Read Isaiah 55:8-9
8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (NLT)
How can we describe the indescribable? The best we can do is to use our own human words which will somehow give the right impression, will give others an idea of what we are trying to talk about. The words may not accurately convey all we wish to convey, they will not necessarily be taken literally. Our poets and writers know this: imagination and metaphor have to be used to give some idea of what we are trying to describe.
And so when it comes to language about God we are in complex territory. This God who is beyond our limited understanding, who is beyond description, yet has to be written about and talked about in our inadequate words.
Jesus is not literally seated at God’s right hand, but we get the idea: Jesus is Lord and ruler. God’s everlasting arms are not underneath us but the picture is clear enough: God cares for us. Jesus didn’t go up into the sky as if heaven were ‘up there’, but his ascension reminds us that he is now with God. After we die we will not likely walk on streets paved with gold, but we take the hint that eternal life is something precious and beautiful.
It is no use trying to take image and metaphor literally: it leads to absurdity and is a misuse of language. It is no help to criticise the biblical writers for using such language: they have no choice. Words may be slippery and hard to interpret, but they are all we have when it comes to speaking of God, the one beyond words and who is yet made real to us through words.