THE REVELATION OF GOD
In Chapter I we have seen sufficient proof that there is a personal God in whom man lives, moves, and has his continual being. "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). Only the fools--those who are living on the carnal plane and are ignoring the reality of spiritual data--call in question the existence of God (Ps. 14:1). As we shall see in the discussion of the nature of man, he was made in the image of the Almighty. Since God is pure spirit, as we learn from the Sacred Scriptures, man was created in the image and likeness of his Maker in the correct sense of the word. He was made in the image of God in that he possesses intelligence, will, and a moral nature. These are fundamental facts about which there can be no question. Because of man's moral make-up he realizes his utter dependence upon his Maker. Every thinking person sees and understands that he possesses these powers. As he looks into the heaven, he sees the evidence of intelligence and will in the Almighty who is the Creator, the Preserver, and the Governor of the entire universe.
I. PRESUPPOSITION POINTING TO A DIVINE REVELATION
From what is seen in the universe and from what we know of ourselves, we conclude that this Mighty God is interested in His creatures and naturally desires to communicate with them. Since, as we shall see in a later chapter, we are made in the image of our Creator, who, without doubt, possesses these spiritual attributes in all their perfection, we conclude that our God, being what He is, wishes to communicate with His creatures. Thus the nature of both God and man presupposes the making of a revelation to man by the Almighty.
When we look out upon the world in which we live, we see that the guiding hand of the Almighty has gently led man in a progressive way to learn more and more about the universe in which he lives. When we study the individual, moreover, we see that, as the child grows, his mind unfolds, and that he acquires the ability to comprehend more and more clearly the facts about himself. What is true of the individual also holds good with respect to the race. By analogy therefore we conclude that the Eternal God would likewise naturally give His revelation in a progressive manner--as man is capable of receiving it.
II. EVIDENCE OF AN EARLY REVELATION
For the sake of investigation, let us look into the Scriptures and see what they assert and what information they have for us on this point. After we have done this, we shall then subject the Scriptures to the acid test of facts. We must approach the Sacred Records with an unbiased mind and with a desire to learn facts and truths regardless of whether or not they conform to our previous ideas.
In Genesis, chapter 3, we are told that man and woman were placed in the Garden of Eden, and that the Almighty visited them "in the cool of the day." Upon these occasions the Lord communicated with His creatures. This fellowship was indeed most enjoyable and delightful. Thus man in his unfallen, pure, innocent state had communion and fellowship with his Maker.
But this blessed condition, as we shall learn later, did not last long. Satan, who is the adversary of God and all good, led man to disobey his Maker and to bring distress and ruin upon himself and his posterity.
Another bit of evidence that there was a primitive revelation made by the Almighty to His people is found in Genesis 26:3-5: "I will establish the oath which I swear unto Abraham thy father; 4 and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; 5 because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." From this quotation it is very clear that there were commandments, statutes, and laws which had been given by the Almighty, and which Abraham obeyed and observed. Let it be remembered that he, who was a contemporary of Melchizedek and Hammurabi of the first dynasty of Babylon, lived four hundred years before Moses. Contrary to the usual way of thinking, therefore, there was a specific, definite revelation of the Lord before the days of Moses.
God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and directed him to go to a land that He would show him, which country proved to be Palestine. Doubtless the Lord brought him there in order that he might be associated with Melchizedek, who was at that time king of Salem and priest of God Most High. This unique character evidently reigned over what might properly be called the kingdom of God of that day and time. There could be no doubt but that the laws governing that kingdom and the ritualistic worship, which was carried on by its king, were of divine origin.
According to the best evidence which we have, Job was a contemporary of Abraham, Melchizedek, and Hammurabi. In his second speech Job triumphed in the thought that he had not "denied the words of the Holy One."
And be it still my consolation,
Yea, let me exult in pain that spareth not,
That I have not denied the words of the Holy One (Job 6:10).
Once more we hear that ancient patriarch speaking:
I have not gone back from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured up the words of his mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
We see another reference to a primitive revelation, Psalm 40:7, in the expression "the roll of the book." In this passage appears a quotation from an ancient document in which Messiah, speaking to Jehovah the Father, discloses the fact that He is coming to do the will of God with reference to sacrifices and burnt offerings. This citation is repeated in Hebrews 10:5-7. One will search throughout the Old Testament without being able to find this quotation, which appears in Psalm 40. When we take all the facts into consideration, we cannot avoid the conclusion that there was an early, primitive revelation, which is here called "the roll of the book." No one in modern times knows where that book is. The very fact that God has not preserved it to the present time, but has permitted it to pass out of existence, argues for its having contained a revelation that was only temporary in its nature and for its having been superseded by the later and fuller disclosures as we find them in the books of the Old Testament. There are other books referred to in the historical portions of the Hebrew Scriptures which likewise have passed out of existence. Jude, for instance, quoted from the Book of Enoch (Jude 14). The writer of Chronicles mentioned the history of Samuel the seer, the history of Nathan the prophet, and also the history of Gad the seer (I Chron. 29:29).
From these facts it becomes abundantly evident that there was an early revelation which God gave for the time being, and which He permitted to pass out of existence and to be superseded by the fuller revelation.
III. GOD'S REVELATION THROUGH ISRAEL AS A NATION
As has just been noted, the revelations given in the early days of the race seem to have been partial and fragmentary. This is the impression which one receives from the data which have remained to the present. As time advanced, however, we have a logical right to believe that the Lord would put His revelation for mankind in a more permanent form in order that it might be preserved through the centuries.
In keeping with this normal presupposition, one can look around at the nations of the world and discover fundamental reasons which logically lead one to believe that God would commit to one special people His revelation in order that they in turn might pass it on to the world. It is a well-known fact that the Greeks had a genius for the beautiful. They advanced farther in the arts and sciences of the ancient world than did any other people. It is true that according to tradition they learned their basic arts and sciences from the Egyptians; nevertheless, they carried forward and developed that which they borrowed from the people of the Nile. The Greeks became the teachers of the world of their day. At the same time they were lacking in other essential qualities and characteristics.
It is also conceded by all well-informed students that the Romans had a genius for law, order, organization, and government. While they lagged behind the Greeks in speculative thought, along with the arts and sciences, they excelled their predecessors in the special fields just mentioned. Thus the Romans made their contribution to the world in the form of law, order, jurisprudence, government, and administration.
According to the adage, "tis an ill-wind which blows no one good." The Saracens seem to have been a curse to European civilizations. Such is the snap judgment of some students. But those who know the facts realize that these Asiatics did add their part to civilization in that they laid down the beginnings of modern science in a rudimentary way. England has made her contribution to constitutional government, whereas America has advanced along more purely democratic lines and has given special opportunities to the individual and religious freedom to all its people. The special results of the labors of these various nations have brought wonderful blessings to humanity from the standpoint of material and cultural advantages.
On the other hand, the special contribution of the Jewish people is in the field of religion. It is admitted that this race has "a genius for religion." Without question this statement is true.
But why have the Jews as a nation a "genius for religion?" The answer is this: When Abraham and Sarah, his wife, were beyond the age of parenthood, God performed a biological miracle upon their bodies, which made possible the birth of Isaac. This miracle is spoken of as an act of creation in such passages as Isaiah 43:1. Here it is said that God created Israel. When He did this, He injected into the bloodstream of the Jewish race powers, potentialities, and capabilities--both intellectual and spiritual--which account for Israel's special religious endowment and her phenomenal contribution to the world in every realm of human activity and endeavor. From these facts we can see why she has her genius for religion.
The revelation, however, which has been made through Israel is not due to her natural genius in spiritual matters. A statement from the inspired Prophet Jeremiah proves this point: "O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). It takes something more than human powers to make known to man the eternal verities--it requires a revelation from the Almighty himself. The Scriptures therefore are not the records of man's quest for God; but God's quest for man. They are the disclosures of the Almighty to man for his benefit. These facts we shall learn under "Proof of the Inspiration of the Scriptures" in the present discussion.
God created the Jewish nation and has preserved it through the centuries to be the repository of His revelation. He sent Moses to be the deliverer of the Hebrews from the servile bondage of Egypt. "With a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm," He delivered the Chosen People from their slavery and brought them out to Mount Sinai. There He delivered His law to them (Ex., chap. 20). When Israel came to Kadesh-barnea, God, because of her willfulness and unbelief, would not allow her to enter the Promised Land but made her wander in the wilderness for forty years. At the expiration of that time, the Hebrews, under the leadership of Moses, encamped in the plains of Moab east of the Jordan. There he delivered his final instructions, which constitute the Book of Deuteronomy. In this series of farewell addresses Moses called Israel's attention to the fact that the Lord had revealed His will to their fathers at Sinai, and that they were the repository of this divine revelation.
In this connection it is well for us to read Deuteronomy 4:1-40 in order to interpret correctly the history of Israel:
4 And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes and unto the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which Jehovah, the God of your fathers, giveth you. 2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you. 3 Your eyes have seen what Jehovah did because of Baal-peor; for all the men that followed Baal-peor, Jehovah thy God hath destroyed them from the midst of thee. 4 But ye that did cleave unto Jehovah your God are alive every one of you this day. 5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, even as Jehovah my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the midst of the land whither ye go in to possess it. 6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7 For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as Jehovah our God is whensoever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
9 Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes saw, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life; but make them known unto thy children and thy children's children; 10 the day that thou stoodest before Jehovah thy God in Horeb, when Jehovah said unto me, Assemble me the people, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. 11 And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the heart of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. 12 And Jehovah spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only ye heard a voice. 13 And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even the ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. 14 And Jehovah commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
15 Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of form on the day that Jehovah spake unto you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire; 16 lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flieth in the heavens, 18 the likeness of anything that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth: 19 and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, thou be drawn away and worship them, and serve them, which Jehovah thy God hath allotted unto all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But Jehovah hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as at this day. 21 Furthermore Jehovah was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over the Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance: 22 but I must die in this land, I must not go over the Jordan; but ye shall go over, and possess that good land. 23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of Jehovah your God, which he made with you and make you a graven image in the form of anything which Jehovah thy God hath forbidden thee. 24 For Jehovah thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.
25 When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have been long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image in the form of anything, and shall do that which is evil in the sight of Jehovah thy God, to provoke him to anger; 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over the Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. 27 And Jehovah will scatter you among the peoples, and ye shall be left few in number among the nations, whither Jehovah shall lead you away. 28 And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from thence ye shall seek Jehovah thy God, and thou shalt find him, when thou searchest after him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. 30 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, in the latter days thou shalt return to Jehovah thy God, and hearken unto his voice: 31 for Jehovah thy God is a merciful God; he will not fail thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
32 For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is or hath been heard like it? 33 Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? 34 Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that Jehovah your God did for you, in Egypt before your eyes? 35 Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightest know that Jehovah he is God; there is none else besides him. 36 Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he made thee to see his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out with his presence, with his great power, out of Egypt; 38 to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as at this day. 39 Know therefore this day, and lay it to thy heart, that Jehovah he is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else. 40 And thou shalt keep his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days in the land, which Jehovah thy God giveth thee, for ever.
In the introductory verses of this passage Moses urged Israel to observe the statutes and commandments which God had given. By taking heed to this revelation, she would show herself wiser than the nations near whom she lived (vss. 6,7). In verses 9-14, the lawgiver emphasized the fact that God had made known His will to her at Mount Sinai. In the following paragraph (vss. 15-24) he warned her to avoid all idolatry. Notwithstanding her having the revelation of God, he foretold that the people would become self-willed and go in their own way. He therefore gave a prediction--one of the most fundamental of all prophecies relating to her checkered career (vss. 25-31)--that, when she would become settled and well-fixed in the land, she would forget God and turn to idols. When she would do this, Moses warned, God would scatter her among the nations where she would serve other gods¹. But finally, according to the forecast, when she is in tribulation "in the latter days," she will return to Jehovah her God and hearken to His voice. Then He will be merciful to her. In the last paragraph of this quotation (vss. 32-40) Moses emphasized the fact that God had not dealt with any nation as He had with her. He had, by miraculous power, delivered her from her severe bondage, and by "his presence" He had brought her out of Egypt. Thus, in this majestic discourse, the speaker called attention to the fact that she was about to enter the land, and that she was occupying a position among the nations unique in every respect.
Once more Moses warned his hearers to beware of the snares of idolatry, for in chapter 7 he urged them to exterminate completely the nations of Canaan when God delivered them up into their hands. To conduct this seemingly barbarous war was necessary because the Canaanites were steeped in idolatry and wickedness. To leave them in the land and to associate with them would mean the corruption of Israel. At the instructions of the Lord God Almighty, Israel was to exterminate these corrupt, heathen peoples. But, someone asks, was not this inhumane? Was it not unlike God? No! These people had sunk to the very depths of sin and degradation, as the people of the antediluvian world had done. Speaking metaphorically, the nations of Canaan were a part of the great body politic of the world of that day. Whenever any one member of the human body becomes affected with an incurable disease, which, if left alone, would spread to the entire organism, a surgical operation must be performed, and the affected part removed in order to save the life of the patient. These people--the nations of Canaan of Joshua's time--were a part of the body politic affected with an incurable disease, who if left would contaminate all with whom they came in contact. It therefore was an act of mercy on God's part to order the extermination of these degenerates, who had filled to overflowing the cup of their iniquity (Gen. 15:16).
Israel was again reminded of the fact that "thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut. 7:6). In order that the reader might the more easily see her unique position among the nations as granted her by God Almighty, I wish to quote Deuteronomy 7:1-16:
7 When Jehovah thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and shall cast out many nations before thee, the Hittite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 and when Jehovah thy God shall deliver them up before thee, and thou shalt smite them; then thou shalt utterly destroy them: 3 neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. 4 For he will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of Jehovah be kindled against you, and he will destroy thee quickly. 5 But thus shall ye deal with them: ye shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.
6 For thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for his own possession, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7 Jehovah did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all peoples: 8 but because Jehovah loveth you, and because he would keep the oath which he sware unto your fathers, hath Jehovah brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that Jehovah thy God, he is God, the faithful God, who keepeth covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations, 10 and repayeth them that hateth him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 11 Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command thee this day, to do them.
12 And it shall come to pass, because ye hearken to these ordinances, and keep and do them that Jehovah thy God will keep with thee the covenant and the lovingkindness which he sware unto thy fathers: 13 and he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; he will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy ground, Thy grain and thy new wine and thine oil, the increase of thy cattle and the young of thy flock, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee. 14 Thou shalt be blessed above all peoples: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. 15 And Jehovah will take away from thee all sickness; and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, will he put upon thee, but will lay them upon all them that hate thee. 16 And thou shalt consume all the peoples that Jehovah thy God shall deliver unto thee: thine eye shall not pity them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.
From this passage we learn that God loved Israel and chose her--not because she was a powerful people, not because of her goodness, not because of anything that she was, but because He loved the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--and had entered into a covenant with them. God therefore gave Palestine, which is the center of the earth (Ezek. 38:12), to her for a permanent possession. She was thus placed upon this small portion of the world--the bridge of the nations--in order that she might hold aloft the torch of the revelation of God to the nations of the earth.
Psalms 146-150 are supposed by some commentators to have been used at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, restored in the days of Zerubbabel, Joshua the high priest, Ezra, and Nehemiah. These commentators see in the following verses from Psalm 147 echoes of the restored community after the Babylonian captivity:
2 Jehovah doth build up Jerusalem;
He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.
3 He healeth the broken in heart,
And bindeth up their wounds.
13 For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates;
He hath blessed thy children within thee.
14 He maketh peace in thy borders;
He filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
If this supposition is correct, it is to be noted that the psalm goes far beyond such comparatively trivial matters as those which occurred at the restoration from Babylon. The inspired writer moves out into a very large circle of experiences and foretells a reconstruction period during which God will (at the conclusion of the great Tribulation) restore conditions upon the earth so that the glorious Kingdom Age might be possible. The psalmist foretells therefore God's regathering Israel, healing the broken-hearted, binding up their wounds, and building up Jerusalem to be the capital of the whole earth. In verses 15-18 he speaks of the Lord's activity throughout the realm of nature and follows his statements with these most arresting words:
19 He showeth his word unto Jacob,
His statutes and his ordinances unto Israel.
20 He hath not dealt so with any nation;
And as for his ordinances, they have not known them.
Praise ye Jehovah (Ps. 147:19,20).
The original, translated "He showeth" his word, is not the rendering of a finite verb, but rather that of a participle, which form indicates continuous action. This fact shows that at a future time God will make Israel know the significance of the revelation which He has already made to her, and which was first delivered by Moses at Mount Sinai, being supplemented by subsequent divine disclosures given by the prophets of Israel and finally completed by the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles of the New Testament Era.
Israel as a race has realized her high calling and has most jealously and faithfully preserved the sacred deposit of the revelation of God which He entrusted to her. It would take untold volumes to record the faithfulness and loyalty of myriad's of the house of Israel who through devotion to God labored and suffered as no other nation has ever done in order to preserve intact the revelation entrusted to her². The Gentiles will never be able to pay in full the debt of gratitude which they owe to this people because of their having preserved and transmitted to them the Oracles of the Living God. They are now partaking of the spiritual things of Israel.
¹ The people of Israel were cured of idolatry in its crudest aspects at the time of the Babylonian captivity. It seems never to have lifted its head among them after that merited stroke of judgment. They have, however, gone after things that have been the downfall of many. A strong traditionalism and an accompanying superstition have gripped great sections of the people from time to time. In modern times, however, a certain portion of the nation has departed from the faith of their fathers and has turned to a superficial rationalism, which parades under the guise of scientific research and scholarship. These Jews no longer hold to a belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures and the supernatural origin of their religion. They have accepted, without thorough scientific investigation, the unsupported and unproved theories of German rationalism served to them by their gentile friends, under the high-sounding but false claims of "the assured results of scientific criticism." To this modern Baal of superficial scholarship and rationalistic science many are now bowing the knee.
² The annals of Jewish History are replete with accounts of the heroic deeds of the faithful in their efforts to keep intact their religion and to preserve the revelation of God. An outstanding example is found in the struggle of the first of the Maccabean princes who gave up their lives rather than be disloyal to their God and the trust reposed in them and to adopt Greek culture. The copyists of the law have always been meticulous in their work. They have spared no means or efforts to preserve the text in its purity.
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