Study 1: God always thoroughly enjoys himself!
In Psalms 36:0 and 37:0 can be found clues to God’s constant enjoyment, and how his human creatures can share in God’s own overflowing joy. Referring to the Creator’s care for ‘man and beast’ the psalmist sang: ‘You care for people and animals alike’ (Psalm 36:6b, New Living Translation, unless otherwise indicated). Then he specifically tells of the source of humanity’s food and drink: ‘All humanity . . . you feed . . . from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights’ (Psalm 36:7b-9a). The English Standard Version follows the literal sense of the Hebrew text and identifies the river more precisely as ‘the river of your delights’. ‘Your river of delights’ could imply that the song is only about food and drink as ‘creaturely comforts’. But the astounding reality is this: almighty God lavishes these human necessities as pleasures out of the overflow of his own enjoyment – ‘your delights’, not just ‘your river’.
The first question in The Shorter Westminster Catechism is: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ And it offers the answer: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’. I like to paraphrase this Q and A in more current language –
‘Q: What is the main purpose of a human life?’
‘A: A fulfilled human life can only be attained by bringing glory to God; and that can only be achieved by always enjoying him.’
However, we could ask a more basic question, which in the quaint lingo of that catechism would be: ‘What is the chief end of God?’ The answer to that must be: ‘God’s chief end it to glorify God [and he achieves that] by enjoying himself evermore’. Or, as we might express it nowadays:
Q: ‘How does God find complete fulfilment?’
A: ‘God is completely fulfilled because he only ever brings glory to God by always enjoying God’.
I have twice there deliberately avoided the pronoun ‘himself’ for a reason:
Enjoying oneself is not self-indulgence
Jesus summed up the Law given to Moses in two major commands (Matthew 22:39): the first and greatest commandment in brief bids us, ‘Love the Lord your God with every facet of your being’, and the second is: ‘Love your fellow-humans as you love yourself’. But loving oneself must never be corrupted as pampering one’s own ego by self-indulgence.
It is of primary importance that we truly grasp the unique revelation that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16). Before ever God had created angels and humans on whom to shower his affection, the Father loved the Son in the Spirit’, because ‘God in himself is a sweet society’. (That delicious description of the triune God was a frequent quotation of the eloquent Canadian preacher, the late Ern Baxter.)
The ancient Greek fable about Narcissus and Echo could help clarify how the words in that second great commandment, ‘love . . . yourself” could be misunderstood and wrongly used. According to Collins English Dictionary, Narcissus was ‘a beautiful youth who fell in love with his reflection in a pool and pined away, becoming the flower that bears his name.’ And Echo was ‘a nymph who, spurned by Narcissus, pined away until only her voice remained’.
‘You are the fountain of life’ (Psalm 36:9)
In utter contrast, the Son of God is not God’s echo but his ‘Word’ (John 1:1-5). God does not worship himself, but God the Father adores his Son who is, in person, Other than himself, yet the perfect image of his total being.
I find myself having to ask about the deity worshipped by devotees of some monotheistic religions such as the Watchtower Society’s Jehovah and Islam’s Allah: Who did God love and worship in the eternity beyond the beginning of time and of animated creation? The Creator who has revealed himself in Scripture said: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us’ and ‘created them . . . male and female’, designed to love each other (Genesis 1:25-27). Nor did God spend eternity meditating while sitting on folded legs murmuring ‘Ommm’! God is, was and ever will be the overflowing ‘fountain of life’ that we read of in Psalm 36:9.
What wonders are thus unveiled! God is not a loner, but communal; he is not isolated, narcissistic or autistic, but warmly and intimately interactive in nature. And the term ‘river of your delights’ clearly hints at God the Holy Spirit whom Jesus described as ‘rivers of living water’ (in John 7:37-39; see also Ezekiel 47:1-12; Revelation 22:1-2). No wonder theologians have called the Holy Spirit ‘the go-between God’ who eternally ministers harmony and rhythm within the Godhead, facilitating communion of Father and Son. There never was merely a ‘You-and-Me’ situation, never just an ‘Us-two’ relationship, but always ‘all-of-Us’ enjoying the Fellowship of Love!
Hold that thought in readiness for the studies that follow.