Chapter OneTHE PLEASURE
IN HIS SON
"This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."
Entering the Joy of God
There is a beautiful phrase in 1 Timothy 1:11 buried beneath
the too-familiar surface of Bible buzzwords. Before we dig it
up, it sounds like this: "The gospel of the glory of the blessed
God." But after you dig it up, it sounds like this: "The good news of the
glory of the happy God."
A great part of God's glory is his happiness. It was inconceivable to
the apostle Paul that God could be denied infinite joy and still be all-glorious.
To be infinitely glorious was to be infinitely happy. He used the
phrase, "the glory of the happy God," because it is a glorious thing for
God to be as happy as he is. God's glory consists much in the fact that
he is happy beyond our wildest imagination.
As the great eighteenth-century preacher, Jonathan Edwards, said,
"Part of God's fullness which he communicates, is his happiness. This
happiness consists in enjoying and rejoicing in himself; so does also the
And this is the gospel: "The gospel of the glory of the happy God." It
is good news that God is gloriously happy. No one would want to spend
eternity with an unhappy God. If God is unhappy then the goal of the
gospel is not a happy goal, and that means it would be no gospel at all.
But, in fact, Jesus invites us to spend eternity with a happy God when he
says, "Enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23). Jesus lived and
died that his joy-God's joy-might be in us and our joy might be full
(John 15:11; 17:13). Therefore the gospel is "the gospel of the glory of
the happy God."
What I want to try to show in this chapter is that the happiness of
God is first and foremost a happiness in his Son. Thus when we share in
the happiness of God we share in the very pleasure that the Father has
in the Son. This is why Jesus made the Father known to us. At the end
of his great prayer in John 17 he said to his Father, "I made known to
them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you
have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (v. 26). He made God
known so that God's pleasure in his Son might be in us and become our
Imagine being able to enjoy what is most enjoyable with unbounded
energy and passion forever. This is not now our experience. Three things
stand in the way of our complete satisfaction in this world. One is that
nothing has a personal worth great enough to meet the deepest longings
of our hearts. Another is that we lack the strength to savor the best treasures
to their maximum worth. And the third obstacle to complete satisfaction
is that our joys here come to an end. Nothing lasts.
But if the aim of Jesus in John 17:26 comes true, all this will change.
If God's pleasure in the Son becomes our pleasure, then the object of our
pleasure, Jesus, will be inexhaustible in personal worth. He will never
become boring or disappointing or frustrating. No greater treasure can
be conceived than the Son of God. Moreover, our ability to savor this
inexhaustible treasure will not be limited by human weaknesses. We will
enjoy the Son of God with the very enjoyment of his Father. God's
delight in his Son will be in us and it will be ours. And this will never
end, because neither the Father nor the Son ever ends. Their love for
each other will be our love for them and therefore our loving them will
Loved for Shining Like the Sun
God's pleasure is first and foremost a pleasure in his Son. The Bible
reveals this to us while showing us the face of Jesus shining like the sun.
In Matthew 17 Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain.
When they are all alone something utterly astonishing happens.
Suddenly God pulls back the curtain of the incarnation and lets the
kingly glory of the Son of God shine through. "His face shone like the
sun, and his garments became white as light" (v. 2). Peter and the others
were stunned. Near the end of his life Peter wrote that he had seen the
Majestic Glory on the holy mountain, and that he had heard a voice from
heaven, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to
him" (2 Peter 1:17-18; Matthew 17:5).
When God declares openly that he loves and delights in his Son, he
gives a visual demonstration of the Son's unimaginable glory. His face
shown like the sun, his garments became translucent with light, and the
disciples fell on their faces (Matthew 17:6). The point is not merely that
humans should stand in awe of such a glory, but that God himself takes
full pleasure in the radiance of his Son. He reveals him in blinding light,
and then says, "This is my delight!"
A memory is fresh in my mind that makes the radiance of God's Son
very real. Our staff took a two-day retreat for prayer and planning at the
beginning of 1991. The retreat center was a former mansion now made
into simple accommodations by the Maryhill sisters for people who want
to seek God. Our second day there I got up early and took my Bible to
the garden porch, a glassed-in nook of the house overlooking a steep
drop-off and the Mississippi River to the east. The sun was not yet up,
but there was light.
My appointed reading for that morning was Psalm 3. I read, "You, O
Lord, are my glory, and the lifter of my head." And as I pondered this,
the red pinpoint of the sun pierced the horizon straight in front of me. It
startled me because I hadn't realized I was facing east. I watched for a
moment as the pinpoint became a fingernail of fire. Then I read on.
"Arise, O Lord!" And I looked up to see the whole red-gold ball blazing
just over the river. Within moments there was no more looking at it
without going blind. The higher it rose the brighter it got.
I thought of John's vision of Christ in Revelation 1: "His face was like
the sun shining in full strength" (v. 16). My glimpse that morning lasted
maybe five minutes before the strength of the rising sun turned my face
away. Who can look upon the sun shining in full strength? The answer
is that God can. The radiance of the Son's face shines first and foremost
for the enjoyment of his Father. "This is the Son whom I love; he is my
pleasure. You must fall on your face and turn away, but I behold my Son
in his radiance every day with love and never-fading joy."
I thought to myself, surely this is one thing implied in John 17:26-that
the day is coming when I will have the capacity to delight in the Son
the way the Father does. My fragile eyes will get the power to take in the
glory of the Son shining in his full strength just the way the Father does.
The pleasure God has in his Son will become my pleasure, and I will not
be consumed, but enthralled forever.
Loved for Serving Like a Dove
Again, the Father speaks words of endearment and delight about his Son
on another occasion. At Jesus' baptism, the Spirit of God descends like a
dove while the Father says from heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:16-17). The image is very different.
Not a flaming sun of intolerable brightness, but a soft, quiet, vulnerable
dove-the kind of animal poor people offered for sacrifices in
the temple. God's pleasure in his Son comes not only from the brightness
of his majesty but from the beauty of his meekness.
The Father delights in his Son's supremacy and in his servanthood.
"The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand" (John
3:35). "Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my
soul delights" (Isaiah 42:1). Matthew quotes this Old Testament testimony
of the Father's joy and connects it with the anointing of the Holy
Spirit and the meekness of Jesus' ministry.
"Behold, my Servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom my soul delights.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
he will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering flax."
The Father's very soul exults with joy over the servantlike meekness
and compassion of his Son. When a reed is bent and about to break, the
Servant will tenderly hold it upright until it heals. When a wick is smoldering
and has scarcely any heat left, the Servant will not pinch it off, but
cup his hand and blow gently until it burns again. Thus the Father cries,
"Behold, my Servant in whom my soul delights!"
The worth and beauty of the Son come not just from his majesty, nor
just from his meekness, but from the way these mingle in perfect proportion.
When the angel cried out in Revelation 5:2, "Who is worthy to
open the scroll and break its seals?" the answer came back, "Weep not;
look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so
that he can open the scroll and its seven seals" (5:5). God loves the
strength of the Lion of Judah. This is why he is worthy in God's eyes to
open the scrolls of history and unfold the last days. But the picture is not
complete. How did the Lion conquer? The next verse describes his
appearance: "And between the throne and the four living creatures and
among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain." Jesus
is worthy of the Father's delight not only as the Lion of Judah, but also
as the slain Lamb.
One of the sermons of Jonathan Edwards that God used to kindle
the Great Awakening in New England in 1734-1735 was titled "The
Excellency of Christ." In it Edwards unfolds the glory of God's Son by
describing the "admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Christ."
His text is Revelation 5:5-6, and he unfolds the union of "diverse excellencies"
in the Lion-Lamb. He shows how the glory of Christ is his combining
of attributes that would seem to be utterly incompatible in one
In Jesus Christ, he says, meet infinite highness and infinite condescension;
infinite justice and infinite grace; infinite glory and lowest
humility; infinite majesty and transcendent meekness; deepest reverence
toward God and equality with God; worthiness of good and the greatest
patience under the suffering of evil; a great spirit of obedience and
supreme dominion over heaven and earth; absolute sovereignty and perfect
resignation; self-sufficiency and an entire trust and reliance on God.
Loved as Happy Co-Creator
Although the qualities of lowliness and meekness were not manifest until
the incarnation, they were nevertheless part of the Son's character from
all eternity. He did not undergo a conversion before he submitted to the
Father's will that he die for sinners. This is why the love that the Father
has for the Son goes back before creation. "Father . you loved me before
the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). There never was a time when
the Father was denied the pleasure of delighting in the glory of his Son.
God also loved his Son in the very act of creating the universe. He
enjoyed his Son as his own Word of Wisdom and creative Power in the
act of creation. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All
things were made through him, and without him was not anything made
that was made" (John 1:1-3). The Son was the Wisdom of God creating,
with God, all that is not God. And, as the Proverbs say, "A wise son
makes a glad father" (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20). God was glad in the wisdom
of his creative Son.
In fact, the Proverbs are even more specific concerning God's Wisdom.
Proverbs 8 personifies Wisdom at the beginning of creation as a
Master Workman delighting the heart of God. "When he [God] established
the heavens, I [Wisdom] was there . beside him, like a Master
Workman; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always"
(Proverbs 8:27, 30). The Son of God was the Father's delight as he
rejoiced with the Father in the awesome work of making a million
I wonder if there was a faint resemblance of this creative camaraderie
between Father and Son when Joseph and Jesus worked together in the
carpenter's shop in Nazareth. I picture Jesus about fifteen years old, humming
as he worked. The plank is cut with masterful strokes, carved with
three small posts protruding in their appointed places, and then fitted
perfectly into the joining board to make a solid bench. Jesus smiles as he
smacks the wood with pleasure. All the while Joseph has been standing
at the door watching the hands of his son. He sees the image of his own
workmanship and his own life. The skill of his son is the evidence of the
father's skill. The humming of his son is the endorsement of the father's
joy. And when they put their energy together to lift a finished table for
the synagogue, their eyes meet with a flash of delight that says, "You are
a treasure to me, and I love you with all my heart."
I have four sons. Though I have not heard any of them preach, I
have seen them make A's in school, and letter in varsity sports, and
memorize long portions of Scripture, and slay dragons with plastic
swords. When I see their skill, I think of all the hours we have played
and prayed and thought and fought (the dragons!) together over the
years. And my heart fills with a sense of wonder that I am creating things
through my sons. When they rejoice in this, and when they smile at me
on the sidelines or in the audience, they are a pleasure to me almost as
great as anything in the world.
Perhaps we may be allowed to see in this a faint echo of the shout of
joy the Father had in the Son when together they created the universe
out of nothing. Imagine the look they gave each other when a million
galaxies stood forth at their command.
No other relationship comes close to this one. It is utterly unique. The
Son is absolutely unique in the affections of the Father. He is the "only
begotten" (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). There is the Son, by eternal
generation, and there are other "sons" by adoption. "When the fullness
of time came, God sent forth his Son . to redeem those who were
under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians
4:4-5). Only in "receiving" Jesus as the Son are others empowered to
become "children of God" (John 1:12). Jesus often referred to God as
"my Father" and "the Father," but he never referred to God as "our
Father" except once, when teaching the disciples how they should pray