Who, or what is God? Ask this question, and you are most likely to get a spectrum of responses from people. Some would challenge the very notion of the existence of a God. Others would describe him based on their cultural and religious background. Even within Christian circles, there appear to be different “views” on God. A 2005 survey on American youths found that many young people hold on to a view of God who created the world and desires for people to be good and nice to each other, and the ultimate goal in life here is to be happy, and there is a promise of heaven after death. Essentially, it seems like God is a cosmic Santa, who comes round when we need Him. How do we make sense of all these. Is God just what we make him out to be?
Everyone's a theologian
The only assumption we will begin with is that as a reader, you acknowledge that there is a God that exists. While the rest of this series explores who this God is and what His nature is like, there is just one thing we must first address in this preamble - If there is a God, and if you say you believe Him, you need to know who He really is and what He is like.
A.W. Tozer said “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Why is this so? Such a statement would hold no truth if God was not directly wrapped up with our identities, our purposes, our motivations, goals and lives. For example, what comes to our minds when we think about mozzarella cheese is by no means the most important thing about us (not most of us, at least), simply because the meaning of our lives is quite independent of cheese. But what about an almighty God, the Creator of all things, the Creator of you and I? It seems then that finding out who this God really is and what He is like becomes a personal responsibility and obligation of utmost importance.
And that’s the definition of “theology”. Essentially, theology is the study of God. This makes everyone a theologian - not just students in seminaries, nor pastors in pulpits, but you and I. In this series we will look at various attributes of God, namely The Relational God, The Triune God, The God Who Does Not Change, The Holy God, The God of Paradox: Merciful & Just, The Loving God and finally The Glorious God.
In this first post of the seven-part series, we will consider what it means that we have a God who wants a relationship with His people.
God who reveals himself
“Are you there God? It’s me Margaret” is the title of a book by Judy Blume that chronicles the growing up pains of a young teenager. In the book, Margaret, the main character is unsure about her beliefs, and constantly begins her prayers with that phrase. Haven’t you felt that way before? “Is there really a God? Why is He silent?” are some of the common questions that both non-Christians and Christians alike grapple with. At the heart of these frustrations lie a resounding cry - “if only he’d just give me a sign!!”
Oh, but He has!
At the heart of Christianity is the belief that God speaks and reveals Himself, and He has chosen to do so through the written word in the Bible. The Bible therefore, contains the precious words of God as He has chosen to reveal Himself. While we might prefer writings in the sky or a little voice at the back of our heads, the important question is not so much “why this mode of communication?” as it is “what then we are doing with His Words?”
The Bible contains the words of God, but it is not like a textbook - it is not dry and academic. In fact, it shows us His character (who He is) and His plans (what He planned to do). Genesis 1 begins with the creation account, and Gen 1:26-27 tells us that He created man and woman in the image of God. The prose of the preceding verses is interrupted with poetry, as God delighted in the creation of man. Man was the only part of creation given the image of God, and given rule and dominion over all other created being. In Paradise, God existed in perfect community with the first human beings, and He communicated with them.
When sin entered the world, this relationship was broken but not severed. From Genesis on, again and again God sought a relationship with people. Enoch walked with the Lord, and Noah obeyed Him. God made a covenant with Abraham and Jacob wrestled with God. God introduced His name to Moses, and commanded Him to rescue His people. God heard, saw and knew the cries of His people (Exo 2). From individuals to a nation, God wanted to bring His people back to Him. The Law and the Book of Leviticus showed that a holy God could not dwell with a holy people, and the price had to first be paid. Through every page of the Bible, we see stories and images of how God desires to be with His people time and again.
The God who reveals Himself in Christ
These verses in Hebrews 1:1-3a tells us something else:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
Heb 1:1-3 tells us that although God spoke through prophets in the past, Christ is the final revelation of God, the exact essence and radiance of the glory of God. God didn't just speak and have His words recorded down in the Bible. Neither did God choose to give us writings in the sky. Instead, God Himself condescended and came to us in a form that we know - as a tiny, vulnerable, helpless baby whose name was Jesus Christ. We read that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among [man]” (John 1:14). Christ is not “just” as a solution for our sins. He is the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), and “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19). Jesus Himself says that if we know him, we know the Father (Jn 14:7). Therefore, if we want to know God, we ought to look at Christ.
God has made Himself known through the Bible. He has also come in the form of man, to bring back sinners whose sins separate them from the Father. Throughout the rest of the series, we’ll consider different attributes of God. There’s a way of treating it in a clinical manner, as if one is merely listing out properties and characteristics of an object. But there’s another way of reading it -- when we remember our relationship with God who is Person, and in whose image we are made, it helps us call to mind the different layers of our relationship with Him. He is our King, but also our Father. He is the Good Shepherd, but also the Bridegroom. Through all these pictures, we are being told that right from the beginning when He created man and woman, this is a God who desires to have a relationship with His people. Do you really know Him, or do you merely know about Him?