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What Does God Look Like?

Have you ever wondered why the God of the Bible has chosen not to reveal Himself?
Read Time: 5 minutes

While the Sunday School teacher was reading a Bible story to her class, she noticed that one little girl was working industriously with a pencil and paper. When the reading was finished, the teacher walked over to her and asked, “Sally, what are you doing?” Without looking up, Sally continued with her work, and answered: “I’m drawing a picture of God.” The teacher said, “But, dear, no one knows what God really looks like.” Her diligent artist replied, “They will know as soon as I finish this picture!” 

Have you ever wondered why the God of the Bible has chosen not to reveal Himself, physically and tangibly, to His followers? I have at least one answer, and it calls for us to consider the Ten Commandments, which begin with this:  

I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above and on the earth beneath or in the waters below; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. (Exod 20:2-5).

I think our God knows that any human attempt to show others what the One God looks like would result in the creation of an “idol,” a painted picture, a stained-glass window, a statue, or an image of some other form. In practically no time, people would be worshipping the idol itself, not the true God! 

The Apostle Paul addressed this question when he spoke to the Athenian philosophers in the Areopagus:  

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:24-25). 

And in his letter to the Roman believers, Paul wrote:  

Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people [the godless and wicked] are without excuse…
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles… They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. (Rom 1:20-22,25). 

The Bible reveals a history of incidents in which humans attempted to show to others what God looked like:

Exodus 32 and 33: When Moses spent too much time on the mountain with the Lord, the people waiting below gathered around Aaron and demanded that he make “gods” (or a “God”) who would go before them. Aaron gave in to their demands and made a golden calf an idol. The outcome of this misadventure led to a plague that carried away many people.

The lesson of Nehushtan (2 Kgs 18:4). When the children of Israel complained about the food quality in the wilderness, God sent poisonous serpents among them, and many people died. Then God told Moses to make a brazen serpent to be lifted up on a standard so that those who were bitten might see it and live.

For some time, that image proved helpful to them (Num 21). Nevertheless, after much time passed, the snake’s image was considered dangerous because it had become an object of veneration. The Israelites were burning incense to the image, not the LORD God. When King Hezekiah saw this was so, he destroyed the image.  

Of the brass serpent, Robert Roberts wrote:  

“There was no virtue in the brass of the serpent or in the shape into which the brass had been wrought. At a later stage of Israel’s history, when Israel worshiped the brazen serpent, under a mistaken idea of its power, Hezekiah, with the divine approbation [approval], broke it in pieces, calling it ‘a piece of brass’” (The Visible Hand of God, p. 254). 

the ark itself was not the Lord God

When the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines, they took with them the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, in the mistaken notion that the ark by itself would save them from the hands of their enemies (1 Sam 4). Tragically, when they were defeated, they learned the ark itself was not the Lord God!

In 1 Samuel 8, the elders of Israel came to Samuel at Ramah and demanded the old man would appoint a king to lead them, “such as all the other nations have.” (v. 5). In doing this, they rejected the God they did not see for the king they could see.

The LORD chose a king for them, and Saul was selected. King Saul had an impressive stature and demeanor, but he proved to be a terrible disappointment. In the years to come, Israel would learn that dependence upon the unseen God was far better than following a weak, vacillating human leader who had nothing to offer them but trouble.

We all recognize that “No one has ever seen God,” that is, in the fullness of His glory (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). There is, of course, one special exception: “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God(John 6:46), that is, Jesus Christ. In the upper room, Philip, apparently speaking for the other disciples, said to Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (John 14:8) To this Jesus replied: 

Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father?” Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. (John 14:9-10).  

Our Lord Jesus Christ is [God’s] Son, whom He appointed heir of all things… The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation (the express image: KJV) of His being” (Heb 1:2, 3). 

We should never have to ask, “What does God look like?” But if that question ever comes up, even from a little girl or boy, we can answer simply: “Jesus is the perfect image of his Father. Let’s look at Jesus, hear what he says, and see what he does. When we do that, then—I guarantee, we will see God.” 

George Booker,
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX

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