What is God like?

by James Johnson

Have you ever heard anyone say, "I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him"? For that to be an honest opinion, we have to know that person well. In fact, the only time we really need to know someone is when we need to trust them. Our whole confidence in someone depends on how well we know them and trust them. We wouldn't, for example, want to leave our children in the care of a child-minder we had never met. Our whole attitude will depend on our knowledge of what sort of person he or she was. The same is true in our relationship with God.

Can we trust God? Can we know Him? What sort of God is He? Is He a hanging judge, a wise old grandad, a sugar daddy, a meek and mild milksop? If we picture Him like that, then we are making a God in our own image. Then when we really need God, our image will let us down.

This is what God tells the wicked man in Psalm 50:21 "You have done all this evil, and I have said nothing, so you thought I was like you." This leads us to ask the question, "What is God like?"

The more we look, the more we find that He is not exactly like anybody or anything. Whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image out of what God has made. And what He has made is not God. If we insist in trying to imagine Him, we end up with an idol. An idol of the mind is as offensive as an idol made with hands. What difference will it make if we have a wrong concept of God, our Father?

Mark 1:32 tells the story of people who wanted to be healed but who waited for the sunset ending the Sabbath. Their ideas about God prevented them being healed earlier. Jesus and His disciples left the synagogue on the sabbath day and arrived at Peter's home.
The very first thing that Jesus did was to heal Peter's mother-in-law. And that was on the Sabbath. But the people's idea about God was that He wouldn't heal on the Sabbath. So they waited. A wrong concept prevented them receiving God's blessing earlier.

2 Chronicles 15:7 tells the story of King Asa of Judah not relying on Yahweh his Elohim. The seer, Hanani, told king Asa that because he had not trusted in the true God, the army of Israel would escape out of his hand. Why would God abandon them if they turned away from Him? Because they needed to learn a vital lesson - they could not live without Him. Their concept of Him was that they didn't need Him. It could have been a fatal mistake.

But as the story progresses we see that eventually they understood the other side of the coin. The Lord is with you as long as you are with Him. If you look for Him, He will let you find Him.

The people of Judah learnt a vital lesson. When we are left to ourselves, we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a god we can to some extent control.

Isaiah 40:18-19 asks this question: "To whom then can God be compared? How can you describe what He is like? He is not like an idol that workmen make, that metalworkers cover with gold and set in a base of silver. Do you not hear? Were you not told long ago?" Has it not been told to you from the beginning? That is verse 21 of that chapter. There it is! "Were you not told long ago?"

How can we know what God is like? Not by human imaginings, - only by revelation. The seeker of old cried out, "Can you find out the perfection of Him Who Suffices? These are loftier than the heavens; what can you contrive? Deeper than the Unseen, what can you know?" (Job 11:7-8).

The answer to that question is found in John 1:18: "God no-one has ever seen. The only begotten God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He enfolds Him."

Jesus Himself said, "... And no one is recognizing the Son except the Father; and neither is anyone recognizing the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son should be intending to unveil Him" (Matthew 11:27). An important Scripture is in Colossians 1:15: "[Christ] is the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn of every creature". In Hebrews 1:2 we read, "In the last of these days God speaks to us in a Son, Whom He appoints enjoyer of the allotment of all, ..."

So not only is Jesus Christ the revelation of God, He speaks the revelation of God. He is the Image and Word of God.

If we want to know what God is like, then we need to look at Jesus in His life and listen to Jesus in His Word. So the life and teaching of Jesus is vital to our understanding. John 4:24 tells us, "God is spirit: and those who are worshipping Him must be worshipping in spirit and truth."

For humans, reality is what we can see, touch, taste and smell. We are the "now" generation who are willing to sacrifice eternal and spiritual values for temporal and material possessions. When we hear Christians talking about having their needs supplied by the Lord, it is usually physical and material needs. How rarely do we become concerned about spiritual needs! Do we look at someone who has a lovely home, a fleet of cars, a swimming pool, a yacht etc. and say, "Just look at how God has blessed you!"? No, we say, "You've done well for yourself!" It is easy for us not to worship golden idols, but if we are not careful, we can start to worship our possessions, instead of God, Who must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

Another way that God is different to us is that we are limited by time. John 1:1 in the William Barclay translation reads, "When the world began, the Word was already there." God is independent of time and space.

Psalm 90:2 (which is a prayer of Moses): "Ere the mountains were born, And you travailed with the earth and the habitance, from eon unto eon You are El."

What difference does it make to us that God has no beginning, no end? He created time and He is beyond time. What are the practical implications of this truth? God knows our tomorrows as well as He knows our todays. He will not be caught by surprise tomorrow. Many of us have problems with the idea of God listening to the prayers of millions of people all at the same moment. Our problem is with those words, "at the same moment." But God is not bound by time. At the moment, we are restricted by time. 'so little time, and so much to do', is a frustrating situation.

But this will not always be so. Some day in the future, (you see how difficult it is to say it accurately?) we shall experience everlasting life. There is coming a time when those who have been born of God through Jesus Christ will experience eternity.

So God is spirit, and is unlimited by time and space. He is also infinite in knowledge. Hebrews 4: 13, "And there is not a creature which is not apparent in its sight. Now all is naked and bare to the eyes of Him to Whom we are accountable." This means that he has not, need not, indeed cannot, learn anything new. He has never discovered anything and has never been amazed or taken by surprise.

Since He is also changeless, His perfect knowledge will not fail and since He is infinite He has no limitations.

Applied to us, this means that He knows us better than we know ourselves. What is the implication of this fact?

Because He perfectly knows us, nothing out of the past can change His mind about us, for He knew our past, when He saved us. Nothing in the present can threaten us, for He knew our needs fully when He saved us, and made full provision for them.

Because He perfectly knows us, nothing in the future can undo His work, for not only does He know the future, He is eternal and therefore He controls the future. It holds no mysteries for Him. Paul told the Romans, at chapter 8, verses 38-39, "For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor messengers, nor sovereignties, nor the present, nor what is impending, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord."

So God is spirit, unlimited by time and space, or in knowledge. God is also unlimited in power. He is omnipotent. He has unlimited resources of power and is unlimited in His exercise of it. It seemed that when Christ was crucified, Satan had won a victory. But God had accomplished His will mightily. This truth means that there is no work that God undertakes that He cannot fulfill.

Paul wrote in Philippians 1: 6, "... having this same confidence, that He Who undertakes a good work among you, will be performing it until the day of Jesus Christ: ..." Something similar is in Hebrews 7:25. "Whence, also, He is able to save to the uttermost those coming to God through Him, always being alive to be pleading for their sake."

God never grows tired of helping His people.

So God is spirit, unlimited by time and space, in knowledge and power or strength. He understands exactly the right moment to interpose His help. Isaiah 40:31 in the KJV reads: "They who wait upon the Lord, [in other words, those who will take a good long look at Him and know Him] shall renew their strength." They shall exchange their weakness for God's strength. The verse in Isaiah continues, "They will shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint."

One eagle was observed flying at 25,000 feet off mount Everest. Even now, we don't completely understand how eagles fly with such marvellous ease, grandeur and grace. The eagle appears to be free from the pull of gravity, but it is not so. Gravity is exerting a constant downward pull upon the bird, but there is a greater force opposing gravity.

So with us. With an accurate understanding of what God is like, we shall not be free from the pull downwards of this world, but we shall find there is a greater spiritual force that opposes it. With the result that this gravity is counteracted and we soar with God in the heavenlies.

Peter and John, in the third chapter of Acts, went into the sanctuary at the hour of prayer. They healed a lame man and spoke with boldness. They had a clear understanding of what God is like, and were filled with confidence.

Acts 4:31 describes what happened when they they returned to their brethren. They had finished praying, and the place where they were meeting was shaken. They were all filled with holy spirit and began to proclaim God's message with boldness.

Isaiah 40:28-31 is worth repeating, this time in the Concordant Literal Version,

"Do you not know? Or do you not hear? The Elohim eonian is Yahweh, Creator of the ends of the earth, He does not faint, Nor is He wearied. There is no fathoming of His understanding.
He is giving vigour to the faint, And to the one who is without virility He is increasing staunchness.
Youths may faint and be wearied, And choice young men may stumble, yet those who are expectant in Yahweh, They shall rejuvenate with vigour. They shall ascend on pinions like vultures; They shall run and not be wearied, They shall walk and not faint."

This is what God is like. Thanks be to God!

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© James Johnson

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