WHO IS THIS GOD OF HEAVEN?
A God who loves? YES! A God who is a Father to us? YES! A God who we can approach in prayer and know that he is able and willing to listen to us? YES! This is the God who we declare the world needs to know, indeed must know.
THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
What is the God of heaven like? Can we really know Him? Certainly we can! The Bible tells us that God is LOVE (1 John 4:8,16); that He is LIGHT (1 John 1:5); that He is HOLY (Psalms 145:17); that He is JUST (Deuteronomy 32:4); that He is MERCIFUL (Psalms 130:7); that He is KIND (Luke 6:35); that He is HONEST (Titus 1:2); that He is CARING (1 Peter 5:7); and more. Such traits are too wonderful to ignore. This is not at all the concept of god that the world creates from its own mind. It is, however, the truth and it should excite us to desire to know more about him. There is more to know. This "God of heaven" SPEAKS. The book of Hebrews informs us that "God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). This is important because "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). We need guidance lest we be deceived and perish (Proverbs 16:25). It is also important that God has spoken because in order to do His will, we must know His will. His will is revealed to us in the New Testament scriptures. If God did not speak, we would be without hope. How thankful we should be that the "God of heaven" blessed the human family with a revelation of his will through the inspired apostles. We should approach that revelation with humility seeing it as the only way in which the mind of God can be known (1 Corinthians 2:11-13). We should also strongly insist that those who seek to teach us should teach us only what the Bible teaches (1 Peter 4:11; Acts 17:11), nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.
This "God of heaven" LISTENS. This, too, is important. Note these passages from the Bible:
"The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29).
"The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (Psalms 145:18).
Because God is a God who listens, the children of God are encouraged to "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). You mean the "God of heaven" cares enough to listen even when men will not do so? YES, He will! In fact, this care he has for us is cited as incentive to cast our care upon him (1 Peter 5:7). A word of caution: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalms 66:18).
This "God of heaven," also ACTS. He is not sitting back and ignoring us. He is involved in the affairs of men. This involvement is called "providence". It is God providing for the needs of man. Jesus said; "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). It would do little good to learn of the "God of heaven" who has all of these wonderful traits if he had no involvement in the affairs of men, but he is involved. Why? Because he cares!
Certainly it is understood that the "God of heaven" is supernatural. This being the case, we would expect him to have supernatural traits and he does! For instance, he is OMNISCIENT. This means "God knows everything". He knows the facts and he knows the reasons for them. He knows the problems and he knows the solutions to them. He knows who we are, where we are, what we're doing, and what we're thinking at all times. This is too marvelous for us to comprehend, but not too marvelous for us to believe and appreciate. Note the following passage and its message of omniscience: "...I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Isaiah 46:9-10).
Being able to see the end of a thing from its beginning explains how we have prophecies in scripture that are never in error. They are minutely fulfilled, just as given. They are not educated guesses, but information given by Him who knows all things.
The omniscience of God (his ability to know all things) is comforting in that we know he is aware of us, our needs, our strengths, our concerns, nothing escapes his knowledge. It is also sobering, bearing a warning that "If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange God; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Psalms 44:20-21).
God is also OMNIPOTENT. This word means that God is "all powerful". There is nothing that he is not able to do that is within his nature to do. Jeremiah 32:17 says: "Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee".
The opening statement in the Bible reads: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). This is affirmation of the wonderful omnipotence of God. He literally spoke the world into existence. The Psalmist wrote: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth...For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Psalms 33:6,9). This truth about the nature of God in omnipotence is important to us. It lets us know that we were created intentionally, that we did not evolve from lower forms of life. It also informs us that nothing can beset us that God cannot handle if we will cooperate with him; nor can God make a promise that he is too weak to keep.
The statement by Jesus that "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26) is intended for comfort and it is comforting to know that God is able to accomplish what he promises. Paul wrote: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end" (Ephesians 3:20-21).
We are thankful to be informed of God's omnipotence. What a wonderful truth it is. Someone remarked: "I can count the number of seeds in an apple, but I cannot count the number of apples in a seed." We cannot, but the God who created the apple tree can.
God is also OMNIPRESENT. This simply means that God is everywhere. He is not subject to the limitations of time and space. He is available to everyone, everywhere, at all times. David, one time king of Israel, wrote: "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" (Psalms 139:7-10).
This truth comforts us in knowing that, no matter where we are, and no matter what the time, God is available. The statement "...though he be not very far from every one of us" (Acts 17:27) affirms the availability of God for each of us.
God is also ETERNAL. He had no beginning, and he will have no ending. The Psalmist wrote: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Psalms 90:2). Before he died, Moses reminded the children of Israel that "the eternal God is thy refuge". I have seen the gods made with men's hands. I've seen the material used before a god comes forth, and I've seen the gods after they have been damaged by storms or vandals. The gods of men are not eternal. The "God of heaven" is! The omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and eternal nature of God gives us security, warning, and motivation. Knowing these things about God causes us to understand why men and women for centuries have faced tremendous trials, even death, rather than offend him. May we have the strength to do likewise.
IDOLS OF MEN'S HANDS
During the course of human history, men and women have insisted on ignoring the God of heaven to serve gods of their own making. They have foolishly "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" (Romans 1:23). In so doing, they "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the creator, who is blessed for ever" (Romans 1:25).
David described the idols of his day which is also true of idols since then, and still true today. Read his description: "But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat" (Psalms 115:3-7).
To those still involved in serving such as described above, we say, in the words of the apostle Paul, "... why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein" (Acts 14:15). The gods of men that must be carried about by men, or on carts, cannot bless those who serve them. Men lock their gods behind iron gates in temples to protect them because they cannot protect themselves. Such gods that need to be protected cannot provide protection for their devotees. This is just common sense. They have ears, but they cannot hear prayers or cries of suffering. They have eyes, but they cannot see a need, a tear, or a good deed. They have hands, but they cannot offer help or smooth a brow. They have mouths, but they cannot speak truth or comfort. It matters not whether it is representations of imagined gods, ancestors, saints, or venerated relics, the results are still the same... idolatry. And the "God of heaven" will have His judgment against all who engage in it. "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).
Questions for Lesson One
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