I have a friend who loves puns and word plays (you know who you are!) Sometimes his humor makes you groan, but sometimes he hits it right on the mark. And sometimes, his remarks are as insightful as they are humorous.
One of his favorite phrases is “a Gumby God.” Do you remember Gumby? I may be showing my age, but Gumby was popular when I was young. Gumby is a simple cartoon-like character that was animated with clay-animation in the 50’s and 60’s. Gumby and his pal Pokey (a horse) were favorite toys for many children. With a friendly smile and a bendable body that could be posed however you like, Gumby provided hours of fun for many children.
So, why “a Gumby God?” My friend recognized that many people describe God in a way that is disconnected from a traditional Biblical view. For example, they may say, “Well, I believe in a loving God who would never let anyone go to hell.” Or, “I believe in God, but I don’t think He is involved in people’s lives.” Or, “I believe there is something of God in all of us.”
You may be wondering, what is the problem with people having different ideas about God? Well, if God is what you make of Him, then nothing is wrong–you may as well bend Him into whatever shape fits into your life. He is a Gumby God.
But what if God is a real, personal, divine being?
You are a real person. What if I were to describe you to someone, not really knowing you very well? Isn’t it possible that what I say about you might be wrong? I might describe what I think is true about you, or what I think should be true about you, but would that make it true? Sometimes that is how people think of God. They describe Him to themselves and others as how they think He should be without making much of an effort to come to know Him well enough to determine whether what they think is true is really true at all.
Now let me just turn aside for a moment and acknowledge that because God is, well, God, we will never know everything about Him that there is to know. To be honest, can we ever really know everything there is to know about another human being? How much less the Creator God? But we can know much about the God of the Bible, precisely because He has taken the initiative to make Himself known to us and seeks to establish a personal relationship with us.
But getting back to the Gumby God idea, the God of the Bible is not a Gumby God. One of the most famous stories from the Biblical Old Testament is the story of Moses and the burning bush. Moses, a Jewish man who lived around 1500 BC, was tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he saw a wondrous sight: a bush that was burning, but was not burned up. When he went to investigate, God spoke to Moses out of the fire.
To make a long (and intriguing) story short, God sent Moses on a mission to free his people who had been enslaved by the Egyptians. When Moses asked God what name he should give if the people asked who had sent him, God said, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent you.” (Exodus 3:1-15).
I admit it was a rather enigmatic reply, but I have come to understand that there was really no other answer God could give. Because God is not a Gumby God. I believe God was saying, “There is no simple way to describe me. You can’t sum me up with one simple name. I AM WHO I AM, and the only way to know and understand me, is to know me.”
The God of the Bible is a real, personal, divine being. He has thoughts, but His thoughts are not like your thoughts or mine (Isaiah 55:8-11). Yet that doesn’t mean we cannot know Him. God promised that those who seek Him sincerely will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13, Luke 11:9-10).
He has plans, and He brings them to fruition without fail (Psalm 33:11, Job 42:2). He gets angry, but He never loses His temper (Psalm 103:8-9, Micah 7:18). He is compassionate, gracious, patient, merciful and kind, while at the same time holy, righteous and just. He offers forgiveness to those who humble themselves and repent (1John 1:5-10).
And thankfully, God does not change (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8). That is, neither His character nor the plans of His heart bend or change to fit the circumstances of the moment. The God of the Bible is utterly steadfast and trustworthy. He is no Gumby God.
To explore more of God’s character, view my Nature of God series or browse the tag cloud.