Humans have been struggling to understand God from the beginning of time. Who is He? What does He want from us? What do we want from Him? All sorts of religions and gods have sprung up over time in humanity’s attempt to answer these questions. But the Hebrew God—the one Christians believe to be the true God—is completely unique. He wasn’t created by the elements. He did the creating. He’s outside of time and space. He doesn’t have the vices of the typical pagan god. He’s all that’s good and loving. And He doesn’t do things for His creatures because they’ve earned it. He loves them as His children and only gives them what’s best for them.
The only real concrete understanding we have of the Hebrew God comes from the Old Testament—a written tradition that spans thousands of years, documenting the story of one family in the Middle East who followed Him. Unfortunately, they kept messing up, but God kept going after them again and again, refusing to give them up. God isn’t like the other gods—vengeful and fickle. His most defining characteristic is love.
King David was part of that Middle Eastern family and he wrote songs about his understanding of God. In many of them, he described God’s loving nature. In Psalm 86:15, he said, “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
One of the things that sets the Bible’s God apart from other gods is His great power. Other mythologies show gods that are created by elements or have been sired through relationships with other gods. But YHWH is so great and powerful that He created the world and all of its elements. He created light and darkness, He separated land from sky, He started with nothing and created everything by speaking it into existence. He’s outside our understanding of reality. He’s bigger than our universe, because He formed it. Time doesn’t matter to Him, because He’s timeless. He’s so utterly great and powerful that we can’t comprehend Him. Yet He bent close and created human beings.
We’ve asked for thousands of years why we’re here and the only explanation we can come up with is that God wanted us. He didn’t need us. We didn’t do Him any favours. We can’t provide for His needs. All we can do is look at how He has interacted with humanity and we see a God who wants a relationship with us. He created perfect humans in the beginning and Genesis says He walked and talked with them in the cool part of the day (Genesis 3:8). But then those humans disobeyed Him and chose “knowledge” over obedience and our sinful state was born. That might have been a great time for God to wash His hands of us, but He didn’t give up. He kept coming after us, pulling us back to Him, calling for us to return.
Isaiah was a prophet who wrote down God’s messages to His people and this is one of them: “Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David” (Isaiah 55:3). Time and time again God calls to His people through the prophets, begging them to return to Him.
Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, the world has been spiralling downward. Everything is tainted from nature to culture. We mess up absolutely everything. We just can’t seem to help ourselves. From lying to jealousy, from distrust to wars—as soon as we think we’ve found the lowest level that humans can sink to, there’s another news story that leaves us shaken to the core. The Bible refers to this state as “sin”, and we are hopelessly stuck in it.
Adam and Eve made their choice and there were shuddering, far-reaching consequences. But He hasn’t given up on us. He has been elbow deep in our gutter from the time sin began and He has taken a step further to provide a solution to our situation. Instead of wiping us out, He sent His Son.
Now, if you consider how gross we’ve become, how miserable our state is, then you can understand how loving an act it was to send Jesus. God wasn’t sending Him on a cruise or a holiday. He was immersing Him into a cesspool of filth and ugliness. And Jesus not only lived with us—He died at our hands. These weak, pathetic, sinful little creatures that God created for the simple reason that He wanted them, tortured His Son Jesus in the most horrific ways possible until He finally died. He’d die the death that we humans deserve. Then if we accept His sacrifice in our place, God will pluck us out of the gutter, rinse us off, recreate us and give us a place with Him in that shining realm that He inhabits outside of our reality. We call it heaven.
Love. There’s no other way to describe Him. “This is how God showed us His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9, 10).
So we’re brought back to the question: What does God want from us? The answer we find in the Bible is this: a relationship. We can’t be good enough to deserve this relationship because of our good deeds. We can’t earn God’s favour and He knows that. In fact, He says that our best efforts are nothing better than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). He wants us to open our hearts to Him and let Him be a part of our lives. He’ll guide us and when our life here in the gutter is through, He’ll be true to His Word and bring us to that perfect place beyond sin.
Paul, a very early Christian preacher, said it best: “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate you from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries for tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39, NLT).*
But why would God pour all that love on us? We’re gutter tripe, after all. We’re left with the same humbling answer as to why He created us to begin with: because He wanted us. When He went about creating mountains and oceans, star nebulas and the Law of Gravity, He decided He wanted you and me too. And He loves us too much to let us go.
* Bible verses marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used with permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.