The God of the sacred scriptures known as the Bible is sometimes portrayed in different ways in various cultures. This may often be reflected through artwork representing the culture and era instead of being according to what the Bible shows us. Similarly, if you conducted a survey and enquired “What is God like?”, a wide spectrum of responses could be gathered quickly, and many would be contradictory. In view of the above, how is it possible to reliably ascertain what God is like rather than constructing a perception of God from one’s imagination or from subjective experiences?
The Bible explains what God is like concerning His attributes and His character. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament (sky, expanse) shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1).’ We can discover something of God’s attributes from the creation around us. Great intelligence is required to create a universe and great power to bring that into existence. Considering the size and complexity of the universe the Creator is clearly not constrained by the dimensions of time and space that we are.
Many questions about what God is like, originate from a limited understanding of how the Bible defines what God is actually like. God is love (1 John 4:8); hence numerous questions about life precede with, ‘How can a God of love…?’ and anticipate their version of what love means to be the same as that of the Bible. The sacrificial aspect of love is a key part of understanding the love of the God of the Bible. Consider the words of the Messiah, Jesus – Greater love has no man than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13).”
But the Bible also describes God as just, jealous, holy, and knowable. We discover in the song of Moses that God is just, His work is perfect, all His ways are justice, He is a God of truth, without injustice and He is righteous and upright (Deuteronomy 32:4). Since God is just, He must punish sin and wrongdoing in the same way that a judge must pass a fair sentence. If a judge let everyone go free, they would be a reckless judge! However God is also merciful, and since He is a just and loving God, He provided the means for humans to enter into a right relationship with Him. It is revealed that God the Father sent His only Son, the Lord Jesus, to die in our place to deal with the problem of our sin which separates us from God.
We learn from the Ten Commandments given to Moses that the Lord is a “jealous” God (Exodus 20:5). But what does that mean and how can we make sense of God being loving, just and jealous? It would initially appear to present a glaring contradiction but this is easily resolved. Firstly, God created everything, and all things belong to Him. Jealousy is not the same as envy. Envy is akin to coveting when you desire something that is not yours. Jealously relates to when something that you own is being compromised by someone else. The God of the Bible is a jealous God and will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).
Throughout the Bible God is described as holy. In other words, God is perfect, set apart and sinless. Because God is holy, we need to approach Him on his terms with reverence.
He has shown His love by sending His Son into the world to reconcile us to Himself. But we must turn to Him, trust in Him, obey Him and follow Him. God is also knowable and there is a wonderful encouragement that “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).”