The Shrouded God
October 24, 2020 · C.E. Carter
The God of Israel plainly forbade them from creating art in His image. Unlike the pagans, who made a practice of crafting graven images of their gods, Israel forbade even the mention of the name of God, and for good reason. Something which is crafted from human hands is explained by human minds. Solitary and monotheistic gods of this nature may be easily mutated, changed, and combined with gods of other societies. Chesterton posits that polytheisms are simply amalgamations of monotheisms, stirred together by a mechanism of historical circumstance, chance, and human ingenuity. This process is bolstered by the practice of grand and detailed exposition. Grand poetic exposition and marvelous artistic objects depicting these gods lead the human mind to the poems and the objects themselves. There is nothing transcendent about Zeus, or Athena, or Thor, for they are known and consist in the stories, the poems, the statues, the epics, and the lore which surrounds them.
The God of Scripture allows for no such depictions. The first written record of God is a theodicy: Job says, “I do not understand”, and God responds, “You do not understand.” In a later writing, we are offered a theology proper: a bush, burning but not consumed, “I AM”. That is all we get. A shrouded God, painfully present; a thundering cloud atop Sinai and indwelling the holiest place of the temple, transcending even the grandest poetic exposition and the most marvelous works of human art.
By grace, God did not allow humanity an opportunity to worship a corrupted image of Himself. He afforded no opportunity for the Israelites to fall into the trap of the pagans, whose gods are mutable and confined to graven works of human hands. By grace He kept the revelation of His essence removed from the efforts and intelligence of Israel, that they would not be lulled into revering a false god whom they have deduced and explained in place of the true God. We know I AM, not by His graven images, but in His promises fulfilled: His condescension to the likeness of sinful flesh; the God-man Jesus, the image of the one and only Father, who has explained Him.