Knowing the Unknown God

EVEN THOUGH WORLD conditions are greatly changed from those of centuries ago, the God of the Bible remains an almost complete stranger to millions of well-meaning humanity. To many, the concept of the Deity is little less repugnant to Scripture-enlightened intelligence today than the totem poles of Gideon’s day were to true Israelites then.

Many visualize our Heavenly Father as an austere personality. Others think of him as being most loving and kind and deeply interested in the salvation of mankind, but seriously lacking in the power and wisdom essential to accomplish all his good wishes. These say that if peace is to be established on earth, man must accomplish it himself.

Paul’s experiences at Athens, as recorded in the 17th chapter of Acts, were not unlike those of the Lord’s people since. His spirit was stirred within him on beholding the city full of idols. And he, like all faithful Christians since that time, tried to do something about it. He reasoned in the synagogue and with pious persons, and those with whom he daily met in the market place.

Some of the Grecian philosophers encountering Paul asked each other, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Professor Rotherham renders ‘babbler’ as “picker-up-of scraps,” while Professor Young uses the term “seed picker.” The philosophers obviously viewed the great apostle as a mere scavenger, picking up what others did not want. To many, Paul seemed to be a proclaimer of strange demons because he announced glad tidings concerning Jesus and the resurrection. When they heard about the resurrection, some mocked and others said, “We will hear you again.” How much this sounds like viewpoints the Lord’s people hear expressed today.

Passing through Athens, Paul noticed an altar to the “unknown God.” This God, he told them, made the world and all things therein, and that of one blood he had made all nations of men. In him, Paul pointed out, we live, move, and have our being, for we are the offspring of God, therefore we ought not to think of the Deity as being inferior in character and intelligence to ourselves, or even vaguely represented by images in gold, silver, or stone, these being sculptures of human skill, which at best represented only human conceptions of God.

The Scriptures tell us of two spirits very different one from the other. These are the spirit of God and the spirit of Satan. They are the very representation of their respective characteristics, and they are as far apart as the antipodes, as the east is from the west. Everything that is good, right, pure, clean, true, and loveable, stems from Him who inhabiteth eternity; while everything unclean, false, hateful, envious, merciless, selfish, and proud, stems from the father of lies.—John 8:44

We know from the Bible that our Heavenly Father’s attributes of power, justice, wisdom, and love are so great as to be immeasurable, boundless, limitless, and infinite. However, attempts have been made to minimize his power and to malign his character by upholding traditional misconceptions. This has been at the hands of professed Christian philosophers, even as the Epicurians and Stoics discredited and disparaged the doctrine of the resurrection in Paul’s day.

The concept of God’s character held by some of the modern philosophers is well illustrated by the story told of a little girl who, when asked what would be the first thing she would do when she got to heaven, replied, “I will hide behind Jesus so God can’t see me.” Why should she fear God? Obviously this little girl had been taught that Jesus is the one in heaven that understands human weaknesses. That it was he, instead of God, that really loved the world. Such a distorted view does not take into account the many Scripture texts which tell of the Father’s superlative qualities of love and power. Actually, he is the inexhaustible source, the storehouse as it were, from which his creatures must draw spirit, truth, and life.

The very nature of God proclaims the superiority of his altruistic qualities. By intuition he knows more than his combined creation may ever expect to acquire through experience, observation, or information. We do not understand that any of God’s creatures will ever equal God himself. Jehovah, by the very nature of things, is superior to his creatures, and capable of understanding man’s every weakness.

Would we say that he who designed the eye cannot see, or that he who created the ear cannot hear? Surely he who planned the brain has full comprehension! Nor is he who set the standard for all acceptable heart qualities beneath that standard himself. The supporters of the eternal torment theory would seem to so think. Jehovah himself claims the authorship of the great plan of atonement, therefore any magnanimous principles or graces involved must have originated with him, since the plan was conceived in his mind before his beloved Son was created. Paul called this a mystery which God purposed in himself, a mystery hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. This manifold wisdom of God was to be made known “according to a plan of the ages which he formed for the Anointed Jesus,” when God was alone.—Eph 3:9-11, Wilson’s Diaglott

If this fact were fully comprehended, the false concept of the relationship between the Father and the Son would be dissipated. The testimony of the Bible is that the Father and the Son are one—not in organism, but in spirit and purpose. The Father is perfect in all his attributes of nobility, with the Son serving as his Logos, Arm, or agency, in extending his Father’s Spirit and principles to others.

Joel 2:28 and 29, quoted by Peter in the second chapter of Acts, reveals that God’s Spirit, influence, or power—not a third person of an imaginary trinity—was to be poured out upon all flesh. This began first with the church at Pentecost, and will reach the whole world of mankind during Christ’s kingdom reign. By every law of reason it seems obvious that the Holy Spirit—if a person—could not be ‘poured out’ upon, or ‘divided among’ millions of humanity.

Both the Prophet Joel and the Apostle Peter identify this wonderful invisible power or influence as the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. This was the same Spirit that energized Jesus’ mind at Jordan, and it is the same transforming influence that has worked in the hearts of God’s people ever since, to develop in them the growth of Godlikeness.

You will remember that Paul, addressing the intelligentsia at Athens, said that man is an offspring of God. Man’s life originally came from God. But instead of man being an infinitesimal part of God, we read that God created Adam in his own likeness. He formed the body of man out of the dust of the earth, and animated it by breathing air into his nostrils, thereby producing a living being with reasoning faculties. By virtue of his perfect human organism, Adam possessed god-like qualities in proportion to his limited capacity as a human being. He was given dominion over the earth, as God is the Ruler of the universe.

Paul admonished the church to “forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) We find no admonition to follow either a higher or lower standard than God himself has set. One of the serious errors of all history has been man’s disposition to lower God’s standards in deference to the wishes of the worldly, but this produced tares and not God-like creatures. Paul lists the graces of the Spirit of God as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. These are the graces of God.—Gal. 5:22-24

Jesus never claimed originality, either in the truth he spoke or in the principles he inculcated. No! Jesus was, is, and always will be, the representative of the Father. In John 10:36 we read that the Father “sent him into the world.” John 8:28, declares that what he heard of the Father, he spoke. We read in John 8:19, that Jesus so completely exemplified the Father’s characteristics that anyone who had known him had also known the Father. Jesus declared that he did nothing of himself, but as the Father taught him, he spoke those things.—John 8:28; 17:8

Some poorly informed persons believe the God of Israel to be a cruel and blood-thirsty tyrant. These cite references in the Old Testament in support of their claim. The texts quoted by them, when taken separately, might seem to support their contention. God’s commandments to Israel to destroy whole nations mark him and the Jews who obeyed him as merciless and pitiless tyrants in the minds of some. This is because they do not understand the plan of the ages.

A sample of these misunderstood commandments is found in I Samuel 15:3. It reads, “Go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” In some instances they were commanded to have no pity and show no mercy. A good example of this is found in Deuteronomy 7:1-16, where Israel was told to destroy seven nations without pity or mercy.

We are not surprised that some well-meaning but misinformed souls believe that God is incapable of compassion or feeling for fallen man. Obviously this distorted view of God is the reason for millions directing their prayers to Mary, a supposedly more sympathetic soul than either God or Jesus, and why the little girl thought she would hide behind Jesus so God would not see her.

It gives us great pleasure, and we are sure that it gives you joy also, to be able to say on the basis of a “thus saith the Lord,” that God does have superior compassion and understanding for humanity, even though he has never experienced bodily pain or other distress which his creatures have suffered. To reason otherwise would be to discount the intuitive powers of God Almighty.

In every case cited by these unenlightened ones, where there seemingly was lack of pity or understanding on God’s part, a picture was being made of what ultimately will happen to everything that is not in perfect harmony with the divine standard. At the same time those involved were learning lessons in the exceeding sinfulness of sin, which will be of great value to them when raised from the dead and put on probation for everlasting life. Furthermore, putting them to sleep before they became totally depraved was a blessing in disguise. Their iniquity had come to the full, and God took them away as he saw good.—Gen. 15:16; 19:24; Ezek. 16:50; Jude 7

Israel was a typical nation. Their conduct foreshadowed the victories and failures of nominal spiritual Israel. Sometimes Israel failed to obey God’s commands to drive out or destroy their enemies. This, perhaps, was because of their having secret sympathies for the customs of their enemies, instead of being wholly devoted to God. Or it may have been that they were unwilling to forego certain friendships, or material benefits. Then, again, it may have required greater effort on their part to do God’s bidding than they were willing to put forth.

In King Saul’s case, Israel returned from battle with the Amalekites, bringing the opposing king and the best of the cattle and flocks, obviously, for selfish purposes. The lesson for us is that God used this means to warn spiritual Israel against holding secret sympathies for uncleanness, the disposition to cater to the demands of the flesh and to neglect spiritual duties in the interests of material gain, ease, or in deference to worldly friends.

Qualities of Goodness

The Scriptures abound with evidences of God’s exemplary qualities. Isaiah 63:7-9, speaks of God’s kindness, goodness, mercy, and pity. Psalm 103:13 speaks of his great mercy and his fatherly pity. David in the 136th Psalm speaks of God’s mercy twenty-six times. While Bible concordances do not record the word sympathy, there is abundant proof that God is good, merciful, compassionate, gracious, long-suffering, and holy.

These intrinsic qualities, or graces, which God has by virtue of his very nature, have long been obscured by the machinations of Satan. However, the Scriptures indicate that soon—very soon, we believe—God is to be unveiled to mankind in general by the glorious thousand-year reign of the Messiah. It is for that wonderful event that Christians have prayed, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth” as it already is being done in heaven. Then the true Savior of mankind, Almighty God himself, will receive the long delayed praise and honor of which he is truly worthy.

This, we think, was foreshadowed by Elijah’s contest with the four hundred and fifty false prophets of Baal, as recorded in I Kings 18:20-45. In this picture Jehovah was unveiled to Israel in a typical sense. At the close of the long day of excitement, Elijah’s sacrifice was spectacularly accepted by fire coming down from heaven, and the Israelites fell on their faces shouting, “Jehovah, he is God.”

The false prophets were slain and there was copious rain. This was a progressive illustration. It required considerable time to act out. First the cloud was as small as a man’s hand. Later the heavens were black with clouds, and there was a boisterous wind. Finally the rain came, picturing the restitution blessings of which God has “spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:19-21

Revelation 21:4 gives God the credit for the ultimate removal of all tears from all faces. In Revelation, chapter 4, we have a majestic mental picture of the glory of God. It is a throne scene. There are four “living ones”—mistranslated “beasts”—who unitedly proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is, and is to come. The ancient Sinaitic manuscript repeats the word “holy” eight times!

Following this proclamation of divine glory and holiness by the four ‘living ones’, there are twenty-four “elders” who do homage unto God, saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor and power: for thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

Yes, as David wrote, even “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” And added to all that the Scriptures reveal concerning the glorious attributes of our loving Heavenly Father may we heartily say, “Amen!”—not alone by words, but also by conforming our every thought, word, and action in harmony with his principles, and to the doing of his will.—Ps. 19:14

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |