Question:

Question

Answer:

Hello, I just read your sermon on "The Eternal God."  I have some questions that I hope you can answer for me.  I am a Christian and I believe that Christ died for my sins.  I believe that the Bible is God's word to us.

My problem is I have a hard time worshiping God because I find him too limited. I know that Psalms 40:5 and 139:18 state that God's thoughts are uncountable.  At first I was excited about these statements and I glorified God and I was in awe.  But then I read somewhere that the ancient Hebrews did not have a concept for infinity and I read in other passages in the Bible where it states the camels and locusts where without number.  So the passages in their historical meaning did not mean God had an endless number of thoughts.  The same goes for God's understanding in Psalms 147:5.

Basically I am having a hard time bringing together the ancient Hebrew's concept of God and my concept of a God that is endless God. See my picture of Heaven would be spending an endless future getting to know an endless God -- always increasing in my knowledge of Him.

Thanks for any help you can give me. 


It is often the difficulty of man, not in understanding what the Bible says, but in matching what we learn to our preconceived notions. Read back through your question and notice how often your complaint is that what you found in the Bible doesn't match what you expected. Understand then that the problem isn't in the Bible or with God, but in your expectations.

Hebrew does have a the concept of eternity and infinity, but it is more pragmatic than our English definitions. For example, how many grains of sand are on the seashores? Even though we know conceptually that there is an exact number, the quantity involved is beyond our ability to give an exact figure. Thus what practical difference is there between something you cannot count and infinity? In Hebrew, the same word is used for both immeasurable and infinite. Where we would like to have a distinction, only the context can distinguish the two. The fault that you created is attempting to have a one-to-one correspondence between a Hebrew word and an English word. Most speakers of multiple languages tell you that you can't always do this.

The verse you were alluding to about the locust and camels is Judges 6:5: "For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it." The Hebrew phrase translated "without number" is en micpar, which literally means there was not a number assigned to them. It is not saying there was an infinite number of camels, but that there were so many that no one bothered to count them.

Psalm 40:5 states, "Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered." This is a statement contrasting the limited nature of man and the vastness of God. God's deeds and thoughts are too many for man to count. The key phrase in Hebrews is atsemu missapper, which literally means "they have become innumerable from counting." The phrase could also be rendered that if they could be numbered, they would make a mighty number. There is nothing in this phrase eliminating infinity. An infinite number of thoughts cannot be counted. The number of deeds and thoughts of the deity who has always existed with no beginning or end, would obviously have more thoughts and deeds than we could number.

Psalm 139:17-18 states, "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You." Verse 17 uses the same concept as found in Psalm 40:5. The phrase "how great is the sum" is again the Hebrew word atsemu which can be translated as innumerable or mighty in value. Verse 18 just states that even if such a count were attempted, they would exceed the sands of the seashores. In other words, the vastness of God's thoughts are beyond an value that everyone knows is beyond reckoning. Infinity would still be included in this description.

Psalm 147:5 states, "Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite." The word "infinite" was used to translate en micpar, the same phrase as used in Judges 6:5. The psalmist is stating that no one is able to set a number to how much God understands. Once again, infinity would be included in this concept. It is rightly translated as infinity because of verse 4, "He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name." How many stars exist in the universe? Even today, we don't have a value or even a good estimate because we haven't located the extent of the universe. Yet God knows their number and has a name for every one -- we don't have names for all the ones we do know exist. This is just one minor portion of what God knows and understands. Thus what God understands is without a fixed number.

So tell me, how is it that you, a finite human being of limited knowledge and intellect, can claim that God is too limited? Why is such a lowly created being claiming that God is not worthy of his worship? God doesn't have to meet your expectations. You have to live up to God's expectations of you and even then "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'" (Luke 17:10).


See also:

Questions and Answers regarding God
The Lord Your God is an Awesome God!