Having had a bit of a break from blogging I am embarking on a new series based on the character of God. This is the first instalment and I have Called it “Indescribable” which is not a word I use very often. The dictionary says that something indescribable is extreme, intense and beyond words. The best example I can come up with is the view from a high mountain which no matter how hard I try is never fully captured on camera. There is something about such a view which words struggle to do justice to!
When we try to describe God I think we often just don’t know where to start. Would we describe Him as holy, awesome, faithful, loving, wise, all powerful, forgiving, just , all knowing, ever present? The answer is yes to all but even that only begins to scratch the surface of the matter!
Creation speaks of God’s Glory
Paul in Romans 1:18-19 says that what is known about God is plain because God has made it plain to us. In the very next verse Paul makes it clear that Creation plainly shows us God’s power and divinity. Furthermore he says that it leaves us without excuse.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.Romans 1:20
God’s invisible qualities are extraordinary but according to Paul they are clear to all. Yet the sad truth is that humanity, although we knew God, we “neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (v21) and we “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (v25). Creation speaks volumes about its creator: His eternal power and divine nature are seen and understood from what is made. David also speaks about this in Psalm 19 as he claims that creation pours forth speech declaring the glory of God:
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.Psalm 19:1-4a
It really matters that God is supreme and that the glory of God is clear from the world around us. If God be God, then what have we to fear? An understanding of the character of God (even when we cannot get our heads around Him), transforms our perspective on life. It makes a difference to our times of loss, struggle and suffering. It makes a difference to where we place our trust and our hope. It makes a difference to what we do with our time, our money and our energy.
Supremacy over all creation
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he includes what is likely to have been an early hymn. It is about the supremacy of God the Son over ALL creation and the Church. Its about the sufficiency of Christ in who He is (being fully God) and in His work on the Cross (reconciling us to Himself).
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.Colossians 1:15-16
Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn over all creation. In Him, through Him and for Him all things have been created. He is not only before all things but in Him all things hold together. Christ has supremacy in absolutely everything.
In Psalm 8 David writes about his observations as he stared up at the stars on those dark nights caring for his sheep. He presents us with a contrast: namely that our majestic, all powerful, creative God wants to know us. “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (v4). How extraordinary that our indescribable God wants to have a relationship with people like us. Moreover David says that God made us a little lower than the angels, He crowned us with glory and honour, He made us rulers over all that He had made. We find our sense of meaning in relation to the God who made us.
Trying to describe the Indescribable
When Moses encountered God at the burning bush (Exodus 3) God asked Moses to go to Egypt and ask Pharaoh to set his people free. Moses responded with a series of excuses. One of those was what if Pharaoh asks who God is. God responds as follows:
14 God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’15 God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.” ‘This is my name for ever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.Exodus 3:15-16
God’s response in really fascinating. How does Almighty God define Himself? He describes Himself as “I am who I am” (or I will be what I will be). If God is the source of all things that He cannot be defined in relation to anything else or He would not be God. We see this also in the things that the Bible says about God. Here are a few examples:
“God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16): How do we know what love is? 1 John 3:16 says “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Were it not for God we would not know what true love really is. God is the source and definition of love.
“God is Holy” (Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2): God called His people to be holy (set apart) because He is holy. We understand what it means to be holy because of what we know about God. He gives meaning to our pursuit of holiness.
“God is Hope” (Romans 15:13): Likewise God is described as the God of hope: He is the source and gives meaning to our hope for the future.
Thinking about Jesus we could go even further on this in seeing that Jesus says I am…the bread of life (John 6), the light of the world (John 8 & 9) the gate (John 10), the good shepherd (John 10), the resurrection and the life (John 11), the way, the truth and the life (John 14) and the true vine (John 15). These are quite some titles which again help us bring substance to a God who is simply indescribable. All of these words and titles have meaning because of God. He is their source and very definition. They also help us to grapple with how to begin to understand a God who is indescribable.
Seeking & worshipping the True God
Knowing the God who made us changes everything. While in one sense God is indescribable, our lack of words leads us to a place of worship and adoration. He is great and most worthy of our praise. We are not meant to be able to get our heads around God – that is what makes Him God! Paul says that he does not live in man-made temples or need to be served by human hands as if He needed anything. “Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24-25). God has been involved with His people throughout history because He wants us to seek Him and reach out for Him…he is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:26-27). The fact that God is indescribable should motivate us to be seekers of God. There is so much to be known of Him. My aim in these next few blogs is to begin to scratch the surface of how great our God really is.
Other Posts in this series