Theological Thursdays: Knowing God: Section Two: Behold Your God!

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Section Two: Behold Your God!

Behold is a word that serves a dual purpose. It means both to see, using your eyes, and to perceive, using your comprehension. So when in Scripture it says, “Behold your God,” like in Isaiah 40:9, it means more than calling your attention to the fact that he’s here.

Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!” ESV

It means understanding what his presence means to you personally and as a people of God. As, a result, when Isaiah earlier says:

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.

He asks them to both see and understand that the coming of the God of Israel brings with his arrival what only God can accomplish: righteous judgment and amends for all their suffering. As John says in Revelation: 21:3-5a

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Many people look at God, but do not see him, or seeing him do not understand. In this section Dr. Packer will try and help us understand who our God is by showing us his essential attributes and how they relate to his nature and character. He will do this, not using speculation or philosophical argument. He does not take the approach of the philosopher whose arguments always start with man and what they understand by the use of their senses and reasoning faculties, but by using the Scriptures. In that sense, his imperative is based on the scriptures alone for it is in them alone that God has spoken and his actions been recorded. It is in them alone that God has given all men the truest revelation of himself.

This does not, in and of itself, discount our experiences of God, but it does make them subservient to what has already been revealed. I will cautiously point out that Packer also uses tradition, but tradition that has an historic acceptance by the church and is wholly based in Scripture for all its arguments. He has already done that in his appeal to the Athenasian Creed in chapter seven: He Shall Testify. An important point to remember when studying this section is that Dr. Packer is primarily interested in what God says about himself, what he has revealed in his own Word, not what men throughout history have surmised about him. You should also know that Dr. Packer only covers what could be called the essential attributes, those qualities that all people, no matter what their station or education, can grasp about him in whom we live and move and have our being.

I will close with a descriptive poem by Isaac Watts (1674-1748).

The Incomprehensible

FAR in the Heavens my God retires:
My God, the mark of my desires,
And hides his lovely face;
When he descends within my view,
He charms my reason to pursue,
But leaves it tir’d and fainting in th’ unequal chase.
Or if I reach unusual height
Till near his presence brought,
There floods of glory check my flight,
Cramp the bold pinions of my wit,
And all untune my thought;
Plunged in a sea of light I roll,
Where wisdom, justice, mercy, shines;
Infinite rays in crossing lines
Beat thick confusion on my sight, and overwhelm my soul.
Great God! behold my reason lies
Adoring: yet my love would rise
On pinions not her own:
Faith shall direct her humble flight,
Through all the trackless seas of light,
To Thee, th’ Eternal Fair, the infinite Unknown.

Grace and peace and wisdom be yours as you continue your study.

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