Imagining or describing a God who is ‘eternal’ and ‘outside of all time’, beyond our known world of space and time needs either a personal encounter with God, as Abraham, Moses, Job or the disciples during Jesus’ time, or a ‘revelation’ to us through the Scripture.
God is awesome, majestic, mysterious and beyond human understanding. Scripture says that no human has literally seen God (Ex.33:20/John1:18/1John 4:12). God is Spirit and is invisible to human eye. However, he made himself visible in some form to people, who have experienced ‘seeing’ or probably ‘hearing’ God.
Not every one of us may have an experience of seeing or hearing God as Job, Abraham or Isaiah. Nevertheless, we might have experienced God in our life that has left us awe-stricken.
In 2009, 155 passengers on US Airways Flight 1549, faced possible death. Within three minutes of take-off, they heard the Captain say, ‘Brace for Impact’ as a Flock of birds struck the flight. The world was amazed when the Flight made an emergency landing in the Hudson river, and dubbed it the “Miracle on the Hudson”. The passengers went through brief turmoil that has left them with mixed emotions to date, few affirming that ‘God was in control that day’.
Now, Job’s story is about a different kind of suffering and turmoil. We know it as high action-packed drama that started with disasters but ended with blessings two-fold. However, it is more than just a story of sufferings, it a story of God’s power and glory, that will help us have a spiritual ‘seeing’ on the image of God.
Job was a good man, faithful to God, greatly blessed and took extreme care to do nothing evil. God was so pleased that He gave a conduct certificate to Job. Job expected to live long and die in comfort (29:18). Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way as expected.
Sudden catastrophes hit Job’s life one after another. Job bore the grief of losing his children, wealth, health and eventually his confidence with brave submission. Although, he initially braves the loss by saying, God gave and God took them away, later on Job starts on a journey of lament, cursing the day he was born. Job’s friends and wife blamed him. Consequently, Job blamed God for his sufferings.
Probably Job carried one or both of these images about God- either God is so ‘small’ punishing an innocent man through afflictions or too “BIG’ that God was beyond reach to hear his cry of pain.
Brace for Impact
Job wanted to face God in court; he dared to question God and tried to prove his innocence and righteousness. It was then that God challenged Job out of a whirlwind saying, “Brace yourself as a man” and answer me, “do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his”?
Arm and voice of God appear several times in Scripture. The arm of the Lord is a metaphor for Jesus the messiah, for strength or might; Thunder represents the voice of God or Majesty, power.
God spoke in a language that portrayed the spectacular power and might of His hands and His wisdom in voicing the creations – earth, heaven, light, darkness, blazing sun, twinkling stars, constellations, and animals. God portrayed His all-powerful image to Job to prove Job’s ignorance and unworthiness.
Image of God
The Book of Job reflects our own perceptions on the images of God. Like Job, we always put God in the extremes. We either believe that God is too ‘small’ to answer our prayers and tend to worship a God smaller than the “I AM” portrayed in the Bible; or God is too “BIG’ and far above, that we take things into our own hands. We see God as someone beyond our reach and our emotions. We also look at God with a transactional mind. We believe that if we are ‘good’, God will bless us and if we sin, God will punish, as Job’s friends believed. We may also make a deal with God; Do not let ‘bad’ things happen to me and I will do this for you – like Job offered sacrifices.
As human beings, we do not understand God, yet we are ready to define God and put Him in a box. We blame God or question Him for our sufferings like Job. Why do the innocent suffer? Is God partial? Is he waiting to punish us the moment we slip?
God is a mystery. Why one person suffers while another wins all the time is not for us to ask. We do not have the answers. As finite humans, we are incompetent to understand the dimensions of God’s power and majesty. We are not made to contest with God. He is beyond our logical minds to comprehend. The problem is we try to fit God within our hands and tell Him our troubles, fears, inabilities, and needs. We keep reminding Him to answer our prayers and get agitated if He delays.
Magnificent creation designer
Let us not imagine him as the key to our wish box and delimit Him. God who spoke the creations, and calls each star by name, knows about us.
God is a magnificent creation designer. God showed Job that he is the wise architect of heaven and earth.
The same God is the designer of our life. He paints a beautiful picture of our life’s journey, with different landscapes, but the complete picture shows a beautiful portrayal, on the palm of His hands. God not only designs and creates but also operates. God who created you and me is actively involved in operating our affairs. He who knows to operate the sun and stars knows to execute His plans for us with precision.
The same God who challenged Job is talking to you and me today. He has written a personal history for each of us. “I alone know the plans for you,…” says our God.
We will understand His design for us only when we ‘seek’ Him. Job did not meet God when he was righteous, offered sacrifices or followed all the rules. It was when he sought to meet God in his worst sufferings that he met God.
God is near
Let us not see God as either ‘small’ or ‘BIG’, but as God who is ‘near’ us designing and operating every aspect of our lives.
Whether in doubt, fear, or need, let us remember that God is not far from…us (Acts 17:27). The LORD our God is near to us…(Deut. 4:7,Ps.145:18). We all need a personal encounter with God. When we desire to ‘seek’ God, He may appear to us in the ordinary or whirlwind. God may not always speak to us through thunder or lightning. For some of us, God’s voice may be loud and clear, for others stern; or a gentle whisper.
Reframing my words, every one of us might have experienced God though not as spectacular as Moses/Job that strengthened our faith. At times, our faith may waver, but we know God is in control.
Rather than seeing God as ‘small’ or ‘BIG’, let us experience His nearness to us.