I’ve been wrestling recently with how inadequate language seems to be to describe the God we worship and love, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. If God is truly infinite, truly omniscient, truly omnipotent, truly omnipresent (and I believe God is!) then how on earth can the finite mind conjure words that properly describe Him? (or should that be ‘it, they, her’ etc!)
It reminds me of when our kids were little and they drew pictures of our family. The colourful squiggly lines that were meant to be mum and dad weren’t even close to resembling us. But, to me as a parent it was an amazing drawing, a source of great joy. It was also an expression of love from my child, and to be honest I didn’t really care whether those squiggles were in proportion or were the right colour or shape at all! It came as an expression from their heart and it was better than any Rembrandt or Picasso!
As they grew, so did the accuracy of what they drew. No longer was ‘dad’ a set of squiggly lines, but I had a ‘form’ resembling a human being, albeit with too many fingers and toes! The shapes and proportions weren’t quite right but the gist was there. Now they are older still they can describe mum and dad with language and draw us better too. Dad is quite tall, has greying hair, is a little podgy around the edges and enjoys cycling. Their descriptive language and imagery has grown because they have. Does the Bible also share this same journey as the Israelites grew in their understanding of what their God was truly like? I think so. As scripture moves forwards from the law to the prophets to the gospels so we get a glimpse of the Father Jesus came to reveal, until we get to His own self-disclosure in Christ (John 14:7-11, Hebrews 1:1-4, John 1:18) At this point the light has dawned, the veil has been rent in two and we see the face of God in Christ (2 Cor 4:6)
Pastor Brian Zahnd tweeted this recently: “God is not a man, a rock, a tower, a fortress, a hen, a husband, a father, a mother, a warrior, a charioteer, a farmer, or a sleeper—these are inspired and creative metaphors to help us think about God. But God IS Love! This is perhaps the deepest truth about God”.
Love is best experienced, not talked about, or sang about, or even dreamt about. So while we can craft our songs and write our rhymes about what God is like using language that is at best wholly inadequate, when we experience the God who is love, the deep longing to know Him is satisfied (at least in part!) Ephesians 3:14-19 reads:
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
So how do I summarise? I don’t think this side of eternity we will ever know fully what God is like, much less be able to describe that fullness. The best image we have drawn to us is that of Jesus Christ Himself who is fully human and fully divine. But even that is as a foretaste to what we will know when we are known and fully know. However, I do think that we can experience what it is to know that intoxicating, never failing love in part right now, as much as our hearts are able.
So, let us continue to use metaphor and language to aid, build, encourage and uplift each other. Let us use it to draw our ‘Abba’ as best as we are able. He loves it when we do! But, let us also recognise with some humility that language and imagery alone will never be enough to describe the indescribable God of Love and Light we serve! That revelation is for the age of ages! Amen