How big is infinite? Can you imagine it?
Try it. Start with something large. Maybe an elephant.
Now imagine something larger… like a mountain.
Can you picture something greater in your mind? The earth perhaps? You have heard how big it is and you have seen pictures of it, but can you really wrap your mind around how extensive it actually is?
What about the sun? Or the entire solar system? You have seen drawings and pictures of it taken from space. You may even be able to rattle off statistics about its size, but are you able to comprehend the magnitude? Do you really have a mental concept of the vastness of its dimensions? To what would you compare it?
Our solar system only occupies a tiny corner of the Milky Way Galaxy. And the Milky Way Galaxy is only one of about 170 billion galaxies that we know of. At what point are you no longer able to grasp that incredibly enormous magnitude?
We may be able to talk about stars and solar systems and galaxies, but there comes a point at which the numbers are just numbers and we have to talk about them in theory because we cannot fully grasp the immensity of that which they describe.
That is what it is like when we talk about God because He is transcendent. He is infinite. He is eternal. Whatever we understand about Him is at best a small glimpse into the reality of all that He is.
When we say God is transcendent, we mean that He is more, that He surpasses all others, that He exceeds the limits of ordinary experience. To say God is infinite means that He literally has no limits, and to say He is eternal means that He had no beginning and will have no end.
As huge as the universe may be, it is a part of the Creation. But the Creator is outside of His Creation. He is transcendent, beyond all that we know. How do you measure the infinite? How do you describe the indescribable? How do you understand the inscrutable?
One of the consequences of this transcendence of God is that, left to our own modest resources, we could never know Him, or indeed, really know anything about Him. But God has taken the initiative and made Himself known! Through Creation, through His Word, and through personal experience, God makes Himself known to us. As we read in Jeremiah 29:13,
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Fortunately for us, as God reveals Himself to us we find He is not only transcendent, but He is unchanging. That means that if I have come to understand that God is a merciful God, I know He will always be merciful. Because I know He is just, I also know He will always be just. Indeed, as God has revealed Himself to be loving, and kind, faithful and forgiving, gracious and compassionate, almighty and righteous and holy and so much more – even so, I know every one of those facets of His character will always be true of Him.
For you and I, because of the transcendence of God, a problem can arise. Just as we learn to discuss the universe in numbers so vast that we cannot really comprehend them, we learn to talk about the nature of God in terms we can relate to, but that do not communicate the fullness of His nature. That, in itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, if it were not for God revealing Himself in terms we are able to understand, we would really not have any concept of Him at all. The problem is that we forget He is more.
We have difficulty comprehending how God can demand righteousness and justice and holiness without compromising love and grace and mercy. Or how He can be righteous, but allow wickedness to seemingly go unchecked. We do not understand, because our concepts of the righteousness and justice and holiness and grace and mercy and love of God are far too small.
I may not understand how God can be both just and merciful at the same time, but I know that He is. And I know that as I continue to seek to know Him better in a deeper, more intimate and personal way, He continues to give me insights into His character that reassure me that all He is and all He does is wholly good and right. I do not see the whole picture, but He does. I do not see the end from the beginning, but He does. I do not know the thoughts and intentions of every heart, but He does.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Eph. 3:20-21