Welcome to a series here at Patheos to follow up on my post How to Stop Being Afraid with wisdom from Psalm 46.
After the last post (Want to Stop Being Afraid? Step 1: It All Starts with God) focused on where we should start in overcoming fear, the next valid question might best be: Just who is this God?
We’d be wrong to assume that everyone knows — or remembers. We are forgetful people. Even those of us who should know better. Maybe that’s why the psalmist started with God’s most common Hebrew name Elohim to begin Psalm 46, the source of our series on How to Stop Being Afraid.
The prophet Jeremiah explains why it is so vital that we do know God. Speaking of his own people who had forgotten God, he said this:
For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD. Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:2-6)
Some in the last few centuries of Christendom have even questioned whether God is at all knowable to us. After all, if “His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts not our thoughts” how can we have any point of contact at all? Yet Jesus himself stated: “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
Clearly God is knowable to some extent to us as creatures made in His image. Isaiah’s point is clear in context: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” It’s not that we can’t understand Him at all. What would have been the point of revealing them to us in propositional statements via written language — and then punishing us for refusing to know Him?
God’s point is that there is a significantly huge gap between who He is and how he functions and who we are and how we function at every level of existence.
Getting a God Perspective
Consider these four ways that God is definitely not us:
- God is Independent. The name for God that is commonly translated “I Am” literally means the one who exists — apart from any dependence on anyone or anything. Only God can make that claim. We depend on Him. All of Creation depends on Him for its existence. God is. Always has existed. Always will exist. Even Aristotle recognized the need for such a being and called it the Unmoved Mover. “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (John 5:26) Because he depends on no one, there is no possibility that He could ever not come through for us — and then blame it on someone else further down the line. God is the line. Hard for us chronic failures and blame-shifters to grasp, I know.
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?… Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. (Is. 40:18-23)
- God is Immutable. Big word. Just means that it’s impossible for God to change. At all. Ever. Of course, Scriptures are pretty clear on this point. “For I the LORD do not change….” Mal. 3:6, Ps. 102:24-28, James 1:17, But even if they weren’t, it only makes sense that a perfect Being would never need to change because change implies some lack of something — wisdom, knowledge, desire, awareness, etc. Because he cannot change, we can have confidence in his promises. But just because God does not change, doesn’t mean he doesn’t act on our behalf. God is immutable, not immobile
- God is Infinite. Perhaps the most difficult thing for us to grasp about who God is is the reality that He can never be fully grasped. HE has no limitations. He is without boundaries in her perfectness. There are no limits to His potential. He is without edges in time and space. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Ps. 90:2) “Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you.” (1 Kings 8:27) Maybe you’ve experienced God’s lack of the boundaries that all too often restrict our understanding:
The trouble is that I’m in a hurry and God isn’t. ~ Philip Brooks
- God is One. By this we mean not just that there is no other God besides Him, but that there is simplicity to His very being. He isn’t made up of any moving parts that must be aligned in just the right way for Him to be able to help us. It’s just Him. God is. Nothing about Him was made in China, assembled in Mexico, and inspected by #492 in Mayberry. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deut. 6:4) We could rightly translate that passage to say, “The Lord is only.”
There are a lot of other ways that we are, in fact, like God. But these characteristics that are uniquely God’s should give us great confidence when we remember just who God is. And then who we are not.
Which of these traits of God gives you the greatest confidence as you ponder his greatness? Which one do you have the most trouble understanding? Share your thoughts — or lack thereof — with a comment so we can all grow