March 8, 2004
Words and Pictures
"When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal
myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is
faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to
face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of
the LORD" (Bemidbar / Numbers 12:6-8).
Last week I made a statement that a couple of people
took exception to. I had written,
"God chose to reveal himself through words, not
pictures, not moving pictures. The inability of images
to convey heavenly reality is expressed over and over
again in the Scriptures."
(Note: You can read last week's message at:
I know what I intended to express, but the responses I
received helped me to see how some people might
understand it. I will attempt to clarify.
God reveals himself in many different ways. We read in
the Scriptures how God has communicated through
visions and dreams, human and angelic messengers. Once
he gave a message through a mysterious hand writing on
a wall, and on one occasion, he even spoke through the
mouth of a donkey.
God also speaks through nature:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies
proclaim the work of his hands" (Tehillim / Psalms
19:1 [Hebrew 19:2]).
There is much we can learn about God by studying the
things he has made. His fingerprints, so to speak, are
all over creation.
God communicates through religious articles and
symbols. In ancient days, the center of worship for
the people of Israel was a large tent-like structure,
called the Mishkan, or in English, the Tabernacle. The
Mishkan was the place the sacrifices were made. The
furniture, decorations, and even the layout of the
Mishkan and all it contained were designed to teach
the people about God.
If God reveals himself through so many ways such as
these, then why would I say, "God chose to reveal
himself through words, not pictures, not moving
What I intended to express was that God's preferred
method of communicating who he is to people is through
words. Certainly God appeared to Abraham, Moses and
others. But they did not then spend their lives
seeking to get people to picture what they saw.
Instead they spoke and wrote about God's character and
Human beings tend to want to grasp an image of God,
whether it be a literal image or a mental one. We are
very uncomfortable relating to a God who is
intangible, untouchable, and vague.
God forbid the people of Israel to make and worship
images of heavenly things. I believe one of the
reasons for that is that our hands could never create
anything that would fully contain the reality of God.
Even when God speaks to us though the means mentioned
above, we must never confuse our glimpses of God's
reality with God himself. Too often people enshrine
their divine experiences. It is easier to revisit our
past spiritual experiences (or other people's past
experiences), than to daily open ourselves to the
infinite vastness of an uncontainable, uncontrollable,
The Bible is our God-given reference point through
which we can truly know him. Not only can we
powerfully encounter God in his reality through the
words of Scripture, it also helps us to properly
interpret our encounters with him as he speaks to us
beyond its pages.