Post

Jul 29
The God Who Is

Finger of God.jpg

​For Christians, particularly Westernized Christians, as well as Jews the term 'God' undoubtedly implies the 'God of Israel' described in the Bible. The belief in one single God and Creator of the universe for these religious groups is indisputable.

This however has not always been the case. Nations dating back to ancient or Old Testament times, the birthplace of the Hebrew patriarchs and matriarchs, worshiped hundreds of 'nature gods'[1].  Christians and Jews are unique in their belief in one single God compared to these nations of the ancient world and parts of the modern world.

For them this one God is the origin and creator of everything, physical and spiritual.[2] All forms of life are created for the glory and purpose of this creator God, bringing God's goodness to the earth.

When we read and explore the Bible, we should do so in the context of the Biblical world. The Bible is not a theoretical philosophy textbook, describing human thought and behavior, divorced from human existence on planet Earth.

The Bible is a true story telling about this one creator God who sets a plan in motion winning back the hearts of the estranged humans He created. The story begins with this God creating the universe, giving every cosmic element its unique role and function, displaying His goodness. He assigns humanity the most honorable role in the cosmos; acting as co-rulers with God over the cosmos bringing order and prosperity to creation[3]. The Bible story continues telling how humanity departed from its relationship with God and how God sets a plan in motion winning back humanity for its unique role.

God's plan starts with one man, Abram, who became the father of a nation. Through this nation, Israel, God provided an anointed righteous man, fathered by God. This god-man pays humanity's debt to God for not fulfilling its created role, by giving up his own life as a sacrifice appeasing God's legitimate anger.

Because of this one man's perfect righteousness and complete obedience to God, God extends His forgiveness to Israel and all other nations and tribes. Those who accept this debt payment through faith in this God-man, Jesus, are empowered to restore their relationship with God, and to learn how to live in God's restored kingdom on earth , under His rule and reign. 

This is the broad 'Big Picture' of the Bible story. When we read and study the Bible we should do so from this 'Big Picture' perspective.

Biynah believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God. This Word is both reliable and historically accurate. The Bible is God's self-revelation of His nature and character and the revelation of His redemption plan for Israel and all peoples of the earth. Everything written in the Bible begins and ends with God and His plan to establish His kingdom on earth. When God created the universe He did so with this goal in mind.

Getting to know God in a small way, understanding His redemption plan, is a lifelong journey. Knowing God more fully is an eternal journey[4].

The aim of this article is to explain some foundational truths about the nature and character of God. All other studies and interpretations of the Bible are built on these foundational truths about the nature and character of God.

God Exists

We cannot prove the existence of God but only realize and observe it in the universe[5]. God's existence is indefinable. God cannot be contained in a physical form or even described by a rational concept. God's existence is without definition and eternal, beyond human comprehension. The existence of God is a prerequisite for the universe's existence.

The first step towards getting to know God is believing that He exists. [6]

God is One

One of the primary expressions of the Jewish faith, recited daily in prayer, is the Shema;

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV)
4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

This simple statement contains several important ideas:

·         There is only one God who created everything[7]
·         God is a unity. He is a single, whole, complete indivisible entity. He cannot be divided into parts or described by attributes. Any attempt to assign attributes to God is merely man's attempt to understand the infinite.
·         God is the only being to whom we should offer praise or prayer.

God is Incorporeal

Many places in Scripture speak of the various parts of God's body; hands, wings, feet, eyes, etc. These are anthropomorphic or human body terms. We however argue that God has no physical body[8]. Any reference to God's body is a figure of speech.  This is a means of making God's actions more comprehensible to beings living in a material world.

We are forbidden to represent God in a physical form which is idolatry[9].

God is neither Male nor Female

This statement follows directly from the fact that God has no physical form. We refer to God using masculine terms for convenience's sake. The Hebrew language, the language of the Old Testament, has no neutral gender; therefore God is no more male than a table is.

Although we usually refer to God in masculine terms, there are occasions when we refer to God using feminine terms. The 'Shechinah', God's manifest presence filling the universe, is a feminine term description. The word ' Shechinah' is a feminine word.

God is Omnipresent

God is in all places at all times. He fills the universe and exceeds its scope[10]. He is always near for us to call upon in need and success and He sees all that we think and do. Closely tied in with this idea is the fact that God is universal. He is not just the God of the Jews; He is the God of all nations.

God is Omnipotent

God can do anything[11]. It is said that the only thing that is beyond His power is the fear of Him; that is, we have free will, and He cannot compel us to do His will. He does lure and woe us like a lover, his beloved, but He will never overpower us to obey and love Him.

God is Omniscient

God knows all things, past present and future. He knows our thoughts[12] even before we share them with Him.

God is Eternal

God transcends time. He has no beginning and no end[13]. He will always be there to fulfill His promises. When Moses asked for God's name, He replied; "Ehyeh asher ehyeh." This phrase is generally translated as, "I am that I am," but the word "ehyeh" can be present or future tense, meaning "I am what I will be" or "I will be what I will be." The ambiguity of the phrase is often interpreted as a reference to God's eternal nature.

God is both Just and Merciful

God's justice[14] is tempered by mercy[15], the two qualities perfectly balanced. Of the two names of God most commonly used in Scripture, one refers to His quality of Justice, Elokim, and the other to His quality of mercy, 'El malei Rachmim'. The two names were used together in the story of Creation, showing that the world was created with both justice and mercy.

God is Holy and perfect

One of the most common names applied to God in the post- Biblical period is 'Ha-Kadosh, Baruch Bu', The Holy One, Blessed be He.

God calls His children to be like Him- Holy[16], meaning set apart, different, unique, and perfect[17], meaning whole or complete.

God is our Father

We all are God's[18] children. We believe there are three participants in the formation of every human being; the mother and father, who provide the physical form, and God who provides the soul, the personality, and the intelligence. It is said that one of God's greatest gifts to humanity is the knowledge that we are His children and created in His image[19].

Conclusion

I am sure most of us have heard or read these statements describing the nature and character of God; however have we really paid attention to each one considering the implications for human value, responsibility and behavior?

If we truly see this God, who we believe exists, too powerful to be contained in a physical form or even in a cognitive concept, so diverse yet so complete in character and being, so inexplicable in wisdom, understanding and insight, causing time to evaporate before Him, who created every element of the universe with glory and majesty and humanity for the most honorable task of representing Him, will any person in his or her right mind dare to disobey this God and reject the highest function in the universe, representing this God?

Will it be a criminal act of injustice if this all powerful God crush this stubborn, unbendable piece of clay under His mighty hands? What will we do if our creations turn on us in arrogance and defiance?

If we truly realize the nature and character of our Creator and the significance of the role bestowed on us, would it not be enough to cause us to grasp the invitation for redemption and restoration like a dying man in the desert, panting for a single drop of water? Will the realization of our offense against the Master of the universe, discarding the honorable role He prepared for us, not drive us to our knees crying for mercy, pleading for pardon?

Once we have received forgiveness, being restored to our created role and function, representing Him in all we do on earth, will our understanding of God not urge us to spend every drop of energy, getting to know Him and His will, acting upon it with sheer determination and absolute loyalty and focus?

Once we see God, will we not treat every other human being with the utmost dignity and respect knowing that each person is destined for the same function? Will we not realize how only together we can complete the picture of this glorious God, helping each other, growing our part of the God-picture to perfection?

'Eve eating the fruit' did not cause humanity turning away from God, but humanity's blindness, doubting God's character, leading humanity to believe it is okey to disobey God. The world of human misery and pain is not the result of sin, but the result of arrogant blindness, not seeing, recognizing and realizing God's true nature[20].

Is humanity opening its eyes, seeing the power, might and splendor of the Creator of all life not enough to transform the universe into the original 'Garden of Eden'?

The world's problem is not sin, but man's arrogance, blinding him from seeing the glorious face of God. Who can see the face of God and live? Those with a pure and contrite heart will see God[21].

Abram saw God and he became the father of the nation who followed God. Paul saw God and became the father of gentile Christians.

May the God of mercy open our eyes and restore our vision!


Foot Notes

[1] For a detailed description of the Old Testament World see: Understand the Old Testament World
 Biynah Courses. (Sutherland, 2016)

[2] Isaiah 40:28 (NIV) 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

[3] Genesis 1:27-28 (NIV)
27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28  God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

[4] John 17:3 (NIV)
3  Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

[5] Romans 1:20 (NIV)
20  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

[6] Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
6  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

[7] Isaiah 45:5-7 (NIV)
5  I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,
6  so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7  I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

[8] John 4:24 (NIV)
24  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

[9] Deuteronomy 5:7-9 (NIV)
7  "You shall have no other gods before me.
8  "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
9  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

[10] Jeremiah 23:24 (NIV)
24  Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD.

[11] Job 42:2 (NIV)
2  "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.

[12] Psalm 44:21 (NIV)
21  would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?

[13] Genesis 21:33 (NIV)
33  Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God.
Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV)
27  The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, 'Destroy him!'

[14] Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)
18  Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

[15] Exodus 33:19 (NIV)
19  And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

[16] 1 Peter 1:16 (NIV)
16  for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

[17] Deuteronomy 32:4 (NIV)
4  He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

[18] John 8:41 (NIV)
41  You are doing the things your own father does." "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."
John 8:54 (NIV)
54  Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.

[19] Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

[20] Romans 1:18-21 (NIV)
18  The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19  since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20  For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

[21] Isaiah 66:2 (NIV)
2  Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.

​ 

Jul 07
THE GOOD OLD DAYS!

Good Old Days 1.jpeg

One of my favourite Psalms and verses for life is Psalm 37, especially the following verses:

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
     dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD
     and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalms 37:3-4 (NIV)

 

It has always been the desire of my heart to travel as much as possible and I would like to believe that I have made many choices to do good, and delighted myself in the Lord.

God has been faithful to His promise in giving me a husband who also loves travelling and exploring, with a wonderful gift of organising amazing tours. On top of this all, he also has a career that brings us opportunities to visit countries which one would not ordinarily visit as a conventional tourist.

We recently had the opportunity to visit Kiev in the Ukraine, due to a conference my husband had to attend. What an enlightening, delightful experience it has been!

Like the rest of Europe and Asia, the Ukraine has a richness of history that can be overwhelming and astounding.

Kiev can be considered the 'Mecca of the Eastern Orthodox Christian' tradition with magnificent cathedrals all over the city. One might be tempted to scorn these cathedrals as religious monstrosities, but they are symbols of deep conviction and faith in a powerful and loving God, in the hearts of those who built them.

What impressed me most was to see the power of God's kingdom in action. To see how the message of Jesus and the reality of the kingdom of God had the power and still has the power to change people, cities, countries and the world! It was because of the conviction and this power added to the faithfulness of those who heard the truth, that a city like Kiev was transformed, with evidence of the power of their message still standing, despite the message being fraught with obscurities.

I experienced such a sense of the presence of God in the humility of the people, brought about by many years of intense suffering under communism and a sincere longing for the divine to be revealed once more. This deep longing of the human heart, to connect with the source of its life, God, will never be stamped out by any suffering, instigated by even the most violent and humiliating human institutions.

 Good Old Days 2.jpeg

Travelling for us means to encounter the power of human history. History is, first of all, the testing ground of ideas, the force of the human spirit. In the words of Lord Henry Bolingbroke (1678 – 1751): "History is philosophy with examples." We can talk in theory about ideas, but the passage of time clearly shows us which ideas are right or wrong.

There's a tremendous amount of lessons that can be learned from history. As the Spanish – American philosopher, George Santanyana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it." Moses, author of Deuteronomy shared the same vision: "Remember the days of old; understand the years of generation after generation. Ask your father and he will relate to you, your elders and they will tell you." (Deut.32:7)

History is human actions, driven by human thinking. We are responsible for the history we created and leave behind and we do determine its cause through our ideas. What does our personal history look like for which we will be remembered? Is it possible to leave behind a history of love, kindness, goodness, self-control, patients, faithfulness, longsuffering, grace, and mercy? Yes it is, if we choose to do so!

Paul writes:

2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

The only ideas which will create this kind of history, are God's ideas, written in His word. Let us leave no stone unturned, exploring His ideas as deeply and clearly as we possibly can, then live them and pass them down to our children.


May 05
Have book, Can read, Can do.

The above title  is an expression from my dear friend and colleague from  my career in the education industry. She held to this simple philosophy, that anybody could achieve anything providing they have access to the necessary information and the ability to read. 

Eugene Peterson, in his book, 'The Tale of Three Kings', profoundly writes: "God has a university. It's a small school. Few enrol, even fewer graduate."Post 2.jpg

I believe the name of God's university is: 'Life with God'. It is through engaging with the mundane activities of human life, that we learn the eternal spiritual truths of God's world. When we enrol with God's university, we are required to obtain and study the prescribed 'textbook' containing all the knowledge and wisdom we need for completing our course, graduating successfully, moving on from this life to the next, where God alone is God and King.

This 'textbook' is called the Bible. God in His great mercy and love, did not leave us to our own peril, but provided us with all the know-how for doing 'Life with Him', covering every aspect of human life and relationships. The choice of whether we want to read and study the 'textbook' is ours.

The most instructive portion of this written 'textbook', are the first five chapters, known in Hebrew as, Torah. Torah derives from the verb, yarah meaning: to cast, throw, direct, instruct or teach. This, for me, paints the picture of a loving father, actively involved in instructing his children about life, teaching them the way they should live, and giving  hands-on direction. Or, the picture of a loving dad, showing his son or daughter the art of fishing, casting their line and bait in the most fruitful waters. This I believe is the real intention of our loving God and father in giving us Torah.

The unfortunate Greek translation of Torah is 'nomos, meaning 'prescriptive law' changing the picture of the giver to that of a strict, unmerciful lawgiver, causing some dreadful fear to the receiver.

Fundamentally, Torah is the intergalactic communication from God, the constitution of His everlasting kingdom, which brings life, freedom, and order to every person who chooses to adhere to it.

 Each piece of Torah is telling us something about life under the rule and reign of God through his anointed King, Jesus. All the stories and instructions are really messages waiting to be interpreted by the intellectually active mind. The Flood, the Tower of Babel, the splitting of the Red Sea- all contains the deepest wisdom for living with God, becoming like Him. 

The message is not always so straight forward, but requires some effort, digging deeper. In the end it is the most precious and valuable jewels we find in the depths of the earth.

In the words of Jesus, I want to encourage you to join the journey of discovery of our loving Father's book of instructions for life eternal, His Torah.

"Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who keeps asking will receive, and the person who keeps searching will find, and the person who keeps knocking will have the door opened." Matt. 7:7-8 (NIV)

If we have the book, and we can read, we will be able to do 'Life with God'


Mar 24
Problem or Pearl ?

Untitled.png


During my career as a teacher, I encountered a number of students who were classified as 'problem' children, not because of their intellectual capacity, but because of their behaviour and attitude, which in most cases lead to poor academic performance. As a young, inexperienced teacher, I did not realise that there were always valid reasons for this abnormal behaviour, but  investigation and engagement of the context in which these children grew up was required of me.

Their 'abnormal' behaviour could be classified either as extremely shy, insecure and withdrawn or aggressive, rebellious and undisciplined, outside the norm for normal problematic behaviour associated with child development.

As I grew more mature and experienced, I realised that treating these children merely as 'naughty' with harsh discipline and punishment, often rejecting them, only amplified the situation and their behaviour. It took a cognitive decision from my side, to take the time and effort to get to know these children within their family contexts. Without fail, I discovered the reasons and explanations for their behaviour and could develop a tremendous amount of empathy and understanding for them as 'troubled' children, products of their circumstances.

In many cases, I was confronted with circumstances which were very hard and difficult to accept, completely outside my own frame of reference and comfort zone. They required from me to step outside my own familiar worldview, putting myself into their shoes, experiencing their life and evaluating their behaviour within their context, which turned out to be the normal result of their circumstance.

In almost all the cases, I gained the trust and confidence of these children and become their confidant, only to discover the most beautiful person inside, hidden under tremendous pain, insecurity, and confusion. The conclusion from my experience was that the most precious jewels often lay hidden under obscure, and in many cases, offensive coverings. The reward of taking the courage to dig deeper than just the surface, enduring the risk of leaving my own insights and presumptions aside, was a priceless, beautiful relationship of mutual enrichment and trust.

I would like to compare this insight to our experience with many Bible passages, especially those in the Old Testament. Some of them are so far removed from our own frame of reference and comfort zone, causing us great offense and discomfort, like 'problem' children. As my experience with the children I taught, it is these difficult passages that contain the most precious, life changing truths. If we can find the courage and take the risk to step outside what is familiar to us, understanding these passages in their context, the reward will be priceless.

Here at Biynah, we aim to always try to encounter Bible passages within their original context, regardless of the pain and discomfort it may cause. 


May 18
Welcome to my blog!

This is where I'll be sharing my thoughts on topics that matter to me. Who knows... I might even share pictures, videos and links to other interesting stuff.

If I catch your interest, let me hear from you.