Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE INVISIBLE GOD”

Exodus 33.17-20

 

This morning’s message from God’s Word is titled “The Invisible God.” It addresses the reality that God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and all that herein is, cannot be seen.

Of course, the invisibility of God is thought by some spiritually darkened individuals to be something of a justification for not believing in the existence of God or for challenging His existence. However, with little more than a moment or two of thought this line of reasoning is shown to not really be reasoning at all. After all, you cannot see air. Yet who doubts the existence of air? You cannot see electricity. Yet who doubts the existence of electricity? One can never directly observe to verify the existence of atomic particles. However, are there still remaining on earth any individuals who can read and yet maintain any doubt about the existence of atomic power, atomic radiation, or the damage that takes place when one unleashes uncontrolled atomic particle fission reactions?

Understand that God’s Word sometimes relates truths to His creatures in much the same fashion that every good mother and father communicates truth in a non-technical way to their young children. They are not telling lies to their small child when they say mommy is going to have a baby and when asked where the baby will come from they say the baby comes from mommy’s tummy. Who would be so outrageous as to call a mother a liar for telling her youngster that the reason her pregnancy is beginning to show is because the baby in her tummy is growing? Are we to the point that parents are now required to inform young children of ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus, and the cervix? Please. Can we wait until the kid is a bit older to explain the details of pregnancy and sexual reproduction with a bit more biological precision without calling well-intentioned parents liars for speaking age-appropriate truth?

Before we turn to my text for this message let me toss some things up into the air for your consideration concerning the existence of God and the fact that He is invisible. There are invisible things within our universe; we all readily acknowledge that. So how about the existence of yet one more Who is invisible? Is that such a reach for the reasonable person? Not at all. These things I mentioned a few moments ago; air, electricity, atomic particles and such, are not really invisible. They certainly are visible, but not using the spectrum of light that our eyes are capable of sensing. Additionally, air molecules, electrons (which are sub atomic particles), and atomic particles certainly are perceptible. It is just that our five senses are not so finely tuned that things that tiny can be detected by us without mechanical aids, such as scanning electron microscopes and even more sophisticated hardware. These things are invisible to us because our five senses are too crude to detect them unless the air is moving rapidly and we hear the wind, or the electrons are arcing and we get a shock.

When I refer to God being invisible, however, it is not because He is too small. I can assure you of that. If it was a size consideration, God would be invisible because He is far too large. But it is not a size consideration. The reason God is invisible is because He is not made of stuff. Think about it with me. We see things because light strikes stuff and some of the light reflecting off of the stuff is gathered by our eyes. We feel stuff that stimulates the nerve endings just under the surface our skin. We hear noise produced by vibrating stuff that vibrates the air and so vibrates our ear drums. We taste with the taste buds on our tongues that react to certain chemicals that stuff is made of that produces taste. Smell comes from extremely small amounts of floating stuff in the air inhaled up our noses and coming in contact with our olfactory organs. In each case except for our eyes, our senses work off of some type of contact with different stuff to produce taste, feel, hearing, or smelling. And with eyes, it is our one sense that is affected by light bouncing off of stuff. But what happens with your senses when they come up against something that is not made of stuff? That is the reason why God is invisible to us; He is not comprised of stuff. He created stuff (time and energy and matter), but He Himself is none of those things. Therefore, not only can He not ordinarily be seen, He cannot ordinarily be tasted, felt, smelled, or heard either. You see, our human senses simply do not work on God because He is nothing like anything our senses were created to deal with, which is physical reality. God, you see (actually, we don’t see), is a spirit.[1]

Because God is a spirit and does not consist of stuff, He has determined that our dealings with Him are to be on the basis of something the Bible terms faith instead of the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Every interaction we have with other human beings, and every aspect of our interaction with the physical universe in which we live, is accomplished by means of our five senses, or the technology we have invented to improve our five senses (such as telescopes and microscopes and eye glasses to improve our eyesight, and hearing aids to improve our hearing). But not with God. He is different. And because He is different He has determined that our interactions with Him are to take place on the basis of something other than our five senses. With very rare exceptions, He cannot be seen; or smelled, tasted, touched, or heard either. What is that basis for dealing with God as with no other? Let me say it again, it is faith. It is interesting to me that though faith is very important in the Bible, it is nowhere in the Bible defined. Described, to be sure, but nowhere precisely defined.

Turn with me to Hebrews chapter 11, a chapter in the Bible that is given over to describing and illustrating faith, while not defining faith. As you are turning, let me point out what many of you already know, that beginning with Hebrews 11.3, the chapter features faith in the lives of many notable and some unnamed Bible characters. However, for our purposes we will consider only Hebrews 11.1 and 6:

 

Hebrews 11.1:   “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

 

This verse is crucial to understanding faith because it reveals several things about faith, that it is a present confidence related to a future fulfillment and that it is unrelated to direct physical evidence. The word “substance” in the verse translates a Greek word that means “title deed.”[2] Thus, saving faith is something on the order of a pink slip showing ownership of the salvation you will take full possession of when you get to heaven. The word “evidence” translates a Greek word that refers to evidence admissible in a court of law.[3] Thus, while faith does not require that the unseen God be seen, real faith does both rely on and actually require legitimate circumstantial evidence to support it. Allow me to cite an example: Have you ever actually seen electrons traveling at near the speed of light on copper wires from here to there? No. But you have noticed that every time you flip a switch the lights come on. Thus, you operate on the basis of circumstantial evidence every day. So does faith as it relates to God. Now we consider Hebrews 11.6:

 

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

 

This verse establishes the absolute necessity of faith in one’s dealings with God. You cannot please God without faith, because faith assumes that God exists and that those who make use of faith in their dealings with God will be greatly blessed. And for those who say, “Fine, I have no interest in pleasing God. Therefore, I will live my life without faith”? Be mindful that death at the end of life in this world is not the end for anyone, and that it is God who decides how each person’s forever in eternity will be spent. This reality should be factored in to every wise person’s consideration of the costs versus the benefits of living by faith.

In addition to circumstantial evidence undergirding real faith, meaning that there is really no such thing as blind faith to be found in the Bible, there are other considerations of a logical and scientific nature. For example: From logical deductions and the laws of science, we reasonably conclude that every effect must have a cause, with the First Cause being God. From reasonable scientific inquiry, we conclude that the complexity found in living things shows the presence of large amounts of information that can only result from an intelligent design, requiring an Intelligent Designer, who is God. Then there is the philosophical consideration of why we are the way we are, moral, with a conscience, believing in rights and wrongs, because as the Bible declares we are made in God’s image.

I could certainly go on and on, citing Psalm 19.1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” This means that a consideration of the cosmos suggests God’s creative handiwork. However, you get the drift. The existence of God is far more likely than unlikely to the person whose life has not been touched by God. But once your life has been touched by the invisible God there is no longer any doubt whatsoever. Better to be nudged by God than to be left alone. Oh, the danger, the hopelessness, the confusion, the wrong conclusions, and the terrible end that will come upon those who are not in some way touched by God to know that He is real.

Throughout this introduction I have spoken to you from the perspective of you being scientifically and technologically sophisticated. And indeed, you are far more sophisticated concerning science and technology than anyone who ever lived before the 20th century, who thought in terms of earth and wind and fire and water. We need to remember that the Word of God was written prior to the era of scientific and technological sophistication. This does not mean the Bible is not true, but that it was not written to explain reality to the scientist or the engineer. It was written to benefit Mr. and Mrs. Ordinary. For that reason there are some topics that are dealt with in a fashion akin to a mom and dad telling their youngster that the baby is in mommy’s tummy. It is a true statement, though it is not a technical statement, not a scientific statement, not a biologically sophisticated declaration. It is descriptive truth told so as to make it understandable to regular folks.

With that in mind, consider the invisibility of God as it is dealt with in Exodus 33.17-20. A few comments before we read. Moses is leading the children of Israel after they have been redeemed from centuries of slavery in Egypt. God has once more chosen to speak to Moses, this man being a notable exception to how God has typically dealt with most other human beings since Adam’s fall into sin and his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. If you have found the passage I invite you to stand and read with me, Exodus 33.17-20:

 

17     And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

18     And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

19     And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

20     And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

 

I will leave it to you to read the context to see precisely how Moses seeks from God a revelation of His way that Moses may know Him, that he may find grace in God’s sight, and to emphasize that the children of Israel are His people. I have rehearsed with you the scientific reasons God is invisible. What we take away from this passage are three factors related to the moral reasons why God is invisible:

 

First, THE INVISIBLE GOD IS UNSEEABLE BY THE LOST BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT HIS FAVOR

 

Exodus 33.17: “And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.”

 

Remember that Moses has pleaded with God for some type of revelation of His being as evidence that God will go with them to the Promised Land and as evidence that they have found grace in His sight, that they will be separate and distinct as a people from all the other peoples of the earth. How does God respond to Moses’ plea for some revelation of His person to Moses? He indicates He will do something, “for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.” This provides for us insight concerning why the invisible God is unseeable to the lost, to the unbeliever, to the Christ rejecter, to the unrepentant, why the unsaved cannot see God. They have not God’s favor.

We live in a warped and distorted world in which people imagine that they have nonexistent rights. I was informed last week that people living in the European Union nations of Europe have now been given the right under law to travel to a foreign country on vacation. Amazing. A right to travel abroad at government expense has been granted to the citizens of France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and so forth. Consider another example: The fiction that people have a right to feel good about themselves and to have a high self esteem. I speak not of the joy God gives to a believer that reflects the forgiveness of his sins, but to the conclusion arrived at by a person engaged in self-evaluation. Professor Roy Baumeister of Florida State University conducted a study showing that the highest self-esteem scores come from prison inmates, particularly the most violent offenders.[4] This corresponds to my observations suggesting that someone who holds a lofty view of himself imagines that if God exists the individual has a right to see Him. Therefore, if he does not see Him, God must not exist. True? Actually, no. God decides who sees Him, and this verse suggests that no one who has not found grace in God’s sight has a right to see Him or to be blessed by any manifestation of His existence.

Therefore, may I make a friendly suggestion to those of you who self-describe as agnostic or as atheistic? I recommend that you take note of the fact that in the Bible, God’s Word, God makes no attempt to prove His existence to His creatures. Clear thinking admits that He does exist. Therefore, let me encourage you to make that assumption and seek to live your life accordingly. God is.

 

Next, THE INVISIBLE GOD IS UNSEEABLE TO THOSE WHO ARE HIS PEOPLE FOR OUR OWN PROTECTION

 

Exodus 33.20: “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”

 

Though it is clear that God normally and ordinarily remains unseeable to both the saved and the lost, the reasons for being unseeable to the saved are profoundly different than Him being unseeable to the lost. The lost are denied the privilege of so great a blessing while being in rebellion against Him, while the saved are denied the blessing of seeing Him for our own safety. Consider, if you will the nature of God and how very different He is from our mode of existence. He is spirit while we are physical beings. He is holy while we are sinful creatures. He is eternal while we are time-bound. He is without beginning while we did not exist not too long ago. He is a being of eternity, while we are temporal beings not yet suited for existence in eternity. This is not to suggest that when anyone dies it is all over for him, for that is not the case at all. Every one of us will consciously exist for all eternity after this life ends, but we are not yet suited to that existence. On top of that is evidence in the Bible that not even the holy angels in heaven who surround God’s throne dare leave their eyes uncovered in God’s presence. Isaiah 6.2 points out that the seraphim cover their faces in God’s presence. Why would they do that? To show respect? To demonstrate reverence? Possibly. But perhaps also for their own protection so that they, despite being spiritual beings who constantly abide in God’s presence are also aware of the brightness of His glory. Job 37.22 tells us that “with God is terrible majesty.”

There was an occasion when God spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Understand that special measures were taken at that time for Moses’ protection. However, even that encounter with God’s glory had such a dreadful effect upon Moses that his face thereafter frightened people, and for the rest of his life he had to wear a veil so as not to distract others.[5] To be sure, there will come a time when the Christian will see God in all His glory and will stand before the exalted Savior in all His glory, but that will take place after we have been glorified ourselves, transformed and suited for existence with God and Christ in heaven forever, First John 3.2:

 

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

 

WHICH BEGS THE QUESTION OF HOW IT COMES TO BE THAT SOME WILL SOMEDAY BE ABLE TO SEE GOD WHILE OTHERS WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO SEE HIM?

 

Keeping in mind that God’s dealings with us are by means of faith, it should also be kept in mind that faith by itself is not sufficient. Faith is never strong and cannot actually do anything. For that reason faith has to have a proper object, which is to say there must be someone or some thing you trust that pleases God. The only proper Object of saving faith, the only thing faith that pleases God actually trusts, is God’s Son Jesus Christ.

Let me explain: Though God is invisible, He did send His Son, Jesus Christ, from heaven’s glory to be born of the virgin Mary and thereby become someone who was both God and man, fully God and at the same time completely human, but without sin of any kind. Him you could see. Him you could embrace. Him you could identify with. Being both God and man, Jesus Christ could bring together the holy God and sinful men in a way no one else can. However, in order to accomplish that great feat He had to die on the cross of Calvary to suffer the punishment for other people’s sins. Because God is righteous He must punish sins, therefore Jesus Christ took our sins upon Himself and suffered the punishment of God for my sins, so that by trusting Him my sins are forgiven. When He was crucified His blood was shed, Him becoming a blood sacrifice for my sins, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God.

Thus, when a sinful person comes to acknowledge his sinfulness and to trust Christ for the forgiveness of his sins, God forgives that sinner’s sins for Christ’s sake, adopts him as His own son, and welcomes him into the family of God, now waiting for that glorious day when he will be taken into God’s presence, transformed into Christ’s likeness, to ever be with the Lord and with God in heaven.

 

The invisible God. Why is God invisible? Is He invisible because He is not real? No, He is very real, as the midnight sky reveals, as the complexity of all life reveals, and as the very nature of the human soul reveals. Then why cannot I not see Him? In my introduction I provided rather sophisticated scientific reasons why an immaterial being cannot be perceived using our coarse senses that are designed to interact with this material world. But there are more important reasons than merely scientific reasons explaining why you cannot see God, why He is invisible to you.

There are moral reasons: He is the most wonderful, the most beautiful, the most powerful, the most intelligent, the most loving, the most holy, the most righteous, the most truthful, and the most wise Being in existence and He doesn’t think enough of you to grant you the privilege of seeing Him. If you had ever come under the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit, so that you would recognize your sinfulness in God’s sight, your unworthiness before Him, your guiltiness for ignoring Him, for disobeying Him, and for dishonoring Him, then perhaps you might have turned from your wicked ways and sure expectation of judgment and wrath to trust Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. If that is the case for you the invisibility of God is His protection of you until your preparation for glory has been completed, for then you will be so radically transformed that you will be sufficiently like Him and like His Son Jesus Christ that you can not only behold Them, but you will also safely abide in their presence forever and forever and forever.

So you see, God is invisible. But the reasons He is invisible are quite different than most people think.

__________

[1] John 4.24

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 1040-1041.

[3] Ibid., page 315.

[4] http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/440413.html 8/28/15

[5] Exodus 33.11; 34.29-30, 33; 2 Corinthians 3.7, 13

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org