More God Questions
Before we get too far afield, let’s finish the questions about the nature of God. The previous posts were titled I Am Not Making this Up and I Am Also Not Making this Up
9. If no one can ever see the face of GOD and live ... how is it that anyone could prove that they have seen or talked to GOD face to face or even prove that we are the image of GOD or not? If JESUS was GOD came down in the flesh, GOD would still have been GOD and ... we would not have been able to look at his face because we would die. [I]f GOD came down in the flesh he would still have been the same thing because we are supposed to have been his image.... [W]e would not be able to look at Jesus’ face and live. Also we would now know that GOD has a form and ... it would make a mockery out of the [S]criptures.
God didn’t say absolutely that no one could see Him. He told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live. (Exodus 33:20)” Yet He also said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’ [Yahweh] ... and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen. (vv. 19, 22-23)” Others also experienced God in His splendor, although none seemed to have done so as fully as had Moses. Among these, Isaiah glimpsed Him in the temple (Isaiah 6), Elijah heard His close presence on Horeb (1 Kings 19:9-18), and the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation all include visions of the Lord, the Ancient of Days, enthroned in heavenly light.
As for Jesus, the music of the Church helps us ponder the Scriptures concerning Him. The carol Mary, Did You Know poses this question to the Virgin: “Mary, did you know that ... when you kiss your little baby you’ve kissed the face of God?” More specifically, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing sums up the Biblical theology of His incarnation: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail, incarnate deity! Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!” Just as God partially concealed Himself or covered the faces of His prophets of old, so He masked the fullness of His glory in human flesh. Thus we sinners who cannot see God in His glorious splendor can look upon His glorious grace, especially in His sacrificial love when hanging on the tree of the cross.
Again, regarding His image, we are intended to bear His spiritual likeness, not be exact physical copies, or clones. Concerning God’s own form, Jesus said that He “is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)” What part of His Word leads us to “know that [if] God has a form ... it would make a mockery out of the Scriptures”? We likely imagine incorrectly if we think of “spirit” — particularly pertaining to God — as being less substantial than matter or flesh. I think it more likely to mock His Word when we deny His ability to have a specific form, for throughout the Bible, God doesn’t content Himself with possessing merely metaphorical hands. He either ha a form unto Himself or else He regularly assumed one.
Consider how “Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground. (Genesis 2:7)” He went “walking in the garden. (3:8)” In Genesis 18, He was among the “three men” who visited Abraham “by the oaks of Mamre.” The first set, which Moses soon broke in anger, of “the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone [were] written with the finger of God. (Exodus 31:18)” As mentioned already, He covered Moses with His hand (33:22).
10. So again we ask you, what does GOD look like?
Again I must answer, “He looks however He pleases. He can take any form He chooses and can conceal Himself completely or cloak His presence in various physical objects, as He did with the burning bush.” Rather, however, than debating His heavenly image, Christians should celebrate His earthly image. The God of Creation bears our flesh as “the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)” We may “see” Him in His Word and Supper. His hands touch us through the hands of our pastors as they baptized and absolve us. Instead of speculation, seek the contentment suggested by Saint John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)” With the apostle, I urge you to deal with the unseen now as a believing child of God and let Him astonish and delight you then, “when He appears.”
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
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Newspaper column #533:1