This episode continues our series on the development of God as a character in the Bible. This week Tim and Jon have part two of their conversation on God’s attributes used as a character. They discuss God’s Spirit, God’s wisdom, and God’s word.
In part one (0 - 33:05), the guys briefly recap last week’s discussion on “God’s Glory.” Then Tim outlines the attribute of God’s word. Tim outlines the first story where “God’s word” is used. Genesis 15:1: "After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.'"
“The word” is the subject of the verbs (“came” “spoke”). it is “seen” in a vision, and it speaks in first-person divine speech. Tim says that often this nuance gets overlooked, that God’s word appeared in visible form. It’s depicted as a character that can appear to someone. Tim says the point is that often times the weird wording is intentional and should not be overlooked.
Tim shares another story in the Old Testament about God’s word. 1 Samuel 3:1-7: "Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord before Eli. And the word of Yahweh was rare in those days, visions were infrequent… and Samuel was lying down in the temple of Yahweh where the ark of God was… then Yahweh called Samuel; and he said, 'Here I am.' Then he ran to Eli and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' But he said, 'I did not call, lie down again.' So he went and lay down. Now Samuel did not yet know Yahweh, nor had the word of Yahweh yet been revealed [lit. “made visible”] to him…. Then Yahweh came and stood and called as at other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel said, 'Speak, for Your servant is listening.'"
Tim shares a final story on God’s word. Jeremiah 1:1-9: “The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah...to whom the word of Yahweh came… [v.4] Now the word of Yahweh came to me saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…' [v.6] Then I said 'O Yahweh Elohim, I don’t know how to speak, I’m just a youth…' [v.7] Then Yahweh said to me, 'Don’t say ‘I’m just a youth…’' [v.9] Then Yahweh stretched out his hand and touched my mouth and Yahweh said to me, 'Look I have put my words in your mouth.'"
Tim says the point is that in all of these passages, Yahweh and Yahweh’s word are the same, and yet distinct. Yahweh’s word is a physical embodiment (it can appear, be seen, it has hands, etc.).
So in light of all of this new information, let’s go back to Genesis 1:1-3: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God spoke, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness."
God’s identity has three facets in this opening scene:
God, God’s ruakh (breath, invisible presence), and God's word. Tim then draws attention to Psalm 33:6, 9: “By the word of Yahweh the heavens were made, all their hosts by the ruakh of his mouth… For he spoke, and it was, He commanded, and it stood.”
Tim moves on to discuss God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit is his invisible personal presence, that is God himself as he is experienced by people and personally present in the world. God’s Spirit influences and works through human agents, especially these type of people in the Bible:
Prophets: Micah 3:8: "On the other hand I am filled with power—with the Spirit of Yahweh—and with justice and courage, to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin."
Kings: 1 Samuel 16:13: "Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of Yahweh came mightily upon David from that day forward."
Wise people: Genesis 41:38-39: (Joseph) “Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Where else can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of Gods? … There is no one with wisdom or understanding like him.'”
Artists and Leaders: Exodus 31:1-4: (Bezalel) “Then Yahweh said to Moses, 'Look I have chosen Bezalel...and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom and understanding, with knowledge and skills, to make designs in gold and silver…'"
Deuteronomy 34:9: (Joshua) “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the Spirit of Wisdom.”
God’s Spirit = the divine thoughts and purposes = “mind”
Isaiah 40:13-14: "Who has measured the ruakh of Yahweh, And who has informed him with advice? With whom did He take counsel, to be given knowledge? Who taught him...knowledge, or who informed him with understanding?" Notice this close connection between God's Spirit and God’s wisdom.
Jon makes a fun analogy by pretending he’s a gerbil. If he was a gerbil and he were to see Tim as a human, he would only understand limited ways that Tim interacted with him. So similarly, when biblical authors experienced God through one of his attributes, they recognized that it wasn't God in his entirety but rather an aspect of him with which humans have been able to interact.
In part two (33:05-46:10), Tim continues to outline God’s Spirit. Jon says that he doesn’t think of his presence or mind as an attribute. So why is God’s presence/Spirit considered an attribute?
The guys have a brief discussion on the different ideas in philosophy and science asking, “Is our mind distinct from our ourselves, or is it ourselves?" Tim comments that it’s hard for a modern person to have an understanding of God, a being with a mind, but with no known “hardware.”
In part three (46:10-52:30), Tim outlines God’s wisdom. Tim says that all of the attributes are designed to flow in an out of each other. So when someone acts under or with God’s Spirit, they are also acting with God’s wisdom.
Tim says in the Bible, God’s wisdom is depicted as an influential urban woman who calls out to humanity. This is literary personification. Proverbs 8: 8:1-2: “Doesn’t wisdom call out, and understanding offer her voice. At the top of the heights, by the crossroads she stands…” 8:15-16 “By means of me kings reign, and leaders make just laws. By means of me rulers rule, and officials, and all those who rule with justice.” 8:22-23: "Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his way, before any of his works of old. From ancient times I was appointed, from the beginning, from the oldest times…" 8:30" “I was beside him as an ‘amon’, I was delighting day by day, rejoicing before him.”
"Amon" is an ambiguous word, used only here in ancient Hebrew and is capable of multiple interpretations. It could mean “workman," "apprentice,” but also “child," "nursing-child.”
In part four (52:30-end), the guys jump into the New Testament, specifically John 1. Tim says God’s word, Spirit, wisdom, and Genesis 1 are all creatively retold in John 1, but now Jesus is the central character.
In this first chapter, John says as clearly as he can that Jesus is Yahweh, but he is also distinct from Yahweh.
Jon asks what "only begotten son" means in the Bible? Tim answers that there have been lots of debates over time. The phrase comes from the Greek phrase, "monogenís gios." Some have suggested that it means “the only born son," whereas other theologians have suggested it means “only of its kind.” Tim suggests that people shift their language away from “only begotten” to something like “Jesus is the one and only unique son of all the spiritual beings because he actually shares in God’s identity and is one with God.”
Tim offers that in pop culture, often times people are skeptical of the idea of “the trinity.” They think that because the word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible, it might be a later invention of Christianity.