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Who is this God?

May 4, 2007

Over the last few months I have spent a lot of time looking at God’s character. I have wrestled with tough questions about who he is, how he shows himself, and what his perspectives are. Growing up as a pastor’s daughter and being a part of a Christian church since the day I was born there were many beliefs and understandings that I have never challenged or questioned before. I have made many assumptions and blindly accepted things. I have listened as pastors and teachers have given me the good “church” answers and rarely questioned if what they said was right or real. Since my father was also the pastor and my youth group leader questioning what I was being taught would have probably caused me a significant crisis in my faith and life.

So, now that I am older, can admit that I don’t know everything, and have a little more experience in questioning and seeking answers on my own I have grappled with who God is, why I believe, what I believe, what those beliefs mean for me, and what parts I really struggle with. Growing up in the church I was given descriptions of God that might work inside the church, but do not work as I talk to those who do not know God. It is like trying to describe color to someone who is blind, or flavor to someone who does not have a sense of taste.

Who is God: a spirit, the creator, the Alpha and Omega, Prince, King, the Father, our friend, the beginning, the end, the Trinity, Yahweh, Lord, the Messiah, a shepherd, the light, the leader, almighty, everlasting, unchanging, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, healer, sanctifier, redeemer, holy, faithful…..and the list goes on.

My question is what does all of that mean? They are great words, but when I say them/write them do I know what they mean? Do they mean the same thing to someone else? Do they mean anything at all?

I think the more important thing to learn is what God is like, what his character is like. A man at my home group this week described God in the Old Testament as angry, wrathful, harsh, and mean. Someone else said they do not see God as having that character, but instead saw him as loving, patient, and forgiving. The Bible tells a story of a God who created a world and made people to dwell on it. It is the story of God wanting relationship with those people and wanting the very best for them. Again and again he encourages his people, gives them blessings, and tries to teach them the choices to make that lead to the very best life possible. Although there have been a few people who really pursued God’s heart, each of them made huge mistakes along that path and yet God loved them incredibly. People as a whole have turned away from God again and again, yet God’s character has been to remain faithful to seek to have relationship with them (us). He is willing to do just about anything to win us over. He does seem to be loving, patient, kind, generous, patient, and forgiving when we see the story in that way.

There are elements of God’s character that I still am grappling with though. They don’t keep me from relationship with him, but they do cause me confusion. Here are just a few examples.
• God cares so much about those he hasn’t met that he is willing to go after them until he wins the heart of just one that is lost. That is incredible!…but does he have to leave those who are under his care to do it? Does he leave them in the open and unprotected where they could face attack? Does that result in some who were found being lost? (Luke 15:1-7)
• Is God unfair? In Matthew 20:1-16 the manager treats each of the people in exactly the same way. My pastor taught on this passage a few months ago saying God was unfair. I can’t see his perspective. Likely I misunderstood the sermon! We don’t get what we deserve, but we get exactly what God wants to give us and he treats each of us equally. How incredibly fair! He offers relationship and whether we accept it now or on our deathbed the offer is the same. Not one of us deserves that gift.
• Does God change his mind? Malachi 3:6 says “For I am the Lord; I change not”, yet in Hosea 11:8b he says, “My heart is changed within me.” In Genesis 1:26 God creates man, but by Genesis 6:5-7 he seems to grieve about that choice and no longer want us. He tells Jonah that he will destroy Ninevah (Jonah 3:4) but he doesn’t because the city changes from their evil ways (verse 10).

Have you ever struggled to understand or get to know another person? We are supposed to be made in God’s image. If we are complex and difficult to understand, how much more so complex and difficult is God?

I don’t have answers about who God is, but I am willing to ask that question, accept the things I can easily see, and grapple with the things that are harder. Are you willing to take a look at God? Are you willing to not just accept those answers you have been given by someone else, but ask the questions yourself? What aspects of God’s character confuse you? There is an amazing journey we can take in trying to know and understand this complex, difficult, loving, forgiving, friend, leader, creator, eternal……God! I am thankful he lets us do it together.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 6, 2007 5:47 pm

    Good questions!! When studying scripture and trying to understand God I enter with the assumption if things in scripture seem to contradict, then I don’t understand something or don’t get the whole picture. Sure you heard that one before and think it bears repeating. As you say in your post, understanding Him is tough, the finite trying to grasp the infinite. I firmly believe what we do grasp is truly grace in action by Him revealing Himself to us – allowing us to understand.

    The verse in Hosea, 11:8 is really interesting when you dig into it.

    When looking at the King James it reads a bit different. It reads “mine heart is turned within me”

    Also looked at the Geneva 1599 Study Bible (modern english) and I’ll include the notes the Reformers placed in this study bible:

    11:8 (f) How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? [how] shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as (g) Admah? [how] shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, (h) my repentings are kindled together.

    (f) God considers with himself, and that with a certain grief, how to punish them.
    (g) Which were two of the cities that were destroyed with Sodom; (Deuteronomy 29:23).
    (h) Meaning that his love with which he first loved them positioned him between doubt and assurance in terms of what to do: and in this appears his Fatherly affection, that his mercy toward his own will overcome his judgments, as he declares in the next verse.

    11:9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I [am] God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not (i) enter into the city.

    (i) To consume you, but will cause you to yield, and so have mercy on you: and this is meant of the final number who will walk after the Lord.

    At first reading of the King James and 1599 Geneva Bible to me I take it that the Lord is struggling with how to act and acting on the side of compassion rather than as we would (verse 9).

    Not something we typically think of being a characteristic of the Lord…….

    Thanks for pointing me to this scripture. That’s really cool…

    One thing I think about often is when Jesus came to Earth, there were different expectations of the Messiah-Savior from scripture. I bet there were some pretty conflicted teachers of the scripture in those times.

    Just a few seemingly contradiction they faced: How could a Mighty God, Counselor on which the government rests suffer the horror of the cross described in Psalms.

    Mighty God born in a place for animals?

    Sure you can think of many more. We just don’t get it so much of the time….

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