The science of seeing God has an ultimate fault. Even aided by an electron microscope or the Hubble Telescope the human eye cannot see God. Certainly, the eye perceives those traces of glory that cause many of us to marvel at His handiwork. However, the greatest revelation of God impacts our hearts and permeates our souls. Spiritual leaders, from prophets to apostles, have asked to see God, and they have been encouraged to open their hearts rather than their eyes.

The 19th century poet, James Russell Lowell, penned the words, “… behind the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.” In atheistic circles, there is a trend toward thinking that through science we have now seen rather deeply into the shadow and should have located God if He is there. Enough stones have been turned and the light of science has penetrated into enough dark corners that surely if there were a God, we would have found Him. We have amassed knowledge of amazing mathematics, unfathomable physics, and an incredible biosphere. While for many of us, this increasing knowledge of the physical cosmos builds a stronger foundation for belief in God, some argue that it is exactly what their godless paradigm would expect.

Moses addressing God.Yet, in a sense, not seeing God is more of a believer’s problem than that of an unbeliever. Of course, artists feel obligated to depict God. But their image of God seems to seldom get beyond an old man in the clouds. Perhaps even worse, their attempts to depict Jesus Christ give us a far different image than would be expected from the ethnic group He was born among and the physical requirements of the culture of which He was a part. Yet these unrealistic renditions satisfy a great many people’s desire for an image. Many have no clue concerning the origin of the artist’s perception, but they imagine they are looking at a picture of Jesus Christ.

This misdirected quest for a view of God could be corrected by examining the Bible. Faithful biblical leaders have requested to see God and have gotten insightful answers to their request.

The answer Moses received in Exodus chapters 33 and 34 is striking. We imagine him as a man of very special privilege in seeing manifestations of God. Also, his circumstances have led superficial Bible critics to think they have found a discrepancy.

MosesExodus 33:11 (NIV) states, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” However, the context of verses 7 –10 clarifies this exchange. The Lord spoke to Moses from a pillar of cloud at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So, obviously, in verse 18 when Moses says, “Now show me your glory” he is asking for something far greater and more intimate than the cloud. God’s answer includes the words in verse 20, “… you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” God does arrange for Moses to see His “back” from a cleft in a rock after His glory has passed by.

So in chapter 34, Moses goes to the top of the mountain to receive his vision of God’s glory. But the outstanding element of the vision is a voice proclaiming the character of God. He was reminded in this visitation that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving, and meting out just punishment. What Moses asked for was a special vision of God’s glory. What Moses needed and received was a dynamic reminder of the character of God. This was Moses’ most intimate contact with God as is evidenced by the radiance of Moses’ face when he returned to the people (Exodus 34:29 – 35).

Moses is not alone in asking to see God and getting an unexpected reply. Early on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, there was a high level of anxiety among the apostles. In the course of some intense conversation, “Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us’ ” (John 14:8). In His response, Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” In context it is obvious He is not asking Philip to look at any physical feature. He points to Philip’s time spent with Him in His ministry. Even as Philip’s question is similar to Moses’, so is the answer he receives. There was no halo or physical glow. However, the glory of God’s character had presented itself on earth in the person of the Son.

Humanity never received a sculpted or painted image of the likeness of Jesus’ physical body. That is not what we needed to enhance our comprehension of the image of God. However, the four gospels portray to our hearts and souls the image of God that we do need. That image gives us incentive to be better people. It demonstrates the character of God that was proclaimed to Moses. It instills the answer for those who ask, “What would Jesus do?” It sets the precedent for ideal Christian conduct.

Eyes are good for perceiving the existence of God. I concur with John Muir’s exclamation, “… measureless mountain days … opening a thousand windows to show us God.” Yet our vision of God reaches its apex as the soul assimilates the character of God through the Word. Especially, we imbibe it through the person of Jesus Christ in the gospels. Unknown to himself, it was a glimpse of God Almighty that caused the agnostic, Loren Eiseley, to pen the words, “… that great impulse — love, compassion, call it what one will — which, however discounted in our time, moved the dying Christ on Golgotha with a power that has reached across two thousand weary years.” That love, compassion, and power compose part of the image we receive from the gospels. From our journey into the Word, we receive a clear image of God.

Pictures in this article: Art Explosion by Nova Development Corporation, © 1997– 2001.

No greater love!

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