Chapter Nine: The Paradox of a Tri-angular God


And the goal continues…and the chapters increase…and the journey for all is like day 4 of a 3 day road trip:  it’s a bit long…everyone’s a bit restless…and from somewhere over my left shoulder, I’m sure I heard, “Are we there yet?” and then, “Why are the child-safety locks on?” 

Chapter Nine:  The Paradox of a Triangular God

Moving from the Law of Opposites as depicted in the written word and in the living Word, we’ll now examine that same law as demonstrated in the Persons of God and in the names of God.  As we have seen so far, each inspection of an action, an attribute, or an attitude of God has pulled our vision in opposite directions as we try to look both to the left and to the right, both at the center and at the circumference of God.  As often as we have stepped closer for a clearer view of God, we’ve had to step back for a broader view of God.  His omnipresence makes it impossible not to see Him everywhere we look while also making it impossible to see Him only where we look.  But, because “an intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Prov. 18:15), let us continue to behold our multidimensional God.

The Paradox of God as Illustrated in His Form(s)

We’ll start first with the angularity of God as portrayed in the Holy Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  These titles are also referred to as the three Persons of the Trinity.  Together, they are God; independently, they are their own Person while also retaining the fullness of God.  In other words, if you were to step closer, you’d see that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; but if you were to step back, you’d also see that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father.  It’s an interesting relationship our God has within Himself.  In fact, it’s a mathematical wonder!

Geometrically speaking, the Trinity is often presented as a triangle.  To be exact, it is an equilateral triangle, with each side measuring the same length and each angle measuring the same degree.  Yet, while the Trinity is portrayed as a triangle, God is illustrated as a circle, having no beginning or ending.  Two shapes, two representations, one God.  It is through both of these depictions that we gain a clearer understanding of our God.  As related to the tri-angle, let’s look at the definition of an angle:  a shape formed by two lines diverging from a common point.  In order to identify a name in the Trinity, we look at an endpoint in each angle; but in order to understand the nature of that name, we look not at the endpoint but at the angle that is formed by the lines emanating from each endpoint.

This means, then, that the Father is seen through the Son and the Spirit; the Son is seen through the Spirit and the Father, and the Spirit is seen through the Father and the Son.  The paradox surfaces when we realize that God defines who He is by contrasting Himself with…Himself.  And, not only does He pinpoint who He is, but He also proclaims who He is not.  God is the Father who sent the Son; God is the Son who announced the Spirit; God is the Spirit who speaks for the Father.  One God, three Persons; three Persons, three angles; three angles, three measurements of God.

The Paradox of God as Illuminated in His Name(s)

            As we continue to see how the law of opposites highlights God, we’ll next examine His nature as illuminated in His names.  Before looking at the names that pertain to the Persons of God, let us first examine those that pertain to the wholeness of God.

Elohim.  This is the first name for God we encounter in Scripture.  It is found in Genesis 1:1 when we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  This Hebrew name for God is unique in that it is plural in form, just as God is plural in form.  In Genesis 1:26, we come face to face, or truth to text, with God’s plurality when He says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”  While Elohim proclaims the triune nature of God, it is not the only name through which His completeness is identified.  El Elyon, meaning God Most High, and Jehovah, meaning self-existent One, also encircle the entirety of God.  Truly, there is no god like Jehovah, or El Elyon, or Elohim.  He is the God who governs the law of opposites in that His fullness is found in the totality of His parts, though within each individual part, His fullness is also contained.

From the angle of the Father

        When it comes to names for the Father, we will look at three:  El Shaddai, El Roi, and Abba.  In Genesis 17, we meet up with Abram who, having waited nearly 25 years for God to fulfill His promise of making him a father, now falls on his face before his Father, El Shaddai (God Almighty).  Not only does God tell Abram that He will keep His promise to him, but to make sure Abram doesn’t forget his Father’s name, El Shaddai changes Abram’s name!  Abram becomes Abraham; before he becomes the father of a nation, Abraham meets the nation’s Almighty, Promise-Keeping Father, and a new relationship is born.

Just a chapter before Abram’s encounter with El Shaddai, we learn about Hagar’s encounter with El Roi.  Hagar is Sarai’s maidservant who, through a series of events, finds herself pregnant and alone in the wilderness.  She is without a home, without a husband, and without a hope, but she is not without a Father.  Just when she struggled to see a way out of her present, she met the God who saw into her future; in the midst of uncertainties, Hagar meets El Roi, The God Who Sees.  What a revelation is unmasked in this name, El Roi.  When we run into the arms of our Father, not only do we have the guarantee of the promises He has made to us (as El Shaddai) but we also have the assurance that He never loses sight of us, even when we lose sight of Him.

Thirdly, we come to the Aramaic name Abba, which in English means “Daddy”.  Jesus used this name when He prayed to His Father.  In Romans 8:15, we learn that, as adopted children of God, we too can approach our LORD as “Abba, Father”.  What a special relationship we have been offered through the Son to the Father!  It is a bond Jesus shares with God and a benefit He extends to us.  “How great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).  Who is this God…this Elohim, El Elyon, and Jehovah? He is El Shaddai, our promise-keeping Father; He is El Roi, our all-seeing Father; and He is Abba, our Heavenly Daddy.

   From the angle of the Son

As we move to the “endpoint” of the Son, we will do so through another set of names: Jehovah-Tsidkenu, Jehovah-Rohi, and Jehovah-Jireh.  The first name, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, means The LORD our Righteousness.  This name is found in Jeremiah 23:6 where God is warning the religious leaders that He “will raise to David a Branch of righteousness…He will be called THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”.  The reference is to His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we receive our righteousness.  Paul records the fulfillment of this promise when he writes that our “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” are found in Jesus (I Cor. 1:30).  Jesus was sent from Heaven to earth so that, through Him, man would have a way from earth to Heaven.  It is from the Father that we receive the Son, but it is because of the Son that we can receive the Father.

Next, there is Jehovah-Rohi, The LORD is my Shepherd.  We are most familiar with this name in Psalm 23 where David writes “the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want”, but Micah also refers to Jesus’ role as a Shepherd (chapter 5:4) and Isaiah writes “like a shepherd He will arise and shepherd His flock” (40:11).  Then, in the New Testament, John records Jesus’ own use of this name when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd (10:11) and when Peter exhorts the elders to care for their flock (I Peter 5:4), he reminds them of their accountability to the Chief Shepherd.  The Lamb who is our righteousness also guards our righteousness as He shepherds His fold.

Then, there is Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Provides.  Abraham speaks of this name in the fourteenth verse of Genesis 22, but he believes in this name in the eighth verse of that same chapter.  Here, Abraham and Isaac are physically climbing Mount Moriah but spiritually clinging to Mount Promise.  Abraham believed the Provider of his promised son would also be the Provider of his required sacrifice.  So he climbed…and he clung…and he kept the faith.  And, when he reached the summit of Mount Promise, he found himself at the foot of Mount Provision and at the feet of Jehovah-Jireh.  Here, at the place where the sacrifice was to be made, God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place.  And Abraham, who already knew El Shaddai, encountered Jehovah-Jireh, The LORD Who Provides.  It is a beautiful depiction of God’s love for Abraham and Isaac and a continual reminder to us that, what God requires from us, He also provides for us through His Son, through our Lamb.

From the angle of the Spirit

While the Holy Spirit, as a part of the Holy Trinity, has always existed, His attributes are proclaimed in Isaiah 11, His arrival is heralded in John 14, and His anointing is decreed in Romans 8. In Isaiah 11, we see the Spirit as The Giver:  The Giver of wisdom and understanding, The Giver of counsel and might, and The Giver of knowledge and fear of the LORD (Is. 11:1-2).  In John 14:26, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper, for “He will teach all things and bring to remembrance” the truths of God’s word.  Paul also describes the Holy Spirit as our Helper in times of weakness, as our Intercessor when we don’t know how to pray, as our Convictor when we struggle with the flesh, and as our Birth Certificate confirming our adoption by the Father (Romans 8:12-27).  When it comes to “measuring” the Holy Spirit, the definition of an angle couldn’t be more applicable, for truly His endpoint is seen most clearly through the lines that extend toward the Father and the Son, to Whom He illuminates and from Whom He emanates.

The Law of Opposites as found in the Diverging Lines

Just as angles are known by the divergence of two separate lines from one common point, so now we see our God more clearly through the points of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each Angle (Person) of the Trinity being defined by its alternate Angles (Persons), and yet, both in their individuality and in their collectiveness, they are complete in Who they are as well as in Who they are not.  El Shaddai, El Roi, and Abba are three degrees of the Father measured through the Son and the Holy Spirit; Jehovah-Tsidkenu, Jehovah-Rohi, and Jehovah-Jireh are three degrees of the Son measured through the Holy Spirit and the Father; and the Giver, the Helper, and the Interceder are three degrees of the Holy Spirit measured through the Father and the Son.

The Law of Opposites, we’ve examined it in what God designed (Creation), in what God dictates (spoken word and Living Word), and in what God demonstrates (His Nature and His Name).  Next, we’ll examine it in what God demands.


Getting a Handle on a Holy God

Getting a Handle on a Holy God

“And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings on the four corners that are at its four legs.”  Exodus 25:12 &26

       Handles.  They’re important for picking things up.  They’re vital for moving things.  They’re an idiom for life as we continually try to “get a handle” on things, but can their presence, or non-presence, ever be indicative of something more…of something we fail to get our hands on?  Perhaps, just perhaps, handles need to be handled more insightfully.

Today, as I was continuing my Bible reading in and through Exodus (get it… through Exodus…ha!) I encountered  some handles that I’d never given much thought to before.  But this time, for some reason, they kind of rose up off the page and I had to lay hold of them.  I was in Exodus 25, reading about the Ark of the Testimony, the Table for the Showbread, and the Gold Lampstand.  This was God’s description of the three items that would eventually be located in the innermost part of the Tabernacle.  Each item was outlined in detail and as my eyes read, my mind pictured.  I tried to visualize the ark covered with gold inside and out…with “two rings on one side and two rings on the other side…that it might be carried” (Ex. 25:12, 14).  I attempted to imagine the golden table, it too having “rings on the four corners…close to its frame…that the table may be carried” (Ex. 25:24-28).  And then there was the lampstand…it took a little more concentration as it was far more detailed and decorative with its branches, bowls, knobs, and flowers…but without any handles (Ex. 25:31-40).  I went back over each item, tracing it out in my mind, making sure I placed those golden rings in the right spot.  I had trouble with the table because I kept putting them in a place that would be in the way…I had to keep moving them until they were (I think) in the right place so as not to be thigh or hip bruisers.  And that’s when I noticed the lack of handles on the lampstand.  The ark had handles for moving; the table also had handles; why not the lampstand?  How would it be moved?  As I thought about it, I rethought what each item represented.  And then my mind pictured far more than the description of each item; now, my mind looked upon the Deity each article represented.  And when I saw the Father in the Ark, the Son in the Table, and the Spirit in the Lampstand, then I also saw a purpose for the rings…as well as a purpose for the lack of the rings.

One of the things I love about the Old Testament is the way in which it foreshadows the New Testament.  It’s not an anthology of outdated, overwritten, or overshadowed texts that, thanks to the addition of the New Testament, are now chronicled as “archaic” transcripts.  Rather, an understanding of the Old Testament adds to the context of the New Testament, providing the contextual pegs upon which we can hang our conceptual hats!  (Think about that one…it spins for a while, but when it stops it becomes clear!)  And, likewise, the New Testament enhances the Old Testament.  By combining the two, we learn the literal and symbolic meaning of the ark, the table, and the lampstand.  The ark, covered in gold without and within and containing the Ten Commandments, a container of manna, and Aaron’s rod, represents God, the Father.  The table, also overlaid with gold and upon which the Showbread was placed, is Jesus, the Son.  And the lampstand, ornamental in its design with bowls and blossoms, is the Holy Spirit.  In addition to relating the items within the tabernacle with the Persons of God, there is also a relationship between the tabernacle and the believer.  In 2 Corinthians 6:16, Paul writes, “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”  If we are the present day tabernacle of God, the dwelling place of the Most High, then wouldn’t it be wise for us to take a closer look at the Ark of the Testimony, the Table of Showbread, and the Golden Lampstand…and at those handles?

The ark was simple in form with no blossoms or branches, but it was iron-clad, or should I say gold-clad?  It safely housed the commandments, the manna, and the rod.  When looked at through the overlayment of the New Testament, we see these as the Law, the Bread of Life, and the Rod of the Spirit.  God the Father is our Ark of Testimony.  In Him we find our Judge, our Provider, and our New Life.  (I find it interesting that even in His Role as One-in-Three, He is still Three-in-One!)  Next we have the table.  It too was simple in its design, but it was solid, stable, and serviceable; upon it the show bread was placed.  Jesus is both our table and our bread.  His life was a counter upon which He placed His own body.  Just as a table’s purpose is to serve others, so Jesus’ life was one of service to mankind.  And, as the ultimate host, He not only offered the table, but He offered Himself that we might be filled and hunger no more.  Finally, there was the lampstand.  This item was beautifully adorned and embellished.  Four times the word ornamental is used in describing this lampstand.  It was meant to catch one’s eye.  Here, I believe, the lampstand represents the Holy Spirit; different in appearance but not in substance.

So what of the rings, those handles of old?  The ark had them as did the table, but the lampstand did not.  Common sense tells me that the ark and the table would have been heavier and, therefore, would have needed “two men and a camel” to move them while the lampstand could have been picked up and carried by “one man and a donkey”.   So, the rings are probably related to the weight of the articles.  But, common sense sometimes keeps us at the gate rather than moving us through it, so sometimes I defy common sense…after thinking it through, of course.  Today, I took a few steps past common sense and when I arrived at a clearing where the New Testament light shone upon the Father of the Testimony, the Son of the Showbread, and the Lamp of the Spirit, I saw the handles in a new light.  While handles are necessary for the purpose of moving things, they are also needed for the purpose of holding onto things.  When it comes to our relationship with the Father and the Son, I don’t know about you, but I need something to hold onto.  I need to hold onto the righteousness of God that is revealed through His Law because it’s through the Law that I also receive grace. I need to hang onto the promise that God will always meet my needs, for He is Jehovah-jireh, my Provider.  I need to grasp the truth that in His hands there is deliverance.  Just as He used the rod in Moses’ hands to part the Red Sea, so too will He part the waters for me (Is. 43:2).  I desperately need to cling to the table upon which Christ offered Himself for me and to me.  I need to clasp onto the rings that remind me that I too am to make myself available to serve and to be served.  For me, the rings are places where I can lay hold of my God…places where He allows me access to Him in a very close and personal way.  So then, what of the Lamp, the Spirit, which has no handles?  Well, the Holy Spirit is not in need of handles because He is God’s handle on me!  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God keeps me tightly fastened to His throne…and nothing can sever that attachment.  Thankfully, though I have a God I can hold onto, my salvation is not dependent upon the length or strength of my grip but on the everlasting hold He has on me through His Holy Spirit.

Handles.  They help us move things, but they also help us grasp things.  Today, the handles on the ark of the testimony and on the table of showbread did both; they moved me to a deeper understanding of God and they helped me grasp a new truth:  I have a God with handles…and He lets me hold onto them!

hold tightly to God

The Perfect Paradox

The Perfect Paradox

“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this recent result.”     –Genesis 50:20

Have you ever been perplexed by a paradox?  You’re following directions in one area of life and then, WHAM, you get hit because you were reading the directions about how not to get hit.  You think it’s a bit ironic, but then it happens again and now you’re afraid to look down because perhaps you should be looking left, or you cautiously look right but wonder what’s coming up from behind.  It’s a strange place, this world, and it’s “directions” are sometimes a bit contradictory.

For example, I have always found contradictions in the following situations:

  • Going to the eye doctor: we are told it’s not good to look directly into bright lights because it’s bad for our eyes, but when our eyes are examined, the doctor shines a laser beam through our eyeball which shoots straight through our cornea and directly into our brain.  We know what the doctor saw because, for the next several minutes, our ‘skeletal eye’ looks back at us every time we blink!
  • Going to the dentist: we are told it’s not good to eat sticky candy like Jolly Ranchers or caramels because it could pull out our fillings, but when impressions of our teeth are made, the dentist all but stands on our chest to pull it out of our mouth.  Surely the retrieval of a Jolly Rancher never required such physical strength…or agility!
  • Moving the lawn: we know that, in the event a rock is hit while mowing (accidentally, or course), the cutting blade is dulled, yet to sharpen that same blade, a rocklike tool is used.  Go figure!  Hit a wet rock and dull the blade, stroke with a whet rock and sharpen the blade.  (I have tried to argue that by hitting more rocks I am actually sharpening the mower blade, but I have yet to provide the necessary proof to support my argument, not that I am put off by this…somehow it still seems reasonable, if you don’t try to analyze it, or if you’re the one who has to weed-eat the area where the rocks are prone reside.)

I find these oddities to be a bit amusing.  Unfortunately, my eye doctor, dentist, and husband don’t find my insights quite as humorous.  It just seems funny to me when opposites not only attract, but support; when the very thing that holds something up is the very thing that knocked it down in the first place.  Paradoxes; they are evident in our lives and they are apparent in Scripture, and why would we expect otherwise?  We have a King who died for His subjects that we might become righteous through our redemption; the perfect paradox.

Do you see the beauty of this?  Do you see the timbers falling upon one another?  Do you see the creation of a triangle as each side not only leans upon the other but supports the other?  Triune God:  Father falls upon Son, Son falls upon Spirit, Spirit falls up Father; Father supports Son, Son supports Spirit, Spirit supports Father.  The Perfect Paradox.

As we read God’s word, we find the recording of many seemingly contradictory situations.  Take for example, Gideon and his army.  As the Midianites approached with their 135,000 troops, God told Gideon that his army of 32,000 was too large.  Gideon scaled back to 10,000 men only to be told that, once again, there were too many soldiers.  By the time God was done with His battle “preparations”, Gideon had an army of 300 men; 300 to 135,000…1 to 450.  (Judges 7)  And who won this ironic and iconic battle?  The army of the LORD; the army of 300.  Paradoxical planning?  Of course, outlined by and outsourced to a Pardoxical God.

And what about the paradoxical life, and death, of Lazarus?  Here is an oddity that can only be appreciated in its aftermath!  Surely Mary and Martha did not chuckle, early on, at the apparently untimely timing of Jesus.  As one of Lazarus’ best friends, as the awaited Messiah, as the known Healer, why would Jesus not show up on time when Mary and Martha beckoned Him?  Why would the Creator of time not be better able to maneuver through it…or manipulate it…or stop it?  The thoughts that raced through the minds of Mary and Martha must have felt like trees falling in the woods.  Everything toppled, everything crashed, everything fell pell-mell.  How could this be?  How could He not?  How do I believe…what do I believe?  And then, there He is.  No apologies for running late; no remorse for allowing what could have been avoided; no…anxiety, or turbulence, or urgency.  He’s just standing there, seemingly surprised that others are, well, surprised.  It’s a paradox; it’s perfectly timed untimeliness.  It’s perfect peace in a storm, it’s unshakable confidence in the sea of uncertainty.  It’s the Creator of life at the mouth of the tomb.  And then He calls out to His friend, “Lazarus, come forth.”  And he does; up and out, and over and through…right up to Jesus; right up to the One who finds life in death.  Right up to the One who will, within a short time, also know death that we may know life.  (John 11) And the doubts fall, and the trust leans, and the faith beams form.

Then, there’s the Apostle Paul.  His story is a plethora of paradoxes:  fanatical for the law, he becomes a fanatic for the LORD; biased toward his Jewish lineage, he becomes boastful of his Christian heritage; avenger to the expounding of the resurrection, he becomes ardent for the expansion of the gospel; and temporarily blinded in a physical sense, he gains eternal sight in a spiritual sense.  (Acts 9)  And the timbers fall…and the trusses emerge…and the support beams rise.

What an unfathomable, paradoxical God we serve.  Surely, His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways His ways (Isaiah 55:8).  So, when it comes to the oddities in life, when it seems as if we’re living in a topsy-turvy world where opposites not only collide but, sometimes, do so by Divine appointment, remember that our confidence lies not in the happening, but in the hand.  It’s the hand of the optometrist that rightly uses the light to check our vision; it’s the hand of the dentist that uses the exact amount of putty and pressure to create a useable mold; and it’s the hand of the blade sharpener that creates a sharp cutting edge.  Tools are used to strengthen and to break down; the outcome lies in the hand that holds it.  What Satan meant for evil, God uses for good.  Our trust is in the Hand, not in the tool.  Paradoxical?  Yes.  Paranormal?  Probably.  Paranoid?  Never…because we know that “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

So let the oddities, the paradoxes, in life continue to surround us; for in them lies our hope, from them emerges our confidence, and through them our faith arises.

paradox parcel