When we think of the vast extent of the universe we feel overwhelmed not merely with a sense of man’s smallness, but with the difficulty of thinking of God the Creator. The contemplation of the power and energy in the moving spheres, the terrifying distance of space, somehow more awesome because expressed in figures rather than as the infinity of space, can remove God far from us—not merely in the physical sense that He is personally located so far from us in an unfathomably extensive universe, but in the sense that it becomes difficult to think of a Being of such power and might. We cannot easily think of Him as having a personal existence. To the age-old question, “Canst thou by searching find out God?” the answer is that we cannot.

When we read in the Bible of the finger of God, we say that is only describing Him in human terms: we say that it is anthropomorphism; but when we have said that, where have we got? If we use the word in connection with God seeing and hearing we quickly resolve God into a being without body or parts; and if we say we cannot think of Him as a glorified man—then let us ask in what ways we can think of Him. Can we think of Him as a geometrical figure, as a cube or a cone? Or can we make Him into some mathematical formula? To put it that way is to answer. It is equally impossible to think of God as He has been represented in Roman Catholic art, as an old man with signs of passing years upon His face.

It might be said that God is represented as made in the image of man. It is true that some gods are: they have the human form, with eyes and noses; but they are no-gods. As the Psalmist said, “eyes have they, but they see not, ears but they hear not, tongues but they speak not”. In biting satire Hosea dismisses the worship of images as folly: “The workman made it, therefore it is not God”. We may avoid making a physical form and saying God is like that; and even while doing so substitute ideas for wood and stone, using language instead of a carving tool; and still make God in our own image. We may think of God as possessing the attributes, the qualities we want Him to possess, ruling out anything which we dislike. Is not this still idolatry, refined though it might be?

When we read the Scriptures many difficulties fade away. The Bible presents God as One who is creator and sustainer of everything that has being. It reveals Him as One who has made Himself known by wondrous acts, in revelation and redemption in the history of man. The climax of His revelation is in one who was His Son, in whom we have redemption from our sins. But sonship, redemption and forgiveness are personal relationships, only possible when we accept the Bible revelation that man is “made in the image of God”. This is the reverse of the idol maker’s act. But it means that we can know of God as One with whom fellowship is possible; to whom worship can be given; to whom the response of love with all our heart, soul and strength is possible: whose holiness we can seek to copy; whose forgiveness of ourselves we can emulate in forgiving those that transgress against us. Without any feeling of incongruity in the comparison between man and the Father we can read that with “the tongue bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men which are made after the similitude of God” (James 3:9). We can appreciate that by behaviour becoming godly men we can glorify our Father which is in heaven; we can respond to the call to love even our enemies “that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven”. When we pray, it is in faith that we address ourselves to one who hears; we say, “Our Father who art in heaven”. And as we have had fathers of our flesh, who have responded to our cries as children, giving us good gifts, so we are taught to ask a Father in heaven, who too gives good things to them that ask Him. We can with Paul “bow the knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph. 3:14). Having faith that He is, and also that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, we can believe His promises and seek first the things of God and His righteousness: and so seeking cleanse our hearts, assured that “the pure in heart shall see God”.

God is not an abstraction; a thought; an influence; simply power or energy; or a law of the world. The world is His; He causeth the sun to rise, and the grass to grow; and while He is the Holy One inhabiting eternity, He looks on the poor and contrite in heart, who tremble at His word, to dwell with them. Through the Son we can know the Father, for he has revealed Him.