The ring of this passage in the Bible from where I took this title is that though it was to pagan worshippers of a god unknown to them- whom they try to reach through various means they could create- that Paul made this address, but the characteristics he lists as evidences of interactions with a god who is unknown to the worshipper are exhibited by Christians of today who supposedly know this God. Being unknown, every approach to this God would be metallic and frustrating; a pursuit to please that whom you know not what pleases him nor how to do it.
So, the apostle says, ‘we should not think that the Devine being is like…’ He goes ahead to tell them what God is not like. If you remove what God is not like, you would get close to understanding what He is like. Here he makes a few points of what God is not like, three of which
I would highlight here.
He does not live in temples built by human hands.
The modern Christian is almost always guilty of believing the opposite of this statement. He believes that God lives in a temple. He does not know of many ways to reach out to and maintain a relationship with God except that which involves his being in a man-made temple (and usually with an officiating priest) to help his access to this unknown God. He does not know God outside his congregation, outside his denomination, outside the influence of his fellowship or church leaders. God is largely an unknown Being to this one. He has no personal understanding of the God that he seeks. No direct link to Him. He cannot access Him, talk to him nor have dealings with him. There’s always someone to intermediate, something to represent God; a mantle, an oil, a handkerchief, a sticker, anything. No direct dealing with God. He is largely unknown to him except through the medium of someone or something. Maybe a lot of Christian leaders would have to be blamed for the lopsided understanding. Some meant well in trying to encourage young Christians on the importance of fellowship and cooperate worship, or even the significance of the use of some items like oil, mantle etc., at certain necessary times, but a few have also utilized the good and well-intention teachings to create a dependency syndrome; a situation where the people must always need them.
He is not served by human hands as if he needs anything
Some believe that God is that shrine that you cannot approach without a fowl or goat in tow. In the opinion of this modern Christian, God is like the Nigerian policeman comedians talk about; If you come to his house he asks, ‘wetin you bring?’ If he comes to your house he asks, ‘wetin you get?’ I must concede that this is mostly a result of faulty teaching, and the laziness that stops one from burning time to get into the presence of God by himself, alone and away from the public. As result many try to buy their way in, so that they may have more time for other things. The church leader who wants to raise enough money to meet the budget goes on emphasizing that you don’t appear before God empty handed, as though the one you appear before Him in your house or office you drop some money on the table for Him to pick before he talks to you, or is that one not appearing? Where you not in Him, in His presence just before you entered that house of worship? Did you give Him anything to have accessed that presence? (May I add here that offering, seeds or any form of giving to God is an expression of love. A response to His love and expression of commitment to His course. It is never to get Him to love us more or do what He would not have done for us otherwise. And this giving, of every kind, should never stop. Truth is, you should do more than you are doing now, no matter how much!) So, this man pays his tithe, to please Him, to serve Him by human hands as if He needs anything. He gives seeds, large seeds to please Him, to get His attention. He sows to ‘His servants’ so that He can be happy with him and promote him or make his business succeed or help him get a job. He goes to evangelism, to win souls, so that God can bless him and make him rich. He starts a cell, to enter God’s good book. The list is endless. The list of very good things we could do for our Father, as loving children responding to the overwhelming love of their father. But we have turned it upside down. We have made them conditions to know God, to get His attention, His favour and His care. This one’s knowledge of God expires every time his subscription of good service is not renewed. It is the religion of law by other means. It is just couched in flowery semantics to make it look like it is not bondage. But it is bondage worse than the Old Testament. This man forgets that the continuation of the verse says, ‘…Rather he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else’. It is not the other way around.
We should never think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone or any image
There is this one that believes in accessing God through an image or represents God as an image. Almost like the guy in the first point. I have struggled with the idea of praying or worshiping without a mental image before me to which I can look up to in my imagination. It is not easy not to have it, for then your mind will drift and wander endlessly. So, I agree it is necessary to have an image in your mind to which you address to make prayer a communication indeed. I believe God considers this too and this could be one of the reasons He reveals himself in encounters to people. I believe that after God appeared to Moses, when he prayed subsequently, each time he closes his eyes, he imagines God the same way He appeared to him. I take a clue. God revealed Himself in a way that the prophets captured Him in details in the Bible. Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and 2, Daniel 7 are a few examples of the image of God we could hold in a healthy way mentally. There are also the vivid descriptions of Christ in the Bible. Revelation did a good job of this. After reading revelation chapter 1 slowly, it is hard not to see a biblical picture of Jesus standing before you that is clearer than any artistic impression. But above all, there is His attributes, which are even more important. When God appeared to Moses in Exodus, He introduced Himself (so that there would be no confusion), ‘The LORD, The LORD God. Merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity…’ He wanted Moses to be sure that He is not aloof and hard like a, metal. He is not a force, and impersonal being, a cash and carry personality. He is not a feeling-less god, like a stone. Some think He is that hard man sitting up there without making any move to get to us but daring us to fail in one of his much hard and unbending principles.
God is not like that. God is a person. God feels. He is loving. He bends over (in a positive way) to reach out to his children. Many times, I have sinned, broken the law of God, scorned His love and done terrible harm to my relationship with Him. And while I am still there, struggling to find a way and time to get back to Him, He comes down, moving heaven and earth, reaches me and draws me back to Himself. He seeks us more than we seek Him. He does not want to be an unknown God to us, to anyone at all. All God has done from Genesis to Revelation is to find ways to demystify Himself ‘so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from anyone of us. The tragedy would be to claim to know Him and never really do. To claim that He is your God, yet indeed be unknown to you.
Get alone with Him today through no medium but Jesus Christ and seek to really know Him.
Key Scripture references: ACTS 17:16-34; Exodus 34;6-7.