Who is the God of the Bible? He’s the Creator, responsible for all we see. He’s the One whose majesty is beyond contemplation—we should continually be in awe of Him. He’s the one who shows us love, in spite of ourselves. And He is holy, holy, holy, and therefore worthy of our deepest devotion.
A little more than two years ago, I began writing a book about repentance. As I began to write, a disturbing thought hit me. I’m not sure I—or most others who call themselves Christians—know nearly enough about the identity of the God who asks me to repent. And when it comes to repentance—giving up my way of doing things so I can embrace God’s way of doing things—what is my motivation for repenting if I have trouble even defining who God is?
This is the one who makes the claim, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9, NIV). The scope of this claim by itself makes the person of God worth investigating. As we try to answer the question “Who is the God of the Bible?” we will seek to understand his identity as Creator, we will contemplate His majesty through a quick and biblically-rooted examination of the created order, we will ponder the character of the God who claims to love the world enough to give up His only Son, and finally, we will see the holiness and set-apart nature of God.
The Bible as a Revelation from and about God
Up front, I want to offer up two working propositions as it pertains to the Bible. First, the authors of Scripture claim to have been inspired by God as they wrote. In other words, those who wrote the message of the Bible claim that the message is not of their own invention. They claim instead that the message of the Bible is a message directly from God. This is what the apostle Paul states plainly in 2 Timothy 3:16, as he writes that all Scripture should be seen as the very breath of God.
Second, the authors of Scripture make plain that this message is not only from God, but about Him. If we connect the dots a bit further, we should walk away with the understanding that, if these two claims are true, God must want people to know Him. Therefore, as we read the words of Scripture, we should always be asking the question, what does what I have just read tell me about God?
“The authors of Scripture claim to have been inspired by God as they wrote.”
There is, of course, much more we learn as we read the Bible. We learn about mankind and our nature. We learn things about the meaning and purpose of life, and how we can live it to the fullest. We learn about God’s plan and desire for all things. And all of this we count as true, real, and ultimately significant because of the understanding that the revelation of Scripture originates with a being who, though above and beyond us, wants to know us—and us to know Him. So, let’s dive in.
The Creativity of God
The best way to understand the identity of God as Creator is to look at the account of creation, recorded in Genesis 1. As we do, we will find that God presents Himself as one who has existed before creation and outside of creation. Now, I know that is a big claim, but it is intended to be exactly that—big. Genesis 1:1 commences with the words, “In the beginning God created…” In other words, there was a beginning to all that has been created, God was there at the beginning, and He was the force behind all that began to exist.
There have been many alternative explanations for how our world came to be. It’s a fair guess to say that the number of explanations to the question about the world’s origins are roughly equal to the number of answers to the question, “Who is God?” Logically, it stands to reason that your view of God will directly influence your view of how all this came to be. With that in mind, let’s spend a little time thinking about the implications of the claim made in Genesis 1:1. If, “in the beginning God created,” then everything we see exists at some level as a result of the creative ingenuity of the God of the Bible.
Imagine standing on the beach watching the waves roll in, reaching the breathtaking view at the summit of a mountain at the conclusion of a hike, holding a newborn child who has just drawn her first breath—all of the wonders we can observe with our senses. God is the reason all of these exist.
Who is the God of the Bible? “God was there at the beginning, and He was the force behind all that began to exist.”
The narrative of Genesis 1 goes on to describe the order of creation. God created first the heavens, then the earth. He created light. He separated the water from the dry land. He called all of the earth’s vegetation into being; and then He created the division of day and night. In the fifth and sixth movements of creation, God placed fish in the sea, birds in the air, and other creatures on the land. God was pleased with what He had done. But something was missing. It is in this moment that God seems to have looked inward. Out of His own image, He created humanity—first Adam, then Eve. Up to this point, God had been pleased with all that He had created. But in this moment, God was more than pleased; in fact, He was moved to declare the “very” goodness of what He had done (Genesis 1:31).
So, this is the claim of the Bible. This is God’s claim and revelation about Himself. From nothing, He made everything that we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell—and all of what we can’t as well. Everything from the vastness of space to the smallest subatomic particles owe their existence to Him. As we examine these claims, we learn much about God’s identity. We see His will to create. We see His pleasure as He examines His creation. We see a desire to create other reasoning, sentient forms of life. We see His creativity and love of beauty. We see God as architect, artist, engineer, playwright, and so much more. This is the God of creation.
The Majesty of God
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” These words, written by King David of Israel, both begin and end Psalm 8. David goes on to declare that the glory of God is set above the heavens. In our day and age, David might have chosen to say it more like this: “God, you have painted your name across the skies! Every sunrise, every sunset, every thunderstorm, every time I turn my eyes upward, I see your majesty.” This ancient Near Eastern king, who lived roughly three thousand years ago, found himself awestruck as he looked at creation, and even more awestruck by the God who created it all.
Have you ever stopped simply to ponder the absolute vastness of the universe? I would guess that for most the answer is no. I bet your daily schedule is so packed with other activities that thinking about the size of the universe is not something you naturally do. Why don’t we pause for just a minute to do exactly that.
Who is the God of the Bible? “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Think on this: astronomers tell us that light travels roughly 610 miles in one year, 5.88 trillion miles, to be exact. When we round it up and add all of the zeroes, that number looks like this 6,000,000,000,000. Modern scientists estimate the universe to be 14,000,000,000 years old. (Whether or not you believe this to be true, stick with me, because the end conclusion about the size of the universe is important.) When we do the math, we arrive at what some guess to be the actual size of the universe: 84,000,000,000,000,000 miles. In truth, we cannot be entirely certain—there are questions about the constancy of the speed of light and other factors that make this kind of math a bit difficult— but possibly this exercise allows us to get a glimpse into how vast all of creation may be.
Now, if you are anything like me, numbers with that many zeros probably don’t mean much to you. In fact, you may feel like numbers this big don’t actually belong in the real world. The truth, however, is that numbers like this are describing the real world (at least, the universe). But here’s the problem with information we can’t get our minds around—we tend to dismiss it. Let’s not do that just now, however. Even if you can’t fully comprehend the particulars of what numbers so vast may imply, don’t miss the significance. For just a moment, choose not to dismiss what you don’t understand. Instead, simply be in awe.
“Even if you can’t fully comprehend the particulars of what numbers so vast may imply, don’t miss the significance.”
Roughly three thousand years ago, King David found himself awestruck by the scope of creation. He didn’t have a telescope or our modern understanding of the size and scope of the created order. But in spite of his limitations—at least you and I are likely to consider these absences as limitations—his ponderings on the wonders of the created universe are the inspiration for many of his writings, including Psalm 8. What I love about David is that every time he contemplated creation, every time he found himself captivated by nature’s beauty, he was moved to declare the majesty of God. It is evident that, each time David looked up, he was struck by the feeling that God had written His own name in big, bold letters across the tapestry of the sky.
It would do many of us good to stop and reflect from time to time, especially as we have the opportunity to notice the beauty and wonder of creation. There is value in being captivated by what we see, but even more value in acknowledging the One who made it. As we acknowledge Him in, and because of, all He has spoken into existence, we get a glimpse into just what kind of God He is. We get a picture of His vastness, the depth of the wonder that surrounds Him, and yes, even His wild beauty. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all of the earth!” (Psalm 8:1, 9).
The Character of God
As we seek to understand the character of God, I want to spend just a little more time in Psalm 8. We have acknowledged that David found himself awestruck by the God of creation, but as we read deeper into the psalm, we see there is another idea that he found almost as compelling. King David’s words from Psalm 8:3–4 are ones I can identify with. Here is what he said:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
Who am I that God would entertain thoughts about me? It’s a fair question, isn’t it? God, if you made all of this, from the depths of space all the way down to the smallest subatomic particles—and beyond—and continue to be at work holding it all in balance, how do you find time to care about me?
I feel this at an even deeper level every time I am reminded that the world’s population is now over seven billion…and I am only one in a sea of many faces. In comparison to the wonders of creation, you and I are small. And there are so many of us. But somehow, God does care about each and every one of us. This, in fact, seems to be implied in David’s question. David seems to be saying, “When I see how small I am in comparison to all you have created, I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that you care about me. But you do!”
David continues his thoughts in verse 8, by declaring that God has given humankind an exalted place among all He created. We are special to Him. Remember back to the creation narrative from Genesis 1? Everything God created from day one to day five led Him to declare that it was “good” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25). But on the sixth day, after creating human beings in His own image, God declared, it was “very good!” (Genesis 1:31).
Who is the God of the Bible? “God has given humankind an exalted place among all He created. We are special to Him.”
Here’s why this matters. If God had simply created the universe—the galaxies, the planets, and life on this comparatively tiny rock revolving around a relatively small star—we would be able to conclude, as David did that He truly was majestic. But what beyond that would we know about God? What of His nature and character would this actually reveal? Not much. We might even conclude as the deists do that all that we see requires the existence of a creative entity, but that would not leave us with justification for belief in a personal God. And that would leave us a long, long way from a God who so loved the world, that He gave His only Son (John 3:16). But that is the message of the Bible. The truth is, God thinks about us. And when He thinks about us, He thinks, I love these people I created—enough to give myself for them. It is as David declared in Psalm 8…God is truly mindful of us.
The Holiness of God
What would it be like to come face-to-face with God? How do you think you would react? If you are like me, meaning you may have trouble picturing an encounter like this, it will be helpful to take a look at exactly such a story from the pages of the Bible. Isaiah 6:1 says,
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple.”
Note what Isaiah’s words reveal to us. First, he gave us a fairly exact time stamp detailing when this event took place, planting it firmly within the archives of history. Next, Isaiah informed us about the specifics of what he saw. He claimed to have seen the Lord, another name for God, high and exalted, sitting on a throne. Isaiah wanted all who would read his book to know that with his own eyes, he saw God in all of His glory, or at least that portion his humanity would allow him to observe.
Who is the God of the Bible? “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple.”
Isaiah’s story is full of details about what he witnessed. He saw angels, who looked nothing like the sweet, diminutive creatures we often see in advertisements around Valentine’s Day. No, these six-winged creatures were frightening to behold. Isaiah told us it wasn’t only their appearance that rattled him, but the reverberations of their voices filled the temple, causing it to shake right down to the foundations. And while the angels were certainly frightening, it was the One they praised with their songs who truly drew Isaiah’s attention.
So, let’s look at just a few of the words Isaiah used in his attempt to describe God. The first two we have already mentioned, and as it happens, they convey a similar meaning. Isaiah informed his readers that when he saw the Lord, he saw Him high and exalted. Even as He was encircled by a multitude of powerful, frightening, and truly otherworldly beings, God’s position was that of one who was obviously set apart.
Isaiah’s choice of words reveals clearly that when he saw God, God was in His proper place—at the pinnacle of all things. Isaiah’s vision reveals as well, God seated on a throne. Even the garments Isaiah observed God wearing serve as an indication of the fact that he was in the presence of royalty.
Who is the God of the Bible? “Even as He was encircled by a multitude of powerful, frightening, and truly otherworldly beings, God’s position was that of one who was obviously set apart.”
We can also learn something about God as we listen to the song of the angels. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). These words when taken at face value communicate a great deal, but there are also some hidden nuggets that lie just beneath the surface. As the angels worshiped God, they declared His holiness, which in this context indicates that He is set apart from all other things. In other words, there is no one like Him.
But the angels didn’t simply declare that God is holy, they declare He is “holy, holy, holy.” In the Hebrew language, the use of the same word in succession, just as it appears here, is meant to amplify that particular word. For example, in English, I could tell you that the food we shared for dinner was very good. Isaiah would have told you it was good, good. So then, with the use of the phrase, “holy, holy, holy,” the reader is intended to understand that God is, in effect, immeasurably holy. Immeasurably holy…
This immeasurable holiness is core to who God is. It is also a concept we seem to have lost touch with in much of the modern church. This is problematic. As we lose sight of the holiness of God, we begin to remake Him in our image. As we lose sight of the holiness of God, we forget just why sin and its consequences are so damaging to the relationship we have with Him. As we lose sight of the holiness of God, we worship anything that captures our attention, instead of only worshipping the only One who is truly worthy of our adoration.
Who is the God of the Bible? “As we lose sight of the holiness of God, we begin to remake Him in our image.”
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), it is not difficult to see why a people who have lost sight of the holiness of God are so apt to stumble into all kinds of foolishness. We must rediscover a holy God who makes us tremble, and in doing so the God of love who desires to be called Father will become even more compelling.
So, who is the God of the Bible? He’s the Creator, responsible for all we see. He’s the One whose majesty is beyond contemplation—we should continually be in awe of Him. He’s the one who shows us love, in spite of ourselves. And He is holy, holy, holy, and therefore worthy of our deepest devotion. Yes, there is much more that can be said about the identity of God as we read through the pages of the Bible, but if we can embrace and understand these four truths, our growing understanding of Him will be built upon a firm, steady, and trustworthy foundation.