Divine Features

God is a spirit (see John 4: 24), but as the risen Lord reminded His disciples, “a spirit has not flesh and bones as ye see me having” (Luke 24: 39). It is remarkable then that God has condescended to be described in the familiar terms of a body—as having eyes, ears, hands and so on—thereby conveying to us in some small measure something of Himself and His actions towards us. Of course, God is far above our thoughts, and He does not literally have these bodily features—they are merely figures—but they bring what is essentially incomprehensible within our range of understanding. “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1: 18) is a statement of fact, but God has made Himself known to us in divine revelation—and supremely so in the One who is the Word of God, and who was “found in figure as a man” (Phil. 2: 8).

   Scripture tells us that God has eyes. Not actual eyes of course, but He does see us and He does observe us. Thus “his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his steps” (Job 34: 21) and “his eyes behold, his eyelids try the children of men” (Ps. 11: 4). Hebrews 4 reiterates the same truth: “And there is not a creature unapparent before him; but all things [are] naked and laid bare to his eyes, with whom we have to do” (v13).

   The divine eyes are connected with divine grace and favour. So the Psalmist writes “I will instruct thee and teach the way in which thou shalt go; I will counsel [thee] with mine eye upon thee” (Ps. 32: 8). Again, the apostle Peter tells us that “[the] eyes of [the] Lord [are] on [the] righteous, and his ears towards their supplications” (1 Pet. 3: 12). But if God can say “mine eye spared them so as not to destroy them” (Ezek. 20: 17), He can also say “I also withdraw mine eye, and it shall not spare, nor will I have any pity” (Ezek. 5: 11). To be “cut off from before thine eyes” (Ps. 31: 22) is to have lost God’s favour.

   Scripture also tells us that God has ears. Thus “Jehovah, thou hast heard the desire of the meek, thou hast established their heart: thou causest thine ear to hear” (Ps. 10: 17). Of course the language is figurative, but the fact remains that God does hear. As Christians, we know “that if we ask him anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5: 14). The divine ear is an ear that can be inclined towards us (see Ps. 71: 2), and be attentive towards the voice of our supplications (see Ps. 130: 2), but, solemnly, it can also be deaf: “And I also will deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them” (Ezek. 8: 18).

   If God has ears, He also has a speaking faculty: “And Jehovah will cause the majesty of his voice to be heard” (Is. 30: 30, my emphasis). The Bible begins with “And God said” (Gen. 1: 3), and, after many centuries of divine speaking “God having spoken in many parts and in many ways formerly to the fathers in the prophets, at the end of these days has spoken to us in [the person of the] Son” (Heb. 1: 1, 2). God’s communications to man are incalculably important. Indeed, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which goes out through God’s mouth” (Matt. 4: 4). God has been very gracious in deigning to communicate with His creature, even, on occasion, as with Moses, speaking “mouth to mouth” and “openly” (Num. 12: 8)—that is, familiarly, and with really audible words. Woe betide us, therefore, if we trifle with His Word, for the same mouth that uttered such wonderful “words of grace” (Luke 4: 22) shall “smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Is. 11: 4).

   God also has nostrils. Thus it was “by the breath of thy nostrils”  (Exod. 15: 8) that the waters of the Red Sea were heaped up, so enabling the children of Israel to pass over on dry ground. In general it seems that the exhalation of the divine nostrils is connected with judgment. Hence “By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his nostrils are they consumed” (Job 4: 9) and “the foundations of the world were uncovered at thy rebuke, Jehovah, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils” (Ps. 18: 15). By contrast, the divine inhalation has a much more positive connotation. The burnt offering was “an offering by fire to Jehovah of a sweet odour” (Lev. 1: 9), and it distinctly tells us of Noah’s offering that “Jehovah smelled the sweet odour” (Gen. 8: 21). All this is typical of Christ of course, who “loved us, and delivered himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet–smelling favour” (Eph. 5: 2).

   Put all the above together, and we have a face or countenance. Thus Daniel prayed “And now, our God, hearken to the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Dan. 9: 17). David wrote: “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; save me in thy loving–kindness” (Ps. 31: 16) and “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life: thy countenance is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11).  Again, the words of Ethan the Ezrahite: “Blessed is the people that know the shout of joy: they walk, O Jehovah, in the light of thy countenance” (Ps. 89: 15). The face thus sets forth the idea of being in the presence and favour of God—I can see His face. Not literally of course, for man “canst not see my face” (Exod. 33: 20), but nonetheless real. The converse is also true, namely that the hiding of God’s face means the withholding of His grace and favour. Thus “according to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I did unto them, and I hid my face from them” (Ezek. 39: 24). The further thought of His face being actually against us signifies divine anger: “The face of Jehovah is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (Ps. 34: 16; see also 1 Pet. 3: 12).

   Although the believer will never literally see the face of God, God has been made known to us in Christ and Scripture explicitly teaches that one day we shall see His face. For “we see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face” (i.e. with great intimacy, 1 Cor. 13: 12) and “Beloved, now are we children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been manifested; we know that if it is manifested we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3: 2). Perhaps the Spirit of God had this in mind when He caused the Psalmist to write: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17: 15).

   The arms of God are indicative of his mighty strength and power: “Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?” (Job 40: 9) and “Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save … he saw that there was no man, and he wondered that there was no intercessor; and his arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness, it sustained him” (Is. 59: 1, 16). Again, “Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12: 38). Very often, this power is executed in judgment: “Fear and dread fall upon them; By the greatness of thine arm they are still as a stone” (Exod. 15: 16) and “He has wrought strength with his arm; he has scattered haughty [ones] in the thought of their heart” (Luke 1: 51).

   Arms, of course, are intimately connected with hands, and the thought connected with the latter seems to be a more intimate and intricate expression of divine power. We touch with the hands rather than the arms. Thus the cry of Job “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, ye my friends; for the hand of God has touched me” (Job 19: 21). This hand can either be for punishment as in Moses’ word to Pharaoh “behold, the hand of Jehovah shall be on thy cattle which is in the field” (Ex. 9: 3), for chastisement, as in “For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand cometh down upon me” (Ps. 38: 2), or for blessing, as with Nehemiah: “And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me” (Neh. 2: 8). Creation is the work of His hands (see Ps. 8: 6), and it is God’s hands that “have bound me together and made me as one, round about” (Job 10: 8).  In His hand “is the soul of every living thing” (Job 12: 10), and as for the saints of God, none can “seize them out of my hand” (John 10: 28). When we come to the right hand, this is most particularly the highest power and authority. Thus “Thy right hand, Jehovah, is become glorious in power: Thy right hand, Jehovah, hath dashed in pieces the enemy” (Exod. 15: 6) and “The right hand of Jehovah is exalted, the right hand of Jehovah doeth valiantly” (Ps. 118: 16). It is to God’s right hand that Christ has been exalted and from which He will come a second time in power: “From henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven … having made [by himself] the purification of sins, set himself down on the right hand of the greatness on high” (Matt. 26: 64; Heb. 1: 3).

            When we come to the fingers of God we have divine power in its most concentrated and direct form. The miracles of Moses were ascribed to “the finger of God” (Exod. 8: 19), and the heavens are “the work of thy fingers” (Ps. 8: 3). The Lord Jesus cast out demons “by the finger of God” (Luke 11: 20), by which, according to Matt. 12: 28, the Spirit of God is meant. Writing is of, course, associated with the fingers (see John 8: 6-8)—the two tables of testimony were “written with the finger of God” (Exod. 31: 18), and Belshazzar saw the “fingers of a man’s hand” (Dan. 5: 5) writing out his out his own condemnation. A much better writing is promised the believer: “Giving my laws into their mind, I will write them also upon their hearts; and I will be to them for God, and they shall be to me for people” (Heb. 8: 10).

   Much more could be written but space precludes us. God has a footstool for His feet (see Is. 66: 1; compare Ps. 110: 1), and walks (see Gen. 3: 8; Ps. 77: 19). Again, He will carry His own “in his bosom” (Is. 40: 11, my emphasis), that very bosom occupied by the only–begotten Son (see John 1: 18). We also read of the “bowels of mercy of our God” (Luke 1: 78, my emphasis), speaking of His deep and innermost feelings, and of God being grieved “in his heart” (Gen. 6: 6, my emphasis). All this demonstrates that God has not been distant and aloof from His creature. From the first, He has desired communion with man. Indeed, man was made in the divine image (see Gen. 1: 26) for that very purpose. The ultimate of God’s descending grace is, of course, set out in that sublime passage in John 1: 1: “In [the] beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Here is One in which the figures have become reality, One whom could say “He that has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14: 9). God has, truly, come very near to man. Let us see to it that the effect on our hearts is that we wish to come near to God!