MY Beliefs ABout GOD
The Term "God"
The primary language of the Bible is Hebrew. In Semitic languages like Hebrew, the word for God is "el" (lowercase or uppercase... there are no capitals in Hebrew). The masculine plural is "elohiym" (or "elohim," depending on how you want to transliterate it). (This is pronounced "el-oh-HEEM"). However, this same plural form can also used to refer to a singular entity. Confusing, I know, but as with many words in the English language, context is the key to understanding what the speaker intends. If you heard me say the word "bill" by itself, you wouldn't know whether I was thinking about a man named William, an invoice to be paid, or a duck's mouth.
The plural term "Elohiym" is used in Scripture to refer to the singular God of Israel because a linguistic technique is at play which uses plurality to ascribe greatness to a single subject. That is, Elohiym is Divinity in the fullest sense of the word. "El" means "strength," so Elohiym is "strength upon strength," or "the strongest of all." He is literally "Elohiym of elohiym" (Deut. 10:17; Psa. 136:2).
To make it simple: the term elohiym denotes a class of divine beings who reside in the spiritual realm, or any mortal ruler whose might or authority is compared to that of the divine beings. The Hebrew God is the Most High of all elohiym.
Does this suggest that Abrahamic religion is actually polytheistic? Not at all. The Eternal One of Israel is qualitatively different than other, created gods. He is set apart (kodesh, or holy) and unique. This is why God gave Israel the Shema, which states, "Hear, O Israel: YHVH your God, YHVH is One" (Deut. 6:4) . The Shema uses the proper name of God, YHVH—not Allah, Baal, LORD, Steve, etc.—and declares that this YHVH is echad, which is often translated as "one" but literally means "unity." There is only one like him in all of existence, transcendent and infinite, and he is not simply one god among a pantheon of gods.
That being said, there is a pantheon of created gods who once cooperated with YHVH to run the cosmos. They are known to the Greeks as Kosmokrators, but in the Hebrew text they are called the Divine Council: "God (Elohiym) has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods (elohiym) he holds judgment" (Psa. 82:1). These are the cosmic authorities that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 6:12. Though they have become rebellious, they are being allowed to rule for a while to try and prove their case against God. At the end of the age, when their time is up, the Lord of Spirits will judge those unfaithful spirits and deal with them severely, and no one will restrain his hand.
Great is YHVH, and exceedingly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable (Psa. 145:3).
God as Transcendent Spirit
The Bible teaches that God is a spirit (Jhn. 4:24) who has neither bounds nor dimensions, who pre-dates the creation of time, space, and matter. He is unending and unencapsulated thought, will, and being. God is the Mind who is ever thinking of the cosmos, and by his thinking they are real.
God forbids us to represent his being by the use of anything in the material world. The second of the Ten Commandments says, "You are not to craft for yourselves an idol or anything resembling what is in the skies above, or on earth beneath, or in the water sources under the earth" (Exo. 20:4). While it is true that each part of Creation reflects something of God's nature, he himself transcends all of these things and exists in a mode that is qualitatively distinct from his Creation. Therefore we must never put God in a box, since he is more excellent than anything we could ever fashion to contain him.
The Attributes of God
"Like a rock" may be a cool tagline for a truck commerical, but God had it trademarked long before Chevy came around. The Eternal One never shifts or buckles, never sleeps or grows weary. (Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17; Num. 23:19)
Who's large and in charge? Our Father. Sovereign and all-powerful, YHVH is capable of doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants (Psa. 65:6; Job 12:13; Isa. 40:26; Jer. 32:17; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 9:20). However, he often refrains from using his power so that his creatures may exercise their own wills (Matt. 6:10).
I remember seeing a documentary some time ago about an idiot savant who never forgot a single thing that he had seen or heard. His memory was perfect. As awesome as that is, God's ability goes far beyond it. The savant only knew about things he'd been exposed to, but God has full awareness of all things (Job 37:16; Psa. 139:4; Matt. 6:8; 1 John 3:20), even hidden things (Job 12:22; Jer. 16:17; Heb. 4:13).
Because God created the cosmos themselves, that necessarily means that he created time and space, which are qualities of the cosmos in which we live. God is therefore outside of time, having no beginning and no end (Exo. 3:14; Psa. 90:2; Isa. 46:9-10; Rev. 1:8), and experiencing no change of state (Jas. 1:17; Heb. 13:8).
God is entirely independent, lacking nothing (Acts 17:24-25; Job 41:11; Psa. 50:108). This has profound implications because we cannot buy God's favor or bribe him to do the things that we desire (Deut. 10:17).
God is, like, totally righteous, dude. In more formal language, we might say that God has perfect moral character. Which is a given, really, because God is the person who sets the standard of morality (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:4; Psa. 119:68; Isa. 45:19).
God continually and eternally gives of himself to his creatures. He is entirely unselfish and always works to the benefit of others. He even temporarily blesses those who reject him and embrace evil (Matt. 5:45), and he lovingly allows trial and suffering to befall evildoers so that they might fear him and repent (Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rev. 3:19, 9:20). God gladly grants mercy and grace to those who repent and chase after holiness (Exo. 34:6; Psa. 119:132; Matt. 5:7; Rom. 3:23-24; 2 Cor. 1:3).
God is fully opposed to evil and must put a stop to all of it sooner or later (Deut. 11:16-18; Rom 1:18, 2:5; Rev. 6:16-17). He is also fully committed to rewarding acts of goodness (Lev. 26:3-12; 2 Sam. 22:21; Matt. 6:4; Mark 9:41; Eph. 6:8). Presently, we reap blessings whenever we sow good things and curses whenever we sow bad things, but this is a general principle of this age. Ultimately, every single thought and deed will be brought before God on the Day of Judgment, and either rewarded or punished (Dan. 7:9-10; 1 Cor. 3:13-15; Rev. 20:11-13).
Careful with this one, because God's jealousy is not the same as covetousness and envy. To be jealous is to be earnestly protective and committed. God is committed both to the welfare of those he loves and to the integrity of his own honor (Exo. 34:14; Jos. 24:19; Zec. 8:2; 2 Cor. 11:2).
God is light. In him is no darkness whatsoever (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5; Rev. 21:23).
You can't improve on God. Anything else, when compared to him, will be found wanting (2 Sam. 22:31; Psa. 18:30; Matt. 5:48; Rom. 12:2).
Messianics are intimately familiar with the Shema (Deut. 6:3-5), which they recite often: “Hear, O Israel: YHVH our God, YHVH echad.” Echad means “one” or “unity.” This clear, simple, and direct declaration from the Ancient of Days delivers a death blow to pantheism and polytheism (although there are many angelic entities which the Bible calls “gods,” they are all created beings with limitations, possessing only the likeness of God).
THe Names of God
I am YHVH, that is my name. (Isa. 42:8)
The four letters that comprise God's name can be used to form the phrase hayah hoveh yi'yeh, “He was, He is, He will be,” which parallels the answer given to Moses when he asked for God's name at the burning bush: “I AM THAT I AM.”
Other names that the Bible uses for God are not actually names, but descriptors. It could be argued that even the name YHVH is a descriptor meaning "I am," and that the real name of God remains unknown except to Messiah Y'shua, who will have the Name written on him when he returns (Matt. 11:27; Rev. 19:12). Regardless, there are many descriptive titles that the scriptures use to refer to One God. The following list is not exhaustive:
- El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God
- El Elyon, the Most High God
- El Olam, the Everlasting God
- El Gibbor, the Mighty God
- El De'ot, the God of Knowledge
- El Rachum, the God of Compassion
- El Chaiyai, the God of my Life
- El Hakkadosh, the Holy God
- El Kanno, the Jealous God
- Immanuel, God with Us
- YHVH-Rapha, God who Heals
- YHVH-Nissi, God my Banner
- YHVH-Tzidkaynu, God our Righteousness
- YHVH-Yireh, God Will Provide
- YHVH-Tzva'ot, God of Hosts
- Abba, Father