In a world of instantly accessible information and statistics, it is easy to slip into a mindset of trying to figure out God and quantify Him. If we are confronted with a question about something or someone, we just grab our nearest device and do a web search (me personally, I don’t “Google” anything, but I “duckduckgo.com” it). This thirst for information and being able to find where something fits, has in some cases created a need to figure out our God and try to fit Him in somewhere in our thinking and expectations. The short answer is that such a complex God cannot be figured out. He cannot be pigeon-holed.
He even points this out through the prophet Isaiah, when He said,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55
We need not settle for a God who looks like us and thinks like us. We should not let our incessant need to understand everything to cause us to only accept a God that we can figure out. I want a God who doesn’t think like me, but thinks higher than I do. I need to worship a God whose ways are not my ways, but whose ways are higher than I could even imagine. As a matter of fact, who would worship a God who is just like me and has no mystery about Him?
Moses sang this song after they had crossed the Sea,
“Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?” Exodus 15
The obvious answer is no one. There is none like our God, and yet sometimes our trust in Him rests in our ability or inability to understand Him and what He is doing. Asaph even wrote “Your footprints may not be known.” To have a God of mystery is a comforting thing to me. If I could figure Him out, He would certainly be less of a God.
We should remember the words of the apostle Paul, as recorded in 1 Corinthians chapter 1.
“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”
Now, if you were God (what a scary thought), and you were looking for some tools to use to communicate to your creation, would you choose the foolish things; the weak things; or the base things of the world? We don’t think like that. We would be looking for the wisest things, the strongest things, and the most elevated things. This is exactly my point. There
is no way to put God in a box and have Him to conform to our image of Him that we have created in our minds. God operates almost the opposite of how we think or expect. That is exactly what He was communicating to us in the passage in Isaiah 55. His thoughts and ways are much different – higher than ours.
It reminds me of the line someone came up with that said, “You can’t soar with the eagles if you’re hanging with the turkeys.” Instead of soaring with the eagles of heavenly mindedness, we are attempting to bring the God of the universe down to turkey level. We want Him to think like us, so we can figure Him out. Instead, it is very important that we have a God who is exalted above the earth, our expectations, and desires, and who exists within Himself a complete and holy God.
Abraham is a good illustration of this idea. The Bible says that Terah (Abram’s father) took the entire family and headed for Canaan, leaving the Ur of the Chaldeans. A pagan family leaving a pagan culture. This is a topic for another day, but the Scripture tells us they stopped in Haran and “settled there.” Don’t settle for what is short of your Canaan land.
Anyway, God spoke to Abram (at the time) and said for him to leave his father’s house and his homeland and to go “to the land which I will show you.” Notice He doesn’t say “a” land, but “the” land. God is always intentional and direct, even when we may not know what He is doing. So Abraham was to set out on a journey and the Book of Hebrews tells us that “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Wait a minute, God, if you are going to send me out, I need to know all the details and plans. I need to know where we are going and what I am going to do when I get there. Abraham did not have that luxury. He just went, even though he had no idea where God was taking him. He did not attempt to figure God out.
How about Mary? This young, innocent maiden, probably 13 or 14 years old, is appeared to by the angel Gabriel. He tells her a story that had to overwhelm her mind and emotions. She thought, “me, having a baby, even though I have never been with a man.” And the baby will be called the Son of the Most High God, and He will be given the throne of David. And when Gabriel explained how this was going to take place, by the Holy Spirit overshadowing (enveloping) her, she could only ask, “how can this be?” But we know that she didn’t spend long in the “trying to figure God out” thought process, because she ultimately replies to the angel, “may it be done to me according to your word.” She wasn’t limiting her response to that which she could understand, because she actually understood none of it. Instead of attempting to figure God out, she just took that angel at his word, as a messenger from God. No understanding (at least for now) was necessary.
Think about Gideon. He was so intimidated by the Midianite army that he was hiding in a winepress threshing out some wheat, when the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and proclaimed, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!” Now, if you could figure God out, you would understand why He would have the angel make such a proclamation to a man hiding because of intimidation. Do you think Gideon felt like a mighty man of valor? Me neither. By the way, it is highly possible and thought so by some, that this angelic appearance was a Christophany – an appearance of Jesus Himself.
Gideon was cynical and questioning (where are all the miracles?), and still God enlisted him to lead the army that would defeat the Midianites. Gideon may have felt pretty good when he realized he had 30,000 soldiers with him. And then this God that we cannot figure out proceeded to whittle his army down to 300 water lappers. Don’t try to understand all that God does, but simply obey. This is what Gideon did, albeit he offered several fleeces to make sure. Note that God did not scold Gideon for the fleeces. I’m sure his head was spinning, but at the end of the day, he led the army to a complete rout of the Midianites – with the help of this God that he couldn’t figure out.
Take note of the varied ways that Jesus performed miracles. He drove the evil spirit out of the man at Capernaum, but at the country of Gerasenes, He cast the demons into the pigs. He healed two blind men by touching their eyes, but the man at the temple who was born blind, He made mud from His own saliva, and rubbed it on his eyes. So how do you perform a miraculous healing on the blind…do you touch their eyes or do you make mud from your spit? Yes! That is if you are a God that no one can figure out.
You may say, why does He keep us guessing and wondering about Him? Well, and we will deal with this in just a little bit, He does offer us enough about Him to worship and trust Him. But I think the primary reasons we can’t figure God out is that first of all, He is complex and deep beyond the human imagination. But another reason is that if we could figure God out and could know what He is going to do next and how He was going to do it, we would no longer need to seek God. If we could totally grasp the ways of God (which we cannot), we would not seek after Him and He told us Himself, that is where we will find life in Him. “Seek me and live.”
What can we know about God? Is there anything that He intends for us to grasp? Actually, the answer to that question is yes. In Exodus 33, Moses asks God to allow him to see His glory. If you were standing on the precipice of the mission Moses was, you would have wanted to see something too. But what he wanted to see was not a roadmap, but rather God Himself. God replied, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Goodness, grace, and compassion. That gives us an idea of what God’s glory looks like. Then in chapter 34, God does just that. He begins to declare Himself to Moses, whom God has hidden in the cleft of the rock.
“Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.”
“And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
Some have called these the “communicable attributes of God.” These are the attributes of God we are called to communicate to the world around us. No you cannot figure God out, but you can consider the revealed character and nature of God, which He gave us Himself. You can trust the character of God completely. This is the God we proclaim. This is the God we worship.
Let us endeavor to embrace the revealed God in the Scriptures. Let us not settle for a miniature God, or one who is limited by our expectations. But let’s commit ourselves to obey and trust this God we cannot figure out, all the while remembering the qualities and characteristics revealed to us by Him.
HOW GREAT THOU ART
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!