In today’s episode, we are continuing our doctrinal study of the nature of God by looking at how God’s attributes and character are represented throughout the Bible. If we are to strive for the core Bible principles to become evident in our lives, we should understand why we would undertake such a challenging stance in this world. After all, in some ways it would be much easier for us if we didn’t need to act with integrity in every situation or provide forgiveness to others when we don’t feel like it. You see, how we view the nature and character of God influences our motivation for why we are seeking him in the first place, and how we live our lives.
So let me start by saying that I believe that the Bible reveals an almighty God, the Father, and that he is the eternal Spirit and Creator of all. In the Scriptures, his attributes are exhibited as being just, loving, righteous, truthful, all-powerful, demonstrating goodness and mercy, existing as set apart from his Creation, yet intimately engaged with it.
Since the Bible is a revelation of God to his Creation, it makes sense that we would look to definitions God has provided in the Bible about his own nature and character. I have brought together nine of what I consider to be the most essential attributes or characteristics that help us understand more about who the God of the Bible is. While the information presented here is not exhaustive by any means, it does give us a basis for a working understanding of what God wants us to know about himself.
1 – God is the Creator of all
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Psalm 104:30 You send forth Your Spirit, they [all living beings] are created; and You renew the face of the earth.”
Exodus 20:11 For in six days Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.
I believe that in the beginning of what we consider the universe and time, God created all things, and that all existence is therefore dependent upon God who is the Source and End of all things visible and invisible. He created man in His own image, which set man apart from the animal creation.
The Bible doesn’t tell us when God created everything, but it does tell us that he did. I know that many people have tried to use the genealogies that are recorded in the Bible to calculate the age of the earth; however, in my own studies of this topic I have found that not all of the genealogies are complete nor consistent enough for that type of inquiry. It’s not that the writers of Scripture were forgetful or careless; far from it. It’s just that they didn’t record genealogical information in the same way we do today, and many times they listed only the prominent individuals in a family line.
So, in a practical sense, by saying God created everything, the Bible is only attempting to convey that we are here on a world that came from the hand and mind of God; anything beyond that is speculation.
2 – God is righteous and holy
Psalm 11:7 For Yahweh is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.
1 Peter 1:15-16 But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Psalm 119:172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness.
God’s commandments and laws define God’s righteousness (that which is morally and truly right), and by obeying those laws we are imitating him and becoming more like him. In Matthew 5:48 Yeshua taught, “Be perfect [complete; mature], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” So as we continue to conform our lives to his revealed Word, we begin to act in ways that are considered righteous in his eyes.
To be holy is to be set apart from the corruption of worldliness. As the apostle Peter wrote, we are to “Be holy, for he is holy.” This is actually a quote from Leviticus which is repeated several times throughout the book:
Leviticus 11:45 – “For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.
Leviticus 19:2 – “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.
Leviticus 20:26 – “You are to be holy to me because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine.
This consecration or set-apartness is both a command and an attribute of those who would choose to follow the God of the Bible. By seeking his ways, we begin to emulate his nature and character, thereby reflecting his image in this world; a trait he desires for all people.
3 – God is compassionate, forgiving, and just
In one of the most famous passages of the Bible, God explains many of his characteristics directly to Moses while on Mt. Sinai:
Exodus 34:6-7 Then Yahweh passed by in front of him [Moses] and proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
Let’s look a little deeper to expand some of these representations of God’s character and his attributes. To be compassionate means he shows favor to those who are in need. His graciousness demonstrates his care for those who may not be in a position to deserve it. He is not easily angered by our unfaithful actions. Lovingkindness is the only English way of describing his merciful treatment of those who are in need and unable to “pay him back” in kind. He is also forgiving beyond measure. However, we must always keep in mind that he is just, and when all other means of trying to have people do what’s right are exhausted, he will take action against those who maintain a rebellious attitude.
4 – God is the Most Powerful
Genesis 17:1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.
Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.”
The word Almighty literally means “most-powerful.” Two of God’s titles in Hebrew are El Shaddai, which is translated “God Almighty,” and El Yon meaning “the Uppermost or Most High God.” In the ancient world, there existed a cosmology of many different gods, all with different traits and characteristics. This is known to us in our day as we can read of the varieties of the classical Greek and Roman gods that existed in the recesses of their various mythologies, yet is still just as prevalent among many of the national peoples today who have elaborate temples and shrines to various deities. This world is still a very religious world and people still worship and honor a variety deities. This is why a recognition that Yahweh is the one true God over all is still a relevant declaration in our day. The Bible has declared from ancient times that Yahweh is the Almighty and most powerful God of all, and the events outlined throughout the Bible relate how he demonstrated that by calling a people to himself, delivering them from their enemies, and fulfilling all that he had promised them through his own Son, the Messiah. He revealed his most dramatic and universal power in the resurrection of the Messiah, demonstrating he is the God of life itself. There is no power of any god above the ability of transcending death and providing eternal life.
5 – God is all-knowing and all-wise
Psalm 139:1-4 – Yahweh, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, Yahweh, You know it altogether.
Daniel 2:20 Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.
Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered…”
God’s wisdom is so far removed from our ability to comprehend its depths, we can only glean the revealed wisdom of God through the teachings of his prophets and his Messiah, the Anointed One.
Isaiah 46:9-10 – “Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.”
For God to be able to declare the ultimate fate of an entire people over a millennium in advance and then bring it about down to the minutest detail is a clear and historical demonstration of his wisdom and knowledge of all things. To Abraham, God revealed how his descendants would become a numerous people, fall into slavery, but then be set apart to inhabit a land that he would provide them. Beyond the physical land of Canaan, Abraham was also promised to become the father of many nations, as his faith and those who would believe in his God would become widespread throughout the world.
All of these things have been fulfilled in the physical nation of Israel and spiritually fulfilled in Messiah. Those of us today who believe in the God of the Bible have the rich heritage and benefit of the entirety of the story to have seen it come about just as he had said. This recognition of his wisdom and knowledge should be evident within our own lifestyles as well, as we seek to base our actions upon the firm foundation of his revealed wisdom.
6 – God is present everywhere at once
Psalm 139:7-10 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol [in the grave, or in the ground], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.
Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
Since God is spirit, his presence is not limited to any one specific location. He has the innate ability to be present at all places at all times. Within his physical Creation, all things are limited by space and time, but the Bible hints to us that in the spiritual realm of God’s existence, those limits do not exist. While it may be difficult for us to grasp this type of thinking, it is not impossible to conceive of the one true God relating to all of his Creation in personal ways which we can only approximate in our human existence on a one-to-one basis. With the spread of Biblical literature throughout the world, the universality of a single, all-powerful and ever-present God has become a recognizable understanding in a world which has always been filled with concepts of multitudes of regional deities. For the past four thousand years, since the time of Abraham, the monotheism of those who believe in the God of the Bible is one of the distinctive qualities that set them apart from all other religious belief, and stands as an ongoing witness against those religious systems.
7 – The Name of God
In the Bible, someone’s name and their character and purpose are very closely linked. For example, God changed the name of Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”). This exhibited the change in God’s purpose for Abraham, and was to be memorialized within his very name.
The root of the proper name for God comes from a Hebrew word meaning “(the) self-Existent” or “Eternal.” In English, it roughly translates out to “I am” or “I always have been and will always be”.
Exodus 3:13-15 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
So in this passage, we see how God has revealed his character through his name as Eyeh Asher Eyeh, the “I am who I am,” or “I am that which is,” the Eternal One. He also used the name “Yahweh, the God of your fathers.” Yahweh comes from a root word havah, meaning “to be,” colored with a continuous state or condition of abiding or remaining. These definitions, while weakened through the inferior English rendering, convey a sense of an eternal existence that has just always been. They provide us the insight that the very names of God relate to us that he has had no beginning and will have no end.
Due to the many aspects of ancient languages changing over the ages, currently there are lots of variations of spellings and pronunciations of this Hebrew name as it is attempted to be conveyed into our much more recent language of English. The most popular of these are “Jehovah,” “Yehovah,” or “Yahweh.” Since the J sound is not present in the Hebrew, and the V sound appears to be more recent in reconstructed modern Hebrew, Yahweh seems to be closest that we can get in English.
When this Hebrew proper name of God is represented in most English Bibles, it is typically written as the all-caps “LORD”, a word identifying God’s authority over all. This is based on a Jewish tradition of substituting the word “Lord” for Yahweh out of respect for name of God, which they have considered too sacred to pronounce. However, the deeper Hebrew meaning of Yahweh is colored with more intimacy of self-existence along with closeness, as “the ever-living God who is always with us.” While calling him “Lord” and saying he has authority over all isn’t incorrect, it really doesn’t capture the sense of his eternal and self-existent nature. Based on Exodus 3:15 that we just read, it appears God wanted these concepts of his eternal nature and yet closeness to his people, summarized as the Eternal Yahweh, to be in use as an everlasting reminder of who he is to each generation.
8 – God has all ultimate authority
Psalm 47:2, 8 For Yahweh Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth… God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.
Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Deuteronomy 13:4 “You shall walk after Yahweh your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
Besides his self-existent, eternal nature, God truly is the sovereign power over everything that was created by him. We have already seen one of his titles, El Yon, means that he is the Most High God. He can rightfully expect complete loyalty, reverence and obedience. Surprisingly, he is saddened when people continue to choose to rebel against him. As believers, we must not allow anything in our lives to rival God. Our faithful obedience to him shows our love for God:
1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
9 – Most importantly, God is love
1 John 4:8 – He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
Matthew 22:37-39 Yeshua said to him, “‘You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Love really gets to the root of God’s nature, and love is what He most wants to see in the character of His children. Therefore, it’s no surprise that His greatest commandments are to love—to love God and to love people.
This pinnacle of love brings us full circle to the core principles of the Bible once again. To love God and to love people is a summary of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. It is the basis of the eternal Kingdom of God which has its outworking through the faithful obedience of those who claim to be God’s children. While we have only scratched the surface of the character of God, the Bible teaches that those who would claim to be his children should have the same character as the God who birthed them, and that we should recognize his power and majesty in the qualities which are uniquely his.
As the Eternal Creator, the Most Powerful, Most High and ever present God, we should stand in awe, honor and respect of who he is. But as his children, we should seek to emulate his image, his faithful qualities in this world: these are the qualities of righteousness and holiness, compassion, forgiveness, justice, and most importantly, love. As Yeshua taught in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect [complete; mature], as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is our goal and ongoing challenge in a world that desperately needs to see the outworking of the Kingdom radiating to others through the children of God in each generation.
Well, I hope this overview of the character of God brought you some concepts and ideas to meditate on and to study out further on your own. But remember, if you have thoughts or comments that you would like to explore further with me, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.