I have began to wonder one of the most scary and nervous thoughts about God I have every seriously contemplated. What if I have ignored some basic characteristic of God that would drastically change my view of Him simply because I was afraid to believe it? Of course God is naturally infinite and unable to be completely comprehended. This is one of the things that makes Him God. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Humans have this idea that after death all of our questions about God will be suddenly answered. In reality, we will spend eternity learning about God and being struck with wonder as one truth after another will reveal His glory to us. We will never know everything there is to know about God. This though is not what I was referring to in my beginning thought. My thought was what if there is something God has revealed about himself that I refuse to acknowledge simply because I am afraid it will change everything I thought about Him. You see, no man can honestly say that he reads all Scripture with equal weight. I include myself in this statement. Each of us has a circle and within it are the Scriptures we continually look to and use to form our basic idea of who the Lord is at the foundation. This includes verses such as John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9. The farther from the center of this circle we go the less fundamental the verses are in our theology. Then you have verses that sit just outside the circle which are the ones we acknowledge yet have a hard time fitting into our ideas and systematic theology. Yet even farther from the circle are the verses which we try to ignore because they seem to contradict our thoughts about the Lord and theology. These last verses are the ones we come to hate (usually subconsciously). I think I get afraid of characteristics of God at time because I think of Him as one does a celebrity role model. In this way, fans fear that their role model will reveal a characteristic that will make them undesirable to follow. The difference between God and a celebrity role model though is that any characteristic of God we fear to be revealed does not make Him evil or undivine. Over the last year, the Lord has been showing me that this fear is irrational by revealing parts of his character I have ever hated to understand.
First of all, I learned that God is intentionally mysterious and hides Himself from the understanding of man. This gets very frustrating yet for some reason He does it. I am not talking about how He is naturally infinite and therefore unable to be grasped completely by the human mind. In Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Here God is clearly declaring, “I am too great for you to understand even if I were to plainly reveal myself!” Sy Rogers put it well when he gave the example of the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Ocean is the greatest body of water on earth and even though I can go to the beach and swim in the waves, I still cannot know everything about the Pacific from the surface to the depths and from one coast to the other. Yet I can learn the basics of the ocean from my experience at the beach which is that it is wet and salty. Then on top of this infinite nature of His, the Lord also finds good reason to hide certain aspects of His character. Ecclesiastes 3:11b says, “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” This makes sense to agnostics most likely, yet it seems like complete bogus to most unbelievers. Some believers may even think this ridiculous and I understand because who desires to serve a God who hides Himself.
Why should He even hide Himself? I can honestly say I do not have an answer. It gives me a healthy fear knowing this God who saved me is so mysterious while He also reveals Himself. Isn’t that a contradiction though? How can He hide Himself and reveal Himself at the exact same time? It is very simple. The God of Christianity is not a God who revealed everything about Himself to humanity at once like Allah of the Muslims, who revealed Himself completely to the Muhammad. Instead the Lord, YHWH, revealed Himself over thousands of years including more and more revelation. It first began with Abraham and continued with Moses, David, and all the prophets until God made His final revelation through Jesus. Yet even as the revelation from God has been completed, He still has many things which He has kept hidden. He is personal yet mysterious, knowable yet infinite.
After learning that God hides Himself in certain ways, I found out a truth which expanded upon this and made me more fearful and confused than anything else. It is not always bad to be confused and fearful when it comes to God. At times it is very healthy because it reminds us that while we are his sons, we are also his subjects. It shows us the seriousness of our commitment to Him. Continually we (including myself) desire to put God in a box and try to tell Him, “You can do this but not that!” It is very laughable to think that we who were made from dust think we are able to understand the limits of God.
“Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?”
God is not systematic and will not be contained in out spheres of control. In this sense, I understand why He is called the Lion of Judah. Do you think you can approach a lion and know for sure that he will not devour you that moment? God is not tamable lion. In the book The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, the girl Jill desired a drink of water yet feared to go to the nearby pool because the Lion Aslan was standing near it. She had never heard of Him and was trembling with fear as she was dying of thirst
‘Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?’ said Jill.
‘I make no promised,’ said the Lion.
Jill was so thirty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
‘Do you eat girls?’ she said. ‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
God is love yet He is also justice and unpredictable in all. Many times throughout the Scriptures God acts in ways that none of us could ever expect. There are times when we see think the Lord will bring punishment on people yet He ends up giving mercy. Then there are other times when we expect the Lord to be merciful but He punishes them instead. You cannot say that He will do this or do that unless He has said that it is what He will do because the one thing He is not is unfaithful. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.”
The next thing I learned about the Lord was probably the hardest and most undesirable lesson to learn about Him for me. The lesson was that God self-limits himself in many ways including actions and knowledge. This probably seems absurd to you because it did to me when I first came across verses that showed such things. The main thing with self-limitation is not that the Lord cannot but that He chooses not to obtain knowledge or such. If you don’t agree with this lesson, I completely understand and there is no requirement as a Christian to believe or not to believe it. I myself thought I would be the last person on earth to believe the theory of self-limitation. The first scripture that made me consider such a theory was in Genesis after the binding of Isaac. In chapter 22 verse 12, the Lord said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Tried very hard to come up with a theory on how the Lord could have know this before the event but it never lined up with the fact that He said, “now I know.” Another example of the self-limiting knowledge of God is in the gospels. In Matthew 24:36 Jesus says, “But concerning that day and hour [of the Second Coming] no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Of course this is different from the event in Genesis because only part of the Trinity is limited from this knowledge. Most likely as many scholars believe, this limit on Jesus shows His humanity. Yet still this is a form of self-limiting because by choosing to be fully human (while He is also fully God) He was choosing self-limitation. He felt saving humanity for His glory was more important. This lesson cannot be left here because the knowledge of God is not the only thing that He chose to limit. After the Flood and the ark had landed, the Lord promised that “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” He therefore limited his future actions by making this promise.
So why does the Lord do this? Doesn’t it take away from God’s powerful nature? These are two very good questions. There could be many reasons why the Lord does this and the reason I will give may not even be one of them. As I thought about why He would do it, I got an interesting answer from my Old Testament professor. The idea is that the Lord becomes more relational by doing such this. His promises and covenants such as the one above with Noah are what begin relationships between Him and humanity. This is the very same reason for other self-limiting events such as Christ’s not knowing when the Second Coming will be. As I said before, this happened when He decided to become human and enter the world to save humanity. He made this choice to reestablish a relationship between humanity and the Lord.
As we learn more and more about the Lord, there will be times when our beliefs and thoughts on his character are corrected. The Scriptures are truly not systematic but naturally disordering to us, yet we can still find comfort in them and in the Lord. He is faithful, relational, and loving yet also mysterious, unpredictable, and indescribable. There is no one like Him in heaven or on earth. No false god or man-created myth can compare to His majesty.