5-6
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Isaiah 46:10
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. Ephesians 1:11
God is not limited or constrained in any way. He is able to do whatever he wants to do, and he is not forced to do anything he does not want to do. His freedom of choice is unlimited; therefore he can always do what he wishes or desires to do. Ultimately, what he wishes or desires most is his own glory, since his glory shines far brighter than anything else in existence. It is fitting and right that he be glorified.
God has pleasure in everything he does. Since he has joy or happiness in everything he does, he is always happy or joyful in the actions he takes. I don’t believe he is always pleased at the actions of others (as Piper has said, God is most pleased when I most desire him), but his own actions always give him joy and happiness.
What do we say then, about situations where the actions of men seem to thwart God’s will? God has declared his desire that none should perish, but that all should come to salvation. Nevertheless, the way to destruction is broad and few enter the narrow gate to eternal life. Does this remove God’s pleasure? No, even in this situation God “delights in is the vindication of truth and goodness and of his own honor and glory” (Piper). Therefore, in dealing with the children of Israel when they abandoned him, God could say:
“as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” Deuteronomy 28:63
What are the implications for me? Since God is unconstrained in his actions, how will his choices affect my life? If he is pleased with everything he does, then what does it mean for my happiness?
- God will always do what most magnifies his glory.
- God will always do what glorifies his Son.
- He will always do what is right.
- Nothing can keep him from fulfilling his promises to believers.
- As the catechism says, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
What would you add to this list? The most important outcome of God’s unswerving devotion to his own glory is that it will also accomplish what is most desirable for my own good.
We may well endure the jeering question, “Where is now their God?” while we are perfectly sure that his providence is undisturbed, his throne unshaken, and his purposes unchanged. What he hath done he will yet do, his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure, and at the end of the great drama of human history, the omnipotence of God and his immutability and faithfulness will be more than vindicated to the eternal confusion of his adversaries. Charles Spurgeon
When the Father forsook the Son and handed him over to the curse of the cross and lifted not a finger to spare him pain, he had not ceased to love the Son. In that very moment when the Son was taking upon himself everything that God hates in us, and God was forsaking him to death, even then the Father knew that the measure of his Son’s suffering was the depth of his Son’s love for the Father’s glory. And in that love the Father took deepest pleasure. John Piper, The Pleasures of God
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