His Greatness and Nearness
“To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him?" says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” —Isaiah 40:25-26
In today’s passage Isaiah teaches the transcendence of God—the idea that God is wholly beyond us and completely above us. He is so completely not like us, every comparison fails. Any concept of an old man with a white beard is such an offensive reduction! God is beyond what you could ever comprehend or understand.
John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The Scriptures say no one can see God and live, “for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). That is the transcendence of God.
Alongside that truth is the truth about the immanence of God. The immanence of God is completely differently than His transcendence. The Bible teaches that in spite of His transcendence, God is very personal. He is very near, very close. He is immanent.
Both transcendence and immanence are important aspects of our awesome God. But one of these is largely ignored. The immanence of God is preached in the North American church to the exclusion of the transcendence of God. So we end up with a small God who might be very close, but is pretty impotent—nothing like the Holy one of Isaiah 40 who created the universe. God has become intimately available to us, but is somehow no longer able to help us. A God who is only immanent is, in a sense, too close for comfort.
What we need to do is to bring both truths from Scripture back to bear upon our lives. Not just the transcendence of God or only his immanence, but, in spite of His awesome greatness, His nearness also! God is infinitely above and beyond us—and He loves us!
It’s this transcendent God who also can comprehend every single one of your circumstances personally. He knows you and loves you, and He cares for your concerns. Because He is so great, so wholly beyond us, He can do work on behalf of those who love Him, as only the God who created and called all the stars by name can do!
Which of those divine attributes do you need to focus on more closely: God’s imminence or His transcendence? Why?
Lord, I praise Your transcendence and imminence! Because You are imminent, You hear my prayer at this moment; because You are transcendent, You also hear all the other prayers rising from Your people to You right now. You hear all of us and You hear each of us. Thank You that Your answers are always the best for us, as well as the wisest route to Your will being done. I offer my faith to You who are beyond me, in Jesus’ name, amen.