“Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too…” (Romans 3:29). Try to imagine how these words sounded to Jewish first readers. Think they were difficult to hear? What kind of emotions do you think they evoked? Try to imagine how these words sounded to Gentile first readers. What kind of emotions do you think they evoked? If there is one God and he is God of the Jews and the Gentiles, what kind of behavior does that encourage? Listen to hear the word of the Lord!
Have you ever been in a distressing situation in which it seemed you had nowhere to turn? Have you ever been overwhelmed by difficulties and felt like there was no one to talk to about your problems? Have you ever felt like there was no one who understood the discouraging trials you were dealing with? Psalm 142 is a good reminder that when there is no one else to turn to, you can turn to God. When you turn to God in times of difficulty, you can tell God whatever is on your mind. God will listen. God will understand.
Jesus showed how God intended humans to live. Jesus was “God in the flesh.” We look at Jesus and see God. We learn how God talks to people. We learn how God relates to people. We learn how God responds to sinners. We learn how God responds to people who use religion to take advantage of people. Jesus shows us how God intends for us to live. Let’s join Jesus in kingdom living.
What is God like? God is revealed in many ways in scripture, but the final word on what God is like is seen in Jesus. What is God like? God is like Jesus. Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory.” So, if you are wondering what God is like and find yourself confused by different pictures of God in scripture, let Jesus settle your understanding. Jesus is the final word. Check out Hebrews 1:1-3.
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.
Theology affects my Bible reading. When I remember God loves me, I can take even words of correction as loving. When I forget God’s love, I find it hard to accept God’s correction.
In other words, if I believe God loves me, I can accept God’s word as loving, even when it seems unpleasant. If I believe God is out to get me, even words of love can be twisted into something like a personal attack.
My theology (do I view God as loving or adversarial?) makes a big difference in being able to hear God.
My wife recently shared this prayer with me.
“Lord, you’re the most unpredictable person I know. Just when I think I’ve finally begun to figure you out, you do something so fantastic, so completely, wildly unexpected that I’m knocked for a loop.
I think I know where to find you and then I suddenly find you in the most unlikely places; at the oddest moments; in the strangest people.
I think I know your voice; and then I hear you in a child’s crooning lullaby; in an old man’s chuckles; in a lover’s sigh.
I think I know your face; and then I see you in a psychiatric ward; in a jam-packed tenement; in the streets, wandering aimlessly.
I think I know you well; and then I discover I know you not at all.
I think I know your love; and then I discover I haven’t begun to know it.
Thank you, Lord, for being unpredictable. Thank you for startling me out of my comfortable rut. Continue teaching me that you’re a God of infinite surprises.”