Have you ever heard God referred to as “the big guy upstairs” or “the old man in the sky?” These statements may reveal something about people’s perception of God. Throughout my ministry I have been surprised (shocked may not be too strong a word) at the times when people have told me they think God is actually “male.”
I mistakenly had thought everyone understood God is not a human and so not male or female. God is a spirit. God is, well, God. Jesus was a male, but the great mystery of the incarnation is not just that God has taken on a male body, but that God has taken on any human body at all (Philippians 2:1-11). God…in a human body? Wow!
Without question, scripture uses male metaphors to present God to us in language we can understand. The best known example of a male metaphor being used to reveal God would probably be God as our “father”. While there are few references to God as father in the Old Testament, this imagery is frequently used by Jesus and elsewhere in the New Testament. While we are familiar with male metaphors and imagery used to reveal God to humans, for some reason we are not as familiar with female metaphors and imagery used in scripture to reveal God. For that reason, I ask you to consider these few examples:
- Numbers 11:12 Moses asks, “Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms as a nurse carries an infant…?” The obvious answer is, “no.” Moses did not, but he is making the point that God did. God conceived them. God gave them birth. God carried them.
- Deuteronomy 32:18 In this passage God is pictured as both father and mother; and, I suppose it is worth noting, God also is pictured as a “rock.”
- Job 38:8, 29 The Lord uses feminine birth imagery to describe God’s creating the universe.
- Psalm 131:2 David describes putting his hope in the Lord as being like a weaned child cuddling with its mother. A weaned child does not seek its mother to demand food. A weaned child wants its mother for comfort and assurance.
- Luke 15:8-10 In Luke 15 Jesus tells three stories to teach about the nature of God. While two of the stories use male imagery, the second of the stories uses female imagery to reveal God.
- Matthew 23:37 Jesus describes God’s desire to protect Israel being like that of a hen wanting to protect her chicks.
- John 1:13; John 3:5; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 5:1, 4, 18 John uses feminine “born of God” images several times.
- Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 46:3-4, Isaiah 49:14-15, Isaiah 66:13 These are but a few of many more examples which could be listed.
Don’t miss the point here, I am not trying to pitch that God is female. Far from it. I am saying while God is God and not human (male or female), scripture uses numerous images and metaphors — both male and female — to reveal the nature of God.