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What God is Not!

by Brian Flewelling on October 25, 2022

Deuteronomy 4:15b-16

You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not  become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape.

God is not what you think!

Yes he is knowable! Yes he possesses a personality with defining characteristics. He cannot be anything but infinite LOVE. All he does is FAITHFUL—Always! His wise incite is unmatched and has no corollary. His motivations are 100% GOOD and intended for the wellbeing of his children. He could never be false or deceitful. He is perfectly TRUE and honest. These personal attributes are what make him distinct; he isn’t just an idea or architype, he is a loving Father who brought us forth, “Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you,” (Deuteronomy 32:6)?

Yet, God is infinitely beyond what you think about him! That is his otherliness. He has no category or perimeter that you can impose upon him. Every description you use is insufficient. And that’s kind of a problem for us isn’t it? Biblical descriptions of God are only allegories used to help children comprehend realities far beyond our understanding. Here then is the essence of God’s nature—He is HOLY! Thomas Aquinas wrote “we know God truly when we believe Him to be above everything that it is possible for man to think about Him” (Summa Con Gentiles, 5:3).

Idols and Spoiled Cabbage

Mankind is always trying to whittle God down, trying to make sense of him. We carve out a god into an image we can get our hands around and control; these are the gods of Egypt, Ugarit, and Mesopotamia. They are the tempestuous exaggerations of ourselves. As soon as our mind has given shape to God we’ve reduced him to the muddy ruts of our humanity; he looks like us and stinks of our idolatry. We want him to conform to our shapes and our expectations; we want him to endorse our politics and our life goals. But Deuteronomy says that’s how you become “corrupt,” or “spoiled.” As soon as you—in your thinking—despoil God’s greatness you become spoiled yourself. Like rotting cabbage.

Of course we don’t think of ourselves as practicing that kind of idolatry anymore. We know better than to assign size, age, or gender to God. But the idolatrous tendency is still alive and well in us. We want God to fit within the boundaries of our expectations, and we expect he won’t be totally unpredictable. He needs to remain malleable to our needs. Moses uses four words in this verse to describe what God is not! God has no “form,” no “image,” no “shape,” and he is not a piece of whittled wood, an “idol.” He is other-than. He cannot be saddled up, reigned in, or gathered together. He is not your pet tiger to bring out for show. He will not be coerced, and he is not your incantation to coax out of life what you most desire. That is the essence of witchcraft.

As intimate and as consistent as God’s character of love is to us, his mind and his leadership over us are beyond domestication. God stands outside of your definitions and experiences. He calls you to chase after him. You cannot lasso a tornado and take it home with you. And you have to respect the raw power of God’s essence. Friends and enemies alike find him bewildering and wild. He revealed himself at Mt. Sinai in the form of a mountain-quaking storm. He wrecks our formulas of predictability. God is absolute, and absolutely unsearchable. He is infinite Spirit! He is the Eternal-Unchanging-Mind that searches all and knows all and has power over all in a glance.

Chasing More

Don’t let the present moment cloud your vision. Whatever you think is desirable in life, or whatever you are obsessing over, or suffering through, God is infinitely more than these things. Whatever you’ve learned, and wherever he’s taken you, there is infinitely more of him to grow in. Whatever is terrifying you is terrified of God. Whatever you’ve found satisfying in him, there is infinitely more to drink from. And whatever comfort you’ve derived from him does not oblige him your personal comfortability. He will just as easily allow affliction and turmoil that produces maturity and righteousness in your life.

We can be confident in his steadfast love, his goodness, and his truth. He is consistent, and he is your Father. But he is Holy Father. We respect his otherliness and continually posture ourselves to receive from him. Lean on him. Trust in him. Drink from him. Love him. Respond to him. Relate to him. Enjoy him. Worship him. Don’t stop chasing him. He gives his love away freely, but he doesn’t give up his secrets easily. His friendship and mystery are yours to have but only as he shares them with you in his time.

Tags: truth, power, father, spirit, infinite, secrets, goodness, expectations, faithful, idols, holy, mind, predictable, omniscient, omnipotent, thomas aquinas, unsearchable, knowable

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