Have you ever stopped to think about how the Bible describes God? And how we see His many qualities through the person of Jesus? Isaiah 9:6 introduces Jesus as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Throughout Scripture, He is called a refuge (Psalm 46:1), strong tower (Proverbs 18:10), light of the world (John 8:12), the Word (John 1:1), Father (Matthew 6:26), redeemer (Isaiah 47:4), deliverer (Psalm 116), righteous judge (Psalm 7:11), and more – so many more!
Yet, characteristics, attributes, or names of God cannot completely encompass who He truly is. They merely give us parts to put together, like puzzle pieces, as the Holy Spirit reveals them to us at the right times in our individual lives.
We will not comprehend any true measure of His vast greatness until we see His face one day on the other side of eternity. What a wonderful God we serve!
God is an uncontainable mystery, with qualities that sometimes seem contradictory.
One of the biggest mysteries of who God is, comes from the truth that He is what the Bible calls the “Godhead” (Colossians 2:9) – more commonly known as the “Trinity” (although that word is not found in Scripture) – three Persons in One. So we learn about his nature from His Word, His son, and the Holy Spirit.
To add an additional layer of complexity, God, through His own descriptions of Himself in His Word, presents Himself as a series of seeming contradictions: peaceful and violent, innocent and cunning, Lion and Lamb.
Job 5:13 says “For He wounds, and binds up. He injures, and His hands make whole.” Talk about a contradiction!
When we try to define or understand God, we run into a wall because He will not be defined by any terms other than those He uses for Himself. Not understanding God, but worshipping, loving, serving and obeying Him is the very essence of faith. This is why secular “science” tries to disprove Him. God cannot be figured out.
And while non-believers (and some believers!) rage against this (read Psalm 2), and try to undermine and mock faith in God, people of faith embrace that we cannot fully understand God. God is who He said He is and He will do what He said He will do. And that’s why we worship!
Many sides, one Savior.
When it seems like there are aspects of God that conflict, think of it this way: heads or tails. Two sides of the same coin. Different, with different meanings, purposes, uses, inscriptions, messages, and pictures, but still one coin.
This is a rudimentary way of visualizing how certain aspects of God can seem to contradict. Each side of the coin serves a purpose. They don’t actually contradict – they complement.
Here are three examples of ways in which two attributes or images of God seem to be at odds, when, really, they are working together for His glory:
Innocent and Cunning
Jesus is the innocent, pure, spotless, sinless sacrifice who became sin for us, took our place on the cross and gave His life so we might live. That is the essence of the Gospel message. Why, then is God referred to as cunning, in the Old Testament?
Look at Job 5:12-13, “[God] frustrates the schemes of the cunning, so that their hands cannot perform their plans. He catches the wise in their own craftiness.” Remember the old adage, “It takes one to know one?” Only a strategic, cunning God can outwit the craftiest deceiver. In fact, in the Bible, Satan and evil men are portrayed as “cunning,” yet the innocent Lamb, Jesus, said this in Matthew 10:16, “So be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves.” So, which is it? Both.
God reveals Himself as either/or/and when His people need His help!
Peaceful and Violent
Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. This is a beautiful portrayal until you reflect back on the acts of God in the Old Testament.
Psalm 7:12 says, “If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.” Plagues and hemorrhoids. The killing of nations, men, women and children. People stricken with leprosy. Blood running in the streets. And that’s just the things He did to His own people! Fire and brimstone, worldwide floods, entire nations wiped out in bloody wars at His command and worse happened to the wicked! So, which is it? Answer: Both.
Remember, only God defines what is “good” and “evil” so for us to say that those events are in conflict with peace or love or gentleness defies God Himself. God is holy, above all else and will not tolerate darkness at all (1 John 1:5). Romans 6:23 says that, “The wages of sin is death,” and God sent His Son, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to reconcile us as holy.
The Lord’s anger doesn’t burn against people. It burns against sin. Through Christ, we are set free from the curse of sin. And the angels sang at the birth of Jesus, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” to herald that the violence of God’s anger against sin would now be satisfied by the Prince of Peace. Amen!
The Lion and the Lamb
In Revelation 5:5, Jesus Christ is heralded as the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah” yet Peter called Him “a lamb without blemish or defect.”(1 Peter 1:19) John called Him, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
How can someone be both a lion and a lamb? They are certainly two very different animals! A lamb dies, but a lion kills. How can one be both predator and prey at the same time?
The Lamb, Jesus Christ, is the embodiment of God and when He “disarmed authorities and powers” through His death and resurrection (Colossians 2:15), He qualified Himself to fulfill every promise of God – through ferocious power and forceful violence against the enemy if needed.
Jesus the Lamb was willing to let Himself be destroyed for you. Jesus is also the Lion willing to destroy the enemy – for you!
We worship the gentle, peaceful Lamb of God and we draw close to Jesus, the Lamb in our praise and worship, but the Lion is just as worthy of praise. We must respect the power of the Lion. We must fear and be in awe of His might. Two beautiful, powerful images of two different types of strength are seen in Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God.
As you read the Word of God, you will see similar “contradictions” within yourself. The challenge is to stay away from using them for anything other than for the glory of God. All weapons have the potential for death and destruction. But in the right hands, no weapon is unsafe or a threat to anyone other than an enemy.
Remember, if God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are One Person, then every attribute ascribed to each Person in the Godhead applies to each One equally, right? Yes! God doesn’t change, ever (Malachi 3:6).
These “contradictions” are only in conflict outside of Christ, when they are used for purposes other than Kingdom purposes. For example, being cunning, as Jesus advised (Matthew 10:16), was for the purpose of spreading the Gospel through calculated wisdom, through perceiving the needs and weaknesses of others – not to exploit them, as evil men would do, but to reach them for Christ!
Alicia Purdy, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Alicia Purdy is an author, blogger and professional writer with an M.A. in Journalism, and a human with an ongoing education in all things life-related! Her passion is to write about real life and a real faith in a real Jesus to inspire, encourage and entertain people from all walks of life. She is the host of “Living Out Loud!”,a weekly radio show broadcast at the ALIVE Radio Network. You can learn more about Alicia’s books and free devotionals at her blog: TheWayoftheWorshipper.com and even more at TheEssentialLife.Us. Alicia and her husband have 5 kids ranging from 20 years old all the way down to 3 – and 1 cat, named Chester. You can find and follow Alicia on Facebookand Instagram. If you meet her in person, she will most likely try and wipe you down with essential oils and then ask if you want to grab a coffee.