Posts Tagged With: self-existence

The Eternal God: Over All, But Near to All

“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13–14; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version).

The letters in the middle are the Hebrew letters “YHWH,” the Old Testament name of God. Photo by Ulf Carlbark, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

In our previous post, we saw that the covenant name of God reminds us that He is self-existent and eternal. Nothing else created Him, He owes His existence to no other entity or force, and He will always exist. Because of this, He is sovereign over all things.

Theologians associate this aspect of God’s nature with something they call His transcendence: The fact that He is over all things and beyond normal human comprehension:

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.
‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8–9).

Some Bible teachers think this transcendence contradicts another of God’s qualities, His immanence. This quality reminds us that God is everywhere and is especially close to His people. He is always with us. Jesus reminded His disciples of this shortly before His ascension:

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18–20).

Some people think these qualities do not go together; they think it is impossible for God to be transcendentally above from His creation, yet immanently close to His people. However, these qualities address different aspects of His nature. It would be like saying that I am six feet tall and a guitar player; one attribute describes physical qualities, while the other describes a personal interest. Likewise, God’s transcendence is a function of His power and glory. His immanence is a function of His love. They are separate qualities, but they are aspects of His singular nature.

Because God is eternal, transcendent, and immanent, He is sovereign over all creation. He is sovereign over all the world. Moses learned this at the burning bush and in the months that followed. YHWH was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israelites had probably passed down stories about God’s faithfulness to these three ancestors. The Lord had been their God. He remained the God of the Israelite people. Yet, throughout the chapters 4-15 of Exodus (and beyond), He showed that He was more than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants: He was, and always will be, God over all the nations, whether they acknowledge Him or not. Egypt’s Pharaoh believed his deities were the greatest gods; in fact, he thought he was a god. The plagues described in Exodus and the departure of the Israelites from his country proved that his gods were no match for the God of Israel. The God of Israel could prove His authority over Pharaoh and his false gods. The One True God could display His authority over the most powerful nations on Earth. He can accomplish His will even when the most powerful nations in the world rage in rebellion against Him (Psalms 2:1-4).

His immanence reaches deeper. God is sovereign not only over the nations. He is sovereign over your life. Your life matters to God. You owe your existence to Him. The world might think you are an insignificant accident of evolution and history, but God orchestrated history to bring you here. He has power and authority over your life. He has a purpose for your life, which He desires to reveal to you.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

God may not have appointed you as a prophet, but He appointed you for some purpose. His will for your life is perfect. God has a perfect will, not only for the world, but for you (Romans 12:2). Those who come by faith to Jesus can find His perfect will for their lives.

Come to Jesus. He has given you life. He is the ground of your being. He is and eternal, but more importantly, He loves you, forgives you, and offers you a life far greater than you can imagine:

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eternal God

“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13-14; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version),

The letters in the middle are the Hebrew letters “YHWH,” the Old Testament name of God. Photo by Ulf Carlbark, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Names of God can tell us a lot about what people think of Him. According to Wikipedia, the English word “God” and its German counterpart, “Gott,” are derived from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning “pour” or “libate”; it is believed that this associates “God” with sacrifices or idols. Some Christians may notice the similarity of “God/Gott” with “good/gut” (note that “Gospel” comes from the Old English “God-spell,” meaning “good news”) and make the connection between “God” and “good.” Yes, God is good. However, this means that God becomes the basis of our idea of goodness; it does not mean I can re-imagine God to justify my false notions about what is good.

The Greek word for “god” is “theos,” which is related to another Greek word “theoreo,” meaning “to look at, to see, to observe.” This is the root of our English word “theory.” Perhaps the Greeks first thought of their deities as beings who saw everything that happens. Perhaps we have turned it upside-down, so that modern Christians often think we can see, observe, and develop our own theories about God.

Other cultures and languages have other words for God, associating the deity with kingship, eternity, power, or some other attribute. The name of God identifies a vital essential characteristic.

In the Old Testament, we find three names for God:

  • El” (or its longer form “Elohim”) is associated with His might and power. In most English Bibles, this is the Hebrew word when you see “God” in the Old Testament.
  • Adonai” means “lord.” It connotes His authority as One who should be obeyed. If you see “Lord” (with only the “L” capitalized) in the Old Testament, it is usually translating Adonai.
  • Yahweh” is usually spelled “LORD” (all capitals or small caps) in our English Bibles. The Hebrew Bible only contains the four consonants which we transliterate as “YHWH” here. Ancient Gentile writers have recorded that it was pronounced “Yahweh” but, by the time of Christ, Jews would normally not pronounce this name of God. To avoid mispronouncing God’s name and using it in vain, they would generally substitute another word like “Adonai” while reading the Scriptures or use a substitute term (like “the Name” or “Heaven”) when referring to God in conversation.

Yahweh essentially means “I am” or “I will be.” This is the name that He revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:13-14. Much of the rest of Scripture unpacks and unfolds the meaning of this Name. God is…period. This concept perhaps reaches its greatest explanation in St. Paul’s description of the divine nature of Jesus Christ:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

German theologian Paul Tillich coined the phrase “ground of being” to summarize the nature of God, perhaps echoing the thought of St. Paul:

“{F}or
‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:28).

“Big Bang.” Image courtesy of Max Pixel

God does not derive His existence from anything or anybody else. He just is. As the ground of all being and the Creator of all, everything and everybody derives their existence from Him. This is a hard concept to fully comprehend. We usually find an answer to the question, “But where did {something} come from?” Human nature seems dissatisfied with final answers. We become like small children who reply to every answer by saying, “Why?” During the past few decades, scientists proposed a “Big Bang” as the beginning of our universe, the beginning of everything. Now, many scientists, who previously thought they found the beginning of everything, ponder what existed before the Big Bang. Yet, when we reach God, we come to the end of the questions. He is. He always has been. He always will be. He derives His existence from nobody or nothing else. He just is.

God’s eternal nature may be beyond our comprehension, yet God still reveals Himself to us. Everything else about God springs from that eternal nature He is our Creator because He is eternal. He is sovereign because He is eternal. In a forthcoming post, we will look at some of the ways His eternal nature relates to His sovereignty.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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