It has to be one of the most underrated and one of the best short sentences we have the privilege and responsibility to say.
I ran a search of the phrase "but God" on BibleGateway.com and in the ESV translation "but God" shows up 656 times. Usually when God repeats himself He's trying to tell us something. And I believe "but God" is no exception.
This awesome little phrase can be used a couple of ways, such as,
"Adam and Eve sinned, but God still loved them and put a plan in motion to send a Savior."
"Who but God could take something so horrible and bring something good from it?"
Both are great, but my heart is pulled to the latter as of late. I love the book of Psalms. I suspect David and I could be friends if he lived today. That man went through it all and wrote about it so eloquently (it probably doesn't hurt to have some Holy Spirit inspiration either!) and meaningfully. Recently I've had more specific characteristics of God on my mind and in my heart. The rest of this post is my version of a Psalm.
Who but God could create human beings and call them "very good"? Even with sin on the horizon, and You knowing it was about to wreak havoc on the perfection You created, You still loved us enough to create us. You loved us enough to say that our creation was better than good, it was very good. You created us in Your image - in perfection, holiness and righteousness beyond comprehension. In a whole and totally complete relationship with You.
Who but God could save and restart the entire population of the earth with 8 people and boatload of animals? Our mistake had consequences much farther reaching than we could have imagined. Sin wasn't just something Adam and Eve did and it went away. No, they passed their sin on to their children like a disease. The entire planet was infested; so much so that You were all but forgotten. But You saw deep into man's heart and found in Noah what You couldn't find anywhere else - love for You. So You told him to build an ark. Because You had to act justly again. You saw no other option than to rid the planet of this horrific evil that had taken over. So You sent rain. You opened the heavens that had never been opened and You let the earth give way and You flooded the entire world. But You saved Noah and his family and those animals. You would start again with them. But sin wasn't gone from us. And even in that reality, You gave us a promise and a sign - a rainbow the the clouds - You'll never destroy the whole earth in a worldwide flood again.
Who but God could call a nation His own and keep taking them back time and time (and time and time and time) again? You called Israel to be Your people - a chosen people, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. And when things were good, they were good. And when sin kept creeping into the picture, You were still good. You rescued Your people from endless years of slavery, instituted Passover, and got them out of Egypt, only to be repeatedly disrespected, ignored and disobeyed. But God, You never left Your people.
Who but God could take sinners and use them for His purposes - to advance His will and plans? You didn't stop at calling shepherds. No, You called men who were afraid of public speaking. You used women in roles that society said was completely unacceptable. You used liars and drunkards. You called men with bad tempers and made them to shepherd Your people. You raised up David from lowly shepherd boy to giant-slaying hero to king of Israel - only for him to become and adulterous murderer - who You clearly still loved and forgave, though the consequences of his actions were justly harsh. You set up the ancestral family tree for Your Son with some unimaginable characters - each one with a past and history that was less than stellar. And with each one, You showed Your power. You proved with each of those children of Yours that Your power is made perfect in our weakness.
Who but God could set aside His power and royalty in heaven to become a human? How did You do it? How can we humans ever understand how epic of an event this was? Not just Jesus being born - though that's amazing in itself - but Jesus' entire life and ministry. It amazes me that Jesus could live in this world as it is and never sin. That He could be tempted as we are, yet never falter. It astounds me how He always had just the reaction, just the right words, just the right timing. How His heart must have broken being physically in the middle of the nastiness of our sin. How His heart must have soared and filled with immense love for those who followed and believed in Him.
Who but God could let His Son take on our sin and suffer for us? Even more unimaginable than God becoming man - God's plan from the start to fix our fallen condition was to take on our punishment Himself. I can't imagine what Jesus' went through for us. One man, taking on the sin of people - because better that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish. One God-man - brutally whipped, beaten, mocked beyond belief, spit on, nailed to two pieces of wood and hung up for everyone to gawk at for hours - for me. For my sin. For my temper issues, my bad language, my pride, my selfishness, my jealousy, my doubts and mistrust. And not just for my sin, but the sin of the entire world. How heavy that weight must have been on His perfect shoulders. How dark and gross He must have looked to His Father as he Himself carried all our sin-infection in His own body. All of our disease placed solely on Him.
Who but God could take a murderer and turn him into the greatest apostle the world has known? You can use anyone. You proved it all throughout the Old Testament and You kept showing it the New. You wanted to use Saul - the killer of those following The Way, so You stopped Him on the road one day and made a clearly convincing argument. Saul turned Paul would never be the same, and neither would Your church. God, who can't You use?
Who but God could disrupt our plans, insert His own, and make the outcome amazing? I think sometimes You laugh at our plans. Sometimes I laugh at my plans. But sometimes I also laugh at Yours. Because Your timing seems off to me. I should have a family by now, be successful in my dream job, be making loads of money, living in my dream home - life should be perfect. But God, You never promised an easy or perfect life since the fall on this side of heaven. In fact, You said we'll have trouble in this world. Our grand plans may not be Yours. What we want may not be what You want for us or what You know is best for us. But God, You promise never to leave us or forsake us. You promise that You know us best, that You love us, that You care for every aspect of our lives. You ask us to trust in Your perfect timing and decisions. You said that You have overcome the world. So when there are layoffs and welfare, miscarriages and infertility, career changes and unemployment, homelessness and natural disasters, sickness and dying, separation and divorce, war and deployments, terrorism and intense persecution - there's also You. Because in You we have stability no matter our job security or lack of it. In You there is certain hope in an eternity with You and our loved ones. In You there is life and peace in a war-torn and sin-sick world. In You there is a radical kind of prosperity that has nothing to do with a bank account. In You there is love and family beyond bloodlines. We have Your constant presence, Your perfect guidance, Your unconditional love, Your forever abiding Word, Your unchanging nature. And all that is pretty amazing.
Who but You, God, could do all this and infinitely more?
Only You, God.