Australian historian and philosopher John Dickson points out an almost undeniable paradox in Western culture and spirituality:
You might call it a spirituality of distraction. It’s not that we don’t think about the “great things,” it’s just that we find the distraction of the “lesser things” easier to handle. Three out of four of us believe in the existence of God and the reality of the afterlife, according to the most recent research, but you’d never know it just listening to the conversations at work or in the pub, or to the public discourse in the media. We have this extraordinary ability to think big but live small. [Emphasis added]
Our lives are a series of ups and downs, and not just as our circumstances change, but emotionally and spiritually even when our situation remains largely the same. Why is this?
Yes, we might answer truthfully and accurately that it is because we are just human, but I suggest to you that it is also because we too often forget that God is not human! Among many smaller, individual reasons for our emotional and spiritual wavering, there is this disconnect between what we know to be the human condition and what the Bible reveals about the greatness of God. As Dickson wisely observes, “We have this extraordinary ability to think big but live small.”
The Bible could not be more clear: “God is not man” (Numbers 23:19). Yet, what God says is in Psalm 50:21 is too often, too deeply true of us: “You thought that I was one like yourself.” Here’s the claim of scripture: God is not man, and that’s a good thing!
Here’s the claim of scripture: God is not man, and that’s a good thing!
In the context of this assertion in the book of Numbers, this is what is taking place: as the nation of Israel came in like a flood, Moabite king Balak hired a seer named Balaam to curse Israel and help them defeat this enemy. Yet, although the pagan king Balak and the reprobate prophet Balaam did their best to curse and undo the peace and protection of God’s people, they were both reminded of the impossibility of their endeavor.
The reason? Because God is not man. And there are four specific ways in which God’s superior nature and character are emphasized: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
1) Because God is not man, he does not lie.
Lying is an undeniable part of fallen humanity. But God is not man! Who told the truth to Adam and Eve, concerning eating the fruit? God said: “You shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17) while Satan insisted, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 2:4).
God is not man, he does not lie, and so we can trust the truth and counsel we find in his Word.
No matter how it is painted, spun, or marketed, sin always comes down to this: will you believe God, or will you trust Satan? Whether the issue is happiness in marriage, raising children, the definition of success, or sexual fulfillment — God is not man, he does not lie, and so we can trust the truth and counsel we find in his Word.
In fact, Jesus insists, as the God-man, he not only speaks truth but is the Truth! “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It is because Jesus is the truth and the life we must not only trust him but entrust our eternity to him!
If our soul is not firmly anchored, it is not because Jesus Christ is in any way insufficient, but because we have allowed ourselves to be distracted from his abundant sufficiency. God is not man, that he should lie.
2) God does not repent or change.
We change our fashions, change our minds, change our priorities, change our majors in college. But God is not man.
Unlike us, God does not need to learn or grow or mature. God is omniscient (all-knowing). As we are told in Psalm 147:5, his understanding is infinite. God never changes or ages, although everything else does.
God never changes or ages, although everything else does.
This is both sobering and encouraging, because God does not change his declarations of judgment or of deliverance. After describing events of his second coming, which include both promises of salvation and of judgment, Jesus says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away … stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:33, 36).
3) When God speaks, he also acts.
We promise to pray for people, say we’ll be there for people in their need, but many times fail to follow through: but God is not man! When God speaks, it is never feel-good platitudes or empty-headed philosophy. What God says and what he does are always a perfect match.
What God says and what he does are always a perfect match.
Consider this, then, when you read God-speech like in Psalm 50:15: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” And God-breathed words like Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
4) What God promises, he also fulfills.
Especially in an election year in the States, promises can fly through the air fast and furiously. But God is not man!
God is not running for election, and he never over-promises or under-delivers. No one can undo or hinder his promises from coming to pass. You can almost hear the chagrin in Balaam’s voice as he is brought to prophecy, “Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it” (Numbers 23:20).
May you live in the bigness of the God who is not man.
May the good news that God is not man rush over you today, convicting you of your human depravity and sin, and encouraging you with his sure promises of forgiveness and salvation to those who repent and trust in him through Jesus Christ. Because, although God is not man, he did become a man in the person of Jesus Christ — and took the place of sinful humans on the cross so that we could know and enjoy the perfection and presence of our holy God.
May you live in the bigness of the God who is not man.