A classic song by Richard Rogers says, “If they asked me, I could write a book, about the way you walk and whisper, and look.”
The lyrics express more than starry-eyed sentiment. When you miss someone or grieve someone, you experience the uniqueness of that one voice and one face with staggering significance. Whether a spouse, child, friend, or even a pet, no substitute will do. Let’s apply that thought to the identity of God.
In characterizing God, a Christian worldview does not present as one angle among many, as though any voice or face will do. For the Christian, scripture has singular authority. Some people consider that stance presumptuous. Doesn’t it limit a big God to a preferred brand? Isn’t all truth God’s truth?
Does scripture put God in a box?
When someone encounters God in the Bible, arrogance gets blown up and presumption receives no reward. Scripture is largely an account of people getting it wrong when it comes to knowing and being faithful to God. Over and again across the centuries, it shows men and women surprised or even struck dumb by revelation (i.e. The Christmas story of Zechariah doubting his aged wife could bear a son, John). One Proverb says, “The fear (awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Caution is advised.
One scene in particular evokes my own sense of awe and respect for the revelation of God in scripture. Peter returns from a night fishing and has caught nothing. Jesus (the carpenter) tells Peter (the professional fisherman) to give it just one more try. Humoring Jesus, he lowers his net once more, and they haul in a massive catch. Suddenly, Peter himself feels like a fish out of water. He recognizes Jesus as something other–like realizing there’s a tiger in the camp. Exposed and panicked, he looks for an escape to safer environs.
Genuine moments of revelation (of God and of yourself) are striking and anxious moments. Peter’s reaction seems true to form and to human nature. If you really put yourself into this scene to where the hair stands upon your neck, the response to Peter’s reaction is, “Of course.” It has the ring of authenticity to it. Not cheesy in the least, but surprising and unwieldy. How could a real encounter with a holy God be anything less than being shifted out of control in the moment of revelation?
Reminds me of one of my favorite poems by William Blake.
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Towards the end of this poem about the tiger, Blake asks, “Did He smile His work to see/Did He who made the lamb make thee?”
I love this line because it expresses our difficulty in letting God be God, as opposed to a managed, human package of ideals. Whatever bad press Christianity receives these days, know this: The call to follow Jesus is a call to let God be God.
Joani Jack says
I’m reminded of your words during Holy Week several years ago when you told the story of the eulogy at a great man’s funeral – was it Alexander the Great? The speaker said only 4 words: “Only God is great.”
Thanks for the reminder…
Tim Filston says
Love that story. King Louis “the Great.” A single candle was to burn at his funeral. The bishop blew it our during the service and said, “Only God is Great.”
Howard Filston says
The “letting God be God” groups seem to be more about letting God be what they want to make of Him rather than finding who God is in Scripture. I found your statement “Scripture is largely an account of people getting it wrong when it comes to knowing and being faithful to God” quite a unique thought but a significant and meaningful one. Write on!
Cliff Foreman says
In Job 41:1-11 God points to the leviathan(crocodile?) and then asks Job: if the crocodile is so scary, “Who will not fear me?” I’ve gotten to the place in my life where I am genuinely fearful when I read the words of others who mock God. Reverence for God and for his name is a virtue that the world ignores.