God the Father is an invisible spirit and does not have a physical body. Yet Scripture refers to God as having physical characteristic that theologians call anthropomorphisms. So though He has no body, the Bible speaks of God’s eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc. As we continue in this series (see links below), we’ll consider the BACK of God, which is only mentioned five times in Scripture — and all of these are in the Old Testament. The first three references deal with God the Father. The last two deal with God the Son. Each mention gives more insight into our incredible Creator by revealing something significant.
Majesty Revealed – Exodus 33:9-23
Moses is unquestionably one of the greatest prophets of God. God called him to lead the exodus, the deliverance of the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. God gave Moses the 10 Commandments and all other laws concerning worship, civil government and social interaction.Moses received God’s instructions and led in the building of the Tabernacle, the initiation of the priesthood, and the observance of various sacrifices, feasts, and Sabbath observance. Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Bible. His life is summarized by these words… “But since then, there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Deut. 34:10.
Moses knew the Lord “face to face,” yet he was never able to see the Lord’s face (Ex. 33). He begged God, “Please show me your glory!” But the Lord said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live….Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock…while My glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand and you shall see my BACK, but My face shall not be seen.”
God is so awesome, mighty and majestic, that no human could look directly at God’s face and glory and live. The Lord graciously allowed Moses to see His back and protected him in the cleft of the rock. We cannot imagine how incredibly glorious and majestic the Most High God is! A careful look at Scripture indicates that God will graciously transform us into our glorified bodies before we will lay eyes on the resurrected, glorified Son of God (1 John 3:2).
Madness Revealed – Jeremiah 18:15-17
The greatest commandment is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Deut. 6:4, Mt. 22:37). The first of the 10 Commandments is: ”You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Time and again the Israelites forsook the one, true God and worshipped false gods. This made God jealous and very angry. In Jer. 17:4-5, God said, “You have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever…Cursed is the man who trusts in man…whose heart departs from the Lord.” In chapter 18:15-17, God said, “Because My people have forgotten Me, they have burned incense to worthless idols, and they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths…[then] I will scatter them…I will show them the back and not the face in the day of their calamity.”
God was often very patient with erring Israel, and He would extend them great grace and mercy, but there were times when He had enough, and He would then turn his back on them, allowing them to reap the harvest from the seeds of rebellion they had sown, and He would (for a time) refuse to listen to their cries of anguish or remorse. The prophet Isaiah (59:1) put it this way… “But your iniquities have separated you from your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you”, meaning as Jeremiah said, that God was showing “them the back, and not the face”. Make no mistake, this was all the fault of Israel and their rebellion. God had not changed. He still loved them. They were still His chosen people, but He cannot and will not put up with continued rebellion and idolatry.
Under the New Covenant
Today, God is dealing primarily with people, not nations. He sent His only Son to the cross to die for every individual. It is up to each of us to repent from our sin and receive by faith God’s Son, Jesus, as our personal Lord and Savior. Those who do…”will not perish but have everlasting life”, (John 3:16). Those who do not… “ will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him”, (Jn. 3:36). On the Day of judgment God will essentially turn His back on them and say… “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” We have only ourselves to blame if we see God’s back and experience His wrath.
Mercy Revealed – Isaiah 38:17
This might seem to contradict the former point. How can God’s back reveal simultaneously both His madness (wrath) and also His mercy? It’s because disobedience and unbelief causes God to turn His back on sinners. Whereas repentance and faith causes God to turn His back on our sins!! This is a crucial point and it’s imperative that we know the difference and learn to appropriate this principle in our lives.
In this text (Is 38), King Hezekiah is faced with his sinfulness and mortality. The prophet confronts him about his impending death and need to “get his house in order.” Hezekiah is moved to tears, and launches into an earnest prayer of humble repentance and dependence upon the Lord. With great emotion and gratitude he prays,“But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption; for you have cast all my sins behind your back.” (Isa 38:17) God graciously responded to King Hezekiah’s prayer by healing him of his sickness and extending his life for 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-11). Even more importantly is the revealed truth that when a child of God earnestly prays for forgiveness and cleansing, the Lord graciously promises to forgive our sins, turn His back on them, and do away with our iniquities forever, removing them from His sight.
The prophet Micah (7:18-19) wrote, “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Scripture teaches that God casts all our sins (where there has been true repentance) behind His back and buries them in the depths of the deepest sea! The New Testament furthers our joy and understanding: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Praise the Lord! He will turn His back on our sins, but He will never turn His back on His saints!
Misery Revealed – Ps. 129:3, Is. 50:6.
This final point has to do with prophecies concerning Jesus who did (and does) have a physical body and greatly and literally suffered to pay for our sins and satisfy the wrath of God.
One thousand years before it happened, the psalmist wrote, “The plowers plowed on my back; they made their furrows long…” (Psa 129:3)
Seven hundred years before Jesus came and fulfilled these words, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.” (Isa 50:6)
Isaiah further wrote, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way, and the Lord [God the Father] has laid on Him [God the Son] the iniquities of us all.” (Isa 53:5-6)
There can be no doubt that these prophecies clearly and unequivocally point to the scourging and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mt. 27-26-31).
We cannot think about the back of God without remembering how Jesus was mercilessly whipped with the Roman cat of nine tails—an instrument of torture that literally ripped to shreds His sinless back and body. Why did Jesus give His “back to the smiters” (Isa 50:6)? Because He loves us! He paid for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to suffer in eternally.
“Wounded for me, wounded for me,
there on the cross He was wounded for me;
Gone my transgressions and now I am free,
all because Jesus was wounded for me!”
W. G. Ovens (1870-1945)
The Anthropomorphic Expressions of God
How Should We Understand…
The Mind of God?
The Face of God?
The Eyes of God?
The Ears of God?
The Nose of God?
The Voice of God?
The Shoulder of God?
The Back of God?
The Arms of God?
The Hands of God?
The Fingers of God?
The Feet of God?
The Heart of God?
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