Many fine theological minds have wrestled with the apparent contradiction that the God of the Bible is both transcendent as well as immanent. He’s infinitely greater and beyond that which is created, yet He’s near to us and takes an interest in the affairs of man. It truly boggles the human mind.
Personally I think it’s wonderful that the Bible never seeks to explain nor defend these themes, which challenge the modern intellect. It simply states how nearby and caring He is: ‘He tends His flock like a Shepherd’ (Isaiah 40:11) and happily continues in the same passage that ‘The LORD is the everlasting God… His understanding no one can fathom (verse 28). Putting it succinctly, something of God’s nature can be described in one beautiful word: ‘Immanuel’- God with us. He’s with us, yet He’s Almighty. He’s Almighty, yet He’s near us. What a God!
Last month I had an experience with my son which spoke to me about the relationship which God desires with us. I would describe my relationship with my son as one of ‘both intimacy and respect’. Due to certain behaviour which I don’t tolerate, (you can try guessing what it was!) I thought it right to discipline my child more severely than I’d ever done before. I didn’t enjoy it, but I believed it was right. Immediately after the whole affair I was blown away by the fact that, somehow, I became aware of a deepened relationship with him. He wanted to be near me, and we had some wonderful father-son time. It reminded me so much of how things should be with God.
God wants us near Him; there’s no doubt. He longs for the deepest relationship possible - for this reason Jesus came to die. Yet He never tolerates it when we treat Him with familiarity. It’s important to Him that we honour Him as holy. He demands respect.
Just as the theological concepts of transcendence and immanence appear to contradict, so it can be hard at times to grasp how much God desires to see both a respectful reverence as well as a deep and personal relationship. Though our minds cannot fully take this in, our spirits are able to respond appropriately. We can say together with Paul: ‘Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! To Him be the glory forever!’ (Romans 11:33 & 36). And we’ll have all of this life, as well as eternity, to join the heavenly host, and consecrate our beings to the worship of Him.
Prayer: Father, You’re so great, yet You want me to be close. I choose to fear You, but I also want to be close to You. Please help me to live a life in right relationship with You, through Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name, Amen.
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