Okay, I am not above using controversial, attention-grabbing titles for my own ends. Of course, I believe Yahweh is God. I just wanted to get you to read this article…
I rarely do this, but I would like to recommend an article about metaphor and our (lack of?) understanding of who God is. It can be found: here) as an added bonus, it helps us understand what we are actually doing when we use metaphor in our speech and our thoughts).
I don’t really want to summarize or write too much about the article, because it is an excellent article. I do admit, though, that especially if you aren’t accustomed (or forced) to read many a boring and dull article, this one is not sure and is not “easy to read” (as in not easy to skim along). There is a lot here that requires digesting, but hopefully worth the time and effort, for those interested and who have the time (which is pretty much nobody, I admit).
One thing the article does well is to remind us that we don’t even come close to knowing God fully, and if we think we do, we shouldn’t. Now don’t get me wrong, God has revealed himself sufficiently for and to his people through his written Word passed down to us and his Son, the living Word. But we cannot forget that God is truly incomparable, and we only know miniscule facets of who he truly is. I know from my own experience of trying to “distill” and “summarize” the Bible that I am tempted to provide an over-arching identity or paradigm for God or for God’s history of redemption/salvation. All those have a place, provided we do not reduce God to one element. God is and will always be greater and vaster than our understanding of him!
(SPOILER ALERT! This is for those of you (realistically, most of you) who don’t feel you can invest the time and effort in aforementioned article).)
Part of the slightly disorienting/dramatically humbling ideas presented in the article is that we can’t really “know the essence of God” (and by know, I mean “know” in the arrogant sense of therefore comprehending and controlling who God is – he is always Other; indeed, this makes the incarnation all that more amazing and unfathomable and an act of eminent graciousness and condescension). We can only know God through provisional metaphors. Indeed, metaphors are not some “less-than-ideal literary mumbo-jumbo” that is inferior to “literal” language. We use metaphors when we try to understand something that is foreign to us or something we cannot comprehend or we do not know well.
For example, if a child wants to know about something complex like federal government, taxes, or justice, and we want to communicate to the child in ways it understands, we must (or at the very least, should) use language and concepts that with which the child is already familiar. They are vital. But we must also recognize that metaphors break down, and they reveal only in part.
This applies all the more so when we speak of Yahweh. Indeed, even the statement, “Yahweh is God” is metaphor (if I explain this poorly, you can always see the fuller and better treatment of this in the article above).
The term “god” is used for us, and in context, especially for the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.) and ancient Israel to wrap their minds around who Yahweh is. That’s why it is so important when, in Exod 3, Moses asks Yahweh what his name is (and, related to all this, who/what he is), Yahweh tells Moses, before he tells Moses his name, “Yahweh, the God of your fathers…”, he tells Moses, “I AM WHO/WHAT I AM.” Moses (and we) can supply “and therefore unlike anything you can imagine.”
So this means that before we try to “get our minds around who/what Yahweh is,” we must realize that he is so beyond what we can comprehend. Yahweh is not “god” in its absolute sense, because “god” is a human concept. To say Yahweh is god (or better, God) is to imply that humans are in the picture. But before humans were, Yahweh is.
So as Moses’ (and our) brain(s) is trying to understand who Yahweh is, we start making connections. We think, “Yahweh is …”/Yahweh = ___?___. Our brains are trying to put in an identity that we do know.
All these are good, biblical images, but Yahweh doesn’t want us to mislead and start labeling and categorizing and compartmentalizing him right away. He wants us to know that he is not like any other (created) thing we experience. When Yahweh says, “I AM WHO I AM,” He is saying, “Stop at the ‘is.'” In other words, Yahweh … is … (period). I AM; Yahweh = Yahweh.
We cannot forget that he is different, other, incomparable. Once we know that, we must necessarily be reminded of our own inadequacy and limitedness and humble condition. Once we know Yahweh is unreachable, then we can humbly and gratefully accept his own, free humiliation and condescension when he relates himself to being the god of human creatures, the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Have we forgotten the immense, uncrossable distance between God and between us? It’s easy to forget in a sinful age and in a culture where agnostics and philosophers and all kinds of people want to think their way to God, to try to find and understand God. We can only work with our limited understanding to draw and make links with reality. That is how we learn. There are some great mysteries that we simply cannot process. And the infinite, creator God is one such mystery. Fortunately, he is a loving and caring God, and he has revealed himself in ways that don’t make our brains explode, so we can understand well enough/roughly enough to understand his love and salvation and his glory and honor and majesty.
So we should be humbled that we can know God. This only comes from his own, free revelation. And with this knowledge, we are not to be puffed up with it, thinking we are better. Rather, we are to know and love and obey God more and reflect him so his glory can be seen by all. Indeed, so that, in all things, Yahweh might be known to all as who he is: Yahweh (God).