What happens when your God doesn’t save you? That’s what happened to the ancient Jewish people. That’s what happens to people every single day.
The God they were taught about was too small; but maybe the problem wasn’t with God, rather the teaching.
When the ancient Jewish people were taken into captivity in Babylon, they were confronted with local gods and pressure to worship them and turn away from their God.
In the beginning… they had the biggest God of all! Their God existed before the earth was formed, before the sun, moon, stars, before the skies and seas, before the birds, sea creatures and beasts of the land, before the kings and pharaohs. Their God preexisted and created anything the Babylonians might worship.
Yet, we’ve allowed this story about how big God is, to make our God too small. Why? Because we know more than they did.
For many years, I struggled with the temptation to keep what I could know within the bounds of where I understood God’s boundaries were, then I discovered that if I truly believed that God was all that God was promised to be, then I could unshackle the God of all I knew and allow God to be infinite.
I have little use for a God who is restricted by a six-day creation; I need a God who has been around for slightly more than 13.8 billion years.
I am not interested in a God who only cares about humans to the point of having created the entire universe just for us; I need a God who is invested in the creatures that live in times and places where humans never touch. I need a God whose spirit hovered over molten lava space rock for a billion years. I need a God who whispered to the dinosaurs for 150 million years and wept the day the last one died.
I need a God who is not threatened by evolution and extinction.
I need a God who is bigger than one country or one political party. I need a God who is bigger than a single expression of worship.
I need a God who loves the girl in Tehran who will never hear the name of Jesus, or who was assigned a different gender at birth. I need a God who loves the one who would be called “sinner” or “unclean” so much that they would send their only son to die so that we would be free them from these labels.
I need a God bigger than the one I learned about in Sunday school and that’s good, because the God I learned about in Sunday school was only a glimpse into the God of the universe.
Prior to the exile, God lived in the temple in Jerusalem, but Ezekiel had seen God’s presence leave the temple before it was destroyed. So where was God?
They had a story they told about a man named Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt, which turned out to be how God was going to go before them so God could save them.
When the Israelites left Egypt 400 years later, God’s presence went before them.
Perhaps God went before them into Babylon, too! When the Jews were forced to go to Babylon, they needed a bigger God and it turns out, their God was bigger all along. Their God has no image and no name. Their God was not bound by their temple, their knowledge, or their imagination.
In order to continue to worship their God, they had to open their hearts and minds to allow God to be bigger.
And sometimes, so do we.
We need not be afraid of change, or of new information, or of challenges to what we were taught. God’s presence is bigger and has gone before us. God is there, beyond what we know.
To love God is to embrace the mystery of the infinite.
When have you struggled to let God be bigger than you were taught?
When have you let go of your old ideas of God and allowed your faith to grow with a bigger God?
What does it mean that God goes before us?