In I Exalt You, O God: Encountering His Greatness in Your Private Worship, Jerry Bridges applies his gift for clear communication of Biblical theology to a 31-day devotional reflecting on four attributes of God: His greatness, His holiness, His wisdom, and His love. Each chapter or day examines some facet of the attribute under consideration for the given section of the book. For example, titles in the wisdom section include "The Wonders of His Providence," "A Mystery Too High," "Everything Orchestrated for Good," and my favorite, "Wanting My Trust--Not My Advice." Each day's reading concludes with a prayer quilted together out of Scripture passages applicable to the day's topic. The well-written introduction lays the groundwork for the ideas of "private worship" and "worship as a way of life," and these prayers contribute to the stated goal that the book would move readers to worship God.
As already mentioned, the introduction alone is adequate reason to pick up this book, especially if the concept of worship outside of Sunday morning is a new one. I appreciate the way Bridges brings truth about God's character, which some regard as intellectual and academic only, into an expression of personal devotion to Him. He always brings his accessible explanations back to (or derives them from) the Scriptures.
The wisdom section applies most powerfully to some perplexing difficulties in my life right now. Here are two of the passages I highlighted, just to give you a taste:
…we continually want to be God’s adviser in His providential workings. We continually want to tell Him how certain circumstances should be changed. Or worse, we question God’s wisdom when we can’t understand what He’s doing.
God’s ways are mysterious. But with Paul we can learn to exult in this with praise:
How fathomless the depths of God’s resources, wisdom, and knowledge! How unsearchable His decisions, and how mysterious His methods! For who has ever understood the thoughts of the Lord, or has ever been His adviser?...Glory to Him forever! (Romans 11:33-36, Charles B. Williams translation)
To this end may the following words from J.L. Dagg encourage us:
It should fill us with joy that infinite wisdom guides the affairs of the world. Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes seems to reign. Often wickedness prevails, and God seems to have forgotten the creatures that he has made. Our own path through life is dark and devious, and beset with difficulties and danger. How full of consolation is the doctrine that infinite wisdom directs every event, brings … light out of darkness, and, to those who love God, causes all things, whatever be their present aspect and apparent tendency, to work together for good.
So with joy and consolation let us stand in awe of the infinite wisdom of God manifested in creation, providence, and redemption. But let’s do more. One of the marks of a God-fearing person is trust in the Lord: “The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11). To hope in His unfailing love is to trust Him. As we stand in awe, let us trust Him, even when we don’t understand what His is doing (Kindle location 1427).
O infinite God! Who has understood Your mind or instructed You as Your counselor? Before the universe was created it existed in all its intricate complexity in Your vast mind. Even the tiny cells in our bodies testify to the sheer brilliance of Your creative genius.
But while we marvel at Your creation, we confess that we often wonder at Your providence. Help us to learn that Your ways truly are higher than our ways, and that You are always working for our good despite the many things we don’t understand. May we fear You by trusting You.
And may we ever praise You through Jesus our Lord and Savior.
The day discussing God's wrath (28) also merits notice. It strikes me as rare in this season of the American church for an author to write on God's wrath at all, let alone in the context of a discussion of His love. Bridges does this, and he does it well:
It is not enough, however, to appreciate God’s love only in terms of our initial salvation. We should be growing each year in our awareness of the depth of His love for us in Christ—as we become more aware of the reality of our own sin even as believers. An increasing understanding of God’s holiness, of one’s own sin, and the value of Christ’s death will always mark a person who’s growing as a Christian (1643).
It's not that I'd been thinking, "Hmm, wouldn't it be great if someone would just write a devotional about God's wrath?" Rather, the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, does include many references to it, and I find Bridges' perspective here helpful in assimilating those passages into the rest of God's self-revelation.
This book provides a clear introduction to four of God's attributes for the young Christian or one new to thinking theologically. I would also commend it to the attention of someone curious about a life of worship, as opposed to an hour of worship, or to someone who has heard of praying Scripture or praying God's words back to Him and doesn't understand how that looks.
This book tends toward the thinking rather than feeling end of the mind-emotions continuum, which appeals to some temperaments more than others. Perhaps because of this, I find for myself it's more a morning or midday read than a bedtime reflection. Despite the lucid prose, the reader must invest some attention and concentration to glean the considerable benefits offered here.
Another review by my friend Lisa (with a different selection of quotes)
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. The product link in the first paragraph is an affiliate link.