Photoshopping God

from Jun 08, 2011 Category: Articles

Photoshopping God
Maybe because I think they don’t get enough attention, I find myself often drifting to the minor prophets.  A few verses in Amos 9 strike me.  They stand out because they seem to be playing off of Psalm 139. 

In Psalm 139 God’s omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence are all sources of great delight for the Psalmist.  There is nowhere we can go, nothing we can experience, to find ourselves beyond the reach of God’s protective hand.  But in the prophet Amos, these attributes of God strike the exact opposite reaction.  They strike terror.  In Amos 9, we learn that there is nowhere we can go to get beyond the reach of God’s wrath.  Read Psalm 139, especially verses 7-12.  Then consider Amos 9:2: 

If they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
if they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down (ESV).

What is a source of comfort in Psalm 139 becomes a source of boot-shaking and knee-knocking fear in Amos 9.  Amos even adds this chilling point a few verses later in 9:5: “The Lord God of Hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts” (ESV).

Those of us who have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf know what joy and comfort there is to be found in God.  In the Psalmist’s words, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:17). We like these kinds of passages.  We need Psalm 139 and we do well to return to it often. But we also need to return to Amos 9. It is every bit as much a revelation of who God is. We can’t photoshop out texts like Amos 9 in our portrait of God. 

The Bible offers a complex, full-orbed view of God. And though this full-orbed view of God is sometimes difficult for us to put together, it is exactly how God has revealed himself. We do ourselves no favors, and we do God no favor, by airbrushing the picture.

The Bible offers a complex, full-orbed view of God.

Stephen J. Nichols is research professor of Christianity and culture and chair of the biblical division of Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School. A regular contributor to reformation 21 and member of the American Christianity section of the Evangelical Theological Society, he has authored several books, including The ReformationJonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, and Jesus Made in America: A Cultural History from the Puritans to the Passion of the Christ.