Resting in the Trinity So That We Might See Victory in Life
As I noted last week we are going to spend some time considering what the Bible has to say about the Lord’s transcendence and His immanence. Those words need not overwhelm us. They merely represent the truth. We are not God, and our God is ever present with His people. There is no reason to think they are at loggerheads. The Holy Scriptures illustrate for us that Jehovah is both and we need not introduce our insecurities to the text. We get ourselves in trouble when we try to make the word fit our preconceived notions of what it should say. It is also the case that the believer should never come to thinking that theology is for the theologians. These matters are central to our ability to rise out of the bed in the morning and lay our head on the pillow at night. The more we know and understand about our God we will find so much of the anxiousness of this life disappears in the glory of His person and work.
Learning the deep things helps us to sing His praises and worship in joy.
Let’s take a second to look at one practical example of how God’s otherness and His everywhereness grants faith to the humble. We are all familiar with the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. In her prayer of thanksgiving we hear her confess her trust in the Lord’s power and His ability to hear, which moves her to the exclamation of adoration for the gift of her son. But before that song how was she able to pray with boldness in the face of unspeakable torment and loneliness? Because she recognized that the person she called out to was above and beyond the petty grievance of her enemy. The holiness of the Lord means that He does not respond like for like out of spite. “No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.” Hannah rested in the fact that Jehovah knew her and was not her. She couldn’t make herself give birth, only God could open and close the womb because He alone is the creator. (Rom. 9:19-24). In the snippet of her cry in the opening chapter she is without fear in her declaration that she was the Lord’s maidservant for this very reason. Hannah is at the mercy of God and that was her peace:
“Then she made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.’” – 1 Samuel 1:11
Notice where Hannah three times refers to herself as belonging to God. That relational language is what we are genuinely talking about when we use the word immanence. The Sacred is not violating His holiness in taking on the bond of promise with that which is not sacred. It is why covenant is such an inescapable concept in understanding our connection with the Holy One. As Christians we at the same time recognize that God is not us, but cares for us primarily because we are made in His image, and therefore reflect His glory. This is what moves Hannah to make a vow to God, because He has made a vow to her and kept it in her salvation. She knows that He is the unmovable One, for the very nature of the creation itself testifies to this fact, as she says in 1 Sam. 2:3, “Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.”
Through her understanding of the transcendence and the immanence of God her heart is sure. There is such comfort in the Divine One because He is both/and. These are not the kind of arguments that some people derisively dismiss using the phrase, “. . . like arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” To say such usually highlights a mind and soul which does not take seriously the Holiness of the Lord and what He has presented of Himself in the Bible. We owe it to the revelation of God in Scripture and in Nature to know Him as well as we can in order that we might live in light of these truths. That is why they matter so much, and it is why Paul condemns the Corinthians for their lack of curiousness. It is what leads them to fold under the pressure of the world, and the difficulties of church life in general.
Another passage worth considering as we think about why this stuff matters can be found in the way our Christ speaks of His Father to the disciples. There is a reason why Jesus has to repeat Himself so much in the talks He has in John 14-16. As normal human being the idea that the Father and the Son are One (Thomas and Philip helpfully standing in for the rest of us when they express concern about this) is a very difficult idea for the mind to wrap itself around, but as our Lord unfolds this truth we see why it is so practically important. None of the Greeks or Romans would ever speak of Zeus/Jupiter and Apollo in that way. Certainly it would be blasphemy for a Muslim to testify that Mohammed and Allah were one. Mormonism posits that their god is just a superlative version of man so it would also be hard to talk about the true God’s transcendence then in the sense Jesus speaks of it in our Bible. What separates (no pun intended) us from these false religions then is that as we noted at the beginning the incarnation in its fullest form allows us to see God as He is, yet not in the totality of who He is. In other words the revelation of God in Christ grants us the kind of maidservant relationship Hannah witnesses to us. We can pray, live, move, and have our being in this present evil world precisely because God is both transcendent and immanent. Or as C.S. Lewis puts it, “God is both further from us, and nearer to us than any other being.”
In closing, we have touched a little bit on why this matters, but next week we will look to answer a bit more of the inquiry of the two disciples named above as I think they are asking the same questions we all have as to some of the mechanics on how this all works. As we have already seen today the solution, as it usually is, is found in the Trinity, the foundation of our faith.
Here’s a word:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church