The Visible God

When dealing with the person of God you find yourself in deep waters very quickly.

We dealt in detail with the doctrine of the trinity, but in no way did we exhaust the topic.

Whenever the subject of God comes up there invariably comes questions about His nature and work.  This is natural due to the vastness of the concepts revealed in the bible.

We made the point in various ways when dealing with the Trinity, that though God is beyond our comprehension, it does not mean He is unknowable. He has revealed Himself in and through the Word, and to a much lesser extent He is seen even in creation.

So, we embrace the fact that there are ways that He is beyond comprehension, but that He has also revealed Himself; and we are to know Him through and in that revelation.

In the end we must be content with what is revealed and be very cautious about the many questions that may come to mind.

This is what makes books like Job and Habakkuk so precious.

Both pull back the curtain of God’s dealings with humanity in rather shocking and humbling ways. We watch a whole different perspective about the invisible realm as we see Satan and God interact with Job in the middle. With Habakkuk, we watch a godly prophet become confronted with his limited understanding of God and how God acts.

The bible is clear that there are simply places we do not belong with our thinking and assertions.

Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us that the secret things belong to God.  They are not ours to know and only our arrogance leads us into those subjects.

“Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Thy works to another, And shall declare Thy mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Thy majesty, And on Thy wonderful works, I will meditate.”

(Ps. 145:3-5)

Notice, His greatness is defined as unsearchable.

But also, we are to declare His mighty acts.  And yet, this is not the same as understanding them.

And finally, we are to meditate on those acts, let them stretch us, and push us deeper into a sense of wonder and fear of the Lord.

In Romans 11 Paul unfolds God’s plan of redemption through His willful choice to harden the bulk of Israel. Why? So that instead He might bring salvation to the Gentiles.

Does this mean that God is finished with Israel?  Paul says absolutely not.

He points out that if it was good for Gentiles to have Israel hardened how much better it will be for the Gentiles when God visits Israel yet again (12).

Paul even explains that what drives him as the apostle to the Gentiles is the desire to see God’s saving grace to be again manifested upon the nation of Israel again.

He warns the Gentiles not to be arrogant, assuming that they are now the favored ones by God for we cannot know all of God’s plans.  Therefore we are called to remain in His kindness, but when the fullness of the Gentiles are gathered to God then God shall turn again to Israel.

What is interesting to note is at the end of chapter 11 Paul is left breathless as he considers the ways of God that he can understand.  His summation? 

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable 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 paid back to him again?" (Rom. 11:33-35)

Our point in this is simply that God is not easily boxed and contained and often we create problems when we approach Him in a simplistic way. And this is a common problem today. There is not a willingness to think carefully on any specific point of theology well.

With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to reflect on some passages that are often passed over without the level of notice they deserve.

We have clear statements in the bible about the fact that God is unseeable by us.

 "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." (Jn. 1:18)

"Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father." (Jn. 6:46)

But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!" (Exod. 33:20)

Paul describes God as the “invisible God” in Colossians 1:15.

“ . . . [God] alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see. . . ." (1 Tim. 6:16)

But we also know that Jesus Christ is the revelation of the Father to us.  To see Him is to see the Father. This is why the doctrine of the Trinity is important to get your head around. The Son is not the Father and the Father is not the Son. We cannot see the Father but the Son was seen.

We want to talk about some passages in the OT that give some additional glimpses to this unique reality that will help us grow in wonder of the Creatore.

The Invisible God made Visible:

Abraham is our first stop.

He was living in a place called Haran, according to Gen 12:4. But before he was there he had an encounter with God. In Acts 7, Stephen says that God appeared to Abraham before he was in Haran, while he was living in Mesopotamia.

In Gen. 12:6-7 we see twice the statement that God appeared to Abraham.  In what way? What is meant by “appearing?”

We will argue that this was the Second person of the Trinity who appeared to him.

In Gen 15 we read about the covenant God made with him.

What is interesting is that in vs 1 and in vs 4 it doesn’t say that God appeared but rather something else.  Listen to vss 1-7.

"After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great." Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir." Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir." And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And He said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it." (Gen. 15:1-7)

Notice that this is no simple vision nor is it merely auditory.  The Word appears and speaks and leads him outside. Then the Word is specifically identified as being YHWH.

The apostle John appears to refer to this even in John 8:56 as when Abraham saw His day and was glad of it. This also harkens to John 1:1.

This early story tells us that somehow the invisible God is visible in some way that is more than merely a light or something.

In Genesis 18 we have another event in Abraham’s life. In vs 1 it says that YHWH appeared to Abraham, but the story develops that God is with two other men, presumably angelic beings.

Even more interesting is that Abraham then feeds them, showing they are much more than apparitions. What follows is then a conversation between YHWH and Abraham about the birth of his son and the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Never it is indicated that this is someone representing YHWH.

Samuel is another example of this idea:

"Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. (1 Sam. 3:1)

From there we read about YHWH calling out to Samuel over and over and he is confused.

Then listen to verse 10, “Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." (1 Sam. 3:10)

But the key verses are 19-21, “Thus Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD." (1 Sam. 3:19-21)

So here we have the idea of the “word of the LORD” calling and then coming to Samuel.  Also that He was with Samuel and that this revelation of Himself to Samuel was “by” the word of the LORD.