Questions About God

Title: Questions About God
Text: Isaiah 59:2, James 4:8, Proverbs 25:2, Amos 3:7, Hebrews 1:1-2
Time: October 5th, 2012

It’s my experience in dealing with people in connection with church that there are many questions about God that people wonder about but don’t ask. Life has a way of keeping us so busy that questions about God that pop into our minds from time to time get postponed indefinitely by the many activities of daily living. We don’t hear a lot of people asking a lot of questions about God because most people don’t ask a lot of questions about God – at least not out loud in public. But in private lots of people have lots of questions about God. So with that in mind I’d like to take a few minutes to ask and then answer some questions people ask about God. What makes me an authority on the topic of God? Only that I’ve made it my lifetime study to know God’s Word, the Bible, where almost all the answers to our questions about God can be found. God knows that we need answers to the fundamental questions of life, so he gives us those answers in the Bible. Some of the answers he gives are straightforward and direct, while others are indirect and take a little digging to find. Sometimes we don’t have any direct or indirect answers to questions we might ask in God’s Word, so in those cases we must move forward cautiously with informed opinion based on general and specific things taught in the Bible. This is different from regular human opinion in that it’s based on the Bible, although no chapter and verse is possible to quote. And still sometimes we have to simply admit that we don’t have an answer to some questions. For example, to the question, “What was God doing before he created the universe?” We just don’t have a definitive answer in the Bible, so all we can do is speculate and realize that even though we don’t know for sure the answer, some answers appear better than others. But thankfully, most of the really big questions we ask about God are answered in the Bible, or at least hinted at an answer. So today I’d like to cover three questions about God that people often ask. First, why does God seem to remain behind the scenes so much? Second, Why does God speak primarily through select people? Third, Why does God speak primarily during certain time period? These are just a few questions that are asked about God today. Again, we probably don’t hear people asking these questions every day, but you can bet that from time to time people are thinking these questions. I hope that my attempts at answer them help you, in some way, draw closer to God in your own life. I’ve found that usually when we raise questions about God but then don’t follow up in getting answers that this can slowly but surely hurt our relationship with God. Only when we raise questions and then search out answers can we draw closer to God. Let’s not let any questions about God keep us from God. Let’s get answers that can help us in our journey in life with God.

First, why does God seemingly remain behind the scenes so much in life? Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” James 4:8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a mater is the glory of kings.” We must all admit that at times, even often, it seems as if God is removed from the daily activities of our lives. Where is God? He’s not visible. We can’t hear his voice. We often can’t feel his presence in our lives. Just where is God? Why does he seem to position himself largely behind the scenes of life on earth? Why is this his MO – mode of Operation? Wouldn’t it be better if he came out and showed himself visibly for all to see? Shouldn’t he be more active in a tangible way, so that we could see and believe with more faith? Or even if he must be mostly behind the scenes for whatever reason, couldn’t he appear at least a few times during the course of everyone’s lifetime in order to comfort and encourage his people on earth, as well as confirm his presence to unbelievers? There is no question that God’s normal mode is to be unseen, behind the scenes. But why? We must remember that in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God wasn’t behind the scenes, he wasn’t unseen and unheard; he was present and interacted with Adam and Eve directly. Recall the early chapters of Genesis where it describes God walking in the Garden, calling out to Adam and Eve, and speaking directly with them. But as we all know our original human parents fell into sin by disobeying God. This broke their direct relationship with God. Isaiah’s quote, “But your iniquities have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you,” makes sense in the light of man’s fall into sin. We, as children of Adam and Eve, live outside of the Garden of Eden; we live with a sin nature due to our first parents’ original sin. We are separated from God by our sins. When we give our hearts back to God through faith in Jesus Christ we are restored spiritually, but it takes time in order to “work out our salvation” – Philippians 2:12 or, in other words, to work out the full implications of being saved. After we are saved, we have access to God, but will we utilize that full access to God? That’s why James urges, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” In other words, we must learn how to draw closer and closer to God, through prayer, through reading and studying the Bible, through spiritual reflection, through church, and so forth. So as we draw closer to God we’ll experience more of his presence and he won’t seem so distant. And then, also, there’s the point that God wants to train us to mature us by making us exercise our faith in order to live the Christian life. As Proverbs says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.” Why would God conceal something, even seemingly himself from us? Perhaps to draw out the best in us of pursuing him and the things that matter most in life. It won’t always be this way, God being behind the scenes. In heaven, in the next life, we’ll be in the direct presence of God. But for now we are called to live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). These are a few reasons why God seems so distant at times.

Second, why does God primarily reveal himself through select people, the prophets? Amos 3:7, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” There’s no question that God has revealed his Word and Will primarily through the prophets of the Old and New Testaments. For example, consider how God used the great man Moses to reveal his words and will to the people of Israel and to us today through the pages of the Bible. David was also a man used of God to deliver his Word, particularly in the Psalms; but so where all the other prophets of the Old Testament. It’s the same with the prophets who wrote in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul comes immediately to mind, although we usually refer to him as an “apostle” rather than a prophet. He was, in essence, a prophet, because God’s Word came through him. There’s no question that it’s God chosen method of revealing his will by selecting particular men to receive and then proclaim his word. Listen to Jeremiah the prophet’s calling, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations,’” Jeremiah 1:4-5. Now the question is, “Why doesn’t God usually reveal himself directly to people instead of using the indirect means of prophets?” Another related question is, “Why even have a Bible filled with the revelation of God through the prophets? Why not just reveal directly to everyone one-to-one?” I think the reason God uses prophets to reveal his will primarily is for the sake order and clarity. For the sake of order, because what would happen if God didn’t use the prophetic writings of the Bible to reveal his will to people? We’d probably have as many different so-called revelations of God as there are people. In other words, everyone would be claiming to know God’s will even though their understanding of God’s will differed. It would be chaos. So God speaks primarily through prophets to make sure that what he says gets to people in an orderly way. Consider the Christian faith. We all read from the same prophetic writings, the Bible. Now we all know that even reading from the same Bible we still encounter differences of interpretation. Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t even have a common Bible. It would be chaos; everyone claiming this or that revelation, some accurate, some in error due to human sin and corruption. So God chooses selected men, the prophets, to reveal his will for everyone. There is also clarity in this method. God can reveal his sure and clear word through prophets. For example, if we carefully read and study the prophetic writings of the Bible we can gain clarity in better understanding the will of God. But if everyone were claiming God special revelation it would be chaos. That’s not to say God doesn’t reveal himself personally to individuals; he does. But the basic and essential revelation of God comes through the prophets. It’s objective truth for all of us to believe and obey. In this we can see the wisdom in God’s method of revealing his will to the prophets.

Third, why does God speak primarily during certain time period? Hebrews 1:1-2, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” There’s no question that in addition to God choosing certain select men called prophets to reveal his will to mankind, he also select certain time periods to reveal himself to humanity. In other words, God isn’t revealing himself, or giving us special revelation, at all times with the same frequency. There are times when God is pouring forth revelation of his will to men and women through the prophets, but there are other times when he seemingly isn’t revealing much at all. For example, in 1 Samuel 3:1 we read, “The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” Evidently, during this Old Testament time period God was not revealing himself as much as, say, during the time of the Exodus and Moses. This is God’s typical method of revealing himself – he uses special times to reveal special things to mankind, while other times he reveals less or is nearly silent. Now it is clear from the Bible that God is never completely silent, because he continues to speak individually to people, his children, in respect to their own personal issues. But as far as universal truths that pertain to all people and all times, there are definitely times when revelation is abundant and times when it isn’t. Now the question is, “Why doesn’t God reveal himself always in the same way, in the same measure, instead of to select individuals at select times?” Now in answering this question, we could include the previous answers – in order to provide us with order and clarity. But there’s another good reason why he gives us revelation during certain times and not during other times. The reason is that it usually takes time for us humans to grasp and understand what has been revealed previously. In other words, in respect to revelation from God, it takes time to digest the truths that God speaks. We need time to assimilate the new truths after they are revealed to us through the prophets. Consider, for example, the New Testament revelation. In the short period of time – roughly during the 1st Century A.D. – the New Testament revelation was completed. But just having God’s new revelation doesn’t mean we understand it all, or can comprehend it fully. So it takes many, many years to even get a basic grasp of what God is saying and how we should respond in faith with our lives. So we need God to space his revelations out enough so that we can digest it; otherwise we’d be overloaded.

I don’t think mankind could handle revelation from God – I mean content from heaven, from God – in a steady, constant stream. I don’t think that would work for us humans. We definitely need time to listen to what God is saying and understand what is being said. We need time to assimilate the revelation and apply it to our lives. Besides, can you imagine the size of the Bible if God had continuously revealed his will to mankind at the same rate as he did during select, special time periods? You think the Bible is a big book now? It is a pretty big book, but imagine how big it would be if God were continuously speaking forth his Word to prophets 24/7. It would be a library of books by now – and growing every day! How would we digest such a massive amount of information? How could we begin to assimilate such a large amount of revelation into our Christian lives? We couldn’t. So we see how wise God is in limiting the amount of revelation he gives us, as well as limiting the times he reveals revelation to us. Now again, I don’t mean to say that God isn’t constantly revealing himself personally to his children; he is revealing himself. But this kind of personal revelation is for individuals primarily, not for the whole church or for all of mankind. Personal, private revelation from God can occur as often as we pray or read our Bibles in private devotions. But universal, public and general revelation from God comes through select men, the prophets, during select times, such as the New Testament period of the 1st Century, in order to give us just exactly enough revelation that we need, in just the right quantity we need it. We need to remember that there are plenty of things that God chooses not to reveal, for our own good. There are things that would clutter our minds, or confuse us. There are things that God will reveal, but not yet. The point is that we have a Bible filled with revelation from God that we still need to learn and apply in our lives. I’ve been studying the Bible now over thirty years and I’m still just a student in need of instruction. Yes, I teach the Bible to others, but I wouldn’t kid myself into thinking that I’ve learned it all. We don’t know why God hasn’t revealed more of his will to us, but we must trust that he’s revealed just enough – not too little, not too much. We must also trust the timing of his revelations and the messengers to whom he reveals his truths. Finally, we need to trust that his present “behind the scenes” mode of operation is best for us. I imagine it isn’t easy being Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient; or in other words, all-powerful, all-present, and all knowing. I’m sure he has to be careful in his interactions with his creations. A full vision of God might overwhelm us, intimidate, or even destroy us. We must trust that for whatever reasons it’s best that God operate behind the scenes and less outright visible. Knowing that someday, in the next life, it won’t be this way and we’ll see God in all his glory; this makes the present state not so bad.

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