We’ve been looking at the topic “Who is God?” and we started by examining how God reveals Himself by ACTING through miracles, providence, creation and decrees. [4 separate posts see them by clicking here.] Today I want to launch into the next major topic: How God DESCRIBES Himself through names, images, and attributes in the Bible.
Here’s the thing. God does indeed want us to know what He is like. The word “God” itself is a more generic term, and is often used to describe false gods as well as the One True God. However, the NAME YAHWEH (the LORD) can only be used of the ONE True God. There are also compound NAMES found in the Bible like: God Almighty (El Shaddai), Lord of Hosts (Jehovah Tsabaoth – emphasizing God is Lord of all the angelic army of heaven), the Lord Who Provides (Jehovah Jireh), and so forth. The name Jesus, is a really significant name for God, which Paul says is so worthy of praise, that every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus. (Philipians 2:10)
Now IMAGES are verbal pictures of God which compare Him to people or things in human experience. The Bible shows God to be King, Father, Shepherd, Light, Rock, and Shield. In fact the image of King is synonymous with LORD in thousands of verses in the Bible. Father is maybe the most significant image of God in the Bible, and the prominent image of God in the New Testament. Jesus taught His disciples (and us) to call God “Father” when we pray [Matthew 6:9]. Paul teaches that God adopts us into His own family when we accept Jesus as our Savior, and we then can cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Daddy!) [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6]. Jesus did this too… in Mark 14:36.
Sometimes people ask me if it would be ok to call God our Mother. Well, let’s be candid, since God has no body (He is invisible), God is neither male or female. So really it is a question of imagery… should we speak of God using mainly male or female images? Well, guess what… there are feminine descriptions of God in Scripture!
The Bible says God gave birth to Israel, so in that sense God is Israel’s mother [Deuteronomy 32:17; Isaiah 42:14-15]. In fact Paul uses similar descriptions of himself suggesting he anguishes in childbirth until we accept Christ as Savior [Galatians 4:19]. Figuratively, this makes Paul the mother of the church… but it doesn’t really raise doubts for us about Paul’s sexual orientation as male.
In Scripture God is mostly described in male terminology, and this is not an accident or coincidence. During ancient times the pagan religions described in the Bible often worshiped female deities, mainly through sexual acts. The Biblical authors therefore stridently avoided suggesting that YAHWEH was female. Scripture also emphasizes male leadership in the family and in the New Testament church. Most of these writers then would have wanted to avoid confusing their readers as to God’s authority, therefore He is presented in male terminology. Think about how this is reflected in the image of Jesus as the Bridegroom who redeems His church as a glorious bride. [Revelation 19:7]
These NAMES and IMAGES are meant to introduce us to God as HE wants us to know and see Him. Once we know these names, and see these images, we enhance our understanding of Him by studying His ATTRIBUTES.
So… next time we’ll examine God’s Attributes of LOVE.
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