“I like to think of God as….” I cringe whenever I hear those words. Who cares how you like to think about God? The real question is whether your understanding of Him is true.
Unless your conception of God is determined by what God says about Himself, you have about as much chance of being right as frog would of understanding a man. In Scripture, God mocks fools who imagine that their religious observances will hide their wickedness: “You thought that I was just like you” He says (Psalm 50:21).
God’s forgiveness also goes beyond human comprehension. He urges us to turn from our sins, promises His pardon, and then adds, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
When God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, He first identified Himself as “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Next Moses asked His name, and “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I am has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:14).
“I AM” signifies that God is eternal and unchangeable. He is who He is, not what we imagine Him to be. And what He is, is more strange and complex than our distorted ideas of Him.
The gods that people have made up for themselves are generally simple. There are gods of love and gods of war; gods of fertility and gods who protect travelers. Each god knows his job, and he sticks to it. There is a god who is defined by absolute unity and sovereignty; another god includes in his being all that is; a third loves America and approves of its crusade for democracy.
The God who has revealed Himself in the Bible is none of these. His complexity is overwhelming. He is high above us, yet all of Him is present in every place. He is as ferocious as a lion and as gentle as a lamb. He sends rebels into eternal torment, but sacrifices Himself to save sinners. He is both one and three (though His oneness and His three-ness refer to different aspects of who He is). Though He is complex, yet He is also simple because He cannot be divided into parts. He is beyond our comprehension, but since He has made us in His image, we can know Him. He is beyond the power of language to describe, but His descriptions of Himself are true, and they may be understood by ordinary people.
I began this essay with the way you think about God. Far more important is the way God thinks about Himself and how He has revealed Himself to us. Almost equally important is what God thinks about you and me.
Again the answer is rather complex. On the one hand, we are hated and abhorred because of our sins (Psalm 5:5-6). On the other, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation” (Psalm 149:4).
Though we are ugly in ourselves, we become beautiful when God saves us. Though we are hateful in our sin, God takes pleasure in us when He makes us beautiful. Our beauty, however, is not truly ours, for it is the beauty of Christ who covers our ugliness with the glorious robes of His righteousness. This comes about only through personal faith in Christ (Philippians 3:9).
Do you know this God? Does He know you? “The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Timothy 2:19).
(Published in the Allentown Morning Call, November 12, 2011)