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17 Nov '11

The otherness of God

Posted by T.J. Addington in spiritual formation, The heart, theology
God is our Father, abba. He is our friend. He is the One who is with us at all times (Emmanuel). He is our comforter, our counselor, and provider. He is personal as we learned in Jesus, approachable, and our help in times of trouble. Nothing can separate us from His presence and love. No situation is beyond His ability to intervene.

God's character is amazingly complex and beyond our ability to even start to comprehend. And one of the most challenging aspects of who He is is His holiness, His absolute otherness, His incomprehensible righteousness and goodness. So holy and righteous that Moses could not gaze on His face and after Moses spent time with God, his face glowed! 

We rightly focus on the personal nature of our relationship with God as He made Himself approachable and understandable in Jesus. But we would do well to reflect regularly on His Holiness, greatness and otherness because it puts in perspective our own desperate need for Him and the greatness of our God compared to us.


The book of Job is instructive. Job and his friends wax eloquent on God, his character and purposes - some of it true, some of it badly flawed - sure that they understood Him and could speak on His behalf. But all of that "wisdom" is put into its proper perspective when God chooses to speak. His first words put in perspective the difference between God and man: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words of knowledge?" (Job 38:1-2) and proceeds to ask a series of questions that leave Job mute until the Lord is finished. All Job can say in return is "I know that you can do all things; no plans of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge? Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things to wonderful for me to know' (Job 42:2-3)." 


What Job is humbly and abjectly acknowledging is that he knows so little compared to God. Our understanding and wisdom is so massively finite while His is so majestically infinite! As someone has rightly said, "There is a God and He is not us!"


The chapter I often visit to remind me of God's greatness is Isaiah 40. "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:25-26)."


Why does the greatness of God matter? The better I understand His greatness and holiness the more profound my humble worship. The more I understand His sovereignty over the affairs of history the more I can trust Him in my journey. The greater my understanding of Him, the more I understand the smallness of me. The greater I understand the smallness of me, the more I understand my need for Him. The more I comprehend his holiness the more I understand my sinfulness and the amazing grace He has given me. 


Understanding God's greatness changes everything! And that is when the fact that He has made us family becomes so amazingly profound.