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The Reformers and the Puritans used a Latin phrase to describe man’s relationship to God: finitum non capax infiniti. This phrase means that since man is finite, he cannot hold or comprehend the infinite God. Above all else, this was an expression of piety. The finite mind cannot penetrate the divine essence.
The reality of God’s infinity underscores the great difference between God and man. Although the word infinity is a “negative” expression, meaning that God cannot be limited, it asserts the positive truth that God is perfect and that He has no bounds or limits outside Himself.
We find one of the clearest statements of the doctrine of God’s infinity in Zophar’s speech to Job in Job 11:7–12: “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment, then who can hinder Him? For He knows deceitful men; He sees wickedness also. Will He not then consider it? For an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man.”
True, Zophar and his companions wrongly interpreted Job’s case. Nevertheless, here he was right on target.
Zophar first asserts that God is perfect and absolute in His being: “Can you search out the deep things of God?” (v. 7a). By this rhetorical question, Zophar leads us to the conclusion that the being of God exceeds our comprehension. The being, or essence, of a thing is its ultimate nature, that which makes it different from￼everything else. There is an unsearchable depth to God’s being. He is in a category by Himself; nothing in the creation is like Him. For example, He is self-sufficient and independent (Ex. 3:14). We cannot comprehend anything that has no origin and needs nothing else for its existence. So even though we can speak descriptively, we cannot penetrate the depth of God’s being.
Zophar continues in verses 7b-9, telling us that because God is infinite He is limitless and immeasurable. He asks in 7b, “Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?” Of course, no one can discover the limits of God. Zophar illustrates our inability to measure and limit God by challenging our ability to measure other created things. He begins with the heavens. Can you penetrate their outer boundaries? No! And the heavens are finite. How can we measure the God who made them? He then brings the challenge closer to home. Can you stand on the earth and measure its circumference? Or can you look across the Pacific Ocean and calculate its distance? Modern man has learned to measure these distances with his modern tools. But we all recognize the inability of our senses to take such measurements. If human senses fail in these tasks, how much more do we fail in attempting to measure God? If we are dwarfed by measurable created things, do we not understand that we shall never measure the Creator?
Our two primary categories of measurement are time and space. Because He is infinite, God exists outside of both. God is timeless, which means He is eternal. He has neither beginning nor end, as we confess with Moses in Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” But God’s eternity means that He exists outside of time. Time is a created thing, a thing made by God. Since He exists outside of time, He experiences no duration. All things are present before Him. Moses teaches this remarkable truth when he says, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past” (Ps. 90:4), and Peter adds, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
God’s limitlessness also applies to space. We use two terms to describe God’s relation to space: immensity and omnipresence. God’s immensity means that He is transcendent. He made space and is outside of it. Space is a finite creation. God not only holds the entire world in His hand, as the spiritual says, but also every created realm. Thus, God cannot be circumscribed or contained in space. As Solomon said when he dedicated the temple: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27).
Although God transcends time and space, He relates to us in time-and-space categories. “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27b–28a). We use the term omnipresence to teach that God is personally present in all of space. When I say that God is present everywhere, I mean that the divine being is personally present in all places at all times. We sometimes think that omnipresence means God is like light or air that permeates space. This is a misconception. Regardless where we are or go, God is personally present (Ps. 139:7–12).
If God is present everywhere, what does the Bible mean when it refers to God’s presence in some particular location? While being personally present everywhere, He manifests Himself differently in different contexts. He manifests His glorious presence in heaven, His gracious presence to the believer, and His wrathful presence in judgment. Likewise, He withholds His gracious presence from the wicked.
Thus, Zophar reminds us that God is infinite in His being. This truth is summarized by the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 4: “What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” God is a unique spirit who is an infinite being.
Zophar continues by showing that God’s infinity applies to all His attributes. Notice the way the Shorter Catechism defines all the attributes of God by His infinity: “Infinite … in His … wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” Zophar highlights this truth with two attributes: sovereignty and omniscience.
In Job 11:10, he reminds us that God is sovereign: “If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment, then who can hinder Him?” In other words, He does as He pleases. One who is infinite will of necessity be sovereign. Many modern Christians could learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s confession: “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Dan. 4:35).
In verse 11, Zophar refers to God’s omniscience; He knows the heart of man exhaustively, without thought or investigation. The one who knows the heart exhaustively surely knows all things. God eternally knows all things about everything and every being. David marvels, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Ps. 139:6).
How ought we to respond to the truth of God’s infinity? We are put in our place, silenced by the consideration of His infinite being. Zophar asks, “What can you know?” God is incomprehensible. Incomprehensibility does not mean that we know nothing of God, but that we know only in part. Our knowledge may be true, but it is not exhaustive. Even our knowledge of God’s attributes is only partial, since they are the characteristics of the infinite God. We are to put our hands over our mouths and bow in humility. Ultimately we gaze in wonder and awe. Paul reflects this in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
Further, God’s infinity reminds us of the necessity of Scripture, which is God’s self-initiated revelation. If one cannot find God by searching, how then does one know God? He reveals Himself in the Bible. The infinite God has taken the initiative and revealed Himself that we might know Him whom to know is life eternal (John 17:3). But we must remember that His Word also is infinite. The psalmist says, “I have seen the consummation of all perfection, but Your commandment is exceedingly broad” (Ps. 119:96). He means that there is an end to all creaturely “perfection,” but God’s Word exceeds such perfection. The Puritans captured this concept when they said that the Bible “is shallow enough for a baby to play in it and deep enough for a man to drown in it.”
Zophar also reminds us that sinful man, left to his own devices, is doomed to failure if he seeks to come to God on his own terms: “For an empty-headed man will be wise, when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man” (v. 12). The empty-headed man is the hollow man, whose nature is defiled by sin. There must be a change of nature, what Jesus called the new birth when He told Nicodemus, ” ‘Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
May God give us grace to grasp in part this beautiful truth and to respond in our hearts with wonder and awe.