Tolle Lege: The Pleasures of God

Readability: 2

Length: 258 pp

Author: John Piper

How is it that a book can still shock and thrill you with the glory of God even after having read it four times? I say it is because it is intensely Biblical, and that means it draws from inexhaustible stores. Further this is so because its focus is the eternal, infinite God; as D.A. Carson says,

The Pleasures of God is perhaps the most important book that John Piper has written. It is certainly the freshest and most penetrating. Many preachers and writers are calling Christians today to be more God-centered. The irony is that even the call to be God-centered focuses attention on us, on what we must do. Certainly the Bible spends no small part of its pages telling us what we must do, but it does so out of profound God-centeredness. And here is a book that does not tell us what we must do to be God-centered; it simply is God-centered. Intoxicating.

The Pleasures of God is a survey of Scripture to look into the delights of God’s soul. What does God rejoice in? Oh what worship, what peace, what meditation, what pauses of awe there are when you ponder the answers to that question. God is the happiest being in the universe, here you will see it, and by God’s grace be caught up into it.

Desiring God is perhaps the most influential book in my life, but I’m pretty sure that The Pleasures of God is my favorite. Tolle Lege! Yes, I already want to again.

Being infinite, God is inexhaustibly interesting. It is impossible therefore that God be boring. If we find him boring we are like five-year-olds who find sex boring. The problem is not with sex. Nor is the problem with God. His continual demonstration of the most intelligent and interesting actions is volcanic. As the source of every good pleasure, he himself pleases fully and finally. If that’s not how we experience him, we are either dead or sleeping.

The exhaltation of his name is the driving force of the gospel. The gospel is a gospel of grace! Grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.

[God’s] passion to save and to purify feeds itself not from the shallow soil of our value, but form the infinite depth of his own.

[Reflecting on Zephaniah 3:17] Can you imagine what it would be like to hear God singing? A mere spoken word from his mouth brought the universe into existence. What would happen if God lifted up His voice and not only spoke but sang! Perhaps a new heaven and a new earth would be created.

Behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth…
I create Jerusalem a rejoicing,and her people a joy.
(Isaiah 65:17-18, RSV)

What do you hear when you imagine the voice of God singing? I hear the booming of Niagara Falls mingled with the trickle of a mossy mountain stream. I hear the blast of Mt. St. Helens mingled with a kitten’s purr. I hear the power of an East Coast hurricane and the barely audible puff of a night snow in the woods. And I hear the unimaginable roar of the sun 865,000 miles thick, 1,300,000 times bigger than the earth, and nothing but fire, 1,000,000 degrees centigrade, on the cooler surface of the corona. But I hear this unimaginable roar mingled with the tender, warm crackling of the living room logs on a cozy winter’s night.

And when I hear this singing I stand dumbfounded, staggered, speechless that he is singing over me – one who has dishonored him so many times and in so many ways. It is almost too good to be true.

[God’s] anger must be released by a stiff safety lock, but his mercy has a hair trigger

God has no deficiencies that I might be required to supply. He is complete in himself. He is overflowing with happiness in the fellowship of the Trinity. The upshot of this is that God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket brigade. So if you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell people what you’ve found. You do not glorify a mountain spring by dutifully hauling water up the path from the river below and dumping it in the spring. What we have seen is that God is like a mountain spring, not a watering trough. And since that is the way God is, we are not surprised to learn from Scripture – and our faith is strengthened to hold fast – that the way to please God is to come to him to get and not to give, to drink and not to water. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

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