I am currently in a series of messages designed to help people Know God the way He reveals Himself to us in Scripture. The fundamental principle of this series: God is spirit (John 4:24). That means God is formless and has no body and knows no end. He is also not gendered. Both orthodox Christianity and orthodox Judaism affirm the spirit nature of God. God is not a man. God is not a woman. God is spirit.
Yet, the Bible declares that God saves and upholds us by His powerful right hand (Ps. 108:6; 138:7; 139:10; Isa.41:10). The Bible also speaks of God's knowing eyes (Gen. 1:4,31; 6:8; Exod. 33:17; Num. 14:14; Deut. 11:12; Zech. 4:10), His strong arm (Exod. 6:6; 5:16; Deut. 4:34; 5:15), His hearing ears ( 1 Sam. 8:21; 2 Kgs. 19:16; Ps. 5:1; 10:17; 18:6), His beautiful face (Exod. 33:11; Lev. 20:3,5,6; Num. 6:25; Deut. 31:17; 32:20; 34:10; Ps. 114:7), His finger (Exod. 8:19; 31:18; Deut. 9:10; Ps. 8:3), His feet, (Exod. 24:10; Ezek. 43:7), His breasts (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:13), His womb (Isaiah 46:3; Genesis 49:25), His... WAIT!
"God has breasts and a womb? You've got to be kidding me!"
Uh, that's what the Bible states, and no, I'm not kidding. A handful of people who have heard the messages I've preached the last few weeks have been perplexed, puzzled and maybe even a tiny bit peeved that their pastor would preach such nonsense! Others have investigated the truth of Scripture for themselves and have come to the conclusion that their pastor is speaking truth about God, but they remain perplexed. How can God be represented in Scripture as having breasts?
It's a metaphor, people.
Metaphors, Metaphors, Metaphors
Let me explain biblical metaphors.
In the Old Testament, El Shaddai is given as one of the names for God. El Shaddai means "The God with breasts" or even more precisely "The God with many breasts." Some Christians are very uncomfortable with such language. If you are one of those, I remind you that divine revelation (truth) is uninterested in your comfort. Truth is truth whether you can accept it or not.
Hebrew linguist and orthodox Jewish rabbi Justin Goldstein clearly shows the Hebrew meaning of El Shaddai is "the God with breasts." Herbert Lockyear, the evangelical conservative scholar who wrote the classic work All the Names of God, points out that in the glorious and full revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:13), the Messiah is portrayed as El Shaddai, One who is "girt about the paps (breasts) with a golden girdle." Lockyer goes on to comment on this image of the glorified Christ, "Has Christ not invited us to come to him and drink? (John 6:53-57) [from All the Names of God, page 15].
The inspired revelation (Scripture) reveals the Spirit God in metaphorical language, using male and female characteristics (including body parts) so that we can understand His character. God is not gendered, but He possessess both masculine and feminine attributes. God no more has actual breasts than He has an actual right hand. God no more has a literal womb than He has a literal eye. Because the Spirit God transcends our ability to comprehend Him, He reveals Himself to us using metaphorical, anthropomorphic language.
When the Bible speaks of God's "powerful right hand," it is describing God as one might describe a man--He is strong, powerful, and will give you aid--but God has no actual hand. When the Bible speaks of God's breasts, it is describing God as one might describe a female--He is compassionate, loving and caring, just like a mother who nurtures and suckles her infant at her breasts--but God has no actual breasts. God is spirit, but when He created men and women, He created both genders in His image. God possesses all the wonderful and good attributes of men and women. For example:
I am God, your father, who supports you, the Shaddai who blesses you with blessings from the skies above and from the deep sea below, blessings from breasts (shadayim) and the womb (Genesis 49:25).The biblical revelation declares the Spirit Creator made us in His image, both men and women (Genesis 1:27) Ladies, you reflect the image of God. Men, you reflect the image of God. God is spirit, and as such, He could be described metaphorically as the strongest and most powerful man or as the most gentle and compassionate woman suckling her child.
Metaphors are figures of speech. When someone tells you that it is "raining cats and dogs," you don't go outside and look for actual cats and dogs raining down from heaven. Someone has given you a metaphor. "Raining cats and dogs" is comparing the storm outside to the fury, viciousness and wildness of cats and dogs fighting. If you have ever heard a group of cats getting entangled in a fight with group of dogs, then you know instantly the kind of storm outside.
Likewise, when the Bible reveals God with breasts, it does not mean you should think of God as having actual breasts. This is a metaphor. This metaphor means God treats His people like a mother treats her children. When He revealed Himself to Abraham as El Shaddai (the God with breasts), He was saying to Abraham, "I am the breasted God. Walk before me Abraham and be made whole. I am the your Source. I am the One who can enrich you, suckle you and prepare you for your life's journey. I am your All-Sufficient One."
When you begin to see that the Biblical authors constantly mix and mingle gender metaphors in describing God, then you agree with biblical commentators like John Calvin, who in his commentary on Isaiah 46:3 states, "God represents Himself as a female and we are the fruit of his womb."
We need more biblical literacy in our churches. Too many Christians are intellectually lazy. We need an understanding that when God created men and women He created us both in His image. Both genders reflect the character and nature of God. Sure, the Father gave to us the Son, as the language of Scripture declares, but the Father is the transcendent, spirit God who possesses the character and nature of both the masculine and the femine. Sure, Jesus Christ was physically a man, but "in Him all the fulness of the Deity lives." All the character qualities of being human are beautifully and wonderfully blended and fused in Christ. Ladies, look to Him. Men, look to Him.
Some Christians teach that the male is created in the image of God and the woman is created in the image of the man in order to be the servant to man. God forbid you fall into that fish trap.
God created Adam (mankind) in His image, both male and female created He them. If you want to know the character of God, you must look to both the man and the woman, for Scripture represents God using both masculine and feminine metaphors. Ladies, God understands you because you reflect His image. You are from Him, to Him and for Him. Men, God understands you because you reflect His image. You are from Him, to Him, and for Him.
Do you really believe the Bible, or do you just say you do but you really don't? If you actually believe in the inspired and sacred text (as I do), then you must treat the opposite gender with dignity, respect and honor. Both genders reflect God's image.
(1). Ladies, become intimate with God as a friend would with a friend because you are in HIS IMAGE.
(2). Ladies, don't allow a male physical image of God to limit your understanding of character and nature of the One true God.
(3). Ladies, don't let anybody tell you that you have less worth and significance than men. You are made in HIS IMAGE.
(4). Ladies, when you begin to know God as He really is, "you will be strong and take action" (Daniel 11:32).
(5). And finally, missing metaphors makes men mad. In other words, men, if you are struggling with the feminine portrayals of God in Scripture, take a deep breath, relax, and realize you may be missing the biblical metaphors of God--missing them as in missing out on an intimate relationship with God Himself.