**Time for a little theology. Put those biblically-minded thinking caps on. Here we go!**
Let’s talk about God, shall we?
The Bible teaches that God is both near and far. Put it another way, God is knowable and unknowable. Some believe God is only close and knowable, such as Shintoism, and pantheism, while others see God as only far and unknowable, such as Muslims, Judaism, Christian theism, and Hinduism. However, the understanding of God throughout Scripture is that the unknowable God is knowable (cf. Acts 17:22-31).
The doctrinal formation of God’s knowability and unknowability is divine immanence and divine transcendence. These are not attributes of God, like goodness, love, or wrath; rather immanence and trans-cendence should be regarded as indicators of how God is present and active within creation, but superior to and independent of anything that He has created.
As transcendent, God is independent of, above, and distinct from that which He created. He is outside, above, and before time-space universe. Scripture speaks of God’s transcendence this way: “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isa 46:8-10).“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases (Ps 115:3).”
As immanent, God pervades and sustains the universe. In his book No One Like Him, John Frame defines immanence as “God’s nearness, his presence on the earth, especially with his people. [Immanence] stresses his involvement with human affairs” (pg. 59). Many Bible passages speak to the reality of God’s divine immanence, but maybe none as familiar as Psalm 139: “where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” So, God is immanent (He is near and involved in His creation) and he is transcendent (He is far and distinct from His creation).
The part that blows me away here is God’s imminence. Why would the holy God of this universe choose to want to be close to filthy, sinful me or any humans? He could have turned His back on this “project” because of our sin problem and started over on Mars or somewhere else. But the fact is, God didn’t! He didn’t!!! Nor did He leave us to figure out who He is and what He is like (cf. Ps 19:1-6; Dan 4:34-37; Rom 1:21; 1 Cor 1:21). God took initiative to reveal Himself, so that His people can understand God and know (factually and relationally) God and in turn worship, honor, and obey Him, the God who desires an intimate relationship with the people of His creation. WOW!
Now God has revealed His immanence (His nearness) in a variety of ways. First, through His attributes, such as God is self-sufficient (Ps 50:10-12), eternal (Deut 33:27; Ps 90:2), omnipresent (Ps 139:7-12), omnipotent (Gen 18:14; Rev 19:6), omniscient (Ps 139:2-6; Isa 40:13-14), wise (Prov 3:19; 1 Tim 1:17), immutable (Heb 1:10-12; 13:8), sovereign, etc. Second, God has revealed Himself through His many names, such as Yahweh (eternal being, Ex 19:5-6), ’adon (master owner, Mal 1:16), ’Elohim (God of creation and every nation, Pss 86:8; 96:5), ’El (might and power, Ps 68:4), ’El Shadday (covenant keeping, Gen 17:1-2; Ex 6:3), and others. Third, God has chosen to reveal Himself through images, motifs, and metaphors. What I mean by that is that God designates Himself images and roles (such as “king” or “teacher”) to show us what kind of relationship He has with His creation.
These images and metaphors can be divided into several categories. First, God is seen in images of officiating or civil roles. God is a king (Ex 15:18; Matt 28:18), a judge (Gen 18:25; Isa 2:4; Rev 20:11-15), a lawyer (Isa 1-3; Jn 15:26; 1 Jn 2:1), a legislator (Ex 20:2; Lev 18:2), and a deliverer or redeemer (in the sense of buying a slave, Lev 25:47-53; Hos 3:2; Gal 3:13). All of these express various aspects of God’s control, authority, and redeeming presence.
A second image category can be seen in the area of vocational, crafts, or professions. God is a shepherd (Ex 34:11-16; Ps 23:1; Ezek 34:31; 1 Pet 5:1-2), an artist (Ps 19:1), a builder (Amos 7:7), a warrior (Isa 42:13), a potter (Isa 64:8; Jer 18:6; Rom 9:20-21), a teacher (Isa 2:3; Jer 31:33), a knitter (Ps 139:13), a farmer (Isa 5; Matt 13:3-8), a landowner (Matt 20:1-16), and a tradesman (Isa 55:1). These too express diverse characteristics of God’s control, authority, and redeeming presence.
A third image category is found in the concepts of creation, both animate and inanimate. Within the animate world, God is portrayed as a lion (Hos 13:7-8), an eagle (Ex 19:4; Deut 32:11-12), a protecting bird (Ps 17:8; cf. Matt 23:37), the horn of an ox (Ps 18:2), and a moth to Ephriam, who will eat their garments in judgment (Hos 5:12). Within the inanimate world, God is light (1 Jn 1:5), a rock (Deut 32:4, 15; Ps 18:2, 31, 46; Matt 7:24), a tower of refuge (Ps 46:11), a shield (Ps 3:3), the consuming fire (Ex 13:21; 24:17; Heb 12:29), and the water of life (Ps 36:9; Jer 2:13; Jn 4:1-15; Rev 21:6; 22:1, 17).
A final category which describes God relation to mankind can be seen as the most intimate, that is, the familial and interpersonal relationships. In these God is seen most dominantly as a father and husband (Deut. 32:6; Matt 6:9), then a mother (Deut 32:18; Isa 42:14; Matt 23:37), a lover (Jer 3:20; Ezek 16:1-14), and finally a friend (2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; Jer 3:4; Jas 2:23; Lk 11:6-8; 14:10; Jas 3:23; 4:4). All of these familial and interpersonal relationships stress that God is intimately active with his image bearers, you and me!
Thus, God is transcendent and He is also immanent in that He is “knowable” and it is possible to “see” His works in and throughout creation. Let me propose that by knowing these biblically driven images of God, the Christian will more fully be able to worship, honor, and glorify the knowable God.
You now have something to study to know God better. And is that not the whole point of the Christian life? To know God (Phil 3:10)? Of course. So, now I have given you a springboard for which you can know God better. So, go and open your Bible and know Him!