The Being of God ~ 20150906 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
09/06 The Being of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150906_being-of-god.mp3
In the beginning God
The opening words of the scripture narrative are staggering.
Beresit bara elohim; ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς
Today we will look at the being of God, the existence of God. We are not arguing for the existence of God. We are told that
We are on a quest to know God. To know him as he is, as he has revealed himself to us, as he intends to be known. We are setting out to know him, to respond to him in ways appropriate to his nature and character. We intend to give to him the honor due to God, to acknowledge him as God, to give him thanks, to worship, to serve him.
The opening words of Genesis point to the existence of God. “In the beginning, God...” In the beginning – the beginning of this world, at the coming into existence of the heavens and the earth, before this world was formed, before the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets existed, God was. He was. He existed.
Cause and Effect
A common conversation between parents and children often runs something like this:
Where do you go with that? How do you answer this question? Who made God? Where did God come from?
Every effect must have an adequate cause. Because the stars are there, we ask what caused them. Because plants and animals and humans exist, we wonder where they came from. If we accept that God exists and the answer 'God created them', then we might naturally wonder, if God exists, where did God come from? Who created God? What is God's cause? But this question is based on a false assumption. Because the tree and the zebra and the stars exist, and because we believe that God exists, we assume that God, along with the stars and zebras and trees, is an effect that requires an adequate cause. But God is not an effect. He is The Cause. In the beginning God existed and he created. He is not like us. We are effects and he is the Cause. We are created, and he is the Creator. When your son or daughter or college professor asks you 'who made God?' the proper answer is 'No one. God is.'
When God interrupted a displaced nomadic shepherd in the desert of Sinai and told him that he was his chosen instrument to liberate his people from Egypt, Moses asked a question.
Moses asked the wrong question. Moses' eyes were in the wrong place. He was an exile from the royal court in Egypt. He was a murderer. He had been rejected by his own people. He had spent the last 40 years wandering around in the desert looking after sheep. God says 'Who are you? Who are you? It doesn't matter who you are, it matters who I am. I will be with you.' So Moses rephrases his question. 'Who are you, God?'
Moses is on the right track. He is turning his attention away from his own identity and focusing on God's identity. What is your name? What is your character? What are you like?
This is my name. This is how I am to be remembered. Who am I? I AM! God answers with a form of the verb 'to be'. I am. I exist. YHWH; the LORD. I AM that I AM. Tell them the one who is has sent you. The one who has being.
This is a strange way to describe oneself. The way we usually talk about ourselves is to say 'I am' and follow it with some description of who we are. I am a Zedicher. I am a pastor. I am a husband. I am a father. I am honest. I am humble...
To say 'I am what I am' sounds aloof – I'm not going to tell you anything about myself. I am what I am and you can figure it out. But in the context of this passage it is clear that this is not God's intent. He tells Moses much about himself. He tells him that he is holy, unapproachable, the God who has made promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, the God who listens to the cry of his people, the God who cares, the God who comes down to deliver them, the God who is mighty to save, the God who promises abundant blessings to his people.
'I am what I am' could sound like an ultimatum; I am what I am and I'm not going to change, so you can take it or leave it. Maybe there is a little bit of this in this statement. God is unchanging in his being, perfections and attributes. What he is he is and he will never be different. He will never act contrary to his own nature.
God's Being and Ours
But the primary meaning of “I AM” is being, existence. That is something we cannot say absolutely. I am a pastor, a father, a husband, but rewind 22 years and I was none of those things. Those are things I became. I have changed. My experiences have shaped me. I am not what I once was, and I am not yet what I will be. Every day I am changing. I am becoming. I am not being. Some changes are for the better; others are for the worse. But God is. He is absolute in his perfections. He cannot improve. If he were improving, we could never say he was perfect. And he will not decline in his perfections. He is. He is what he is.
God exists. He is. There was never a time when he wasn't who he is now. There was a time when I didn't exist. Before I was conceived by my parents, I had no being. I wasn't. I didn't exist. I was brought into existence. I was given being. I did nothing to bring about my own being. And my being, my existing, now that I do exist, is dependent on a lot of outside factors. To find that out, just go camping. I spent Friday night on the mountain with our youth group. You have to think through what you need to exist. And you need to see if you can fit it all into a backpack that you can carry. You can't live without water. You need food for energy. You need a way to prepare the food, and you need a way to preserve the food so it doesn't go bad. You need a way to stay warm at night. And those are just some of the bare minimums for a summer overnight. If we were traveling to the moon, we would need to bring our own supply of oxygen to breathe, and our own atmosphere in the form of a pressurized suit or cabin. Our being, our existence, is dependent on a multitude of outside factors. We are dependent beings. God is. He exists in and of himself.
There is a word theologians use to describe this; aseity. It means 'existence originating from and having no source other than itself' (dictionary.reference.com). Aseity comes from the Latin 'from oneself'. God is needs nothing outside of himself to exist. He is not dependent on anyone or anything. He is. He exists. He doesn't need air, atmosphere, water, food, shelter. He is. He is self-existent.
Paul says in Acts 17:
He needs nothing from anyone, but we are dependent on him for life and breath and everything. In him we have our being. He is the self-existent one.
God says in Isaiah:
We are to know, to believe, to understand that I AM. God is. No one is like God. No one can be compared to him. He is utterly unique in his self-existence.
This is what makes the claims of Jesus so startling. Jesus said in John 8:
Jesus claimed an unique origin. He came from above, from outside this world. And he claimed that belief in his identity changes our destiny. We must believe that Jesus is the I AM. His continued conversation with the Jews makes his meaning clear.
Jesus, who was born more than 1500 years after Abraham, claims to have existed before Abraham. In fact, Jesus claims to be the I AM, the self-existent one, taking the very name of God for his own. The Jews emphasize the severity of his claim. They recognized it as blasphemy and planned to stone him to death. “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.'
John's gospel begins with these words:
In the beginning the Word was. The Word existed. The Word was already there. The Word was God. Everything that was made was made through him. He is the unmade, uncreated Creator of all that is. He is the one who is.
Hebrews tells us
The universe was created by the word of the God who is. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible. He goes on to say:
In order to draw near to God, in order to please God, we must believe that he is. We must recognize him as the one who is, the self-existent one.
We want to please God. We want to draw near to God. We want to enjoy his presence forever. We must know, believe, and understand that he IS. He exists in and of himself, and he rewards those who seek to know him as he is.
Paul tells us in Romans 4 that Abraham's faith, the faith which was counted to him as righteousness, was a faith that 'gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised' (Rom.4:20-21). Abraham's faith was:
The God Abraham trusted in is the God who has life and existence in himself, who is the source of existence, who calls into existence things that do not exist.
If we want to please God, to know God, to enjoy God, unless we want to die in our sins, we must believe that God is, that he is the I AM, the self-existent one, the one who exists independent of anything outside of himself.
Knowing this about God should serve to humble us. God does not need us. We can contribute nothing to his being. He is who he is and he cannot change. Our life is compared to a mist, a vapor, a blade of grass, a fading flower. Knowing this about God and about ourselves should humble us and amaze us.
The Psalmist cries as he considers the grandeur of God. What is man in comparison with the God who is?
Man is a breath, a shadow, less than dust and nothing, yet the God who is existence, who brought us into existence, has chosen to love us, to so love us that he gave his only Son to rescue us from our self-absorbed pride and open our eyes to something greater; someone greater, to the God who IS.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org