Foundations for a Christian Worldview: The Works of God (2)
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1.28
The miracle of revelation
Among the works of God, it is easy to overlook His work of revelation. Without His work of revelation, human beings would have no knowledge of God at all, and would be similar to animals and plants, differing only in kind, and not in essence.
God reveals Himself in the world He has made. He reveals Himself to people, who are made in His image and likeness, that they might know Him, understand His will, think with His mind, value what He values, desire what He desires, obey what He commands, and thus know and enjoy Him, and all the goodness He has prepared for them.
That God reveals Himself to human beings must be regarded as a miracle, because this does not happen by merely mechanical or material means. God is infinite, holy, and entirely and purely Spirit; people are a mixture of spirit and matter. The sounds we hear – of winds and birds and other humans – and the things we see – of the world around us or the words on a page – can all be explained in naturalistic terms, at least, to an extent. But the revelation of God is a supernatural work which depends on God’s desire, ability, and initiative in breaking into the material realm. By revelation, God imparts information and understanding about Himself and His will to the minds, hearts, and consciences of human beings. We cannot induce or provoke God to reveal Himself, like we can manipulate the material elements of the world to suit our purposes. Unless God reveals Himself to us, by His own free and perfect choice, we can have no knowledge of Him whatsoever.
And that He reveals Himself to men is a miracle not to be taken for granted, but to understand, submit to, and enjoy, and by which to be blessed and edified.
Types of revelation
As we see in the Law of Moses, God reveals Himself through two media. The first is the revelation that comes through creation, through the various creatures God has made throughout the cosmos. God made everything to reflect His goodness (Gen. 1.31). In the trees, beasts, stars, planets, oceans, mountains, and fields of the creation, God lets His goodness show forth. The variety, abundance, majesty, and creative power of the creation testify to the character of God. The study of creation can yield many insights into God and His ways.
In addition, God uses aspects of the creation to heighten awareness of His presence and power, and to induce His people to listen to His Word: as when He opened the sea for them to pass through, when He showed Himself in smoke and fire on the mountain, and when He opened the earth in judgment against certain rebellious Israelites.
Within this creational revelation, God also employs aspects of culture to communicate His nature and being. The tabernacle and its implements and decorations, the garments of the priests, the various types of sacrifices and offerings, and the Sabbaths and feast days – all aspects of Israel’s cultural life – reminded the people of God concerning His will for them as a holy people and a nation of priests.
Thus in the works of God in creation, as well as in certain aspects of the works of culture, God continues to reveal Himself in the world. But this revelation of God is not sufficient to enable people to know all they must know about God, or what He requires of them. To that end, God provided an additional form of revelation, adding clarity, focus, and permanence to these more transient forms.
The second form of revelation is the revelation that comes through God’s Word. God speaks to make Himself known and to reveal His will to people. Throughout the Law of God, He employs the sounds of human language – God adapting Himself to a medium common to His image-bearers – in order to communicate information about Himself and His covenant.
A variant form of this Word revelation comes in the oral transmission of stories and teachings from one generation to the next. Beginning with Adam and continuing to the time of Moses, God’s people faithfully transmitted His Words to their children, who, in turn, taught them to their children as well. Those transmitted Words, to the extent that they faithfully represented the Word of God, were the Word of God.
Some written forms of revelation may have existed before Moses, and were perhaps in the possession of the people of Israel during his lifetime. The various toledoth (“history” or “generations”) records in the book of Genesis are very similar to clay tablets found in sites of other ancient civilizations, recording names and events of significant people. God may have led His people to inscribe and preserve such records before Moses arrived to weave them and oral tradition – under the guidance of God’s Spirit – into the book of Genesis and the first two chapters of Exodus.
Later in the books of Moses, God instructed him to write His Law – the five books, Genesis through Numbers – in a book, to be read, taught, taken to heart, copied, and obeyed by His people and their leaders, thus preserving His will in a more precise, comprehensive, clear, and permanent form for all generations.
God made human beings in His image, according to His likeness. The chief defining feature of this status is humankind’s ability to receive divine revelation and to know God.
The account of the creation of Adam and Eve shows us this dynamic at work in pristine perfection. When God spoke to Adam and Eve, there was no need for Him to introduce Himself, explain Who He was and how they’d come to be, or to justify His ability to tell them what to do. Made in His image and likeness, Adam and Eve were constructed to receive divine revelation, recognize its provenance and authenticity, and respond to it gladly and obediently. The fall into sin did not obliterate the image of God in human beings; rather, it corrupted it, so that, apart from written revelation – and, later, the revelation of God’s own Son – humankind’s understanding of God remains corrupted, perverted, and incomplete.
The fact that religion has been a feature of every culture bears testimony to the longing of the human soul for connection with its Creator. God speaks to that longing continuously, both in creation and by His Word; but only certain of His image-bearers will ever hear and receive His revelation, those whom He has chosen to be His holy people.
1. Why do we say that revelation is a kind of miracle?
2. What role does each of the various forms of revelation play in your own walk with the Lord?
3. Since God’s revelation of Himself and His will begins in His Law, is it ever wise for us to neglect or ignore this portion of Scripture? Explain.
Next steps – Preparation: Do you need to improve your use of the various forms of divine revelation? What changes might you make to enhance your ability to hear God speaking to you? Share your thoughts with a Christian friend.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.