9What gain has the worker from his toil? 10I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. —Ecclesiastes 3:9-11
Transcendence. The word does not appear in the Bible though Solomon got close to saying it when he wrote that God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As John Frame writes, however, “Transcendence invokes the biblical language of God’s majesty and holiness. It often represents metaphors of height: the Lord is God ‘in heaven above’ (Deut. 4:39). He has set his glory ‘above the heavens’ (Ps. 8:1). He is ‘seated on high’ (Ps. 113:5). We are to exalt him, to attribute to him the highest status.”
In 1961 A.W. Tozer wrote the book, Knowledge of the Holy, in which he provided perceptive short chapters on the character traits of God. In discussing God’s transcendence he said: “He is exalted above the created universe, so far above that human thought cannot imagine it.” He also warned us, “We must not think of God as highest in an ascending order of beings starting with the single cell, then the fish, then the bird, then the animal, then man and angels and cherubs and God. This would be to grant God eminence or even preeminence but that is not enough. We must grant God transcendence in the fullest meaning of that word. He's wholly other. He breaks all the categories of being and knowing.”
I experience transcendence when something large reveals my small amount of being. I stand on the shore of the ocean and realize that there are worlds underneath the waves. I look up from the base of a mountain and am reminded, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Psalm 90:2). When Moses wrote those words, he was having a profound moment of transcendence.
I experience transcendence when something infinite reminds me I am finite, like the far reaches of outer space which cannot be known or measured. David the Psalmist understood this feeling: “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? (Psalms 8:3-4). When was the last time you were struck by the reality of eternity in your own heart?
Prayer : Heavenly Father, in the middle of so many distractions in life You demonstrate Who You are by interruptions and glimpses of Yourself. Like Moses, I can’t see Your face, but a realize again and again that a clue about You has just passed through my life. Help me pay closer attention. Help me to follow more readily rather than turning away from my deep longing for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
John Frame, The Knowledge of God (Philipsburg, N. J.: P&R, 2002), 104.
A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961), 75.
Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy