The Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, March 29, 2020
Who Is God?
What a question to ask of people who have grown up in church all their lives, and have attended church services and Bible studies and all kinds of teachings about God, aplenty. Yet it is a question worth asking from time to time. There’s the possibility of our getting busy doing life so that certain things we once knew and almost took for granted escape from our subconscious, and we live as if those truths are no longer valid. This happens to sins as well. We can lose track of the sins that become accepted as normal by society.
A friend of mine with whom I was going to seminary confessed to me one time that he was disillusioned with Christianity. Here he was in seminary about to graduate to go and pastor a church, but he was struggling inward not able to get over feelings of guilt. Much as he read his Bible and prayed a lot, he still couldn’t get peace. He wondered whether that was all there was to Christianity. If that was the case, he said, he was considering quitting his seminary studies and go and do something else.
I sat this friend down and talked with him at length about whom he thought God was. He responded that to be frank, he saw God as some powerful, stern, and distant King, sitting on a golden throne surrounded by angels and demanding from us humans strict adherence to his statutes or surely face harsh retribution. It was clear to me that this good brother had all his theology right in his head, but not in his heart. He did not have a healthy relationship with God. He did not know God. He knew the Church and the Church knew him, and God knew him. But he did not know God. He had a warped view of him.
When you think about God, what picture comes into your mind? These pictures develop in us mainly from our experience of life and people as we grow up. Often such pictures are inaccurate and mislead us about God. Yet those pictures persist in us and impact our spiritual life causing us to live less happily than our creator intended for us. The question of who is God is therefore ever pertinent.
God cannot be described to any level of satisfaction in a short letter like this one. It would require tons of books to explain him, and even then, we would not fully comprehend who he is. But enough about him has been revealed to us in nature, in the Bible, and in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ for us to have a working knowledge of him.
Let us go to God’s own self-description. In Exodus 34: 6 -7 God described himself to Moses. Moses had earlier in 33:18, asked God to allow Moses to see him. God promised to describe his characteristics and qualities to Moses and said that it was impossible for Moses to see his face. God says the following about himself, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
From this description we learn the following truths about God:
- God is Yahweh, meaning the self-existent One. He was not created. He is the uncaused cause of everything there is in the universe. He gives life to everything that has life in it. He is to be worshiped and obeyed by all. He owes us nothing.
- God is most merciful and gracious. Being merciful is being compassionate and feeling what the other feels. And gracious is being kind and pleasant. God knows us fully. All our foibles are as clear as day to him. Yet he is compassionate and pleasant to us. That is why he visited the planet in the Person of Jesus Christ to take care of our sins by dying and rising from the dead. He feels for us. He is a friend. He wants us to see him as a friend. He is not our buddy of course. It would be inappropriate and presumptuous of us to attempt to hi-five him for example. Friend as he is and as he wants us to reckon him, he is the Ruler of the entire universe. He deserves our sincere, spontaneous, and glad worship.
- God is slow to anger. That means God doesn’t get angry easily. He does not throw tantrums. He remembers that we are but mere flesh and blood. He knows that even the very best of a human being is still a human being. Jesus exemplified this attitude with his patience with his disciples. He never gave up on them as long as they continued with him. Judah dismissed himself from the group. Jesus did not dismiss him. Much as he betrayed Jesus, he would have been welcomed back by Jesus if he hadn’t killed himself. God is patient with us. He does not drive us with the slave master’s whip.
- God abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness. God’s love is not fickle. It is not here today and gone tomorrow. And so is his faithfulness. When he makes promises he keeps them. He does not love us only when we are good. Actually, we can never be good enough to deserve his love for us. No human being can ever deserve God’s love. He loves us out of his own magnanimity. He loves us when we are what we call “good,” and he loves us when we are bad although that makes him very sad. When he calls us to follow him, he wants us to learn his kind of life, a life of mercy, grace, patience, love, and faithfulness.
- God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin. He does not hold our wrongs against us forever. He forgives. He is not for condemning sinners forever. He wants us to turn around and come back to him. He will receive us back and restore us to our former position with him.
Human beings are a favored species with God. He pampers us. We rebelled against him, but he came to pay our debt to him. He is merciful to us and gracious, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He forgives all our idiosyncrasies. Elsewhere he says that as far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our sins from us. These truths, sunk deep in us, would take care of a lot of psychological issues we suffer unnecessarily which are not caused by physical origins. Mull over them for your good. Inculcate them into your subconscious.