How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You. (Psalm 139:1)
With God, the impossible is always possible – in His time and season. I was recently blessed to be able to fulfill a long-standing heart’s desire to see the Namib desert, and it was an entirely breathtaking and awe-insipiring experience. As I looked out across the vast expanse of endless pale, shadow-painted sand, it occurred to me that millions of grains went into the making of it, all miniscule and irrelevant on their own, but together, a force of nature. It brought to mind today’s verse and the full reality of grace inherent in the truth that the magnitude of how much God loves us is revealed in His constant, consuming thoughts towards us.
A primary component of the way God loves us is with the heart of Abba Father.
It’s easy to imagine that God may be distracted. After all, He loves the entire world, doesn’t He? It’s an indisputable fact that His love includes those who are unsaved – those who are not His people called by His name, i.e. Christians. This is the first measure of the magnitude of the way God loves us. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. He was sacrificed for every single human being – past, present and future. Whether or not they choose to accept what He did is irrelevant. It does not alter the fundamental truth that God so loved the world.
When we consider how many billions of people inhabit the world at this particular moment in time, we begin to see the image of grains of sand in an entirely new light. Add to this the generations past and future, and our imagination is stretched to the very limit in trying to comprehend the sweeping extent of God’s love for humankind. It’s important to remember that this includes absolutely everyone, from the greatest, vilest sinner to the greatest, humblest saint we can think of – including those who will ultimately perish because they turned away from Him. But today’s verse is specifically related to me, to us, to believers, and the way God loves us.
This limitless love for every single human being is the love of a father. He desires that every single person enter into that relationship of miracle-working grace – sonship through Jesus Christ. This is the key to how God loves us when we do respond to His offer of salvation. We become sons in Christ. Our relationship with God is, live His own nature, multi-faceted – some examples are the sinner-saviour relationship, the servant-master relationship, and the father-son relationship. God’s character is vast and multi-faceted, and so He has given us the capacity to relate to and interact with Him on all of these levels. In each of them is the underlying beauty of the heart of Abba Father.
There is a lot of confusion around the popular concept of God’s love as being ‘unconditional.’ In essence, this is absolutely true, but the greatest misconception is that ‘unconditional’ means ‘just the way we are.’ It doesn’t. If it did, there would be absolutely no point to the entire life, ministry, and death of Christ. If God loves us just the way we are, we would never need to repent and seek His forgiveness and grace, we wouldn’t need the blood of Jesus to cover and cleanse us, and there would be no reason to come to the Father through the Son. This skewed interpretation of ‘unconditional’ is deceptive, and it’s actually part of the new age teachings that promote the ‘perfection’ and even ‘divinity’ of self. In essence, it’s saying that we’re exempt from God’s judgement because He loves us just the way we are.
This, of course, is completely unbiblical. The real truth is that God loves us despite the way we are. His love is unconditional in the sense that everyone has the same opportunity to repent and receive His mercy. He doesn’t have a few select souls He focuses on to the disadvantage of the rest. Any and every single person has exactly the same grace, no matter who they are or what they may have done. It’s also unconditional in the sense that we do not have to first make the changes before we turn to Him. There isn’t an ‘entry exam.’ While He may not love just as we are, He certainly does love despite the way we are – and that allows us to come just as we are.
Unconditional implies no need for change, and life in Christ as a son of God is entirely purposed towards transformation. The Bible never teaches that we’re acceptable as we are. Every single teaching about the Christian life involves the challenge of change in one form or another, but God is the one who decides what, when and how. Just as a parent is focused on helping a child to grow, develop, and change, so God is focused on working spiritual transformation in us that then impacts ourselves, our lives, and our world. God loves us as a Father, with the same devotion to nurture and transform us into the perfect image of His Son.
Today’s verse contains the powerful imagery of grains of sand, one to be treasured and held very close to our hearts always. Consider trying to count the number of grains of sand in even a single teaspoon – an almost impossible feat, or at the very least, a lengthy and time-consuming one. The fundamental characteristic of this image is therefore that it is entirely impossible to fully comprehend the magnitude of the all-consuming way God loves us. This love, according to the psalmist, is measured by His thoughts towards us – a concept that encapsulates the nature of Abba Father.
Parents become child-focused from the very moment that they are made aware of a child’s existence. Even while the child is in the womb, their thoughts begin to focus on the child, their lives begin to extend to include the child, and their behavior and emotions begin to change towards nurturing, protection, and provision. All of these are underpinned by the essential element of joy. This is a pattern of our place in God’s heart. We existed in the ‘spiritual womb’ – were with Him from the very foundation of the world. He had pre-knowledge of us. God loves us with a love, firstly, that has it’s beginning at the very beginning of the world.
As a parent, our thoughts always turn to our children – and it doesn’t matter how old they may be. A parent’s love for their child may change in its practical relationship, but the essential love remains the same. We love our grown children in exactly the same way, and with the same depth, as we did when they were tiny. It’s simply the interaction and maturity of the relationship that varies. This is the same way that God loves us. He thinks of us constantly, eternally, and completely. There is not a moment in our lives when we are not centred in God’s thoughts. That’s the significance of the grains of sand – the totality of the infinite thoughts of Abba Father for His children.
God loves us with an all-encompassing love. His thoughts include those moments when we sin, when fall, when we fail, when we hurt, when we celebrate – every single emotion or situation is covered by the all-encompassing love of Abba Father. He’s Daddy – close up and personal, intimate, present. When we feel alone, His thoughts are with us. When we feel lost, His thoughts are with us. When good things happen, His thoughts are with us.
The manifestation of all the blessings, grace, mercy, help, strength, provision, protection, etc. that we enjoy in our lives extend from the infinite thoughts that manifest the way God loves us. Remember, we are made in His image. We are ‘thought-driven’ people. Every action and reaction first occurs in thought. We may not always be conscious of the thought process – it may be a subconscious process, lightning fast and often instinctual – but the thought is always there. It’s how we’re wired, because that’s how God is too. Thoughts are critical in the make-up of every human being – that’s the foundation of all the ‘positive thinking’ type of teaching in the world, and it’s the foundation of our whole lives.
We may struggle to understand this because our comprehension is finite. Our imagination is limited by our humanity. But God is eternal. He exists in the perfect and complete sum of past, present, and future. He is able to contain a limitless multitude of simultaneous thoughts, all of which are directed to the absolute good of all His children. It’s not haphazard and prone to the kind of distractions faced by us in our pressured lives. His focus is utterly complete. His thoughts towards us are infinite and all-encompassing. They include every need, every fear, every joy, every moment, and every detail. This is the measure of the way God loves us – totally, completely, and perfectly. When we next cry ‘Abba Father,’ let us do so with this revelation filling our hearts.
Abba Father, thank You for revealing Your love to us. Help us never to underestimate it or take it for granted. Inscribe it in our hearts, and help us to live in the awareness of it and to rejoice in the certainty and assurance it brings. Let Your love in us be a light to the world, so that others may see and come to You, sure in the knowledge that Your thoughts are with every single one of Your children all the time.