THE GOD OF REVELATION
I. THE EXISTENCE OF GOD ASSUMED IN THE SCRIPTURES
In Chapter I we took a hurried glance at the material universe about us, considered some of the evidences found on every hand, and came to the conclusion that there is a Supreme God in whom we live, move, and have our continual being. In Chapter II we learned from indisputable proof that the Scriptures--the Old and New Testaments--constitute the revelation of the Almighty to the human family. We now shall turn to these authentic, infallible records and learn something about this God whom we see behind nature and who supports it.
Several years ago I heard an atheist making a speech in a public park of a certain city. During his haranguing he challenged his hearers to give him a mathematical demonstration of the existence of God. He was unreasonable in asking the impossible. God is a Spirit, according to revelation, and cannot be presented by a mathematical formula. Even if what he had asked could have been done with absolute exactness, this man would not have accepted the evidence; for he was not in any frame of mind to look at facts in an impartial manner. As we have already seen, God's existence and His perfections are reflected throughout the entire created universe. Those who have eyes to see can discern His presence and power. If they cannot see this evidence, it is impossible to convince them with any other kind of reasoning. The prophets, knowing this, never attempted to give any proof or demonstration of God's existence. Thus, in Genesis 1:1, we read, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Nothing is here said about His existence, for it is assumed. No arguments are suggested. The sacred writer simply presumed that his readers had intelligence enough to look at the world about them and to come to the conclusion that there is a God, since he made the marvelous statement that He is the one who brought into existence the heavens and the earth.
Men, as we have already seen, refused to retain the Lord in their knowledge. They then became blind and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of various animals and men. Under these conditions it was natural for them to lose the proper idea of the Almighty. It became necessary, therefore, for the prophets and the psalmists to correct erroneous notions concerning God. For instance, in Psalm 94 we have this statement:
Consider, ye brutish among the people;
And ye fools, when will ye be wise?
He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?
He that formed the eye, shall he not see?
He that chastiseth the nations, shall not he correct,
Even he that teacheth man knowledge?
Jehovah knoweth the thoughts of man,
That they are vanity (vss. 8-11).
II. A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE CHARACTER OF GOD
As we see from the context, this psalm is a prediction regarding Israel in the time of her great trouble in the future--the day of Jacob's trouble (Jer. 30:7). At that time the nations, having lost all conception of God and fear of Him, will persecute the Jewish people as they have never done throughout all the centuries. Their attention will be called to the fact that the Hebrew people are the chosen race of the Almighty, that they are still beloved for the fathers' sake, and that God will punish those who mistreat them. In unbelief and hardness of heart these persecutors of the Jews will say: "Jehovah will not see, Neither will the God of Jacob consider." Those making these assertions will have distorted ideas concerning God. Some of them at least will be atheists since they will refuse to listen to the warning given concerning their persecuting the Jews. In a sarcastic manner they will say that the God of the Jews cannot see, and that He will not consider--even though He might perchance have some intelligence and know what is going on. In other words, these will say that God is through with the Jew and that He will not take offense at any ill-treatment of them.
In order to correct these misconceptions, the psalmist asked the questions given in the quotation above. He who formed the eye certainly understands the laws of optics; otherwise He could never have constructed it so that it can see an observe. Moreover, He who constructed the ear understands the principles connected with sound and, of course, can hear and know what is going on.
The writer also called attention to the fact that this God whose people they will be persecuting is the one who deals with the nations and who will chasten and correct them for all their sins.
Frequently, even the Israelites placed Jehovah their God on a level with the gods of the nations. In order to correct this misconception, the psalmist (Ps. 135) called upon them to praise God because He is good, because it is pleasant, because He has chosen Jacob unto Himself, and because their God is above all gods, who does whatever He pleases--but He pleases to do only that which is right--in the heavens, upon the earth, in the seas, and in all deeps. He also called upon them to praise Him because it is He who will eventually judge His people.
The same writer followed this exhortation by contrasting this omnipotent God of Israel with the idols with which they were familiar. The nations make their gods of stocks and stones, the works of their own hands. They have mouths but they cannot speak. They have eyes but they cannot see. They have ears but they cannot hear. They are still stocks and stones. But the God of Israel is not so. As stated above, the prophets constantly warned Israel against idolatry and corrected her concerning her ideas regarding the true God. (For further study on this point see Jeremiah 10:1-10.)
6 And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth; 7 keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children upon the third and upon the fourth generation (Ex. 34:6,7).
This passage is one of the most fundamental of all sections of Scripture, in that it gives to us God's own statement relative to His character. From this we learn that He is the self-existing One--Jehovah, the one who causes all things to come into being. He is the preserver of all things; for it is in Him that men live, move, and have their continual being.
He is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth; keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." These words give us some faint idea concerning the great love and grace of Almighty God. Unlike men, He is very slow to anger. His patience with His creatures is almost infinite. Humanly speaking, He worries along with men in their sin and ignorance in order that He might lead them to repentance and faith, and to fellowship with Himself. The psalmist, in speaking of the loving-kindness of God, said that it is "great above the heavens; and thy truth reacheth unto the skies" (Ps. 108:4). The Lord is very eager to forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin for "He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14).
While the Lord is abundant in loving-kindness, grace, mercy, and truth, He will by no means clear the guilty. He is a righteous God. Concerning Him David declared; "God is a righteous judge, Yea, a God that hath indignation every day" (Ps. 7:11). Moses and the prophets constantly affirmed that God is righteous and just in all His dealings with men. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). This rhetorical question demands an answer in the affirmative.
King David was brought under deep conviction of sin by the message of Nathan the prophet (II Sam., chap. 12). The penitent sovereign prayed the petition found in Psalm 51:1-17. He pleaded for mercy and forgiveness. Thinking of himself and his sinful condition in terms of a leper, he asked the Almighty to "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity. And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest." The guilty, yet penitent, king saw the matter of his sin from God's standpoint. His mind being illuminated by the Spirit, he prayed this petition. He realized that sin in any form is repulsive and obnoxious to the Almighty. To him, thus inspired, and to God sin is moral and spiritual leprosy--an incurable disease as far as man is concerned. Convicted of his sin against Uriah as being against God in reality, he pleaded for mercy and for cleansing in order that God--the loving, just, righteous Judge--might be justified at the time of His justifying and forgiving him, a penitent sinner.
Men must recognize that all sin is ultimately against God. The Prophet Samuel stated that he would not sin against the Almighty in failing to pray for Israel notwithstanding the fact that she had rejected Him in her insistent demand that she have a king to rule over her (I Sam. 12:23). Daniel the prophet realized that a failure to do that which is written in the word of God was transgression and sin: "Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even turning aside, that they should not obey thy voice: therefore hath the curse been poured out upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God: for we have sinned against him" (Dan. 9:11). David realized that there are secret sins. "Who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults" (Ps. 19:12). By this rhetorical question the psalmist meant that men and woman may be guilty of wrong even though unaware of their sins and failures, both in moral and spiritual matters. (See Psalm 14 and 53 and many other passages in this connection.)
God does forgive sins, but He must be righteous in doing so. No man can do wrong with impunity. As we shall see in the chapter on the atonement, the loving, righteous God must be just when He forgives sin. His righteousness and His sense of justice demand exaction of penalty for every transgression and disobedience. How then can God forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin? The answer is that He can do that only by means of the atonement which He has graciously provided for those who will accept the same.
Moreover, God declares that He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation. This is an inflexible law. There are no exceptions. Even though the Lord does forgive those who accept His plan of redemption, nevertheless He visits the iniquities of the fathers upon their descendants to the third and fourth generation. As an example of this principle, note the case of King David (II Sam; chap. 12). Though he was forgiven his atrocious sins, nevertheless the Lord visited his iniquities upon him and upon his descendants¹. Read all of II Samuel, chapter 12, especially verses 10-12.
Thus, in this passage we see that the Almighty is the creator and preserver of the universe, that He is kind, gracious, and forgiving, and that He always punishes men for their sins--even though they accept the provisions of the atonement and are brought into fellowship with Him. Solomon declared that God chastens everyone whom He loves. "My son, despise not the chastening of Jehovah; Neither be weary of his reproof: For whom Jehovah loveth he reproveth, Even as a father the son in whom he delighteth" (Prov. 3:11,12). Let no man be deceived for God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Gal. 6:7).
There is not such thing as one's concealing from the Almighty any act or thought. Men are walking and working under the eye of the Almighty every moment of their lives. As proof of this proposition read carefully Psalm 139. God knows all about men and will deal with them either upon the basis of love and mercy or upon that of strict righteousness and justice. As stated above, man may accept God's gracious provision of atonement and forgiveness and may be brought into the closest fellowship with his Maker during life; and, when his earthly pilgrimage is over enter into the joys of his Lord eternally. Nevertheless, as long as the child of God is here upon earth, the Lord will deal with him as with a son and will punish him for his misdemeanors, sins, and transgressions.
On the other hand, those who will not accept His love, mercy, and grace but who stubbornly refuse to yield their wills to Him and accept the atonement provided for them will be dealt with upon the basis of strict justice and righteousness in the light of their unregenerate condition, thoughts, deeds, and actions.
Another view of the Almighty is found in II Chronicles 20:5-13:
5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of Jehovah, before the new court; 6 and he said, O Jehovah, the God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and art not thou ruler over the kingdoms of the nations? and in thy hand is power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee. 7 Didst not thou, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and give it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever? 8 And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying, 9 If evil come upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house, and before thee (for thy name is in this house), and cry unto thee in our affliction, and thou wilt hear and save. 10 And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned aside from them, and destroyed them not; 11 behold, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit. 12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us: neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. 13 And all Judah stood before Jehovah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
Figuratively speaking, this picture of the Almighty presents Him sitting as sovereign upon the throne of the universe and governing and controlling the nations of the world: "... and art not thou ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? and in thy hand is power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee." The Lord God Jehovah is the one who brings the counsel of the nations to naught and frustrates their plans and purposes. On the other hand, it is He whose counsel stands fast and His purposes, throughout all generations (Ps. 33:10,11).
Jehoshaphat, whose prayer we are now studying, recognized that it was God who drove the Canaanites out of the land and who established Israel therein (vss. 7,8). This same thought is set forth in Psalm 44:1-3:
Again, this same historical fact appears in Psalm 135:9-12:
We have heard with our ears, O God,
Our fathers have told us,
What work thou didst in their days,
In the days of Old.
- Thou didst drive out the nations with thy hand;
But them thou didst plant;
Thou didst afflict the peoples;
But them thou didst spread abroad.
For they gat not the land in possession by their own sword,
Neither did their own arm save them;
But thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance,
Because thou wast favorable unto them.
Who sent signs and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt,
Upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants;
Who smote many nations,
And slew mighty kings,
Sihon king of the Amorites,
And Og king of Bashan,
And all the kingdoms of Canaan,
And gave their land for a heritage,
A heritage unto Israel his people.
In the "national anthem" of Israel Moses declared the same general truth as he set forth the Almighty's dealings with Israel from the time of her deliverance from Egyptian bondage throughout the centuries until she shall again be established in her own land.
King Jehoshaphat realized that God is faithful and will keep all his promises--to the very letter. This is seen in verse 9 of our passage.
The king was confident that God was able and would meet the threat of the invasion which was then in progress. He realized that it was a very unjust and unrighteous act on the part of Ammon, Moab, and Edom.
Moreover, he was aware of the fact that God is the deciding factor. Numerically, Israel was inferior to the oncoming host; but Jehoshaphat realized that God is the one who turns the tide of battle and who brings victory or permits defeat of nations at war. Thus in this picture we see God upon His throne, overruling in the affairs of nations and bringing victory to those who are in fellowship with Him and who trust Him implicitly for deliverance.
We see in Jeremiah 32:16-25 another picture, figuratively speaking, of the Almighty as the creator of the universe and as the sovereign God who is especially interested in His people Israel.
16 Now after I had delivered the deed of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Meriah, I prayed unto Jehovah, saying 17 Ah Lord Jehovah! behold, thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and by thine outstretched arm; there is nothing too hard for thee, 18 who showest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them; the great, the mighty God, Jehovah of hosts is his name; 19 great in counsel, and mighty in work; whose eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings; 20 who didst set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, both in Israel and among other men; and madest thee a name, as at this day; 21 and didst bring forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terror; 22 and gavest them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; 23 and they came in and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them. 24 Behold, the mounds, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence; and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it. 25 And thou hast said unto me, O Lord Jehovah, Buy thee the field for money, and call witnesses; whereas the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.
In verse 17 of this quotation God is set forth as the omnipotent creator of the universe. God is unlimited in strength and power: nothing is too difficult for Him. In verse 18 we have a statement regarding His character, which doubtless is borrowed from Exodus 34:6,7, and which speaks of Him as "the great, the mighty God, Jehovah of hosts is his name; great in counsel, and mighty in work ..." His knowledge and wisdom are infinite and His might and power unlimited. He can therefore deal with any situation that may arise.
In verse 19 appears a statement relative to His knowledge of every man, woman, and child, and of His dealing with each one individually. The eyes of Jehovah "are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." The Lord's looking upon men, knowing what they do, and dealing with them accordingly are likewise set forth in Psalm 33:13-15. According to Psalm 11:5 God permits various experiences to come into the lives of individuals as well as of nations in order to prove them. By so doing He punishes the wicked and purges sin from the lives of those who are obedient to Him.
In verses 20 and 21 of our passage, Jeremiah calls attention to God's having delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage and to the mighty signs and wonders which He wrought at that time. The Almighty's dealings with Israel nationally are set forth in a most graphic manner in Psalms 78, 105, and 106.
From verse 22 and the first part of Jeremiah, chapter 33, we see that God gave Israel the land of Palestine. This of course was granted to her in fulfillment of the promise which the Almighty made to Abraham, recorded in Genesis, chapter 12. Though Israel has been cast out of the Land and has been scattered among the nations for nineteen hundred years, she still holds the title deed to the Land of Promise. In the Lord's own good time He will give it to His people. Her special deed to the Land is stored away in the archives of heaven. When the hour strikes for her to return to the Land and take possession of it, the Almighty will open the way and deliver it to His Chosen People.
In verse 23 Jeremiah interpreted the coming of the King of Babylon with his armies against Jerusalem to fight as being the consequence of Israel's disobedience to her God. This is in perfect accord with early revelations which the Lord made to Israel through Moses. He warned her that in the event of disobedience he would send other powers against her and severely punish her for her sins. At the time of which Jeremiah was speaking, Jerusalem was being besieged by the Babylonians. The fate of the city was clearly in evidence. The prophet knew that the end was near.
Nevertheless, the Lord told him to buy a certain piece of land at Anathoth from one of his relatives. He was perplexed over this situation: hence he prayed this marvelous petition which we have been studying, and in which is set forth this priceless sketch of the Almighty.
In answer to Jeremiah's petition the Lord instructed him to purchase the parcel of ground because He would bring Israel back into the Land at the end of the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity. Israel's religion, unlike pagan systems of worship, looked forward to a golden era in the future, when the promises of God will be fully realized by those to whom the Lord makes them. This occasion, however, called forth this marvelous presentation of Jehovah's character.
Another glimpse of the Almighty is seen in Nahum 1:2-8:
2 Jehovah is a jealous God and avengeth; Jehovah avengeth and is full of wrath; Jehovah taketh vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. 3 Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means clear the guilty: Jehovah hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, an Carmel; and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. 5 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt; and the earth is upheaved at his presence yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. 6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by him. 7 Jehovah is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble: and he knoweth them that take refuge in him. 8 But with an over-running flood he will make a full end of her place, and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
From verse 2 of this quotation we see that God is a jealous God who avenges with indignation and wrath all those who are His enemies. Our God is a jealous God as He declared. We must not interpret this characteristic in terms of man's sinful, avenging jealousy. God's jealousy is pure and holy. He has a right to demand of man, His creature, who is utterly dependent upon Him, the affections of his heart. No man has any right to make God secondary in his life and to transfer his affections to another. For man to do so is to incur the pure jealousy of our God. Though He is a God of love, of kindliness, and of gentleness, He is a God of wrath and indignation and will pour out His righteous vengeance upon His inveterate enemies.
The grace and the gentleness of our God are set forth in verse 3, but with them is linked the statement that the Lord will in no wise clear the guilty. This language is, as we have already seen, drawn from the original passage which we have just studied (Exodus 34:6,7).
God's complete control of the elements and the material universe is presented in verses 3-5. This is what one should expect since the Lord is the one who has created the entire universe. Men very frequently speak of nature as if it had its own power and might. This is not true. Our God is the God of nature. By Him it was created, is being preserved every moment, and will be controlled as it continues to exist.
In order to enforce the lesson of the greatness and severity of God's indignation and wrath, the prophet asked, "Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?" By these rhetorical questions he meant to affirm that there is no being in the entire universe who can withstand God.
The Lord is good and is a stronghold in time of trouble. To David He was a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a refuge, a shield, and a horn of salvation. He will be all of these to anyone who will take refuge in Him. He is eager at all times to see the prodigal returning to the Father's house. He will meet him with outstretched arms, kill the fatted calf, put the best robe upon him, and a ring upon his finger (Luke 15:11-32).
On the other hand, those who do not accept the peace which He offers and the salvation which He has provided but who, as has already been suggested, set their wills against God in determined opposition--these, His enemies--He will pursue into darkness, and He will make a full end of their place. "But with an over-running flood he will make a full end of her place, and will pursue his enemies into darkness" (Nah. 1:8). From this and many other scriptures we learn that God is the one with whom every individual in the entire world must have dealings sooner or later. Wisdom would dictate to each person to accept the peace and pardon, the life and joy, which He offers through the atonement that He has provided and that is described in Chapter XII of this book.
In this section we have been examining four special passages descriptive of the Almighty which were written by Moses and the prophets. This discussion would not be complete without a glance at the greatest view of the Almighty which is to be found in the volume of Holy Writ. This likeness is to be found in the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In fulfillment of prediction, Jesus of Nazareth, who we shall see, who was none other than one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, entered the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth. The account of His life and labors is found in these four records of the gospel. The reader is here urged to examine these four accounts of God, the Messiah, who thus came and dwelt among us for a few short years, and who purchased man's redemption by His own atoning blood as we see.
On the last night before His crucifixion, our Lord was asked by Philip to be shown the Father. In reply He said "Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how sayest thou, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9). One will therefore see when one studies the four records of the gospel the life-sized portrait of the Eternal God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
May I urge you my friend, as you stand in the presence of this fourfold presentation of our Lord that you ask God to open your eyes in order that you might see the truth as it is to the end that you might conform your life to the will of God and be blessed both in time and in eternity?
¹ History and medical science corroborate this statement.
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