The One True God - Part 6

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  April 4, 2004
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Well, we're studying the one true God. We're looking, as we've begun, at what's called theology proper. That is, the study of God Himself. When you're confronted with the existence of God, everyone from the child to the philosopher immediately has one question. What is that one question? What is He like? What is God like? That's not an easy question to answer. Because the answer is, God isn't exactly like anything.

You see, every other thing in the universe fits into a category. For example, if you've never seen a Golden Retriever, but I tell you that a Golden Retriever fits into the category of a dog, then you immediately begin to picture some of the things that are true. You understand some things that are true about a Golden Retriever even though you've never seen one, because you understand the category. If I tell you that there is a Japanese maple growing in my backyard, you may at first wonder what that is. But if I say to you, it's a tree, then because you understand the category of tree you can now begin to understand something about the nature of the Japanese maple that I have in my backyard. This is how we learn. We associate what we don't know with things that we do know and we gain information about them.

But when we come to God it doesn't work that way because everything else fits into a category with other things that are like it, but God does not. He doesn't fit into a category. He is a category. He's utterly unique. He says, in Isaiah 46:5, "'To whom would you liken Me and make Me his equal and compare Me, that we would be alike?'" God isn't exactly like anything that we know or anything we have ever experienced. We come face to face with this problem when the writers of Scripture attempt to describe God and those things that are outside of our world.

One of my favorite illustrations of this, I want you to turn there, is Ezekiel. Being a preacher and a writer, to some extent, I always smile when I face Ezekiel 1. Because here is Ezekiel and he has this amazing vision of the glory of God. Ezekiel saw something that we all wish we could see, but to get us to understand he has to use things that we already know. And so when you come to this chapter you see Ezekiel straining to somehow get across to us what it is he actually saw.

I won't take time to go through this in detail, but let me just show you this. Ezekiel 1:4, he says, "As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like a glowing metal in the midst of a fire." Already he's having to resort to light. Well, it's kind of like this, it's kind of "like a glowing metal in the midst of the fire" and then "there were these figures," and well, these "figures resembled four living beings, that was their appearance: they had a human form." But well, wait a minute, they didn't have completely human form, "they had four faces and they had four wings." And "their feet were like calf's hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze."

Do you get the feeling that Ezekiel is stretching with every minute fiber of his mind to say well, here's what I saw, but it's not like anything you've ever seen before, and so I've got to somehow use all of these images of like and resemble to get you to understand. It goes on like that. You get down to verse 14, "the living beings ran to and fro," well, it was kind of "like bolts of lightning," if you could picture that. "And now as I looked at the living beings, behold, there was one wheel on the earth beside the living beings, for each of the four of them." Okay, you want to what they were like? Well, "the appearance of the wheels," they were kind of "like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form," and it was "as if one wheel were within another."

If you had a dime or a dollar for every time he says like or as or resemble, you could go get dinner tonight, because he's absolutely struggling to communicate what he's seeing. What he is seeing, by the way, and if we had time to go through this chapter, is an amazing revelation. It is God's great chariot. It is God's great war machine, if you will, marching in judgment because of what's happened in the nations to whom this is being revealed. It's picture, you know these wheels within wheels, you've all heard the spiritual, this is the great movement of God's war chariot, if you will. And then eventually you get to God Himself, verse 22,

Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads. Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight.

"And then I heard the sound of their wings," and well, it was "like the sound of abundant waters," "like the voice of the Almighty, a sound a tumult like the sound of an army camp," you get the idea. And then he gets to God Himself, verse 26,

Now above the expanse there were over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was radiance around Him.

Verse 28, "As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking." You see, the problem is when you come to God, He isn't exactly like anything, so the prophet has to resort to use words such as like, as, form, resembling, appearance, something like. This issue is what theologians call the incomprehensibility of God.

Now, don't go to sleep on this one, this is actually going to be very exciting as you understand this truth about God. What are we talking about when we talk about God's incomprehensibility? We're talking about basically this, here's a definition for you, God infinitely surpasses what any of His creatures can ever perceive Him to be. We're talking about the magnitude and greatness of our God. No finite mind can grasp the infinite. Augustan put it this way, he said, "We are speaking of God, is it any wonder that you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend Him, He cannot be God! Let it be a pious confession of great ignorance rather than a rash profession of knowledge; to have a very slight knowledge of God is a great blessing. To comprehend Him is altogether impossible." That's what we're saying.

Now, when we use the term incomprehensible, we do not mean that God is unable to be understood at all. What we're saying is, God is unable to be fully understood. There is no way that you and I can grasp the reality of who God is. There is a little book that I would highly recommend to you if you haven't already read it, and most of you probably have, it's A. W. Tozer's book, The Knowledge of the Holy. When he deals with this issue of God's incomprehensibility, he writes this, "If all this sounds strange to modern ears, it is only because we have, for a full half century, taken God for granted. The glory of God has not been revealed to this generation of men. The God of contemporary Christianity is only slightly superior to the gods of Greece and Rome, if indeed He is not actually inferior to them, in that He is weak and helpless while they at least had power." We're talking about the infinity, the magnitude, the incomprehensibility of God; the fact that He is God and we aren't.

Let me give you the scriptural support for this truth about the nature of God, that He is incomprehensible to our minds. That is, we can never fully understand God. Let's look at a number of passages. Let's start with the general verses that make this point for us. Let's turn first to Job, Job 26. We're going to turn several times tonight to Job. At some point we'll do a snapshot of this book and we'll do a one message flow from beginning to end, but tonight we're just going to look at several passages.

Job 26:14, Job at this point is rebuking Bildad, one of his terrible counsellors, and he says this to him, he describes all of these truths about God, you'll notice verse 7, "'God stretches out the north over empty space, He hangs the earth on nothing.'" There's one of those famous verses that supports the reality of what we see and, of course, we would expect that from God since He did it. "'He wraps up the waters in the clouds and the cloud does not burst under them.'" All of these amazing things God does. And then notice verse 14, when you've done all of that, when you've said all of that, "'Behold, these are the fringes of His ways.'" I love that expression, the fringes, the borders, the outskirts, the boundaries of the ways of God.

That Hebrew word translated way, is one of the most familiar words in the Old Testament. It describes the rut that a wagon wheel cuts as it runs over the same path day after day. And so it came to speak of predictable patterns of behavior, because your ways are the ruts you make, as it were, as you do the same things time after time. And so it came to speak of habits, it came to speak of lifestyle, it came to speak of predictable patterns of behavior. When Job finishes describing this greatness of God's creation, he says, but, you know what? We're just at the borders of the predictable patterns of the behavior of our God. We haven't even begun to touch the heart of it. And I love that next expression, he says, "'and how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?'"

I grew up in Mobile, Alabama. Every summer afternoon about two o'clock to three o'clock, some of you have lived there you'll know what I mean, a thunderstorm came off of the Gulf of Mexico and invaded our world. And everything stopped for a few moments as you sort of found cover and sometimes the lightning and the thunder were fierce. We've been now 16 years in California, my family has; my girls have grown up with almost no thunderstorms. They're in for a reacquaintance over the next few months and years, and that's good. But that's the illustration Job is using here; he's saying, you know how when there's a thunderstorm and you see the lightning, and then a number of seconds go by and you hear the faint sound of distant thunder. You know that wherever they are, wherever that thunder is actually breaking, it is louder than ears, human ears, can understand or bear. But for you it's almost a whisper, because it's such a distance.

That's what Job is saying; he's saying that from such a distance the thunder of God's power reaches us in merely a faint whisper. Oh, it's thunder, and if we were where He is and we could understand and see it, it would absolutely rock our world. But we catch it as just a faint whisper from the horizon. God cannot be comprehended, He cannot be put in a box. God, what we know of Him, are merely the fringes of His ways. God is thunder, but all we hear of Him is a faint whisper.

The next passage I'd like for us to look at is Isaiah, Isaiah 55:8-9, one of the great salvation passages in a book that's about salvation. Isaiah is really the gospel in the Old Testament, clear and direct form. He begins with an invitation to the gospel, "'Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat.'" In other words, it doesn't cost you anything, "'Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.'" In other words, it's given in grace.

"Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
Incline your ear and come."

God's going to make a promise to you out of His mercy.

Verse 6,

"Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way.
[And then he goes into repentance.]
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

What an amazing reality. Your first thought may be, well, wait a minute, God's going to do that? And God responds this way in verse 8,

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts."

God is saying that His ways, that is, His patterns of acting, and the thoughts that He has about how things should be done, are as far removed from us as the heavens are from the Earth. God wants us to know that we cannot get our arms around or comprehend the way He thinks and the way He chooses to act.

Look at 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 2. We've come back to this passage on several occasions because it's so rich with the truths that we've been looking at. But I want you to see something that's a little different tonight. Turn again to 1 Corinthians 2:10. He begins, of course, there in verse 8,

the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age understood; for if they had understood they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written,

"Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him"

That's where most people stop. When I was growing up that's how that verse was quoted. You can't even begin to imagine what God has prepared. But read the next line, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit." We have them right here in the Word of God.

But then he says this, "for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God." And then he uses an analogy, to us. He says, "For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" You understand that. Nobody really knows what you're thinking, but you do. Your own immaterial soul understands what you're thinking, can plumb the depths of what you have come to understand. Well, he says it's the same way with God. "Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God." No one knows except the Spirit of God. No one can fully comprehend God and who He is and all of His thoughts except the Spirit of God. Verse 12, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things." Everything about God? No, instead, "we may know the things freely given to us by God." In other words, the Spirit knows everything, into the depths of the being and character of God, and the Spirit of God has revealed to us what He wants us to know about the person and character of God, "the things freely given to us."

And he goes on to say in verse 13, "which things we also speak." So what the Spirit has taught, what the Spirit has taken from the depths of God that He wanted to know, and He's given to us, that's what we speak, "not in words taught by human wisdom," but even the words we use are, "taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual words with spiritual thoughts." That affirms the inspiration of Scripture, the words themselves are the words God intended to communicate about Himself. Only the Spirit knows the depths of God. Look at 1 Timothy 6, 1 Timothy 6, Paul, as he so often does, breaks into doxology; he just can't help himself. He's talking about charging Timothy, verse 13,

in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Jesus Christ, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, [guard the treasure that's been given to you] which He will bring about at the proper time – He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality [and watch this next expression] and dwells in unapproachable light whom no man has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion.

"Unapproachable," man has never seen, nor can see God in the fullness of His Glory. The illustration is a brilliant blinding light. Of course, the closest we come on Earth is the sun. We can't generate the kind of luminescence that the sun presents us with every day, but that doesn't even really capture it.

As I thought about this I thought about my own physical situation. As some of you know, I have, and have had for 20 plus years, glaucoma. And I have to go regularly to the eye doctor and get things checked; I've had a number of surgeries to my eyes. I've had I think 50 laser shots to my left eye and 100 to my right eye, and I had physical, actual knife surgery to my right eye to relieve some of the pressure that was there. And there's been a significant amount of damage so I have to go periodically and have all of this checked. And some of you go to the eye doctor and you have the same thing done, you go in the chair and he does what's called dilate your pupils.

And of course you're sitting in the lobby wasting time wanting to read since there's nothing else you can really do in a doctor's office, but it doesn't take long before, as your eyes dilate, you're having to hold it sort of out here. And pretty soon you're having to ask the person sitting next to you to hold it so you can read the words on the page. And then you go back in, he checks your eyes, and then just as you leave the doctor's office, what do they say? Use your sunglasses or here are these fashionable flexible sunglasses you can use. And so you put them around your eyes and you walk out into the sunlight and with the sunglasses on the light is so bright that you can't do anything but squint immediately.

Paul says, God dwells not in that light, but light like we can't even imagine, blazing "unapproachable light," "no man has seen Him or can see" Him. The idea is that what is true about God, the fullness of His glory, we will never be able to see. Finite man cannot comprehend the complete full glory of God.

Now, with that in mind let's look at some specific attributes, or maybe a better word would be categories, in which this is stated. First of all, God's being and His nature. Turn back to Job again. We looked first at sort of some general passages about the incomprehensibility of God. But let me show you how it comes into specific categories. Job 11:7, this is another one of Job's terrible counsellors, a man by the name of Zophar. Much of his advice is not worth following, when he gets to the advice side. His lectures are often okay and acceptable. He gives, as most of these men do, they give a lecture and a lot of the content of their lecture is acceptable theology, but then when they get to applying it to Job's situation they're considerably off base. There are some other problems throughout, we'll look at that at some point, but here Zophar says something that is absolutely accurate about God, and we'll see it from some other passages.

Verse 7, he says, Job, you know, you're talking about God not treating you fairly here in what you're enduring. You want to get with God, you want to confront Him, you want to plead your case with God. Job, "'Can you discover the depths of God?'" That's a question, obviously it's a rhetorical question. It calls for a no answer, absolutely not; you can't. "'Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?'"

You see, the nature of Hebrew poetry is what's called parallelism. In our poetry we have a rhyme at the end of each line, that's our poetry. You know, Roses are red, violets are blue, your feet are too big and boy they smell too. You know, there's that rhyme at the end of the line. In Hebrew poetry that's not how it's constructed. Instead it's constructed on the basis of what's called parallelism, where there's one line and then there's a second line that somehow relates to the first line. Sometimes it's called synonymous parallelism. That is, it's absolutely synonymous with the first line, it's just saying it in a different way. Other times it's what's called antithetical parallelism. That is, it's the opposite of what the first line says. You see that a lot in the Proverbs, but you see it in other poetry as well.

Here you have synonymous poetry, synonymous parallelism in this poetry. The two lines mean exactly the same thing, said from a different standpoint.

"Can you discover the depths of God?
Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?
They are as high as the heavens, what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?"

The point is, you can't. He's talking here about the being of God. You can't set a limit, you can't go to the outer edge of God and mark the ending spot.

The same point is made in Psalm 145, 145:3, David begins by extolling God. He says,

I'll bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.

That is, what's true about You. When you read in the Old Testament "Your name," that's shorthand for "what's true about You," for "Your character." And then he begins to recite the character of God. He starts in verse 3 with this, "Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, His greatness is unsearchable." You can dive as far as you want to dive down to find the end of God's greatness and you'll never make it; you'll have to come up for air. It's unsearchable. It can't be found. You can never fully comprehend the being of God.

We find it's also true about His understanding. Flip over to the next page there, Psalm 147:5. He says, "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite." His ability to discern, His wisdom might be another word for it here; it's synonymous in many ways with the word wisdom. "His understanding is infinite." There are no boundaries. There's no end.

His knowledge, back a few pages to Psalm 139, and we will look in detail in the coming weeks at God's omniscience, but here it's set forth in the first six verses. After he goes through and recites all that God knows, "You know when I sit down," "You know when I rise up," "You understand my thought" before I ever think it, "You scrutinize my path and my lying down," "You are intimately acquainted with all of my predictable patterns of behavior." "Even before there is a word on my tongue," "You know it." Verse 6, he says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it." He's talking about the knowledge of God and he says it's beyond what I could ever imagine; I can't begin to comprehend it. By the way, when you consider and think about the omniscience of God, that God knows everything like this, one of two things happens. Either you respond like verse 6 in praise and wonder or you respond like verse 7 and you consider where to flee.

We're also told in the Scripture that God is incomprehensible in His councils, plans, and decisions. Turn to Romans 11, one of the greatest doxologies in all of Scripture. Romans 11:33, Paul reaches the end of what he's described about man's sin and man's sinfulness, and then he comes to salvation and the glorious truth of justification by faith alone. Then he comes into how God takes that justified man and sanctifies him and makes him all that God wants him to be. Then he comes to the issue of election and he comes to the issue of God's sovereign purposes for the nation of Israel in chapter 11.

And when he comes to the end of all of that he says this in verse 33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" You can't trace His judgments and you can't get down to the bottom of His ways.

For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be repaid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever.

He is the source of all things, He is the maintainer of all things, and He is the end of all things. God's counsels, His plans, His decisions, that's what Paul is wrapping up in this package. As you think about all that God has done and revealed in the book of Romans, he just breaks out, and who can understand the mind of God? "How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable." You understand that word? You can't fathom it. It's a marine term, you can't get that deep.

Essentially, God's incomprehensibility means that two things are true, we can never fully understand God and two, we can never fully understand a single thing that's true about God. Let me say that again, the reality that God is incomprehensible means that we can never fully understand God. We can never get our arms around all that's God. Our minds will never grasp the reality of all that He is, but more than that, our minds can never truly plumb the depths of a single thing that is true about God. God is infinite, so that means that each of His attributes is infinite. So we can never fully understand any one of them. And also, because He's infinite that means, listen to this, God has attributes that we don't know anything about and never will because we will never be infinite.

It means that we will never stop learning about God, in this life or in the life to come. We will spend all eternity learning more about our God and never exhaust the depths of His person. Oh, we can know something about God's wisdom. We can know something about God's power, about His goodness and His grace. But we will never, we can never, know everything about those attributes of our great God.

But there's good news. Lloyd Jones puts it this way, "God in His eternal and absolute being is incomprehensible. Yet we see that though God is finally incomprehensible, He is nevertheless knowable. He cannot be comprehended, but thank God He can be known." How? Because He's chosen to reveal Himself. That's the amazing truth. God, though He is incomprehensible, our minds can never fully grasp all that He is, He has chosen to reveal certain things about Himself to us.

And this revelation of Himself is necessary. For us to know God He must reveal Himself. Look at Matthew 11, Matthew 11:27. Christ says, "'All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son,'" in this comprehensive way we're talking about, "'except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.'" Ultimately God has to reveal Himself and Christ has chosen to do that to those who are His own.

This revelation of God that we have in the Scripture, this self-revelation where this incomprehensible being has revealed certain things about Himself, that revelation is truthful. What do I mean by that? In other words, what God reveals about Himself in Scripture is true. You see, God is not so incomprehensible that the information He gives us doesn't at all correspond to the real way He is. We can understand some things about God.

But because God knows everything infinitely and perfectly, our knowledge of God is not at any point identical to His own knowledge of Himself. Let me say that again. Because God's knowledge of Himself is infinite and perfect, we can know things about God but we can never know God in exactly the way God knows God, because we suffer from three problems. We suffer from finiteness. We are not infinite. We are not beyond measure. We are finite. Secondly, we are creatures made by God. Think about something you've made. Can anything you have made comprehend the complexity that is you? Neither can we as creatures comprehend the complexity of our Creator. And our third problem is our sinful nature. You put those three problems together and we will never be able to understand God like God knows God. We will never understand anything to the same degree or in the same way that God does.

In fact, with Christ's return, listen carefully to this, with Christ's return only one of those three problems changes, doesn't it? We're still finite. We're still creatures. We just will no longer be sinful. And so our ability to comprehend God will improve, but it will never be to get our arms around the entire being of God, not going to happen. You say, well, what about 1 Corinthians 13:12? I mean it says, "we will know even as we are known." Doesn't that mean that we're going to know God like He knows us? Well, what that passage is saying is that there are similarities between our knowledge of God and His knowledge of Himself, but it will never be perfect. Our knowledge of God is not or ever will be identical with God's knowledge of God.

Let me give you an illustration. Most of you have more mirrors in your home than you wish you had as you age. And those mirrors are fairly accurate. They are now glass with a reflective coating, aluminum of some kind on the backside of that glass, that gives you that reflected appearance. But older mirrors used to be made out of different materials. Some of you have seen them. Some of you may have some in your home. Mirrors were made out of polished metal often. That polished metal was never a perfect reflection. It was never a perfect image.

And even your mirror today isn't a perfect reflection of who you are. Most of you are three dimensional and that means the image you see in the mirror is not an accurate reflection. However, what you see corresponds to but is never exactly the same as the reality. The same thing is true of God. Think of the human mind as a kind of mirror. Your mind is a mirror. It receives data, information about God, and what it reflects is similar to the image of God, it corresponds to the image of God, but it is never a perfect absolute carbon copy of what is true about God.

The image is more or less consistent with the original, but the more sinful and darkened the mind, the more distorted the reflected image is. That's why in Romans 1 Paul says, look around you, God has revealed Himself, He's revealed His greatness and His power and His eternal Godhead. So why don't people get it? Is it what God has revealed? No. It is that the mind operating as a mirror is distorted. Like those mirrors, you go into the little haunted houses and you see yourself and they distort the image, man's perverted mind distorts the image of God. Alan Cairns writes, "When men come to know Christ, who is the truth, they received an objective knowledge, a grasp of truth, which though far short of God's understanding, both in quality and quantity, is real because it is a genuine reflection of God's knowledge." What you know about God is genuine, it's real, but it is a reflection, an imperfect reflection, of the reality of who God is.

Finally, this revelation of God is limited. What God has revealed to us about Himself is infinitesimal compared to what could be known about God. Let me give you an illustration. Imagine for a moment that you draw a rectangle and your rectangle is the size of our solar system. Picture a huge rectangle. And then you take a pen and you go somewhere within the confines of the lines you've drawn, the size of our solar system, and you take a pen and you make a small dot. But then imagine for a moment that your rectangle, instead of being flat, is a million miles deep and that little dot that you made is one millionth of a millimeter thick. That huge cube, that rectangle you made, deepened by a million miles, is the person of God and that tiny little dot that you put on the face of that cube represents what we can know about God. You see, as God knows, imagine throughout that cube there are billions of intersecting lines connecting all that God knows to everything else that God knows and there we are on the surface with our little dot, that little isolated dot of human knowledge. We are absolutely ignorant of the infinite connections that unite all that God knows with the rest of what He knows.

So how does God, who is incomprehensible, help us understand what He's like? Well, the writers of Scripture used two tools to help us comprehend God. One of those is called anthropomorphism. Don't be scared by the word, anthropos is the word for man, morph is a word for form, and so it's the form of a man. Basically, anthropomorphism is this, a figure of speech whereby Scripture attributes human characteristics to God to enable us to understand an otherwise abstract truth. Let me give you an example, you read through the Scripture and you come to a passage that says "the eye of the Lord is in every place." That's an anthropomorphism. Scripture is attributing a human characteristic to God. Does God the Father, does He have an eye in the sense that we have an eye? No, He's a spirit. We're going to study that our next time together, actually two weeks from now. So He doesn't have an eye. God's eye speaks of His knowledge.

It talks about God's hand. Does God have a hand like you and I have a hand? No, that speaks of God's action. The Scripture speaks of God's heart. Does God have a heart like we do? No, that's a way of speaking of His love. Other passages speak about, and the reformers used to talk about living before, the face of God. Does God have a face? No, He's a spirit, God doesn't have a face. When it speaks of God's face it's speaking of His presence, being in the presence of God.

By the way, some heretics, and I use that word in exactly it's meaning, some heretics interpret these anthropomorphic expressions literally. They give God a literal eye. They give God, in their minds, a literal hand. The Mormons, for example, stray seriously in this way. The only exception to this is when we're talking about the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, because we're told that was a literal human, and is, a human body. It's now a glorified body, but Christ had and has and will always have, a literal body. But He is not confined to that body, as we'll discover when we get to the person of Christ, because God can't be contained.

The other tool that Scripture uses to help us understand God is what's called anthropopathism. You'll notice the word anthropos again, man, and path is the word for feeling or emotion. You know, pathetic is a word that we use in English. It attributes human feelings and emotions to God. It is a figure of speech that uses these human feelings or emotions or passions to God to enable us to understand something that's true about Him. Listen, if the Bible ever attributes any human passion or feeling to God that strictly understood contradicts or conflicts with His absolute perfection, it is speaking anthropopathically.

In other words, let me give you an example. The most famous example in all of Scripture is, on several occasions in Scripture you'll see the expression, God changed His mind or God regretted that He had made man. Now think about that for a moment. God from all eternity ordained everything that would come to pass. So was God surprised when man sinned? Did He suddenly change His frame of reference about man and, like we do, I wish I hadn't done that? No, that is an anthropopathic expression. It is putting human emotions in God so that we can understand something that is really true about God, but it's not exactly the same as what you and I experience.

Let's move, in closing, to what all this means for us. What does it mean to us, to you this week, that God is incomprehensible. How should the knowledge that God is beyond our understanding affect us? Well, let me give you a couple of ways. The first is it should humble us, it should humble us. John Calvin begins his Institutes of the Christian Religion talking about God and he begins his discussion of God with these words, "Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their own insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God." You know, the reason God has revealed His greatness, the fact that He is beyond our mind's ability to comprehend, to grasp, it's to humble us.

The most powerful illustration, it just is something I keep coming back to, is found in the end of the book of Job. You want to see how God counsels? You're not going to get the sympathy you expect. God is sympathetic, but here He speaks to Job in direct terms. Let's look first at Job 38. When all of the counsellors have had their say, the three bad counsellors, and then comes Elihu, whose counsel is actually not bad, in fact God doesn't rebuke Elihu for his counsel at the end of the book, but when he's done, now God speaks.

the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,

"Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
[he's rebuking Job]
Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set it's measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
Or on what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

See what God is doing? He's setting before Job His incomprehensibility in various areas, His power, His creative ability, His sustaining ability, verse 8,

"who closed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out of the womb;
When I made a cloud it's garment
And thick darkness it's swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here your proud waves stop'?
Have you ever in your life commanded the morning?
Have you caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked are shaken out of it?"

What a powerful expression. You know, the wicked delight in darkness and God says, "'Have you ever commanded the morning and it comes and it shakes the wicked out?'" as it were. "'Have you ever done that?'" Verse 18, "'Have you understood the expanse of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all of this.'" God is bringing before Job His incomprehensibility.

Turn to Job 40, God continues, verse 1 He says,

Then the Lord said to Job,

"Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it."

Then Job answered the Lord and said,

"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
Even twice, and I will add nothing more."

It's a good thing because God has more to say, verse 6,

The Lord answered Job out of the storm and said,

"Now gird up your loins like a man;
I will ask you and you instruct Me.
Will you really annul My judgement?
Will you condemn Me that you might be justified?
Or do you have an arm like God,
Can you thunder with a voice like His?
Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity,
And clothe yourself with honor and majesty.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
And look on everyone who is proud, and make him low.
Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him,
Tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them in the dust together;
Bind them in the hidden place.
Then I will also confess to you,
That your own right hand can save you."


And finally, look over at chapter 42, Job gets it. God's done, God said what He wanted to say; 38 thru 41 God just lays that kind of thing out on Job, verse after verse after verse. "Then Job answered the Lord," 42:1, "and said, 'I know that You can do all things,'" he got the message,

"And that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
'Here now and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.'
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes."

You see, God's incomprehensibility should bring us to the place of humility before God. God is God and we're not.

Secondly, it should build trust and confidence in our God, the fact that we cannot understand God. We can't put God in a box. God will not be contained in any picture we make for Him. This church doesn't contain God. You remember, in the dedication of the temple Solomon said, "There's nothing in earth that can contain You, You fill the heavens." God can't be contained. And because of that it allows us to trust Him. It builds confidence and trust in Him. It should cause us to faithfully embrace this very simple theological proposition, there is a God and you are not Him.

God makes this point to the people of Israel through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah. Turn to Isaiah 40, probably one of your favorite chapters, as it is mine. The chapter really engulfs the greatness of God. It presents the greatness of God in terms that are powerful, images that you can never forget. Verse 12, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand?" Who has the oceans of the world in the hollow of His hand? "Who has marked off the heavens by the span, calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, weighed the mountains in a balance, the hills in a pair of scales?" You get the magnitude and greatness of God. "The nation's," verse 15, "are like a drop from a bucket." Can you picture that Hebrew image? It's as if you're at the well and as you're pulling the well up by a rope from the water there's this full bucket and off of the bucket, as you're pulling it up, a single drop falls back into the well; all the nations of the earth are to God like that one small drop falling back in the well.

So verse 18, "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?" But notice when we get to verse 27, here he makes the application of all of these great things and he goes on, it's unbelievable truth about God as you look at verses that we skipped, but look at verse 27, because of all of that he says, "Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?'" Here's where the incomprehensibility of God, the rubber meets the road. Do you look at your life and wonder why God has taken you the path He's taken you? Do you look at what you're going through and are caused to somehow question and doubt God? Israel was, they said, "'My way is hidden from the Lord,'" God doesn't even see, "'And the justice that really is due me escapes the notice of my God.'"

Verse 28,

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Those who wait for the Lord
[The idea is you do everything that's in your responsibility to do and then you wait for God to act.]
Those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;

It's not a very good translation. In one of my first Hebrew classes we researched this word that's translated gain. Literally translated it says this, "they will exchange their strength." You're not going to somehow get a little fresh energy pumped into your strength, you're going to get somebody else's strength. You're going to get God's strength. "They will exchange their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."

Here's the point, God's incomprehensibility, the fact that God cannot be conceived in all that God does and all the power He shows and all the knowledge He has. We can never plumb the depths of all of those things that are true about God. That should cause us to sit back and say, who am I to question God, He knows what He's doing; God is in control. Just like He told Israel through the prophet Isaiah, "He is able, for those who wait on Him, to exchange His strength for theirs." It should build our confidence in our God. Let's pray together.

Father, You know how much our hearts enjoy studying who You are and yet I feel so inadequate to capture even the fringes of Your ways. Lord, I pray that Your truth would bury itself like an arrow in the hearts of Your people that they would be struck with Your greatness, with Your grandeur, Your majesty. But there's no one exactly like You, and that as a result it would humble us, that we would recognize that You are beyond our imagination and that You do what is right and good and wise and we do not.

And then Lord, I pray that it would help us to trust You, to have confidence in You. And Lord it does, it gives us such peace to know that our world is in Your care, that there is not a single stray molecule in this world, in this universe You've made, but that everything is carried out according to Your all wise, all powerful, perfect will.

Lord, I pray as we go through this study that You would enable us to know You. Thank You that You have revealed Yourself. Lord we can never know You as You are, in all of the perfection and infinite perfection that is Your character, and yet Lord we can know truly what is true about You, what You have revealed to us. Help us when we come to the Scriptures Father, to come with hearts eager to learn about You, not looking just for principles, not looking just for little facts that are going to increase our knowledge, but Lord help us to ransack the Scriptures for You. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.