Have you ever had those moments when you let thoughts of God and His greatness overwhelm you? Maybe on a starry night as you contemplate the vastness of His universe? Or when your focus turns to the intricate workings of countless busy cells inside your body and you marvel at the wonder of life? When we think about an eternal God, Creator and Sustainer of all, it can make our brains hurt. We try to encapsulate who He is, what He does. We look for the right words but never find any adequate enough.
Part of being human is our drive to name things — everything, in an attempt to know and understand. We like to sort and categorize and label. Maybe that’s why we have so many names for God. Because who could ever sort out His majesty?! We can only attempt to describe partial glimpses of Him with the help of things in the natural world around us, things that we do know and understand. So we call Him a father, a shepherd, a guide, a judge, a branch, a cornerstone, a strong tower, a consuming fire, a crown of glory, a rock, a shelter, a helper, a light, and the list could go on! None of these names are completely definitive of God, but they each shed light on a different aspect of Him that we can relate to.
Our minds just can’t hold all of who God is at once. He is beyond understanding. But let’s not be fooled into thinking He is complicated! God is pure and simple. Think about it. If God was some complicated mixture of lots of different things, that would mean that what He was “composed” of would have had to exist before He did. But we know He is the first of all beings, and as Aquinas puts it, “…the first of beings must be absolutely simple.” He has no beginning and no end. He is eternal. I know that makes our heads spin, but it’s actually elegantly simple.
God defies definition. After all, what is necessary in order to define something? We need to find out how it is alike and/or different from something else. But God is above all such comparing and contrasting. Maybe that’s why, at the burning bush when Moses asked what he should say to the Israelites when they asked him who sent him to deliver them, God says to tell them, “I AM WHO I AM.” The Hebrew could also be translated I AM BECAUSE I AM or I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. But either way, it conveys the same thing…that God’s essence is the same as His existence.
When we talk about something’s existence, we are simply saying that it is. When we talk about its essence, we are describing what it is. But with God, it’s one and the same! His essence is His existence. So simple. So pure and simple. I think that’s comforting. Next time I’m tempted to blame God and His ways for being so hard to understand, I want to remember that it’s not because He’s complicated; it’s because I am so limited!
The most amazing thing of all is that He meets me in my cramped condition. He came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, to reveal the simplicity of His heart for humanity. He loves us. He died for us. And like we celebrated last week, He overcame death for us. He is a God who understands our mortal make up, and He desires to reveal Himself to us when we come to Him in faith. Simple faith in a simple God — that’s what brings Him pleasure. He is personal AND powerful! He’s beyond comprehension, but (praise His many names!) NOT beyond connection! Let your heart rise to meet Him as you worship today.