Common Thoughts 4


If you take the genealogies listed in Genesis there was at least 2,500 years between Adam and Moses. A fundamental change between man and God is going to change during the Moses years.

Before we can understand this new development let’s go back to the beginning to understand that difference to be introduced to mankind.

The creation events spoken of in Genesis 1 takes place over the whole earth, this curious chunk of rock we call a planet, nine of them we will discover over time. Our chunk of rock that we will call the earth is the third such planet from the sun in our solar system. It’s this planet where God creates something wholly new in his world. The “what” we can come to working definitions. The “why” is beyond our understanding.

But we are not totally ignorant as we learn in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his Godhead, so they are without excuse . . .” We have screwed up this knowledge but it’s there to be seen and understood.

John recounts a story of Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. In concluding this conversation Jesus says to her: “But a new time is coming. In fact, it is already here. True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. They are the kind of worshipers the Father is looking for. 

“God is spirit. His worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 23-24.) What does it mean, God is spirit? Our basic understanding of God is spirit is that he is immaterial as opposed to material (with a physical body). Paul, writing to Timothy, says this: Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Timothy 1:13 KJV.) We can’t relate to an invisible, non-material being.

I’m sitting in my back yard enjoying the slightly crisp air with my butane heater turned to low to have some warmth, at least, and pow! Right out of the air a voice speaks to me but I see nothing except air. How do I relate to air speaking? And can I understand God speaking unless I also understand that speaking takes a voice box, a physical thing that vibrates causing sound. Is God like a Cheshire cat that has a body but can hide it in some kind of invisible cover? I’m confused because in those sparingly brief peeks into God’s realm (outside our bubble) we learn of creatures that have some kind of body. It’s not an invisible world.

In Genesis we come across this strange story of Jacob. He ends up working for Laban and falls madly in love with his youngest daughter, Rachel. Laban required Jacob to first marry his oldest daughter, Leah, then after seven years of working for him he could now also marry Rachel. Leah gave Jacob sons but Rachel remained barren. Rachael desperately wanted to give Jacob a son so she gave her servant, Bilhah, for Jacob to impregnate, which he did, and she had a son that Rachael claimed as her own. Long story short, Jacob and Laban get into a feud, settle it and Jacob moves on. But his brother Esau is still out to kill him. There’s a lot going on with Jacob and it’s not all good. At one point Jacob ends up alone and he meets a man with whom he gets into a wrestling match that lasts all night. At some point the man touches Jacob’s hip that will forever cause him to limp. Jacob tells his provocateur he will not stop fighting him until the man blesses him. Jacob asks the man his name but he won’t give it but he blesses Jacob. And we read: “So Jacob called the place Peniel] saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’” (Genesis 32:30.)

If God is spirit how could this be God. Perhaps it was an archangel Jacob fought who had God’s authority to bless Jacob. Perhaps not. If he is pure spirit then we have no way of relating to that so for our sake does God use images and terms we can understand? But then is there more to him than this idea of pure spirit. After all, he has those physical creatures in his world, and he created a physical world we inhabit as physical beings, and in the end of this bubble experience there will be a new heaven and a new earth clearly implying physical.

This I know, in our search for meaning we have reduced everything to the mechanical and material. The gods we have created to replace God are physical and act more like humans than Gods. I suspect the importance of thinking on God as spirit is to ensure we don’t confuse him with all our physical creations.

From Melanchthon (who with Martin Luther helped create the Reformation) we read this: “[T]he flesh thinks and understands in nothing but carnal terms. The existence of God, the wrath of God, the mercy of God—these things are spiritual, and therefore cannot be comprehended by the flesh. Moreover, what human nature learns about God outside of the Holy Spirit renewing and enlightening our hearts, no matter what it is, it is not faith but empty speculation.” (Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521, page 116.)

Recall that in 410 AD St. Augustine wrote that “I believe in order to know.” Melanchthon clearly tells us that philosophical inquiry, at its best, is nothing but “empty speculation.” It’s the natural limitations of philosophy. You, we, will never understand God’s kingdom unless and until we first believe.