Getting to Know God Meditations: 33. God with Personality
Mt 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Num 23:19 God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.
What a Mix! When we try to get a handle on just who God is, it is an impossible task. Yes, we can see the things – the many things – the Bible says about Him but even then so much of the time we are like people gazing in the jeweler’s window and perceiving lots of rings with little pieces of clear glass in, some sparkling, some not so much. To the uninitiated they are just that, colorless glass but to those in the know they are amazing diamonds. I once had the privilege of interviewing a jeweler who knew all about these things. He showed me a color grading kit, because diamonds have different colors varying from pure white (the most expensive ones) through a yellow-brown series. In his kit I could just distinguish the difference from one on the left to the tenth one on the right, but only just. He explained how jewelers like him have to go through a test where they are given 360 different colored diamonds and have to put them in order. He modestly acknowledged that at his last test he had got four wrong which is “considered quite good.” I say all this because I believe it is sometimes like this with the Bible. One person looks and sees words, another sees and is deeply moved at the wonder.
God beyond us: Jesus, in our first verse above speaks of his Father in heaven for whom nothing is impossible. In our scrabbling for understanding we are not sure what that means, but when we look at the context we grasp just a little. In Numbers 23, the seer, Balaam, declares a truth about God. He’s not like us, He always speaks the truth and doesn’t randomly change His mind. (Whenever it appears that He does, it is always because the situation has changed, repentance has been seen.) No, God is very different from us and that is what makes Him scary. And yes, the marvel of the Bible is that in it we find human writers desperately trying to convey truth by the use of words and the use of many different word forms, that we referred to in an earlier study.
Personal Actions: We find again and again God is spoken of in terms of human actions. Let’s have some illustrations of this:
- “the Lord said….. I will know.” (Gen. 18:21) A basic aspect of personality is knowing, of being aware. God knows, He is aware of every situation
- “But God remembered Noah,” (Gen 8:1) Recollection, remembering, is an ability of the human mind and that comes from God whose knowledge includes looking back from the present and seeing what was – He ‘remembers’.
- “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham.” (Ex 2:24) Hearing is one of the five human senses, and so the writers seek to convey that sometimes God’s actions are prompted by His observation of us, what He ‘hears’ us doing. “I have heard them crying out.” (Ex 3:7b)
- “And God saw that it was good.” (Gen 1:10) But it is not only hearing, this knowledge is also expressed as ‘seeing’.
- “The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people.” (Ex 3:7a) It is this ‘seeing’ that sometimes seems to prompt Him into action, His awareness of the right time to act.
- “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said….” (Gen 8:21) All these things are expressions of living personality that is conscious and so when there is a smell, God ‘smells’ it.
- “May God arise, may his enemies be scattered.” (Psa 68:1) God moves, God acts, He is not static.
- “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden.” (Gen 3:8) In the earliest phase of history, the closeness of God in the Garden meant that His movements in the material realm created sound that could be heard.
- “I will walk among you and be your God.” (Lev 26:12) His close movement, suggesting intimacy, indicates His presence among His people.
- “Enoch walked with God…” (Gen 5:24) A picture of two walking together suggests intimate ongoing fellowship.
- “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (Isa 25:8) An action attributed to God to convey His activity or removing the need for tears.
Each of these ‘action’ descriptions seeks to convey the life that is the God that is there and interacting with us in this material world. When you read your Bible, watch out for more of these.
Personal Emotions: But the descriptions of God go beyond actions, they also include feelings, emotions, all indicators of personality. Here are a few:
- “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Gen 6:6) Instead of a hasty God of judgment as some would convey, we see God is moved and troubled and anguishes over our folly as a human race, and that has at times stirred regret in Him, but never such that He has wiped us out!
- “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland.” (Psa 78:40) Again and again comes this sense of God grieving – which conveys being heart-stricken, if not heart broken by our folly. “Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit.” (Isa 63:10)
- “They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger.” (Jer 7:18) Negative behaviour creates negative responses, right responses. “He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath.” (Psa 2:5) Wrath is anger stirred intro action
- “do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.” (Deut 16:22) Things that warp or twist us and make us less than we are designed to be, creates this strong negative response in God.
- “as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (Isa 62:5) On the other hand, there are times when good things happening create strong good responses in God.
- “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Neh 8:10) Delight or pleasure or happiness is often seen as an expression of God: “Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit.” (Lk 10:21)
- “Enter into the joy of your lord.’” (Mt 25:21) In the parable, the lord is God. Jesus also spoke of his joy: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15:11)
- “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex 34:6,7) Compassion gentle kindness, love, forgiveness all expressions of God’s emotions in respect of us.
- “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) The motivating force, behind the coming of Jesus and his death on our behalf, was love.
Thus we have a variety of emotions that are expressions of personality, that we see in God.
And So? Here is a storehouse of resources for meditation. Reflect on the wonder of these things, that we have dealings, not with an impersonal force, but a Being with personality (hence my earlier description of ‘spirit’ as ‘force with personality’.) You see it is very easy to read the Bible or talk about God in it, and for it to be mere words, words that convey little, impact even less, but the reality is that we have been given this book that records in the most incredibly uniform way that this Being that we refer to as God, is a being with personality who communicates with human beings who also have personality. It is person to person that we find again and again throughout the pages of this book. Our actions, our feelings, are tainted by sin – this self-centred, godless propensity to get it wrong – but God’s actions and God’s emotions are never ‘wrong’, they are the perfect expression of a perfect being and perhaps that is something we ought to consider in more detail in the next study.