Summary: God's transcendence and Immanence
You can tell allot about a person by their hands. You can get a clue to a person's self image by their handshake. The confident person has a solid grip. The arrogant person has a handshake that seems to say, "You know, I can whip you if I want." And the person who is lacks confidence barely grips your hand at all. They are limp and uncomfortable. There is almost a sense in which they are saying, "You won't like me . . .I know you won't."
The nervous or hyper person often reveals it by their shaking hands, gnawed fingernails or constantly moving hands. You can see tell a calm and confident person by the absence of these things. Their hands are steady.
You can gain insight into the kind of work a person does by their hands. A person who does physical and strenuous labor has hands that have callouses. They are rough and have become so to defend them against the constant stress their hands are put through. Others do delicate work and so their hands are extremely sensitive to touch. Some people are rough in their touch, others are tender.
You will hear it said of athletes that they are big and strong but have "soft hands". This is the opposite of someone who has stone hands. You throw the ball to the one with stone hands and they will drop the ball. You throw the ball to one with soft hands and they seem to welcome the ball like you would an egg during the egg toss at a family picnic.
I suspect I have you wondering where in the world I am going with this. I know, and I hope you know, that God does not really have hands. But I need to give you an image you can relate to this morning. In order to understand God we must sometimes think in terms of opposites. That's the case this morning. We need to see that God is beyond us and independent of us . . . but at the same time He has made Himself near. He is strong yet tender. He is powerful but yet has soft hands.
GOD IS TRANSCENDENT . . . He is unique
In order to describe God's unique character I need to give you two new theological words this morning. The first word is "transcendence".
R.C. Sproul tells us
transcendence means literally, "to climb across." It is defined as "exceeding the usual limits." When we speak of the transcendence of God we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power over the world. The world has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. He is an infinite cut above everything else. [The Holiness of God p. 55]
Isaiah was pointing to God's transcendence when he wrote,
To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to? Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. [Isaiah 40:18-29]
And scripture records God's own testimony . . .
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. [Isaiah 55:8,9]
All throughout the Bible we read words like this. They are designed to remind us that God is apart from us. He is over and above what we know and experience. God is transcendent for many reasons.
First, Jesus tells us that God is Spirit (John 4:24). God is not limited by time and space. He is not bound by a body. We are created in God's image . . . We are fashioned according to His plan . . . and we have characteristics that reflect some of God's own (intelligence, compassion, a spiritual essence), but God does not have hands, feet, a body, and is not confined to a time and space continuum. God is not like us. He is Spirit.