Descriptions of God define Him as LORD.

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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Identical

How does one distinguish between the two distinct people and personalities that result from identical twins?  In college I found it hard to know which was which.  They laughed the same, walked, talked, ate, and looked the same.  If one showed up without the other, few knew them well enough to know who was standing before them.  The degree of likeness, one to the other, could not be described any better, or more appropriately than, identical.

When Jesus arrived in Judea, traveling from one tiny village to the next, proclaiming “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…” [Mark 1:15] the crowds that followed were “…amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” [Mark 1:22]

Maybe the explanation is as simple as this.  The scribes, rabbis, and other teachers, while knowing the law of God, continually used other men’s interpretations and ideas when they taught what God was saying through the Law and the Prophets.  Since Jesus was, and is God, along with the Holy Spirit and the Father, He was able to speak from original intent, since He was there when the words of the Law and the Prophets were inspired then written.  As such, Jesus would quote the original text without the aid of scrolls kept in the synagogues or the Temple.  The words He spoke were identical to those written in ancient days.

So when Jesus would begin, “You have heard that the ancients were told…  But I say to you…” [Matthew 5:21-22], He was speaking about how the teaching of men erred from the original intended meaning behind each passage He quoted.  This alone gave Him the authority to also say, “I and the Father are one.” [John 10:30]

Having spoken these words, it’s easy to see why the Jewish leaders took offense, since there isn’t another way to interpret this statement except Jesus claiming He and the Father are IDENTICAL.  Now don’t go so fast here… linger a minute.

Jesus isn’t saying He is “another- like” the Father.  Jesus isn’t saying God and the Son are identical twins.  The one-ness Jesus is claiming is further captured in His statement to Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” [John 14:9]

One of the spiritual games we like to play seems to be finding an explanation of the Trinity:  God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three in ONE.  This idea is captured in an ancient image, that most of us have no construct from which to assimilate it’s truth.  We recognize the second part, but mostly skip completely over the first part.  It goes like this…

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

Even the most simple explanation is mind boggling, because LORD (Yahweh – the proper name used for God) and God (Elohenu – the divine being) are the same. Since both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are invisible to human eyes, it makes it virtually impossible to wrap our minds around the idea of One-ness. So…

Let’s not make this harder than God intended it.  In fact, while it may be fun to come up with human images that help us deal with the Trinity of ONE, our focus should be on the most complete revelation of who God is, and what He wanted us to know about Him.  And in this case, all we have to do is look to Jesus and see the ONE.  He is identical in every way, yet was visible for awhile on the earth, and will one day soon (I hope) reappear on this planet to demonstrate His One-ness.  What did this man Jesus say to John the Apostle that He wanted us to know?

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” [Revelation 1:8]

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”
Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus.
[Revelation 22:20]

Identical