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Saturday, November 22, 2014


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The Truth About God And The Bible
By Robert Roberts


An important question, indeed, which does not receive the attention it calls for. The subject of the Bible is in the same rank of importance as that of God, for the Bible comes before us as the revelation of God. Without a revelation we could know nothing of God. We might know there must be a God from the various considerations already passed in review; but we could know nothing of Him if He had not revealed Himself. We could not have known His character. We could not have known His will concerning man; or, if He had any will. We could not have known whether He took any notice of us, or felt any interest in us, or entertained any purpose concerning our welfare. We could not have known even that He was supreme. We might have been open to the idea that there were various gods -- as many gods as there are apparent powers in the universe -- a god of love, a god of hate, a god of light, a god of darkness, a god of peace, a god of war-like the polytheistic speculators of Greece and Rome.

The Bible reveals God in the most interesting and effectual way possible. It records what He has done and what He has said in connection with actual transactions in which He had taken the leading part. In these His mind has been revealed and His thoughts declared. The Bible in fact is primarily the manifestation of God's personality by these transactions and utterances. People have an idea that it consists of pious platitudes and what are called "devotional exercises." This is a great mistake. Even Christ, who shines above all other Bible luminaries in the inculcation of excellent counsels, was more intent on revealing God than advising man. When a mere boy, he said, "I must be about my Father's business." When his work was nearly done, he said, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world." In the midst of his career, he said, "I am come in my Father's name . . . I came forth from him -- I do always
those things which please him. The works that I do bear witness of me that my Father hath sent me."

There is a method in Bible religion which, when critically investigated, will show that it was a designed affair, and not an accidental development of sentiment; and designed especially with the one object of bringing God to notice: showing His existence and power as objects of human faith and the basis of human obedience. The work of Moses in Egypt and the wilderness, for forty years with the Jews; the life and sayings of the prophets that arose in Israel; the appearance and doings of Christ and his apostles in the beginning of the Christian era, are all matters of historic character, connected with actual works of God which, if sustained, prove the divinity of Bible religion beyond question: and the writings produced by all these men, giving an account of their proceedings, are also matters of palpable evidence.

An examination of all these things in connection with the effects which are now visible in the world before our eyes, will yield the result that the religion of the Bible is directly due to the initiative of Almighty wisdom, and therefore a coherent, and rational, and elevating, and glorious system of truth, which has already, despite all declarations to the contrary, immensely benefited the world, and given us a far higher civilization than any other system is capable of doing, and which, in the hands of God, like the path of the just, will yet shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day: for the world has not seen the completion of the work of God on earth.

If you consider the Mosaic economy as embodied in the Old Testament, you find its central idea is the worship and service of God, just as the central feature of the national encampment in the wilderness was the tabernacle of His presence, around which clustered the tents of the tribes. And if you consider the messages of the prophets, the burden of their complaint is that Israel had forgotten God and refused Him the service He required. Take Isaiah 1:2-3 for example: "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib, but Israel doth not know: my people doth not consider. Ah, sinful nation . . . they have forsaken the Lord: they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger: they are gone away backward."

Or, Mal. 1:6: "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour: if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O ye priests that despise my name."

The bulk of the messages of the prophets consists of expostulations and complaints of this kind. But intermixed with them are magnificent delineations of the being of God and His relation to men: Take the following from Isaiah 40 for example:

Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding? Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing: and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom, then, will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might for that he is strong in power: not one faileth. Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his under standing?

Or, Jer. 23:16-24

Thus saith the Lord of hosts: hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.

Or, Psalm 139:1

O Lord thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path, and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit; or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.


We have not only these sublime exhibitions of the being of God, but the most exhilarating declarations of His good purposes -- not only the statement that He is love but the varied and highly coloured unfolding of His intention to do for Israel and for all nations through Israel, what they all require. Take for example Isaiah 25:

In this mountain (Zion), shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Or take Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted: to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound . . . to comfort all that mourn, to appoint unto them beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Or take the following extract from Isaiah 60, addressed to downfallen Israel:

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the LORD shall rise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee . . . And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee: and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.

These are glorious things. The New Testament supplements but does not change them. Are they true? This is the question involved in the enquiry what we are to think of the Bible. If they are not true, their beauty does not redeem them from the worthlessness inherent in all falsehood.

There is a great and increasing tendency to regard the Bible in the light of myth, legend, tradition. There are different classes of enemies in the field. There is the shallow, vulgar, blatant blasphemer, who speaks evil of the things he understands not. There is the refined agnostic, who classes the Bible with the religions of superstition, and looks disdainfully down from the heights of an intellectual culture that has shot its head up into the region of eternal frost and snow, and wrapped itself in the impenetrable fogs of a transcendentalism too stupendous for human faculty. And there are the higher critics who profess to recognise a certain divinity in the Bible, but destroy the value of their concession by asserting the large presence of a human and erring element; and still further destroy it by claiming inspiration for clever human writers such as Shakespeare. They kiss and stab the Bible at the same time. Reading the Bible itself in a methodical and studious manner is the only way of being able to judge of its real character. But none of these classes is given to reading the Bible. They read what people say about the Bible, which is a very different thing.

CHAPTER 5: What Christ Thinks