Is anything too wonderful for Yahweh? (Genesis 18:14)
Most of the English renderings of this verse use the phrases “too hard” or “too difficult” and then state in their notes that the Hebrew phrase is actually too wonderful. Their renderings are completely legitimate, they are not wrong. At the same time, we may gain greater understanding and appreciation of the question by retaining and emphasizing the concept of wonder as we ponder God’s question addressed to Abraham.
After all, Yahweh is the God characterized by doing wonders (Psalm 77:14). He performs those wondrous works as a demonstration of His greatness as the only true God (Psalm 86:10). His wonders are to be remembered and proclaimed (Psalm 105:2, 5), and should lead people to sing exuberant praises to Him (Psalm 98:1).
The Lord’s query of Abraham certainly includes the idea of difficulty. Therefore, the English translations of Jeremiah’s answer to this question are appropriate when they have him stating, “Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17), even though the word translated difficult is again the Hebrew word for wonderful.
The point of the word is that it speaks of actions and accomplishments which evoke awe and wonder in those who see them or hear about them. This may be due to the difficulty or impossibility of those feats, which is often the case. That was certainly the case with Abraham and Sarah, to whom Yahweh promised a newborn son even though Sarah had been barren and at the time was well past child-bearing years.
However, whether because of the difficulty/impossibility of the deed or because of its magnitude, the heart of the matter is that the works of God called wonders are designed to elicit wonderment, amazement, astonishment, respect and reverence among those who become aware of them. With this in mind, the question the Lord asks Abraham, and centuries later repeats with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:27), is whether there is anything producing genuine, reverent, overwhelming awe and admiration which God is unable to do. To this question, the only possible, correct answer is summarized in the words of Jeremiah: “Nothing is too wonderful for You.”
In great part this is a statement referring to the omnipotence of Yahweh, the fact that He is all-powerful, almighty. To use the words of Gabriel in answering Mary’s question of how she could become pregnant as a virgin, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). To use the words of the psalmist, “Our God is in the heavens; all in which He delights, He does” (Psalm 115:3). The Lord accomplishes whatever it pleases Him to do, no matter how difficult, impossible or marvelous the accomplishment may seem to be from man’s perspective.
The omnipotence of God is often questioned and attacked by people, sometimes blatantly and sometimes more deviously. Theological liberalism has frequently discounted and denied many of the wonderful works of God about which the Word of God is abundantly clear: creation of the universe ex nihilo, the plagues on Egypt in Moses’ time, the universal Flood, the incarnation and virgin birth of God the Son, the blood atonement on Calvary, Christ’s bodily resurrection.
Perhaps just as problematic as outright denial of the omnipotence of God is the subtle undermining of it by delving into the realm of irrationality. Even professing Christians have been known to participate in this activity by dreaming up such questions as “Can God make a boulder so heavy He cannot lift it?” or “Can God make a square circle?” or “Can God make one plus one equal three?”
Often this starts out as a mental exercise, a game of trying to think of “impossible” tasks. However, this easily leads those who continue with it to the idea that perhaps the Lord is not really as almighty as the Bible declares. Perhaps He is not quite as powerful and capable as Gabriel told Mary He is. If pursued, such doubts can escalate to troublesome questions and head down the road to unbelief.
The power of God is infinite. The exercise of His power is measured to fit His purposes, a fact about which we are highly grateful.
The exercise of His power is also performed completely in keeping with His character. He cannot and therefore does not lie (Titus 1:2). The issue in that “inability” is not one of power, but of moral purity. He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). That “inability” is not one of power, but rather a matter of moral consistency. He cannot change (Malachi 3:6: James 1:17). Does it take more power to change, or to maintain immutable perfection?
The point is that controlling and channeling the exercise of His might does not lessen the power of God. The fact that God cannot and does not act irrationally is no limitation of His ability, power or capacity. Since when is irrationality to be considered an ability? How can irrationality be considered a feat of power? When did inconsistency ever qualify as anything other than weakness?
In light of the absolute, moral perfection of Yahweh, Psalm 115:3 is an excellent foundation for a proper grasp of His omnipotence. Whatever God is pleased to do, whatever He wants to do, He can do. Whatever the Lord does, He does because it pleases Him as to its purpose and its ultimate accomplishment.
This realization is particularly thrilling, stabilizing and comforting when we consider it with His other attributes in view. Because He is all-wise, whatever He wants is a wise desire. Because He is righteous, whatever He desires to do is right. Because He is pure, whatever pleases Him is pure. Because He is just, whatever He plans and performs is just. Because He is good, whatever His motives and actions may be, they are ultimately good. Because He is faithful and true, whatever He desires and does is completely consistent with His character and His word.
Are there things God cannot do? Thankfully, the answer to that question is a joyful, grateful “Yes!” Does that reality in any way limit the omnipotence of God the Almighty? When His omnipotence is properly understood, the answer to that question is an immediate, hearty “No!”
About the Author
Jim Odens pastored churches over a period of 44 years and has served as a conference speaker and church consultant in the areas of evangelism, ministry philosophy and leadership development. He also has been extensively involved in international missions. In addition to his writing ministry, Jim currently occupies himself with interim pastoral ministry, genealogical research, leading a missions agency and pyrography! Jim and his wife Jill live in Macon, Georgia, and seek to serve the Lord faithfully in and through Redeemer Baptist Church.