On Knowing God: What About the Rest of the Bible?

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WE ARE NOT SURPRISED that the Bible opens up with the story of creation. Genesis is the book of beginnings. It is the beginning of God’s revelation to humanity; it discloses the start of the physical universe and the origin of all living matter. The creation account establishes family and societal principles, and reveals the foundations of justice and right living. All this is vital to the orderly development of civilization.

But to an even greater degree, the story of creation is a religious document. It is not a scientific manual to be used to spar with a scientific community that may be agnostic. The nature of God is unveiled in the creation story so we can accurately guide our living. It shows us what is eternal and what is passing. The plan, the order and the will of God are revealed in the creation account so we can focus our energies, our intellect and our affections on the right objectives. In reality, the creation story is a universal compass for living.

If the creation story gets us off on the right foot, what does the rest of Scripture say about creation? Perhaps it is just an interesting folk tale and that’s it! Maybe it’s a nice story to read to children when we are putting them to bed. Yes, that would be good, but for a different reason. It is not a bedtime story to lull kids to sleep. It is something profound that should make us sit up and take notice. Right away God is telling us something that is critically important. He wants our attention drawn to the source of light and life, to the everlasting Creator, so we can understand right living.

Isn’t that all obvious, you may ask? It sure is, but the obvious often gets overlooked. For example, when is the last time that you heard a serious talk, lecture, sermon or even a “gab” session about creation? It just doesn’t get the headline attention that sports, politics, business, etc., gets these days. Occasionally, there may be a debate about creation, perhaps in a classroom setting, but the intention there is to win the debate—not to change our way of living. And that is just what the creation story is about. It has to do with living a life that is influenced and guided by ultimate values.

The Redemption Connection
We have touched on the redemption connection between the creation story and Scripture. This is brought out most clearly in the opening verses of John’s Gospel and in the Isaiah verses that lead into the great passages that speak of God’s Servant. Specifically, these are passages from Isaiah 40 and 42 and John chapter 1.
Isaiah and John are not writing on the tragic death of a “good” person—it’s about the rescue of the human race. Of what value would the death of a “good” person be to redeem all mankind? There are many examples of noble and heroic people who have given themselves to a great cause or lost their lives on a dangerous mission. Yet, these courageous actions have not been identified as redeeming mankind. But as you read further into John (chapters 3, 10) and Isaiah (chapters 52, 53) you catch the redemption connection.

The Servant in Isaiah’s writing and the Son in John’s gospel are different from all other rescuers: The Servant and the Son are one—the Creator of heaven and earth. Jesus was in the beginning before the “Big Bang.” No matter when you place the start of creation, it makes no difference. The Son of God was there. Nothing that was made was made without him and in him was the life of everything that is alive. That fact alone qualifies the Son to decide how mankind would be redeemed after Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.

We understand from science that without the introduction of new life, the entire universe and all life will end in death. Oh, you say, that won’t happen for another 100 million years or so for planet earth. No, my friend, it will happen for you and me within this century. Death will visit all who are reading these words sooner than we would like.

But the Creator of life, the Son of God, has given us a plan to make life everlasting possible for everyone. That is what this book is about: Knowing God in a way that connects you to his life that will never end. We’ll read about that incredible possibility in a later chapter. In the meantime, let’s check how other Scriptures confirm and make use of the truth about the Creator we have already seen in Genesis.

The Reconciliation Plan
In a world overflowing with hatred, war, terrorism and anarchy, is there anything on the radar screen that looks hopeful? Is there something out there that will bring peace to our troubled planet? Is there anyone who can quiet the anxiety of our souls? These issues take us back to some basic questions we have been looking at. If the Creator knew beforehand all of the death and violence we see today, how could he let this happen? If he cannot stop the mayhem, can he be God? In another form, this is called “the problem of evil.” That is, if God is good, how can he permit evil? If God is almighty, why does he not end evil?

We’ll restate the answer differently from our earlier conversation. The Creator God does end all evil, forever. The mystery of creation is that it did not take place over night. Not until the end will we fully see the Creator’s plan and design for mankind. As one of those “Yogi” sayings we like to use reminds us, “It’s not over ‘till it’s over!” The creation story makes possible the reality of the end of evil. God began with a world that was “good.” It will end up there because he has told us that is his plan.

In the church where I worship, the pastor likes to use a phrase that we can apply here: “Changing the World, One Heart at a Time.” Reconciliation begins where the last section ended: Redemption, one person at a time. The New Testament’s foremost church planter, Paul, put it this way, “For he (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” God brings us into the circle of love that he shares with the Spirit and the Son. He does that through the sacrifice of his Son.

“He (the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the first born from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Colossians 1:13-18.

As the author of all that exists, the Creator is the Supreme Ruler. That’s true for the church and it’s true for all other authority and dominion. But we don’t see global control by the Creator in our time. When does that happen? As we’ll see, that day is coming. Paul continues, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (the Son), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 3:19, 20).

God’s Invitation
It takes the power of an infinite sacrifice to bring worldwide reconciliation. Heroic martyrs can’t save the world. It takes God’s personal intervention. Those who willingly step into the circle of his love can experience being at peace with God. That’s the idea of the book written by Evangelist Billy Graham, Peace With God. It is God’s will that none should perish, but that all come to be reconciled with him through repentance, as the Apostle Peter writes (II Peter 3:9). Each and every day, individuals are being reconciled to God—peace is breaking out where war existed—by accepting the sacrifice of the Son of God.

The truth is, however, that not all will receive reconciliation—some will die in rebellion. Even as he prepared to be the reconciling sacrifice for the world, Jesus knew that not everyone one would accept the offer. (See Matthew 23, 24). God’s heart is that all should come into relationship with him. Here’s how the Prophet Isaiah expressed God’s open arms to all of mankind. “You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord have created it.”

“This is what the Lord says—the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: ‘Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.’
“For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, “Seek me in vain.” I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.’
“ ‘Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked.’ ” (Isaiah 45:8, 11, 12, 18, 19, 22).

And what is it that this Creator God has declared—the one who designed and performed and offered his salvation “to the ends of the earth”? To the reconciled and to the rebellious he declares, “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.’ All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.” (Isaiah 45:23, 24). This is the time when all creation will come under the authority of the Creator.

It is because God is Creator that his words of invitation and warning are to be taken with all seriousness. The reconciliation the Creator offers is generous; the failure to respond should sound an alarm in our souls. The same words of consolation for Israel are for us today. “But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’ ” (Isaiah 43:1). My friend, God has called you by name. Have you responded? You are his by creation; you can become his forever by redemption. The invitation is open.

Creation Supports What God Has Said
The Scriptures also declare that God’s promises are reliable because of who he is: Creator. “My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.” “By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked.” That’s the foundation on which God’s promises are confirmed. Were he an international celebrity, a charismatic world leader, a great philanthropist or a humble servant to the poor, none of those tributes would certify the promises we read in the Bible. But when he says, “In the beginning, I created the heavens and the earth,” we can be certain about what he has promised.

Beyond God’s activity in the beginning and his bringing all of history to a predetermined conclusion, the Bible connects creation to our living and experience right now. Why is creation important to how I live my life? Should what happened at the beginning of time be relevant during my time? As we’ll soon see, those who authored the Bible saw in creation the nature of God and the way that humankind could enter into relationship with him. It begins with God’s care for us. Let’s read through some of these promises to verify this claim.

God’s Care
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’?

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:25-28).

For those who have children, you understand how weary a parent can be by the end of the day. Isaiah says God’s care and attention to our needs is tireless. He doesn’t have to take a nap or a vacation from caring for us.

God’s Love and Justice
Nothing can prevent God from showing his love and justice to all the earth. Jeremiah, God’s prophet who had been imprisoned by the king said, “I prayed to the Lord: ‘Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. You show love to thousands, but bring the punishment for the fathers’ sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the Lord Almighty, great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds.’ ” (Jeremiah 32:16-19).

At another time, the people of Israel and surrounding countries thought God could not carry through with his warning to bring judgment through a foreign invasion. “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Tell this to your masters: With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him.’ ” (Jeremiah 27:4 – 6). The world’s warriors are under divine control; even civil authority is under the Creator’s authority.

At the end of this age, a huge army will invade and surround the land of Israel (Judah). The Creator God promises deliverance: “This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: ‘I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations.’ ” (Zechariah 12:1-3). God says, “You can count on me because I am the Creator of heaven and earth and every single person.” Although the time spoken of here is yet to come, God says, don’t worry—I was there at the beginning and I’ll be there when Israel needs me. You can count on my word.

David, Israel’s great poet and songwriter saw the stability and permanence of creation as reflecting the unwavering character of God. “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:4-9). Just as God’s word fashioned the heavens we look at and the earth we walk on, his words of love, righteousness and justice remain steadfast. He hasn’t lost his grip on things!

God Institutes Marriage
God’s arrangement for family living was set up at the time and by the creation of male and female. “Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ “ ‘What did Moses command you?’ (Jesus) replied. “They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ “ ‘It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,’ Jesus replied. ‘But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ ” (Mark 10:2-9). It is important that while there may be differences of civil practice, marriage is God’s institution. Those who claim to be his followers should accept and defend it. The promise of his blessing rests on his authorship of marriage. Tinkering with God’s view of marriage will send civilization tottering.

God, the Giver of Light and Life
While we have already touched on this aspect of God the Creator, it is important to return to the great foundational facts of creation: Creation is the event, spread over billions of years, when God infused his handiwork with light and life. John the beloved disciple summarizes this critical truth for us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”

A few verses later, he writes, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:1-4,10-12).

The Creator brought light and life into being. It stands to reason that without him, we are left with death and darkness. John tells us the whole purpose of bringing humankind to this earth is to have life with God as his children, forever. Without the Creator, there is no hope. Read how Jesus expands the reality of Life and Light in his conversation with Nicodemus in John chapter 3, verses 16-21.

God’s Power and Divinity
The fact that God began everything gives voice to his character. “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2). He was there before there was there! It follows then that creation itself speaks of God’s character. “Since what may be know about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19, 20).

Psalm 19 is a magnificent description of the truth and glory of God that is revealed in creation. We won’t quote it all here, but I encourage you to read it through while considering this section. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. There voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4). Those words need no commentary!

God’s Call to Right Living and Witness
God’s call to righteousness is not an end in itself. It is also an invitation to participate in the great redeeming work of the Creator. This call is sounded through both Old and New Testaments, asking us to share in righteous living and redemptive witness. “This is what God the Lord says—he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: ‘I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:5-7).

The Creator’s call has always been to faithfulness. Right at the start in Eden itself, after they had sinned we see that Adam and Eve turned on each other. Adam accuses “the woman” and Eve accuses the serpent. That is not a reflection of God’s character. Since we are created beings, created in God’s image, we are to be linked together in faithfulness to each other. The last prophet of the Old Testament talks about it like this: “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our father by breaking faith with one another?” (Malachi 2:10).

The author of Hebrews in the New Testament expands the connection between Creator’s desire for holy living and faithful witness. He begins his letter with this declaration: “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. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by the power of his word.” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

The writer goes on to show the supremacy of the Son over angels, other created beings and creation itself. To make that point, he quotes from Psalm 8. “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed, but you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:10, 11; see also Psalm 102:25-28).

This everlasting one, the Son, the Creator, has brought us into his family to be brothers and sisters. There is work to do and faithfulness is required. So the writer tells us, “In bringing many (children) to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.” (Hebrews 2:10, 11). In the third chapter, we are told that since he the Creator God has been faithful, we should have the same family characteristic.

Let’s sum up the idea from the book of Hebrews: We have not been introduced into the family of the Creator to be spectators of an entertaining sport. We are called to be participants in the great drama of life where the final score determines eternal destiny. That task is worthy of our best.

The Creator: To be Praised and Worshipped
The Psalmist leads the Scriptures in praise to the Creator. He takes us from an individual being “knit together in the womb” by the Creator (Psalm 139), to giving the elements themselves the voice of jubilation to the Creator. “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. He set them in place forever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth you great sea creatures and all ocean depths . . ..” (Psalm 148:3-7). Read through the rest of this Psalm to see the breadth and depth of praise that rises from creation to the Creator.

At the end of this age and in the age to come, we read that the Creator is still the focus of worship and adoration. At the center of heaven itself, the Son stands and receives the praise of created and holy beings, the song of worship by the 24 elders. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:11. There have been saints and martyrs and great individuals. None deserve the worship that can only be given to the Creator of heaven and earth.

The Creator Is Not Through Yet
I recall an American president who was fond of saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” Not to trivialize Scripture, it’s truer than you think. Isaiah, the great prophet of vision, saw things that would astonish our imaginations. Early in his writing, he tells of his vision of seeing the Lord Almighty seated in heaven on his throne (Isaiah 6). That’s how we will close this chapter, taking a final look at the Creator—the one who is still bringing new things to his universe.
“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says . . .
“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy . . .
“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear . . .” (Isaiah 65:17-24). Oh, my friend, don’t you want to be there in the new heavens and the new earth carefully fashioned by the eternal Creator? He was there at the beginning and he will be there at the end of this age. Remember the phrase we read in the opening chapters of Genesis: “And God saw that it was good.” As we have looked through the rest of the Bible itself, God’s activity for us is always for good. And when it comes to the end of this age, the best is yet to be. God wants you there!