Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:6-13, Hebrews 1:3, Revelation 5:1-14
Imagine you were an Israelite living three thousand years ago, and someone asked you this question:
“What is God like?”
How might you have answered? Having grown up hearing the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God who delivered His people from Egypt, how would you have described this God?
Perhaps you would have depicted God as powerful and just, compassionate and good, recounting stories of the miraculous wonders He’d wrought and how faithful He’d been.
Maybe you would have described God in more abstract terms: the burning bush, the still small voice, the pillars of cloud and fire, the daily provision of heaven-sent manna.
Or perhaps you would’ve described Him as a holy God, one to fear and appease with burnt offerings, distant and disengaged, maybe even aloof—His ways and thoughts higher than your own and more difficult to grasp (Isaiah 55:9).
Most likely, the Israelites possessed all manner of perceptions, just as many of us do today. However, there is one key difference between us and them, which dramatically influenced their perceptions: three thousand years ago, God had only revealed Himself in part. For generations and generations of Israelite people, God’s presence dwelled in an inaccessible place—the tabernacle, then the temple—only approachable by a select group of priests. Very rarely did God address His people directly, and only once every few hundred years.
So, what was God like? The Israelites had only a limited understanding, answering as children from afar. They were chosen, they were loved, and they knew many of His attributes, yet a chasm remained in between them.
But all of that changed in a moment as brief as the first throaty cry of a child. Suddenly, the God who was far off came near. The God who was mysterious became tangible. The God who was separate became one of us. For the first time in history, the question “What is God like?” had a short, definitive answer:
God is like Jesus.
Of course, even that description is a huge understatement, because God is not simply “like” Jesus. John 10:30 tells us “the Son and the Father are one,” while Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as “the exact expression of [God’s] nature.” When we look at Jesus, we see God in character and essence, and that’s because Jesus is God.
Jesus’ birth was a cosmic revelation, forever changing how we would know God. Now, whenever God feels mysterious or far away, we look to Jesus. Whenever we wonder if God really loves and cares for us, we look to Jesus. Whenever we question God’s unfailing faithfulness, we look to Jesus. And whenever we doubt whether God could forgive, and even embrace, someone as flawed and broken as us, we look to Jesus.
Jesus’ life and teachings are not a replacement for the rest of Scripture—the whole of which is authoritative and inspired—but Jesus, the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14), has become the lens through which we understand God’s entire Word, and just as importantly, who God is. It’s a privilege God’s people have not always enjoyed, and one that most major religions cannot claim. But now, thanks to Christ, we can make this declaration:
We don’t simply know what God is like. We truly know Him.
Immanuel Himself has come near to be with us, inviting us to seek Him with all our hearts, and when we do, He promises to be found (Isaiah 55:6; Jeremiah 20:13).
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.