Our Human Imagery of God


I am Father Jim Van Vurst, and I hope you’ll enjoy all of the news and great features at

AmericanCatholic.org as well as my own writing.

By the way, I am a real Franciscan friar, as is my co-worker,

Friar Jeremy.
You can find more about us here.

by Friar Jim Van Vurst, OFM


Our Human Imagery of God

We are all familiar with the ways in which Jesus used imagery to help us understand who he was. He described himself as the shepherd and we are his sheep. Of course, we know we are not really sheep, but we understand the loving care of a shepherd for his flock. That’s just one example.

Images help us understand who Jesus is in our own lives. These images do not require a degree in theology to grasp the nature of Christ. There are tomes written by great theologians and philosophers explaining Scripture. But for all except a few, they would not communicate to us as much as the simple images God revealed to us in Scripture.

But what about the Old Testament, prior to Jesus? Amazingly, even the Old Testament writers used imagery that, in a sense, gave flesh to God so that we can understand him better.

For example, the prophet Hosea, who lived 700 years before Jesus, wrote the most beautiful and helpful language in describing God’s love for his wayward people. Hosea himself discovered how his own wife was unfaithful to him, and yet he loved her with all of his heart. And Hosea used that same situation in describing God’s love for his unfaithful people. In fact, in Chapter 11, Hosea describes God as “calling my son” (Israel). God speaks of Israel as a “child” whom he cannot stop loving.

Hosea also describes God as “teaching his child to walk.” What a wonderful image! We all know how carefully parents assist their little ones, holding their hands as they struggle with their first steps. Parents do not let their children fall. God would not let us fall, either. Hosea also pictures God “stooping to feed my child.” Imagine God stooping from heaven to care for us! Who cannot relate to that?

In all of these images, God helps us understand his love for us. Though God is spirit and does not have emotions as you and I do, it is a gift for us that God uses human language and human experiences to which we can relate.

We say that God is a mystery beyond our understanding. Yet hasn’t he made himself so easy to understand?

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