For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Jeremiah 2:13). O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens ...When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:1, 3-4).
... God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (Ecc. 5:2b).
“Does God get lonely up there in Heaven?”
My little girl was about five when she asked me that. It was a sweet question, and part of it resonates with us. She was struggling to understand God, because he is very different than her. God is other.
The “otherness” of God is admittedly difficult to understand. After all, if God is so different than us, how are we to understand him. Furthermore, if God is really so other, why does that matter?
In theology, this otherness is often called transcendence. This word means that God is higher than we are—totally above us. And it’s good news for us for at least a few reasons. First, if God really is above us, then we can trust him to have insight and thought that we don’t have. Whenever a human being is in trouble, he has a natural inclination to pray—to ask God for help. It’s been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. Why? Because when we need real help, we all inherently know that we should call on the one who is totally higher and totally other than us. When we’ve gotten ourselves into a mess, we don’t look to us to get out of it. Why? Because we need a God who exists on a different plane of thought and experience. We need another.
A second reason the otherness of God should give us cause for praise is this: we know him anyway! In Christ, this totally high, holy, and lofty God has come down to make himself known to us. In the Psalms, we see David extolling the greatness and majesty of God. He’s nothing like us. He makes the moon and stars. He makes people and angels. He creates and controls the universe. But David’s song doesn’t stop there. He continues to sing, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” His mind is totally blown by the fact that such a transcendent, other God has stooped down to know us. This is the reason that David wrote the psalm. God is totally other, and we get to have a relationship with him anyway.
Finally, the otherness of God should produce humility in us. Before any of us begin to run our mouths about the way life should be, we should take the preacher of Ecclesiastes’ advice: “God is in Heaven, you’re not. So, shh.” The loftiness of God should cause us to stop talking, look up in wonder, and worship. God is other, and we know him in Jesus. The totally other has become knowable. What grace.