Images of God
I have often compared the Ten Commandments to a photograph, because we say they are an expression of God’s character. However, they are a very one-sided expression because they express His character on one, limited plane. If you relate to that expression only, you will have a one-sided and even warped concept of God. In a sense, these Commandments are just an image. To understand and to know God truly, something far more comprehensive is needed than simply ten statements.
That is why the true law of God is seen in Jesus Christ! The true nature, character, personality, the EXACT image of the Father is seen in His Son! Not in the Ten Commandments, or in any other law or effigy. God gave us a true image, and not a replica, a living image and not a dead or inanimate one.
John 1:18 says,
No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18)
Some people use this statement to support the idea that neither Enoch, Elijah nor Moses were ever taken to Heaven, because the verse says, “no man.” This illustrates how people often misrepresent the Bible because they read verses in isolation, without understanding context.
Is this verse really saying that nobody has ever seen God? The words say that, but what is the meaning? Jacob said, I have seen God and I am alive. The Bible says that Moses spoke to God face to face, like a man speaks to his friend. Yet God says nobody can see my face and live. The Bible also says that the seventy elders of Israel saw the God of Israel, although we understand that they never saw His face. God put Moses in the cleft of a rock and He passed and said, “you can see my back parts.” But then the Bible says Moses spoke to God face to face. Obviously, face to face is an expression which simply means personal interaction. It does not actually mean face seeing face.
In the New Testament, John says, “no man hath seen God at any time.” You may ask the question, is the Bible contradicting itself? No! It simply means that you have to read the Bible in context in order to understand what verses mean. How many people knew God in the true way before Jesus came? Nobody! No human being ever knew Him the way He really is, until His Son arrived. Why? Because no one ever saw God in this way, and this is what the verse is saying. Nobody ever saw God the way he really is, at any time. The only person who could teach us what He truly is like is the Only Begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father. He declared God and made us know the real Him.
In John 17:6 Jesus says,
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. (John 17:6)
I have revealed Your name; I have demonstrated Your character. In verse 4 he says,
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (John 17:4)
The glory of God in the Old Testament is a bright shining light with power and might, to terrify and fill with awe. Jesus gave no such demonstration and yet he says, “I have glorified Thee on the earth.” He revealed God’s true glory. He manifested the name of God, and so He declared what God is like.
How did he do this? If you search the New Testament, can you find a place where Jesus sat with His disciples and told them in detail, ‘this is what the character of God is like’? No. But what we find is Jesus telling parable after parable and living countless situations where He demonstrated something completely contrary to the ideas that the people had. Let’s look at a few of them, and I will refer to them as ‘snapshots or photographs of God in order to maintain the idea of imagery, since we have been discussing images.
Many cameras today can take a panorama shot. The camera will take a series of pictures and then join them all together to create a big picture which shows the complete scenery, involving far more than could be seen with just one photo. This is exactly what Jesus gives us, snapshots of God. Many times we read His parables without getting the main point. But what He was trying to do in many of these stories was to help us understand what God is like. The Prodigal Son is a good example of this.
I suppose one could say one of the important lessons found there is the ill minded mentality of the elder brother: maybe we could even highlight the foolishness of young people. But these were not the main points Jesus was trying to bring out of the story. What He was emphasizing was the father’s attitude to somebody who deserved absolutely nothing! He told an entire story to teach us about how God treats people who are completely undeserving.
The boy comes back and he is making excuses. “Make me a servant. I am not worth!” This is us; this is how we feel because we let God down and disgrace Him. We know what we are doing, and yet we do it anyway. When we behave like this as humans, other people will say ‘you knew what you were doing. You deserve what you are getting. You must suffer.’ But what does the father in Jesus’ story do? He does not even allow the boy to finish his confession. He instantly throws the robe around him, so that his nakedness, his filth and unworthiness do not appear. He takes the ring off his finger and puts it on him to signify, this is my son! Authority and sonship are given to him in his lowly, unworthy state. The father makes a big feast to celebrate his son’s return. This is the face of God that we see in the face of Jesus Christ.
The lost sheep is a similar story. What is the point there? The point is that the sheep wandered away by itself. Most people would not go looking for one missing sheep in the middle of the night if they have one hundred. It is interesting that God does not depict this lost thing as a person, but as a common animal. A sheep is merely property, not something one would have much affection or feelings of endearment for. But God is showing us that he loves us as His sons in the story of the Prodigal, and He loves us as his property in the stories of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin.
Again, Jesus shows how much he really cares for us in the case of Zacchaeus. One of the categories of people that we are sometimes very intolerant of is public officials. We often find that many politicians and public employees are scoundrels. They use and manipulate the people and they have their own agendas. Thus instinctively, we do not trust these public figures, and correctly so. Zacchaeus was one of these, a thief who was robbing the people blind.
But he was still someone’s child, and somewhere in his life, something made him take a wrong turn and the only person who could understand his situation was somebody who had the heart of God. So, Zacchaeus scrambles up into the tree, too insecure and aware of his unworthiness to dare to put himself in the face of this holy person, Jesus, too afraid to face this man who was the image of God.
He climbs up into the tree just to glimpse Him, and lo and behold, the heart of God is looking for this little man. Just like he is looking for everybody, no matter how bad you are. And wonder of wonders, he says, ‘Zacchaeus I am coming to have a meal at your home!’ He invites Himself to Zacchaeus’ home because He knows that Zacchaeus will never have the courage to invite Him. On this day, the thief and cheater is converted, and his whole household finds salvation.
This is the face of God! Not thunder and lightning on a mountain, not fearsome terribleness that requires man to run and hide when He approaches. No, the glory of God that we see in the face of Jesus Christ, the image of the Father is something extremely loving, tender and beautiful. This is His true glory! These pictures of His true face can be seen all throughout the life of Jesus, and they are amazing!
Mary Magdalene is a friend of Jesus, but she is despised because she is a prostitute. Jesus is sitting in the house of a Pharisee, a notable church official, and here comes this woman, creeping in through the door. What does she have? She has a bottle of ointment that she has paid all of her questionable wages for. She spends it all and buys this bottle of fragrant ointment, slinks up to his feet, and does not stand before His face because how could she dare, a woman with so dark a reputation, to stand before the face of the Holy One?
As she pours the ointment upon His feet, the smell fills the entire room. Everyone looks in disgust at her, crouching before the guest of honour, weeping and wiping with her hair. The Pharisee, Simon concludes, this man cannot be a prophet. He makes this judgment because of his preconceived notions about God. What is he looking for? His concept of God is that of the terrible judge! He thinks of a God who will smite this sinner dead, who will reject this woman because she has been unholy and unclean. She has been a prostitute. How dare she touch holiness? Surely he thinks he has justification for his belief, because it was a known fact that any sinner who touched the ark of the covenant or came near to God would instantly die!
Simon concludes that if this was a man of God, He would know not to allow this woman near to Him, because God says that where he appears, even the very ground becomes holy (Exodus 3:5)! His attitude is, ‘do not dare to approach me prostitute!’ Based on his limited ideas and notions of God, Simon judges Jesus. But when we look at the true image of God, what do we see? What does Jesus, the true face of God say? He says ‘leave her alone!’ He says, ‘woman, anywhere the gospel is told, this story will be told.’ He contrasts the woman with Simon – ‘she has anointed my feet for the burial. She has not stopped kissing my feet. You never kissed or anointed me. Look at what she has done for me!’
Jesus gives us a completely different perspective of the face of God, and of the image of the Father. This is why God hates idolatry, this is why He has given us a true image, a picture that we can look at and believe in, a living, exact description through which we can see the real face of God.
That is almost the end of the story, but there is one more side to it. Romans 8:29 says,
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
God does not only have one image, Jesus Christ, but he has many images. His plan is to have many snapshots, many photographs of Himself. It was His plan, that those that He foreknew, (you and me) He predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son. We are to be like him.
We are to be the firstborn among many brethren, the first born of the sons of God, all like our Father. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says,
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
God’s spirit, the spirit of Jesus is accomplishing this painting, is creating this image, not an image of wood and stone but a living image in you and me, the image of God the Father. This is the truth of the image of God in this revelation of the new covenant.
(Source: Restoration Ministry)