Unusual Assurances, Pt. 2
Study Guide, August 19, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
Kids have a unique perspective on things in our world, don’t they? Even with things of the Bible, they look at things and think about things in an unusual way. For example, one little guy thought the Golden Rule was: ‘Do one to others before they do one to you.’ And another child thought Noah’s wife was named ‘Joan of Ark’. Another one thought Moses was not allowed to go into the land of Canada. And another had learned about the great miracle with Joshua, when Joshua commanded his son to stand still…and he obeyed him!
Kids have a different way of looking at life and thinking about life, and even helping us adults to rethink many things about life, or at least to think through them a little deeper. And so last week we began looking into some questions that kids have about God and then expounding on them together. However, if you tell a child that you would be happy to expound on his question, he may not ask you another one…unless you explain what ‘expounding’ is.
Have you ever gotten this question from a child: “What does God look like?” What a great question. And it’s really a great question because it implies that God does have a certain look about Him, as in a physical or material look about Him; now that is. Actually, this question from children…or we could say, this assumption from children about God having a certain look about Him is really more insightful than a lot of adult’s assumptions…that is, that God is only ‘metaphysical’, or without substance or material form.
Certainly these are all qualities about God which do need some explaining…or some expounding. And again, in answering a child’s question, you’ll want to shorten the answers that we are expounding on. But for our study, we need to expand the expanse on that which we are expounding.
As to the metaphysical aspect of God, we know that God said this: John 4:24- “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” NASU So God reveals that the essence of His person is ‘spirit’, or, not ‘matter’ or material. Remember, before the material world ever came into existence, God existed, and existed from all eternity, in ‘spirit’ form, or apart from a material form. But after God chose to create a material universe and a material world…a physical world, God began doing things He had never done before. And when God does things He has never done before we really need to pay attention. Like what?
God, who is spirit in essence, began appearing to those He created. Remember this? Gen 3:8- “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” NASU Now, apart from our first parents now hiding from God because of their sense of guilt over their sin, this first part of the verse pictures one of the most beautiful scenes of Adam and Eve’s experiences with God before the curse of sin. This statement reveals a re-occurring or daily practice where, although in the presence of God at all times, still, at the end of each day, they would hear God walking in the Garden to meet with them in some special and fantastic way. Even the description of ‘walking’ implies that the immaterial and spirit based Person of God would appear to them in some visible or even material form. And in this ‘form’, God would either walk together with them in the garden or they would sit together and have their special evening fellowship.
Can you picture that for a moment? Have you ever pictured that, along with all of the things that this implies about God, as to how much God enjoys, or could we say, looks forward to special times with us when we have our ‘garden visits’ with God? It’s as though these were the first ‘quiet times’ or ‘devotional times’ in Scripture, where Adam and Eve would take some time out from all of the other wondrous things going on in this new world of theirs and just spend some time with God, walking and talking in the garden.
Perhaps this scene was intended to shape the way we think about our own quiet times or devotional times that we have with God, whether that be in the morning or at night or even in the cool of the day. Do you ever hear now, by faith, the sound of God walking in your garden or your yard or your house or wherever you have your devotions, realizing that God is coming in a special way just to spend some time with you?
Some might think, “But that was with Adam and Eve that God did that?” Well, think again: Who is Adam? Who is Eve? Guys…Adam is you. Ladies…Eve is you. What God did in fellowship with Adam and Eve He intended to do with you…or we should say, “He intends to do with you.” Really, sometimes I think children understand this better than a lot of adults do, since adult’s world gets so full of things that tends to then crowd God out. But once you come to understand that God looks forward to walking in the garden with you and spending a little personal time with you each day, it will change your whole image about ‘personal devotions’ or ‘quiet times’, as well as your image of our amazing God.
What’s also implied here is that this is the first of many times throughout Scripture where God would take on a physical form to appear to people. It was the first example of what is called a ‘theophany’. The word ‘theophany’ simply means ‘the appearance of God’. Other cultures and belief systems have claimed their own versions of ‘theophanies’, like the Greek mythological gods and such. Therefore, the Biblical ‘theophany’ has also been described as a ‘Christophany’ in order to specify that the only God that exists is the Biblical God, who has appeared to man throughout history in human forms, the last of course, in the Person of Jesus Christ. R.C. Sproul was once asked about how he could talk about Jesus Christ being the only way to be saved with all the other gods and religions in the world. And he said, “You mean apart from the fact that there are no other gods?”
(Again, how much of this you want to explain to a child when he or she asks you what God looks like is up to you. We’re using their questions as ‘springboards’ to explore some theology…or to ‘expound on theology together’.)
But the fantastic reality in this is that the metaphysical God began appearing to His newly created beings in physical forms. In one of the most remarkable conversations that Jesus had with the Pharisees He said something to them that rocked their world. It should have caused them to review the Scriptures, but they were too stubborn for that. But here’s what Jesus said: John 8:56-57- “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” NASU So this really dumbfounded them. But this revelation by Jesus referred not only to the fact that Abraham had seen the coming of the Messiah, the coming of Christ by faith, but that Abraham had actually seen Christ by sight! Remember the visit? Gen 18:1-2- “Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth…” NASU
This was another early appearance of God, or a theophany. Jesus Christ took on a pre-incarnate form of a man, and along with two Angels, He met with Abraham and told Abraham about things that were to come. But again, Jesus tells the Pharisees that He and Abraham had already had a visit together. He may not have yet been fifty years old in His ‘incarnation’, or in the body that Christ had taken on in the Person of ‘Jesus’, but in reality, He had been around a lot longer than they imagined. In fact, Jesus put it this way: John 8:58- “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am.” NASU Now Jesus really rocks their world, because not only does He tell them that Abraham had already seen Him in a physical form, but He also tells them who He really is! And where had they heard that identity of God before? Ex 3:13-14- “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” NASU Jesus reveals to them not only had He visited with Abraham in a Pre-incarnate form, but He is also the One who met with Moses in the burning bush and revealed who He was, the eternal God; ‘I Am’! This is the eternal name for God, and that is who Jesus was and is; ‘The Great I Am’!
Some other physical appearances of God in the Old Testament were also really astounding, like as we mentioned, in the burning bush. But then there was the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire, through which the presence of God led the Israelites through the Wilderness. The lighting and thunder on Mt. Sinai was a powerful manifestation of God.
And how about this: Isa 6:1-5- “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said,“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” NASU What did God look like to the prophet Isaiah? Well, God’s physical form is not revealed here, but just Isaiah’s description helps us envision the Lord as our King of unimaginable glory!
Again, part of our point is that God was doing things that He had never done before, all because of His desire to be in closer and closer relationship with the people of His own making. And to do this He, God who is Spirit, began appearing in physical forms to His people, His family. Which ultimately led to this: John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 14- “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” NASU This, of course, is the great Incarnation of God: God in Christ also became man in Jesus, and made a way for us to reunite with Him though His substitutionary life and death for us. And then as the Angels later revealed to the Disciples, this same Jesus will come back for us, or we shall go to Him. But Jesus Christ will forever be God and Man, our Resurrected Lord. They would physically see Him again, and so will we.
And as for us, or as for us spiritual and physical beings; to see God is one of the deepest desires of the human soul. It’s often overlooked, but one of the greatest comforts to Job in his hours of suffering was this: Job 19:26-27- “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” NIV Knowing that he was soon to see God, and in his own resurrected body no less, was not only the deepest desire of Job’s heart, but was also his greatest strength to deal with his terrible struggles. The Psalmist pointed out that this was also a key to his strength to dealing with the hardships of this life, as it would be for us as well. Ps 105:4- “Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually. NASU Joni Eareckson Tada, who has endured the loss of the use of her arms and legs for many years, said she had so many questions for God. But then she said that she realizes that once she sees His face, she thinks her questions will just melt away.
To see God is not only one of the deepest desires of the human soul, it is also one of the greatest motivations for living; knowing that we are going to, and perhaps one day soon, look upon the very face of God, well…it gives us genuine power for living. And not only will we see that wondrous glory of God’s Spirit, we will also see the wonder of God’s actual face, the physical face of God, His resurrected face; because it’s the face of Jesus Christ, our Risen Savior and King!
So part of the answer to what does God look like is that God looks exactly like Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ is the physical and visible manifestation of the spiritual and invisible God. Those who lived when Jesus walked the Earth already saw what God looks like. And we are about to find out, because soon and very soon, what….we are going to see the King!