God is described in many ways, with many attributes and actions. Our finite minds try to grasp the infinite by straining language to the breaking point trying to paint word pictures of God. We’ll touch on that today in this post from the Doctrine of God series.
How is God different from us?
He has two sets of attributes, incommunicable and communicable. His communicable attributes are the ones He shares with us. His incommunicable attributes He shares less of or not at all.
What is so important about God’s names?
In the Bible, it’s a description of His character, like a lot of Bible names. For example, when we pray “hallowed” be your name as part of the Lord’s prayer, we’re praying that people will speak and act in a way that is honoring and reflects His character.
It also shows the reason in not taking God’s name in vain. It’s a command that we don’t dishonor God’s reputation with foolish or misleading words or actions that don’t reflect His true character.
Why does God have so many names in the Bible?
Many of the names come from human experiences, emotions, or from natural creation in order to describe God’s character. It’s like using an analogy.
How is God described from natural creation?
God is compared to…
- a lion (Isaiah 31:4) This is what the Lord says to me: “As a lion growls, a great lion over its prey—and though a whole band of shepherds is called together against it, it is not frightened by their shouts or disturbed by their clamor—so the Lord Almighty will come down to do battle on Mount Zion and on its heights.
- an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11) like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.
- a lamb (Isaiah 53:7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
- a hen (Matthew 23:37) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.“
- the sun and a shield (Psalm 84:11) For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
- the morning star (Revelation 22:16) “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
- a light (Psalm 27:1) The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
- a torch (Revelations 21:23) The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
- a fire (Hebrews 12:29) for our “God is a consuming fire.”
- a fountain (Psalm 36:9) For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
- a rock (Deuteronomy 32:4) 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.
- a hiding place (Psalm 119:114) You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
- a tower (Proverbs 18:10) The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
- a moth (Psalm 39:11) When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin, you consume their wealth like a moth—surely everyone is but a breath.
- a shadow (Psalm 91:1) Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
- a temple (Revelation 21:22) I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
There are more but for the sake of space, we’ll move on.
How is God described from human experience?
God is described as…
- a bridegroom (Isaiah 61:10) I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
- a husband (Isaiah 54:5) For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
- a father (Deuteronomy 32:6) Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?
- a judge and king (Isaiah 33:22) For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.
- a man of war (Exodus 15:3) The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.
- a builder and maker (Hebrews 11:10) For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
- a shepherd (Psalm 23:1) The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
- a physician (Exodus 15:26) He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
That’s just for starters.
How is God described from human emotion?
Human emotions are attributed to Him like…
- joy (Isaiah 62:5) As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.
- grief (Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10) “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland!”
“Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.”
- anger (Jeremiah 7:18-19) The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?
- love (John 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- hatred (Deuteronomy 16:22) and do not erect a sacred stone, for these the Lord your God hates.
- wrath (Psalm 2:5) He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,…
To name a few.
How are God’s actions described?
He is described as doing things as we would, such as…
- knowing (Genesis 18:21) that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
- remembering (Genesis 8:1) “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”
- seeing (Genesis 1:10) God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
- hearing (Exodus 2:24) God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
- smelling (Genesis 8:21) The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
- sitting (Psalm 9:7) The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.
- rising (Psalm 68:1) May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.
- walking (Leviticus 26:12) I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
- wiping away tears (Isaiah 25:8) The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.
Why does God seem so mixed up?
The passages show that all of the creation reveals something about God to us. Being made in the image of God reveals a bit more, and Jesus as the revelation of God to man is the final revelation bringing it all in perspective. This shows that all we understand is through our limited understanding in our experience with God.
That’s why anthropomorphic language is used that speaks of God in human terms. Don’t take a description by itself out of context, but understand it in light of the rest of Scripture. Remember, the Bible’s description of God isn’t exhaustive, but when you consider what we have…whoa…
Doctrine of God Posts
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Chapter 11: Incommunicable Attributes of God