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Richard Bennett :: Chapter 3 What Is God Like?

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Your Quest for God — Chapter 3

What Is God Like?

The problems of heaven and earth though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: that He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about him.

—A. W. Tozer

At some time in life most people have asked: “What is God like?” Though God has given an answer to this question, there are still those who would rather rely on their imagination and speculation than read in the Bible what God has to say about Himself.

These people really reverse an important Bible statement. Whereas God said: Let Us make man in Our image (Genesis 1:26 NASB), they say: “Let us make God in our image.” And so they change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man (Romans 1:23 NKJV). Every ‘god’ that has been conceived by man has been totally powerless, and sometimes even grotesque.

No matter how clever a person is, he can never discover the living God by worldly wisdom…the world through its wisdom did not come to know God (1 Corinthians 1:21 NASB). If God could be discovered by human cleverness, He would be too small to be God. Not only that, but if human cleverness were necessary to discover God, then those people who may not be quite so clever would be disadvantaged in their quest for Him. And that is not the case.

On the contrary, spiritual wisdom is available to everybody. It is equally as available to an African ‘stick lady’ as it is to a university professor, for spiritual wisdom is not acquired by the academic process. It is available to all people who are humble enough to recognize their need of God’s help in their quest for Him.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously (James 1:5 NASB ). This kind of wisdom is not worldly but Heavenly. It is the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age (i.e., rulers who operate by this world’s system) has understood…not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God (1 Corinthians 2:8, 12 NASB ).

The Bible is not merely a religious thesis; it is primarily the record of how God has revealed Himself to man. And only God can give you the spiritual wisdom that you need to understand who He is and what He wants to do in your life.

If you but ask Him, God will show Himself to you through His Holy Word.

In our travels we have found deep spiritual interest and insights in what some might consider unusual places and among unlikely people. For instance, one day we met a group of young African boys in the bush of Kenya who seemed interested only in sharing their faith and learning more about the things of God.

The equatorial sun had quickly slipped below the horizon, bringing an end to a long, busy day. As I sat on a rock beside a dusty Kenyan lane to rest awhile, I heard a movement in the bush. I turned to see a faint ray from the full moon as it reflected in the large black eyes of an African boy. Soon this 10-year-old lad was squatting beside me on the rock; we quickly became good friends. Other boys heard our voices and seemed to come from nowhere to hear what we were talking about. Their knowledge of the Bible impressed me greatly.

“Why didn’t God let Moses see His face?” my little friend asked.

Fascinated by such a question, I responded by asking young Joel if he could remember the prayer of Moses before God said to him, you shall see My back but My face shall not be seen (Exodus 33:23 NASB).

He could not. “Then let me remind you,” I continued, “Moses had prayed: I beseech thee show me Thy glory” (Exodus 33:18 NASB). In other words Moses had asked God to show him what He was really like. However, God knew that this request presented a problem, because the glory of God was far beyond anything that Moses could conceive or comprehend. God’s shining glory, holiness and light are so consuming that God cautioned: no man can see Me and live (Exodus 33:20 NASB).

Moses had not known just how overwhelming it would be to see the glory of God. However, because God is a self-revealing God who wants to draw man to Himself, He showed as much of Himself to Moses as the prophet was able to bear. If God had shown more of Himself, Moses would have been utterly consumed by the brightness of His presence. Even though God did hide the fullness of His glory from Moses, when God passed by where Moses was He still had to shelter Moses in the cleft [crevice] of a rock (Exodus 33:22 NASB).

Living on the equator, my young friends were aware that they could not gaze at the brilliant light of the noonday sun without shielding their eyes. They also knew that moths were attracted to light on a dark night. When I asked what happens if the moths get too close to the source of light, their united reply was: “They get killed.” They were obviously aware of the dangers of an over-exposure to light.

I tried to think of another illustration that might help them to understand the answer to their question. All of my new young friends knew of the swaddling bands that swathed their baby brothers and sisters and secured them close to their mother’s heart of love and tender care. I then told them of the swaddling band (Job 38:9 NASB) that God has wrapped around the earth.

(Scientists call it the ozone layer. This delicate blanket of allotropic oxygen filters out the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Without the sun there would, of course, be no life on Planet Earth, but God’s tender care has sheltered us from an overdose of the sun’s energy and its cancer-causing effects.)

My little friends seemed particularly interested in God’s swaddling band as I tried to explain in simple terms that it protects us all from terrible burns. I do not know whether they understood all I said, but their little hearts tenderly responded to the love and the glory of God and we had a precious time of prayer together. They evidently knew, in a personal way, that they too enjoyed the same protection that Moses had been given in his quest for God. And basic to our own understanding of what God is like, the Bible tells us that: “The Lord our God is ONE LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4 KJV). The oneness of His Person is a foundational truth.

But, to give us a fuller understanding of what He is like, God has also told us His names.

In the Bible, names are always considered important because their meaning is meant to reflect certain aspects of the bearer’s character. Each name that is used to refer to God has a very special meaning and reveals a unique facet of His divine Person.

In the Old Testament there are three primary names that are used for God: Yahweh, Elohim and Adonai. Each has a special significance. Elohim is the first name to be used, and it is mentioned well over two thousand times. Though the name Yahweh is paramount, there is evidently also an importance and significance about His name Elohim that God does not want us to miss. What could this be?

In the English language, when we talk in the singular we speak of one and when we talk in the plural we refer to more than one. However, though we talk in the plural when we speak of more than ‘one’, the original Hebrew is more precise. It employs ‘dual’ when referring to ‘two’ and ‘plural’ when referring to more than two. The distinction between dual and plural (between ‘two ’ and ‘three or more’) is very significant. Elohim is the first name in the Bible used for God. In Hebrew, Elohim—referring to the Creator-God—is neither singular nor dual but it is in the plural.

“In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 NASB). So, we find, that in the very first verse of the Bible—which is God’s revelation of Himself to man—there is the intimation of a three-in-one and one-in-three concept of who God is. This tri-unity has sometimes been called the Trinity.

After the first intimation of God’s tri-unity we come to the record of God’s creation of man. ‘And God said, Let Us make man in Our image’ (Genesis 1:26 NASB). [1] Nobody can mistake that both ‘Us’ and ‘Our’ are plural pronouns in the English language. But, amazingly, in the very next sentence we read: “Male and female He created them“ (Genesis 1:27 NASB). Here, it is obvious that “He” can only refer to one person. So each of these references to God as ‘one’ and ‘more than one’ is to the God who has already introduced Himself as Elohim.

A God such as this is quite beyond the ability of worldly wisdom to comprehend. So, to help us in our understanding, God has graciously given “the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12 NASB). Commencing with these initial intimations of what God is like, the Bible gradually unfolds His mysterious tri-unity. To understand this three-in-one and one-in-three personality of who God is, will help you to appreciate more fully His astonishing love for you as you read chapter seven.

To help us comprehend something of the greatness of His love, God progressively reveals Himself throughout the rest of the Bible. There we are introduced to God the Father, to God the Son, and to God the Holy Spirit. Yet He reveals Himself to be only, and ever, one God. Our human minds can only grasp the fringes of such a concept. So, because it was impossible for man to reach up and discover the true and living God, He Himself took the initiative and introduced Himself to man.

The full revelation of God’s glory and holiness was hidden from the eyes of Moses. However, in the person of God the Son, Elohim revealed as much of Himself to man as man could bear.

Accordingly in the New Testament we read:

God, who said, Light shall shine out of darkness, is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of [Jesus] Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6 NASB).

Just think of it: when John gazed into the face of Jesus Christ, he declared: We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:14 KJV).

Later John wrote of this, his personal encounter with God, and only because he had met Elohim in the person of Jesus, he lived to tell the story! Nevertheless, he made it quite clear that his encounter was in fact with the God of Eternity, the God of Creation, the God of Moses.

Astonishing as it was, this personal meeting between John and his Creator-God was audible, visible and tangible.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, (his audible encounter) which we have seen with our eyes (his visible encounter)…and our hands have handled (his tangible encounter) (1 John 1:1 KJV).

No, the record that we read in the epistle of John is not one of disrelated impersonal theology. It flows out of his own encounter with the living God.

“How does all this help me today?” you may ask. John is quick to answer that question. These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full (1 John 1:4 KJV). And, likewise, this book you are now reading is in your hands because a friend longs that you, too, may have this fullness of joy as you meet the living God.

John explains:

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full (1 John 1:3-4 KJV).

Yes, as light is attractive on a dark night, so the Light of God’s Glory still draws men to Himself. Today in your desire to know what God is like, you too can pray with Moses: ‘Show me Thy Glory.’

Pause to Consider

  1. In your quest for God have you thoughtfully read the Bible?
  2. Will you ask God to reveal Himself to you as you read the Bible?
    A suggested prayer: “O God, if You are the God who created this universe and who loves me, please reveal Yourself to me and show me if Jesus Christ is Your Son the promised Messiah!”
  3. Do you recognize that if you are to truly worship God He must be:
    Greater than your ability to discover Him by human research;
    greater than your ability to fully comprehend Him in your human mind?

[1] It is important to note that the creation of men and women can never be equated with the creation of the vegetable kingdom; nor even the highest form of evolutionary development in the animal kingdom. Not so, men and women were created in the “image of God” and are therefore a unique creation at the pinnacle of all God’s marvelous creative acts. Later in this book, this uniqueness will assure you who you really are.

Chapter 2 Is Your Spiritual Guide Reliable? ← Prior Section
Chapter 4 What Really Divides People? Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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