Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth (Isaiah 40:28).
What is the most important thing about you?
Maybe you need a moment to think about that. Even with a little thought, I’m guessing that your answer to that question will gravitate to some basic aspects of life that top the list when we try to give expression to who we are and what matters to us.
You might say that the most important thing about you is the people you love, your children, your spouse, your parents. As old-fashioned as it might seem, family is still a powerful piece of our identity.
Perhaps in addition to family you’d mention your work. This one won’t be true for everyone since there are plenty of people who get up every day and go to a job they don’t like. But if your job happens to be an expression of something larger – the calling or purpose that makes your work meaningful – then you might be inclined to say that your work is the most important thing (or one of the most important things) about you.
Of course, other things could make the list: ethnicity, the faith tradition to which you belong, the hobbies or recreational pursuits that truly bring you joy, a cause to which you are passionately committed. Indeed, all those things are important. All of them, likely a combination of each, might be the way you would tell a stranger the most important thing about you.
Those are good answers. Important answers. But they are not the best answer.
The Best Answer
In 1961 a Chicago area pastor by the name of A. W. Tozer wrote a small book that has become a modern-day classic, still in print today. The book is titled The Knowledge of the Holy, and in the opening pages Tozer makes the following claim:
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us . . . and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he deep in his heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God” (Tozer, 9).
That’s probably not an answer that came to your mind when you thought about how you would articulate what’s most important about you. Family, work, hobbies, your Myers-Briggs type – of course, those answers make sense. But what you understand God to be like? You might not dismiss it outright, but it hardly seems to define who you are. Tozer, however, would insist that so much about your life will be determined by your concept of God.
Is there a ‘God’ to begin with? And if so, what is God like?
Is God the angry watchdog of heaven, waiting for you to screw up?
Is God the doting granddaddy of heaven, benevolently smiling at our human foibles?
Is God actively involved in the world, guiding and governing the course of history and the plans you’ve made for this day? Or is God distant, watching us and pulling for us to do the best we can with what we’ve got?
Let’s be willing to interact with Tozer’s claim about us. What comes to your mind when you think about God?
In the weeks ahead we’ll be giving our attention to God – who God is and what God is like. Today I’m inviting you to join me in seeking to give an honest answer to Tozer’s question.
Our efforts to do this will lead us to consider what has traditionally been called the ‘attributes’ of God. Since we’ll only be doing this for a few weeks we’ll barely scratch the surface of this formidable subject. Throughout the Bible, the Hebrew prophets and the New Testament apostles labored to give expression to what God is like. None of them did so completely or exhaustively, and neither will we.
My concern for most people, and especially people in the church I serve, is not that their ideas about God are ‘wrong’ but that they have never really thought much about God to begin with. People can go to church week after week, and God is assumed without being thought of. Our awareness in worship is dominated by the music we hear or something we get from the message that’s spoken, but we don’t come away consciously sensing that we have been with God. God becomes the backdrop to so many other good things that churches do.
The prophet Isaiah questioned God’s people: “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” His questions seemed to imply an answer. You should know. You have heard.
I’m posing those same questions to you. Do you not know? Have you not heard? Maybe you’ve heard but you’ve forgotten. Maybe you’ve never really thought about it. Maybe it’s time to revisit some of the basics about God.
So . . . what does come to your mind when you think about God?
Create within us, O God, a desire to know you in a deeper way than we do right now. Cause us to seek you and help us to give the energies of heart and mind to exploring who you are. Unless you help us, we’ll live our days distracted or stuck in ruts of familiarity. So open our eyes in these coming weeks, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.