Seeing God?

“Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: and they saw the God of Israel…” (Exod. 24:9-10). How can the Bible say this when it also says no man has seen God at any time (I John 4:12)? I have a sheet of paper with the title “Bible Contradictions.” Muhammed Ali passed out copies of this list with his autograph a few years ago at an airport in South Bend, Indiana. These two passages are on his list of verses that supposedly contradict each other.

Even before the New Testament was written, some Bible readers were puzzled with the passage in Exodus and other Old Testament verses that talk about people seeing God. The translators of the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament made over 200 years before the birth of Christ, changed the wording to keep readers from getting the wrong idea. They put “And they saw the place where the God of Israel stood” where the King James has “And they saw the God of Israel.”

God is a spirit (John 4:24). He is not a material being like we are. He does not have a body of flesh and blood. We cannot see God in this sense any more than we can see our own spirit. This is what the Bible means when it says no man has seen God.

There were times, however, when God gave men an outward representation of Himself. He manifested Himself in ways that people could see on special occasions. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and to Jacob in the form of a man (Exod. 3:1-6; Gen. 32:30). Moses and Jacob saw a physical manifestation of God’s power, but they could not see His essence which is spirit. Moses and the other leaders of Israel saw some kind of outward representation of God in Exodus 24 at Sinai.

Some think they have no reason to believe in God because they cannot see Him. Others who believe in God think they would believe more and do better if they could just see a form of God or hear His voice. Would it make a difference? Did you notice who saw this display of God in Exodus 24? Aaron saw it, but did that guarantee his faithfulness? Not many days after this he let the Israelites talk him into making an idol (Exod. 32)! Nadab and Abihu were also there to see this manifestation of God. Later they disobeyed God and the Lord struck them dead (Lev. 10:1-2). No matter what kind of impression the experience makes on us, we tend to forget what we learned.

We do not have to see God to know that He is. Nature itself shows the glory and power of God every day and night in thousands of ways (Psa. 19:1-4). We can see the invisible Creator in His creation (Rom. 1:20). All we have to do to stand in awe of God is to take the time to honestly consider the creation around us. We do not have to see a display of God like Moses saw to be thrilled and humbled before the Lord. The sight of a bird flying or the sound of a baby laughing should be enough.

-Kerry Duke