Some people shrink their god to fit their concepts. But our God is so big that he envelops all time and space.
Arthur A. Eggert
Most people believe in a god, that is, in a supernatural being or presence of some sort. In fact, they usually capitalize “god” as if the word was the name of a supernatural being. But do the descriptions of the “god” in whom various people believe match each other? Is there really a “god” in whom all people believe? Or do they just believe in the concept of a god, the description of whom they fill in to suit their fancy? If one actually asks people to describe their god(s), one would soon realize there is little agreement about the nature of “God.”
It is sinful human nature for people to shrink their god(s) to a size that they can deal with. If they want something from their god, then their god must be big enough to provide it. If they want to feel good about themselves, then their god must be big enough to comfort them. If, however, they want to act immorally, then their god must be small enough to be incapable of judging them. In short, they want a god whom they can put into a closet or on a shelf and only bring out when necessary. Such a god is a crutch and not a real god.
The Lord, the God of the Bible, is not such a god. He does not let himself be recreated in a style that pleases the sinful humans dwelling in his universe. He is the Lord God Almighty. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. That’s incredible and has important implications for our lives.
The Lord and space
Let us start with God and space. The Lord has no physical dimensions because he is a spirit (John 4:24). In the Old Testament, God sometimes took on human form for special purposes (e.g., Genesis 18, Joshua 5:13-15, Judges 6). Yet human form is not an essential property of the Lord. When the Bible describes him in human terms by talking about his eyes (2 Samuel 15:25), his ears (Psalm 34:15) and his arms (Deuteronomy 26:8), it is using picture language to help people relate to a God who far exceeds their understanding.
If the Lord is a spirit, how does he interact with our physical, three-dimensional world? The inspired psalmist gives us the answer when he writes, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10). The prophets Jeremiah (23:23,24) and Amos (9:1-6) agree that the Lord is everywhere. This attribute of the Lord is called omnipresence. Yet the Lord is not spread thinly across the universe; his essence is completely present everywhere. King Solomon wrote, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). He is not a God who is in any sense far off.
But how can the whole essence of the Lord be present at every point at the same time? We cannot fully understand or explain it, but we can try. When the Lord created the universe, he created it outside his being, that is, he is not part of his creation. Every physical thing in the universe can be described by a set of space coordinates. This is not true of the Lord, because he is not physical. From his position outside of his creation he has projected his whole being equally to every point within that creation. Mathematicians call such a process “mapping.” It is used in computing to permit one point to be associated with many other points, even an infinitely large number of points. Because the Lord projects himself to all points in the universe, he is therefore effectively standing by us wherever we are, watching what we do, and being ready to answer our prayers. We cannot hide from him, nor does he ever forget about us. He is completely with us, not just some diffused part of him that might not give us his full attention.
The Lord and time
Now let’s consider God and time. We establish hours, days, and years by our relationship with the sun. Scientists struggle to give us an understandable definition of time: It is a nonspatial dimension, a continuum, directional like a stream in which one cannot go backward. Yesterday is out of our reach, and we cannot do anything yet during tomorrow. We can place all the events of human history in sequence on a timeline. Continual change occurs as time passes.
The Bible tells us that the Lord does not have the same relationship to time as we do. Psalm 102 says that the earth will wear out, but that the Lord is always the same (immutable) and will never cease to exist (eternal). Malachi agrees that the Lord does not change (3:6). Peter (2 Peter 3:8) quotes Moses that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (God is timeless). As we look at these and other verses, we are forced to conclude that the Lord is not affected by time but rather fills all time the same way he fills all space. The Lord effectively sees our timeline of the universe end-on, that is, as a single point. All history is effectively simultaneous to the Lord.
So just as the Lord has mapped himself to every spatial point in the present universe, he also maps himself to every space-time coordinate that has ever existed. He is not only everywhere, but also “everywhen.” He exists in an “eternal now” relative to the human view of time. This is important to us because it means that the Lord can never fail to do what he has promised. When he is making a promise at one point in human history, he is fulfilling it at some later point (Numbers 23:19). It is the same action to him because, from his viewpoint, he is simultaneously at both places and times and must be consistent with himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He is not “slow” to fulfill his promises as people reckon slowness (2 Peter 3:9), but he has placed the fulfilments of his promises at the times in human history that make his plan work as he intends (Galatians 4:4,5).
[The Lord] is not only everywhere, but also “everywhen.”
How big is our God? He is so big that he envelops all time and space. His unchanging being is ever by our side, extending both before and after us in all directions.
Dr. Arthur Eggert is a member at Peace, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
This is the first article in a three-part series on the nature of God.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: Arthur A. Eggert
Volume 104, Number 1
Issue: January 2017
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2016
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us