Who Is Yahweh?
John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
Who is God? I can think of no more foundational question in all the world. So who is this God, this One behind all of creation? Who is this One who made you and me? Who is this One who speaks to us through an ancient book, a book that is as alive as it is old? This is the beautiful topic of Pastor John’s recent sermon delivered in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He opened that message with ten brief answers to the question “Who is God?” Have a listen.
Why did God identify himself as “I Am Who I Am” — I absolutely am (Exodus 3:14)? Now, if we can take off our clouded spectacles of mere religious jargon, like G-O-D, this should come and will come as a bolt of lightning. God is. That’s staggering. What sentence could be more important in any language than God is? So, what did he mean when he said, “I absolutely am — I Am Who I Am”? What did he mean?
No More Tinkering with Religion
And I’m going to linger here longer than you think I should, perhaps, because until God becomes dominant in our thinking and in our feeling — until God becomes the blazing sun at the center of the solar system of our daily lives; until God becomes the Mount Everest in the foothills of all our concerns with this world; until God rests on the souls of the saints in Belfast, and on the churches of Northern Ireland; until he rests on the churches and the people here with ten thousand times more weight than all your political concerns and all your church-growth concerns — then all of our talk about the glory of God and singing and gathering for worship will be just more tinkering and engineering of religion to try to get people to do what we hope they will do in some kind of appropriate way.
The world doesn’t need any more tinkering with religion. It needs God. It needs to see God. It needs to be stunned that there is a God. So, it’s no accident that when Moses says, “Who’s sending me?” God says, “I Am Who I Am.” Period. And we need to linger over that.
Ten Truths About God’s Absolute Being
I’ve got ten things I think it means. They’re very short. It’s not the whole message. It’s introduction.
1. God had no beginning.
God is who he is means he never had a beginning. And that just staggers the mind. Every child asks his parents, “Where did God come from? Who made God?” And every wise parent says, “Nobody made God. He just was always there. Always. No beginning.”
2. God is without end.
God is who he is means God will never end. If he didn’t come into being, he can’t go out of being, because he is being — absolute being. There’s no place to go outside being. There’s only he. Before he creates, he’s all there is. Absolutely.
3. God is absolute reality.
God is who he is means God is absolute reality. There’s no reality before him. There’s no reality outside of him unless he wills it and creates it. He’s not one of many realities before he creates. He is simply absolute reality. He’s all that was — eternally. No space. Space didn’t exist. The universe didn’t exist. Emptiness did not exist. Only God existed forever, absolutely and absolutely all.
4. God is utterly independent.
God is who he is means that God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being. He depends on nothing to support him. He depends on nothing to counsel him. He depends on nothing to make him what he is. He is absolutely independent.
5. Everything depends on him.
God is who he is means everything that is not God depends totally on God. All that is not God is secondary, dependent. The entire universe is secondary reality. Let that sink in, because nobody in this city believes that. And if the church doesn’t, you’re just like them. All the universe is secondary. Humanity is secondary. God is primary, absolute first, last, glorious. Everything else is secondary.
6. Nothing compares to God.
God is who he is means all the universe is, by comparison to God, as nothing. Galaxies compared to God are nothing. All the universe by comparison to God is as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to substance, as echo to thunderclap, as bubble to ocean. All that we see, all that you are amazed by in your land or around the world — all the world, all the galaxies — compared to God, is as nothing. If you put God on one side of the scales and the universe on the other side of the scales, the universe goes up like air or dust on the scale. Isaiah 40:17: “All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.”
7. God cannot be improved.
God is who he is means God is constant. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He cannot be diminished. He’s not becoming anything. He is who he is. There’s no development in God. There’s no progress in God. Absolute perfection cannot be improved.
8. God sets the ultimate standard.
God is who he is means he is the absolute standard of truth and goodness and beauty. There’s no law book that he consults in deciding what is right. There’s no almanac to establish facts for God. There’s no guild, no musical guild, for example, to determine what is excellent and beautiful. He’s the standard. He himself is the standard of the right, the true, the beautiful.
9. God always does right.
God is who he is means God does whatever he pleases, and it is always right, always beautiful, always in accord with truth. There are no constraints on God from outside that he doesn’t will to exist, and thus govern. All reality that is outside of him is subordinate to him. So, he’s utterly free. He’s the only free being in the universe, in fact. He is utterly free from any constraints that don’t originate from his own will.
10. Nothing is worth more.
God is who he is means he’s the greatest, the most beautiful, the most valuable, and the most important person in existence. He’s more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all persons and all realities put together, including the entire universe.
The Bible reveals and assumes that God everywhere.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.