Six Views of God
So tell me what you seeing when you looking at God.
Is it Yahweh the indescribable, unspeakable God?
Or dawg, is it Elohim, all sovereign and majestic,
The provident creator with a six day checklist?
Close your eyes. Imagine God.
What image appears in your mind’s eye?
New game. Imagine you need to tell someone about God in one sentence. Not like one of my sentences, which rambles across clauses and punctuation, scrambling to fit every ounce of meaning before the inevitable period. A simple sentence.
What would that sentence be? What attributes of God would you focus on?
Last one. Think about the last prayer you prayed. Maybe for a meal, or last night before bed. What aspects of God did you think about? What aspects did you pray about?
In the lyrics at the top of this article, Tedashii presents two views of God1. Here are six more views from another artist.
- The personal God who, in response to your prayers and worship, addresses your immediate needs.
- The God of good promises, whose past faithfulness teaches you He will continue to do good for you.
- The creator of the Universe, the object of the praise of all people, all rulers, and all creatures, from all time.
- The worthy object of your personal worship, who teaches you how to walk in His ways.
- The author of your personal salvation, not from death of the body, but from the death of the soul.
- The patient, faithful God who shows favor to a thousand generations of those who worship Him, and whose name will be made famous among those who do not believe by His power and presence among those who do.
I recognize all ten of these views—Tedashii’s four and these six—from my life and my prayers. Looking at them now, some of them are more obviously true than others. But that hasn’t stopped me from sometimes thinking of God as all of these things.
Thinking About God
Let’s talk about King David.
Here’s a guy who spent a lot of time thinking about God. His life, from first breath to last, was anointed and guided by God, largely through the prophet Samuel. From his early childhood and anointing, to his exile from King Saul, to his ascension as king, to his adultery with Bathsheba, to his troubles with his children (who variously committed incest, rape, murder, and treason), to his final blessing of his son and successor Solomon.
He had lots of opportunities to see God in different ways.
And in one psalm—Psalm 86—he goes through all six of these in just seventeen verses.
In a moment, we’ll line up verses and views and see how they go together, but first, let’s look at the structure of the psalm.
The beginning of the psalm (Psalm 86:1–4) begs God to respond to David:
|David’s Actions||God’s Response||Verse|
|I am poor and needy||➡||incline your ear and answer me||1|
|I am godly||➡||preserve my life||2a|
|I trust in you||➡||save your servant||2b|
|I cry to you all the day||➡||be gracious to me||3|
|I lift up my soul to you||➡||gladden the soul of your servant||4|
The next segment (Psalm 86:4–13) changes direction, and David instead responds to God:
|God’s Actions||David’s Response||Verse|
|You are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you||➡||I lift up my soul to you||4–5|
|You answer me||➡||in the day of my trouble I call upon you||7|
|You are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God||➡||all nations…shall come and worship before you…and shall glorify your name||9–10|
|Great is your steadfast love toward me||➡||I give thanks to you…with my whole heart||12a/13a|
|You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol||➡||I will glorify your name forever||12b/13b|
The final four verses (Psalm 86:14–17) resolve this give-and-take as David recognizes God’s mercy and humbly prays for God’s glory to be shown in his life.
Taken as a whole, David appears in this one psalm to go on a spiritual journey toward a greater understanding of God.
Expanding Your View
He starts with himself—he is in need, and has no-one to help him. He is righteous—so he says—and trusts God to save him. Plus, he has been praying to God all day long, and worships Him.
David recalls four different promises of God at the beginning of this psalm. He calls on God’s compassion for the helpless; His zeal for those who walk in His way; His Fatherly desire to answer our prayers; and His pleased response to those who worship.
Then David looks outside himself, just a bit, and remembers that God has not only shown Himself to be “good and forgiving,” but has in fact saved David in the past, and David therefore prays to Him and worships Him.
Having taken that first step, David expands his view not just globally but eternally, seeing that God created the heavens and the earth and all the people, that His works are great and mighty and without equal, and that therefore all nations shall come before Him and worship Him.
I wonder if David suddenly felt very small as he wrote this psalm. He has been praying to God to save his life, and suddenly he has this moment of clarity, this vision of all the kings of the earth throwing their crowns before the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ, a man David does not know, but whom he surely recognizes. And here David is just terrified that the men chasing him will catch and kill him—when God has ordained eternity.
David returns to himself, perhaps more aware now that he is just one part of this massive movement toward God, and yet that God loves him as much as if he were the only human ever created. He breaks out in frantic praise and thanksgiving:
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name!
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever!
David knows he is one of those who will cast his crown on the ground before Jesus, and he pleads to be part of that people. (Again, David does not know Jesus; David isn’t even king yet. It’s only in my imagination that David has this fleeting vision that lifts him from his current plight to seeing the whole arc of God.)
So David lifts his eyes from earthly salvation, from a plea to “preserve [his] life,” to the confident assurance that God will “deliver his soul” because of His steadfast love.
And finally, his prayer turns out not to be for David, but for the glory of God and of His name among people who make war against His servants:
Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
Now, I’m inventing parts David’s mindset here, but the progression of the psalm is plain to see.
David prays for himself based on the promises of God; then he recounts not just the temporal promises of God but His eternal glory among the nations; he stops asking for his life and instead pleads for his soul; and finally he asks not for his enemies to be routed, but for God’s name to be known among them to bring about that vision of God’s eventual ultimate victory.
Not bad for seventeen verses.
Connecting Views to Verses
Now that we’ve stepped through the entire psalm, are those six views coming into focus? Let’s attach each of them to part of the psalm.
|The personal God who, in response to your prayers and worship, addresses your immediate needs.||Psalm 86:1–4|
|The God of good promises, whose past faithfulness teaches you He will continue to do good for you.||Psalm 86:5–7|
|The creator of the Universe, the object of the praise of all people, all rulers, and all creatures, from all time.||Psalm 86:8–10|
|The worthy object of your personal worship, who teaches you how to walk in His ways.||Psalm 86:11|
|The author of your personal salvation, not from death of the body, but from the death of the soul.||Psalm 86:12–13|
|The patient, faithful God who shows favor to a thousand generations of those who worship Him, and whose name will be made famous among those who do not believe by His power and presence among those who do.||Psalm 86:14–17|
Each of these views of God is present in this psalm, and they are all, to some extent, true.
Tedashii’s rap considered three majestic views of God and one self-centered one. This crazy progression of six is where David’s psalm took him.
Where do your songs take you?
The full song presents at least ten different views of God; check it out and see how many you can spot. ↩