There is an argument for the existence of God that goes like this:
Imagine God. Imagine a being so perfect, so pure, so powerful and awesome, that he is the greatest possible being. The being you have just imagined cannot be all of those things unless he also exists. As a fictitious being he is necessarily not great, therefore God must exist.
When God’s holiness is sung in scripture, he is not just holy but “Holy, Holy, Holy.” The reason for this is that if God is just “Holy,” that is descriptive: he is A holy being. If he is “Holy, Holy,” that is comparative: he is holier than some. However God is Holy, Holy, Holy. This is the superlative: God is HOLIEST. God is nothing less than the greatest.
In the beginning, God created. Here the thoughtful immediately run afoul of a puzzling mystery: why would an utterly self-sufficient being choose to create, when he could have quite justifiably existed eternally by himself? This is possibly the deepest question theology might ask. One must admit, however, that there are aspects of God’s character such as his justice, his patience, and his grace that only manifest themselves when dealing with things outside of himself. Be that as it may, almost immediately after creating a perfect world, man’s rebellion corrupted the world. At this point, God would have been entirely justified if he had destroyed the corrupt creation. His holiness and justice would have been satisfied. This was not, however, the greatest possible solution to the problem of man’s rebellion; and because it was not, it was an action unworthy of God.
The book of Job is considered by many scholars to be the oldest book in scripture. If this is so, it seems appropriate as the book deals with one of the oldest questions: the purpose of and solution to the human condition; that is to say pain and suffering. Job’s friends, a group of self-styled philosophers, propose that suffering is the result of sin against God, and that the solution is repentance. The problem with their theory, which seems sound enough in the light of Mosaic Law, was that the beginning of the book makes it clear that Job was both upright in living, and had made all of the required sacrifices of repentance. He had pursued the obvious solutions, and they had not prevented suffering. This being the case, Job wonders aloud: “How can a man be right before God?”
This is no idle query or rhetorical question. It gets right to the heart of the problem. It is the only question that matters. And while the book of Job never actually answers the question, Job does pose a very interesting solution of his own: “Oh, that there was a mediator between God and man, someone who could lay his hand on us both.”
Job recognizes that the lowliness of man is in no way comparable to the loftiness of God. There is an inseparable disconnect there, and such a God is by nature unsympathetic to things such as weakness, temptation, and suffering. If such a mediator existed, who could truly comprehend the lowliness and weakness of human nature and the loftiness and holiness of God’s nature, this mediator could bridge the gap, bringing God to man and man to God. It is not the suffering itself that Job is seeking to fix. Rather, Job seems to be saying that the suffering would be worthwhile if there was not also this vast gap between man and God, and if God could somehow relate to and be sympathetic to the suffering.
Suffering was the theme and keystone of Jesus’ life. He surrounded himself with the suffering and lowly of society, tending to their wounds and preaching a message of comfort to the afflicted. The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus “learned obedience by the things which he suffered.” In looking forward to the Messiah, Isaiah wrote “he has no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our grief, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
In the Jewish mind, this prophecy was not connected to the Messiah. It made no sense to them that the son of God, or that God incarnate, would be described in such lowly and unworthy terms.
Indeed, for God to descend in power and glory, for him to come in righteousness and judgment, is no great stretch of the imagination. If one can even begin to conceive of the greatest of all possible beings, it naturally follows that this being be great. But for such a being then to descend and condescend, to take the form of a servant in lowliness, is a shocking and startling development. And yet, this is exactly the kind of Messiah that Job called for in his suffering. The suffering and afflicted, the lowly and wounded, do not cry out in their misery for a transcendent God of power and glory. Instead, they beg for a God of imminence and mercy. They cry out for a healer and comforter who can meet them in their place of affliction, who can sympathize and lay a hand on them.
The greatest possible solution to the problem of humanity’s rebellion against God was for God to redeem humanity. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The lowliness and humility of Christ become the highest glory and commendation of God, not for exercising his power, but for choosing to abandon it.