There are a lot of reasons you’re not dead right now.
Take the atmosphere, for instance. Earth’s atmosphere has a delicate balance of oxygen and other gases, and the end result is that when you take in a big lungful of air, you don’t suffocate and die. That would be less true, say, in outer space or underwater.
That’s not all, of course. The fundamental laws of the universe (like gravity and the strong nuclear force) are precisely balanced in a way that keeps all of reality from collapsing on itself or unraveling like a ball of yarn. The telomeres on the end of your chromosomes are still long enough for your cells to divide and reproduce. Your brain and other vital organs are working in concert to perform all the myriad functions required to keep you alive.
The list goes on, and each additional point makes it more and more clear that our existence depends on an interminable host of variables, each delicately balanced and finely tuned. If just one of those variables stops working correctly, so do we.
God is different.
God doesn’t require a certain atmosphere in order to exist. He doesn’t depend on physical laws to provide Him with an environment He can live in. He doesn’t age; He doesn’t get sick or weak.
God depends on nothing.
Think about that for a minute:
There are no variables to tweak that would endanger God’s existence. God simply is—no qualifiers, no exceptions, no dependencies. As Psalm 102:25-27 so beautifully phrases it, “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end.”
When God described Himself to His servant Moses, He revealed two of His names: “I AM WHO I AM” and “the Lord God” (Exodus 3:14-15). The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language, and in Hebrew both those names are heavily rooted in the word hayah—a word that simply means “to be.”
In other words, God is the God who is. He exists without the aid of anything or anyone. The universe itself can come and go, but God remains, unchanging, self-existing and eternal.
That’s good news for us. As fragile, temporary beings with limited lifespans, it’s encouraging to know that our Maker has none of those limitations. We might be constrained by things like height and depth and width and time, but God isn’t. The God who rules the universe exists apart from the universe.
That’s not an easy thing to wrap our minds around. As human beings, we look at the world in terms of boundaries and limits. A thing is this and not that; it begins here and ends there. But God can’t be stuffed into a box. He is limitless; He is unbounded in time and space, existing “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2).
No qualifications. No exceptions. If we want to understand God, then we have to start here, with this most basic truth:
Then, and only then, can we move on to understanding who He is.