It all starts with God. Literally. But how big is our God? And how can we fathom just who He is?
I think that some churches have in the past fallen into one of two extremes. The more traditionally Catholic / Orthodox view stresses the mystery of God, the sanctity, the unapproachable holiness from which in our human sinfulness we are barred, as demonstrated by the Jewish Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the sanctuary into which the High Priest could only enter once a year. The Old Testament tells the tale (in 2 Samuel 6:6-7) of Uzzah,who touched the Ark of the Covenant (containing the stone tablets given to Moses) in a presumably well-intentioned attempt to steady it, yet paid with his life. The Old Testament is full of God’s supreme nature, before which we cannot stand and in the presence of which we are struck dumb. But is this the Father of whom Jesus is speaking in the Matthew 6 / Luke 11? In thinking of God like this, we forget that we are no longer under the Old Testament Covenant but under a new Covenant recounted in Hebrews 8: 10-11:
‘This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.’
The opposite end of the spectrum is to see God as our friend, our ‘mate’ (a view held by some of the more evangelical or charismatic churches, certainly when I was growing up) and supported by Jesus’ words in John 15: 15: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” But how does this square with the greatness, the awesome (truly awesome) nature of God?
The truth is that God is neither Holiness personified or ‘our mate’ – He is both! Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when He used the familiar term to denote a father, ‘daddy’, but then coupled it with ‘in Heaven’. Our human brains find it difficult to contemplate such duality, but in truth:
- God is not just far away over the heavens or immanent Father, ‘God with us’ – He is BOTH!
- He is not only male as traditionally supposed, nor only female (as shown in Luke 15: 8-10 or Hosea 11: 3-4) – He (for ease of reference!) is BOTH!
- He is not merely justice nor merely mercy – but a perfect representation of both – and in His Divine nature, neither contradicts the other. There is no argument within God, but a wholeness and completeness that goes beyond our understanding.
When teaching the Trinity to children in Sunday School recently, I knew that it was concept that even adults find it hard to grasp (maybe children, with their implicit faith, find it an easier idea to grapple with!) so I thought that if they understood at the very least that God is beyond (understanding, space, time etc.) and yet also within (creation, our hearts, lives etc.), I had done my job. Maybe it’s something that we need to comprehend as adults too!
There are too many facets of God to go into here in any depth (I would recommend A.W. Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy for some of them) but whatever facet of God we want to think about, He is not infinitely more than we can comprehend ………………. And yet, this God, creator of the universe and all that is in it, chose to come down to our small planet and make Himself known.
As Paul puts it in Philippians 2 verses 6-7, Jesus:
‘ being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
If I ever feel taken advantage of, undervalued or hard done by, these verses should give me pause for thought!
To just begin to comprehend God, I would point towards a number of passages but the two following in particular. If we substitute ‘God’ for love in the following passage and ‘He’ instead of ‘it’, we get something of an idea:
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8.)
Couple that with:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Our God is truly awesome (a word my eldest uses quite a lot. Me: ‘Dinner’s ready!’ Her: ‘Awesome’) – in every sense of the word. But He is also our Father. He is here with us by the Holy Spirit, but Jesus is also at the Father’s right hand, fighting our corner: “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34.)
And if that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is!
One of my favourite songs at church: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbqPQkH5HY
Enjoy being a son / daughter of the Most High – and may we all grow up to be just like Him!
(All verses unless otherwise specified taken from New International Version of the Bible. Picture credits: Pic 1 – http://www.denver.goarch.org/parishes/photos/grand_junction/, Pic 2 – http://www.onlineoutreach.org/friend-request/Jesus-Wants-To-Be-Your-Friend.jpg)