If you had the ability of a great artist to paint a portrait of another person and it looks so much like them that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish the painting from the person, and you set out to paint God in the way you visualized him, what would God look like? I suspect that most people who have any concept of God at all, have drawn in their minds a picture of Him. You’ve likely heard the joke of a child who was working hard on a painting and the teacher asked him what he was painting. The child responded that he was painting a picture of God. The teacher said, “No one knows what God looks like.” The little boy said, “They will when I finish this picture.” Throughout the Old Testament, there was a tremendous amount of fear that if they ever saw God it would mean their death since no one could see God and live. God had a presence in the holiest place of the tabernacle and later in the temple. The only person that could ever enter this area where God’s presence was, was the high priest and that one time a year with the sacrifices that were prescribed and dressed in the exact manner that God demanded. It was unusual that Moses longed to see the face of God and pleaded with the Father for that opportunity. God blessed him by allowing him to see his back as he was going away from him, but not to look into his face.
The intriguing thing about all of that is that Jesus in the Great Sermon on the Mount very near the beginning declared, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” In John’s gospel account it is recorded that “No one has ever seen God at any time, but the only Son of God who is at his side, he has explained him (or revealed him).” So, how can we see God today if no one has seen him at any time?
Besides that, in Isaiah 6 the prophet was in the temple and he saw God high and lifted up with the seraphim flying around him saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come.” Isaiah was so troubled by what he saw that the cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah thought his death was imminent since he had seen this vision of God. God sent an angel from the throne to take a coal of fire from the altar and to touch his lips with the fire to take away the sin from Isaiah. Then God cried, “Who will go for us and who can we send?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I, send me.” Later in the Book of Revelation chapter four John was caught up into heaven and saw the great throne room of God and God sitting upon his throne.
So, how can it be that some are said to see God and even promised that if we have a pure heart we will be able to see God and it still is declared that no one has ever seen God? We could add to this the picture in Ezekiel chapter one when he also saw the throne of God being carried on a huge vehicle that had wheels within wheels able to turn in all directions at one time.
Certainly, Jesus is called God in John 1:1-2 when it says, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God and without him, nothing was made that was made.” In Colossians 2:9 it says that “In him dwells all the fullness of deity in bodily form.” So when one saw Jesus in his human body he was seeing God. Add to that one other point that may give us some insight into the whole question. In John 4:23-24 Jesus had been talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. He had first asked her for a drink of water to which she responded by saying, what are you a Jew, doing asking me, a Samaritan woman for a drink? Jesus responded by saying, If you knew who I was you would be asking me for living water. The water you drink here only takes care of your thirst for a short time then you have to have more. But the water that I give springs up in you to everlasting life and those who drink of it never thirst again. He was talking about the Holy Spirit that he would give to remove spiritual thirst from us. She said, Lord, give me some of that water so I won’t have to come here to draw water again. Jesus told her to go call her husband. She said, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus said, “You are right in saying you have no husband. You have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband. She was amazed and perceived that Jesus was a prophet. So, she asked him to answer a religious question for her. Was Jerusalem the right place to worship God or was it there on Mt. Gerizim as the Samaritans said? Jesus told her it was Jerusalem but the time was upon them when it wouldn’t matter where they worshiped since God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship him in Spirit and in truth for the Father seeks such to worship him.
God is Spirit. It isn’t the case that He is A spirit, but that he is spirit. He is a spirit being without a body or form, just as the Holy Spirit is a spirit being and just as Jesus was before being born into the human family through Mary. All three personalities of God are eternal. There are many times in the Bible when God is pictured to us as having physical characteristics such as when he walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam or when it says that God’s hand is not shortened nor his ear heaven that he can’t act or hear. We are told that the eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the good and the evil. When such language is used it is called anthropomorphism. It is giving God, a Spirit being, the properties of a physical being to help us understand better. But God is spirit, thus we can’t see him as we would look at our wife or children. Our viewing of God is either God taking some form for us to see or it is from the pure heart of a person that sees God as the Loving, grace-filled, compassionate one who is our Father in heaven and whose love and grace toward us is so great he willingly paid the price for our sins through Christ on the cross so we can be with him for eternity.
In our hearts we see God and the visual image I have of God determines to a huge degree how we react to everything He teaches us. Do I see him as a loving Father or as a strict judge waiting for me to mess up so he can condemn me forever? He longs to be seen as “Our Father in heaven.” It is vital for me to have the right picture of God to live for him for life.