Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How Small Is Your God?

How do you look at God? Unfortunately, it is easy to get a diminished idea of God.  Our culture frequently sees Him as a crotchety old man with a long white beard, sitting on a cloud.  Even if understood as symbolic, it is not who God is.  Also, Christians can see God as being our good buddy, often minimizing His greatness.  Now I do not want to deny that God is our Friend (John 15:13-15) and our  Father (Romans 8:14-17). But He is still the Almighty God who calls the stars by name and weighs the mountains in a pair of scales (Isaiah 40:12-26).

We want to bring God down to our level and make an image of Him we feel more comfortable with (Exodus 20:4-6; Romans 1:23).  But God is ultimately beyond our understanding (Romans 11:33; Isaiah 55:9) and cannot be seen directly (Exodus 33:20-23; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1:17), but we can know Him through Jesus Christ (John 1:18; Hebrews 1:1-3).  God is eternal (Psalms 90:2; Micah 5:2) and unchanging (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).  He is everywhere (Psalms 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:23,24), knows everything (1 John 3:20; Psalms 139:1-4), and is able to do anything (Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:25,26).  He created all things (Psalms 33:6-9; John 1:3) and sustains them (Colossians 1;17; Hebrews 1:3) and controls all things that happen (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28).  When properly understood, this is incredible and boggles the mind. But it is easy for those who know these  things to take them for granted.  It is therefore good for us to regularly remind ourselves of the greatness of our God.

Now there are various objections to this understanding of God.  There are various expressions used to describe God, but they are no more literal descriptions of God than claiming that God has feathers (Psalms 91:4) or that a large arm came down out of the sky and delivered the Israelites from Egypt (Exodus 6:6).  Now God does appear to people in various forms, including human (Genesis 18:1,2; Isaiah 6:1), but He also appeared as a pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21) and denies He has any fixed form we can see (Deuteronomy 4:15-24).  Also, when God appears, it is normally the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who appears (John 1:18; 12:41).  (There are two symbolic visions with some kind of representation of the Father, but these are exceptions; see Daniel 7:9.10; Revelation 4:2,3.) There are also cases where God accommodates Himself to us by responding to our actions, even though He has planned what is going to happen from the beginning (Jonah 3:10; Exodus 32:9-14).  Many of the problems people have with understanding and accepting God and His truth are because they do not know or will not accept that God is beyond our understanding.  And while I would reject the position that we cannot really know anything about God, I do believe we need a healthy understanding of God's incomprehensibility to avoid pulling God down to our level.

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