The science of seeing God has an
ultimate fault. Even aided by an electron microscope or the Hubble
Telescope the human eye cannot see God. Certainly, the eye
perceives those traces of glory that cause many of us to marvel at
His handiwork. However, the greatest revelation of God impacts our
hearts and permeates our souls. Spiritual leaders, from prophets
to apostles, have asked to see God, and they have been encouraged
to open their hearts rather than their eyes.
The 19th century poet, James Russell
Lowell, penned the words, “… behind the dim unknown standeth God
within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.” In atheistic
circles, there is a trend toward thinking that through science we
have now seen rather deeply into the shadow and should have
located God if He is there. Enough stones have been turned and the
light of science has penetrated into enough dark corners that
surely if there were a God, we would have found Him. We have
amassed knowledge of amazing mathematics, unfathomable physics,
and an incredible biosphere. While for many of us, this increasing
knowledge of the physical cosmos builds a stronger foundation for
belief in God, some argue that it is exactly what their godless
paradigm would expect.
in a sense, not seeing God is more of a believer’s problem than
that of an unbeliever. Of course, artists feel obligated to depict
God. But their image of God seems to seldom get beyond an old man
in the clouds. Perhaps even worse, their attempts to depict Jesus
Christ give us a far different image than would be expected from
the ethnic group He was born among and the physical requirements
of the culture of which He was a part. Yet these unrealistic
renditions satisfy a great many people’s desire for an image. Many
have no clue concerning the origin of the artist’s perception, but
they imagine they are looking at a picture of Jesus Christ.
This misdirected quest for a view of
God could be corrected by examining the Bible. Faithful biblical
leaders have requested to see God and have gotten insightful
answers to their request.
The answer Moses received in Exodus
chapters 33 and 34 is striking. We imagine him as a man of very
special privilege in seeing manifestations of God. Also, his
circumstances have led superficial Bible critics to think they
have found a discrepancy.
Exodus 33:11 (NIV) states, “The
Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his
friend.” However, the context of verses
7 –10 clarifies this exchange. The Lord spoke to Moses from
a pillar of cloud at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So,
obviously, in verse 18 when Moses
says, “Now show me your glory” he is asking for something far
greater and more intimate than the cloud. God’s answer includes
the words in verse 20, “… you
cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” God does
arrange for Moses to see His “back” from a cleft in a rock after
His glory has passed by.
So in chapter
34, Moses goes to the top of the mountain to receive his
vision of God’s glory. But the outstanding element of the vision
is a voice proclaiming the character of God. He was reminded in
this visitation that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to
anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving, and meting
out just punishment. What Moses asked for was a special vision of
God’s glory. What Moses needed and received was a dynamic reminder
of the character of God. This was Moses’ most intimate contact
with God as is evidenced by the radiance of Moses’ face when he
returned to the people (Exodus
34:29 – 35).
Moses is not alone in asking to see God
and getting an unexpected reply. Early on the night before Jesus’
crucifixion, there was a high level of anxiety among the apostles.
In the course of some intense conversation, “Philip said, ‘Lord,
show us the Father and that will be enough for us’ ” (John 14:8). In His response, Jesus
said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” In context it
is obvious He is not asking Philip to look at any physical
feature. He points to Philip’s time spent with Him in His
ministry. Even as Philip’s question is similar to Moses’, so is
the answer he receives. There was no halo or physical glow.
However, the glory of God’s character had presented itself on
earth in the person of the Son.
Humanity never received a sculpted or
painted image of the likeness of Jesus’ physical body. That is not
what we needed to enhance our comprehension of the image of God.
However, the four gospels portray to our hearts and souls the
image of God that we do need. That image gives us incentive to be
better people. It demonstrates the character of God that was
proclaimed to Moses. It instills the answer for those who ask,
“What would Jesus do?” It sets the precedent for ideal Christian
Eyes are good for perceiving the
existence of God. I concur with John Muir’s exclamation, “…
measureless mountain days … opening a thousand windows to show us
God.” Yet our vision of God reaches its apex as the soul
assimilates the character of God through the Word. Especially, we
imbibe it through the person of Jesus Christ in the gospels.
Unknown to himself, it was a glimpse of God Almighty that caused
the agnostic, Loren Eiseley, to pen the words, “… that great
impulse — love, compassion, call it what one will — which, however
discounted in our time, moved the dying Christ on Golgotha with a
power that has reached across two thousand weary years.” That
love, compassion, and power compose part of the image we receive
from the gospels. From our journey into the Word, we receive a
clear image of God.
Pictures in this article: Art Explosion by Nova Development Corporation, © 1997– 2001.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct 11.