[Some introductory remarks have been omitted]
I have entitled our lesson today, "Can We Know God?" In Job 11:7, two timely questions are asked about God. "Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?" The answer to the first question is yes. By searching God's word, the Bible, we can search out the deep things of God - At least those things that He has revealed to us in His word. In Isaiah 55:6 Isaiah wrote, "Seek Yahweh while he may be found, call upon Him while He is near." Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12, "for I know whom I have believed." Paul knew what he believed, but he also knew whom he believed. He knew about God, but he also knew God.
God can be known, but the answer to the second question Job asked is, no. We cannot find out the limits of the Almighty. This is because God is God and man is man. God is infinite and we are finite. He is outside of time and space, and we are in time and space. He is all knowing and all powerful, we are limited as to what we know and what we can do.
The Bible says in Romans 11:33, "...His ways are past finding out." In Philippians 4:7 Paul wrote, "His peace surpasses all understanding." Ephesians 3:19 says His "love passes knowledge." Psalm 147:5 says "His understanding is infinite." Isaiah 40:28 says, "His understanding is unsearchable." Job said this in chapter 26 and verse 14, "Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways: and how small a shisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?" Then in chapter 37:5 Job said, "He does great things which we can not comprehend." There are many things we can not know about God. But we can know all we need to know about Him. We can know all we need to know to love Him, to serve Him, to follow Him and to be with Him eternally.
What can we know about God? We can know that He exists. The Psalmist was inspired to write in Psalm 14:1, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" How foolish, in the face of so much irrefutable evidence, to say that there is no God!
Someone has figured out that if you take the 26 letters of the English alphabet, and throw them up into the air, and let them fall to the ground without any intervention, there would be one chance in 500 million, million, million, million (that's the number 500 followed by 24 zeros), that they would fall into their proper order of A, B, C, all the way through Z. That means that, if you allowed one and a half seconds per fall, it would take 2 million, million, million (that's the number 2 followed by 18 zeros) years for them to fall in the order of A, B, C all the way through to Z. Now if that's true of the chances of the orderliness with only the 26 letters of the English alphabet, how ridiculous, how foolish, how out of the question, for anyone to think that, in back of all this vast, complicated universe, there was not a Creator!!
We not only can know that God exists, but that He has always existed. Psalm 90:2 says, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You art God." Look into the distant past as far as your mind will allow you to go, and there is God. And then turn and look into the future as far as your minds eye can see, and there is God. It doesn't matter how far you go either way, there will be God, existing at both ends of time, and completely unaffected by either.
There has never been a time when God did not exist. Now that's a hard concept for us to grasp, isn't it! It's difficult for us because, so far as we're concerned, everything had to have a beginning. But not God! God has always existed and will always exist.
What can we know about God? We can know that God is everywhere. This too, is a concept that is beyond our comprehension. How can God be everywhere? Well, we being who we are, couldn't be everywhere. But He being who He is, could be and is everywhere.
In 2 Chronicles 2:6, Solomon asked, "But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him?" The Psalmist was inspired to write in Psalm 139:7-10, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there: if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me." If we were able to travel to the furthest reaches of this vast universe, God is there. There just isn't anywhere we can go where God isn't.
What can we know about God? We can know that He is all-knowing. He knows all things that are possible to know. Job asked in the long ago, "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?" And Paul ask much the same question in 1 Corinthians 2:16, "For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?"
God knows everything. He knows all about you and He knows all about me. In fact, there isn't anything that He doesn't know about us. The Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 4:13, "And there no creature hidden from His sight: but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account ." God knows everything about us. That ought to make us stop and think, because we will give an account to Him of how we lived on this earth.
What can we know about God? We can know that He is all-powerful. Is He really all-powerful? The critic, the atheist, the skeptic likes to ask things like: "If God can do everything, can He make a rock so big that He can't lift it?" "Can He make two mountains without a valley between them?" "Can He make unfrozen ice?" "Can He make a four-sided triangle?" "Can He make a thing to be, and not to be, at the same time?"
My friends, we need to understand that power has to do with what is possible. God can do anything that is possible, but it was God Himself who made some things impossible! It was God who made the triangle with three sides, and in doing so, it was God who made it impossible to have a four-sided triangle, because it would no longer be a triangle. That's the way God made it! It was God who made it so that you couldn't have two mountains without a valley in between. That's the way He made it! And He made it so you can't have a thing to be and not to be at the same time. And He made it so you can't have unfrozen ice. That's the way He made things!
So in Jeremiah 32:27, God asks a question: "Is there anything too hard for Me?" That question was answered ten verses before in verse 17 when Jeremiah said of God, "There is nothing too hard for You."
When God announced to Mary, that of all the women in the world she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God, you can imagine the questions she must have had. She knew there had never been anything like this before. But the angel that appeared to her gave the answer. In Luke 1:37 he said, "For with God nothing will be impossible." How could God speak the universe into existence? Here's the answer: "With God nothing will be impossible." How could Christ be born of a virgin -- an earthly child with a heavenly Father, a heavenly child with an earthly mother? "With God nothing will be impossible." How can God "make all things work together for good to them that love God?" "With God nothing will be impossible."
In Isaiah 28:21 we're told, "For Yahweh will rise up as at mount Perazim, He well be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon - that He may do His work, His awesome work; and bring to pass His act, his unusual act." What kind of awesome and unusual works does Yahweh do? He caused an iron head to swim (2 Kings 6:6), we can't do that. He caused the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:12-13), we can't do that. He caused a donkey to speak (Numbers 22:28). He caused several hundred thousand people to cross the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:22). He called Moab, "My washpot" and yet Moab was His enemy (Psalm 60:8). He said He raised up Pharoah, another enemy, to show His power (Exodus 9:16). Three times, God called Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most wicked kings that ever lived, "my servant," (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). God called that wicked tyrant, "My servant," not "my follower," but "my servant." He called Babylon an "enemy" -- and remember the Babylonian captivity that followed -- but, He also called Babylon, "a golden cup in Yahweh's hand" (Jeremiah 51:7). And in Jeremiah 51:20, He called Babylon "My battle-ax" and He made use of that nation to accomplish His purposes.
In Proverbs 21:1 the Bible says, "The king's heart is in the hand of Yahweh, like the rivers of water: He turns it wherever He wishes." Where we used to live in Arkansas they raised a lot of rice. They would water that rice by filling trenches with water and then direct them where they wanted to in order to flood the rice. The heart of a king is like that in the hand of Yahweh. And yet, He never did a king's thinking for him. He didn't do Nebuchadnezzar's, Belshazzar's, or even Hilter's thinking. But somehow, some way -- and it is marvelous to us and something we don't understand -- He can take the thinking of a king, that is diametrically opposed to His will, and somehow, some way, make it work to accomplish His own will.
In fact, He can even take the works of the devil and make them work out His own will. For example, Joseph (one of the 12 sons of Jacob) was the object of envy, and yet envy comes from the devil. Solomon said, "Envy is rottenness to the bones" (Proverbs 14:30). And James said in James 3:16, "where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there." Envy is from the devil. The devil brought envy. And yet, had Joseph not been the object of envy, things would not have turned out as they did. God didn't bring that envy, the devil did. But God could take even the works of the devil and make them links in the chain of Divine Providence. Isn't that wonderful? And then again, Joseph was mistreated by his brothers, and that is the work of the devil. He was sold by his own brothers and that's certainly the work of the devil. He was thrown into prison, he was envied, he was falsely accused, and he was forgotten -- all of those are the works of the devil. But in Romans 8:28 Paul said, "We know," not "we think," -- the Bible doesn't deal in guesswork, it doesn't deal in speculation; it deals in certainties -- "We know ALL THINGS -- not just some things. Bad things! The worst things! ALL things, even the work of the devil -- "All things" -- No exceptions -- "work together for good." He didn't say all things are good because all things are not good. Envy, mistreatment, and lying is not good. But He could make all things, regardless of their nature, work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
The Lord took 22 long years to make things work out for good for Joseph. But sure enough, all of those things, even the worst things, even the most trying times -- He made them all "work together for good." In Psalm 119:71, the Psalmist David said, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I may learn Your statutes." Things we are going through right now may not be good. But it may be good that we are going through them. We might learn God's statutes by going through them. It might save our souls.
When you miss a fortune, it might not be a misfortune. It might be the salvation of your soul. You didn't get that raise that you wanted so much -- it might not be good for you -- it might have ruined you. You didn't get that promotion, you didn't get that job. It might be a blessing in disguise. Though a misfortune it might be a blessing -- it might be the salvation of your soul.
The apostle Paul recognized this. Three times he prayed that the "thorn in the flesh," whatever it might have been, would be taken away from him. It doesn't matter what that thorn was, the point is everyone has a thorn (and don't tell me it's your spouse). Everybody has a thorn in the flesh. It might not be what Paul's thorn was, but that's not the point. A thorn pricks, a thorn is a bothersome thing. Paul prayed three times that it be removed, and finally, the Lord said to him, in effect, "Paul, can't you accept NO as an answer?" The Lord answered his question but the answer was no. You see, you don't have to answer with a yes in order to give an answer. Sometimes God's answer is no, and that's just as much an answer as saying yes. Paul could take that. Some people can't take no for an answer, but Paul could. He said, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities... for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
What power God has! Power that is unbelievable! He is called "The Almighty." When we pray to Him, He has power that we never dreamed of. But, as someone has said, "I'm thankful that God doesn't always answer my prayers with a yes." Sometimes, we don't really know what is best for us. There are some things we don't know. We're behind the scenes and we can't see what's on the other side, but God can. And many times we don't know what is best to ask God because we don't know what is best. But God does know. And we need to learn to just leave those things in His hands. But, many times we pray for something that's after the fact. It's like the little boy that ask the Lord to bless his Mom and Dad and then said, "please make Memphis the capital of Tennessee." And his mother asked, "Honey, why did you pray for that?" And the little boy said, "'cause that's what I put on my exam paper at school today." Many times we come to the conclusion, and then we pray that God will arrive. We better do our praying first and then come to a conclusion.
For example, suppose you just received word that a loved one has been involved in an accident. And you pray, "Oh Lord, please let him still be alive." What if he isn't? That prayer is not going to change it. You might pray, "Lord if he is still alive may he be spared, if it is Your will." But what if he was going to be a "vegetable" for the rest of his life? You see, we don't always know what to pray for. What is best.
But even though we don't know, God does. And so, we just need to leave it in His hands. In 1 John 5:14 John wrote, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask any thing according to His will, He hear us." Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies beyond the will of God.
Now today, all who are listening to this program could start praying, and pray all day long in our prayers that the sun would rise in the west and set in the east tomorrow. But that's not going to happen. It doesn't matter how many people join in the prayer, it doesn't matter how sincere everyone is, if it is not according to His will, it won't work. You see, God has in nature certain laws and it doesn't matter who is involved.
Let's suppose that a man gets drunk and then gets into his car, starts out and loses control and crashes into another car, in which there is a mother and baby, and the mother and baby are both killed. And somebody says, "it must be the will of God." Has it ever been God's will that a man gets drunk? It never has been and it never will be God's will that a man get drunk and that he drive in that condition. But God's laws of nature are at work whether it involves a sinner or a completely innocent person.
What if God suspended His laws every time a Christian or an innocent person was threatened with physical harm? The Lord talks about those who followed Jesus for the loaves and fishes. There would be a lot of people who would follow Jesus just for the protection.
If you're on the highway, even if you're the best person in the world -- even if you're the most devoted, the most consecrated of people, even if you're just giving yourself so completely to the Lord that it's amazing -- it is still possible for you to be in an accident, to be injured or even killed. Because God's laws of nature are not suspended for anyone. When two cars come together at high speeds, the laws of nature say something's going to happen. God's laws work certain ways, regardless of who might be involved, whether an innocent Christian, a baby, or someone else.
Is it really the will of God that these things happen? It isn't the intentional will of God. Peter tells us that "God is not willing that any should perish," but many will perish, many more than not as Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:13 and 14. In 1 Timothy 2:4, the Bible say that God "desires all men to be saved." That's God's intentional will, but we're told over and over that not all will be saved.
It was God's intentional will in the Garden of Eden that man not sin, but he did. God, at the risk of our hurting ourselves, and of hurting others created us as free moral beings. We're free to make choices. We're even free to blaspheme and turn our back on God. We're free to become alcoholics and drug addicts. We're free to be immoral.
But while we're free to make a choice, we're never free from the consequences of our choices. A person who uses this freedom to become a drug addict is not free from the consequences of drug addiction. The person who uses this freedom to commit fornication or adultery is not free from the consequences of those acts.
Let's say, though, that in the case of the highway accident we mentioned earlier, where the mother and baby were killed, that the father of that baby and husband of that wife hadn't really been interested in spiritual things while they were alive. And after their deaths, he gets to thinking, "If I'm ever going to go to heaven, if I ever want to see them again, I'm going to have to make a change. I'm going to have to change my direction, change my life. And maybe, if that accident had not occurred this man would not have been awakened to his need to obey the Lord.
But it still was not God's will that a man get drunk and get into his car and drive in that condition. It still was not God's will that two innocent people be killed. But you see, had that not happened, there might not have been the occasion that one would wake up and see his need for the Lord.
There's a difference between God's intentional will and God's circumstantial will. Why did Christ come to earth? Why did He go to the cross? Well, that was God's circumstantial will at work. It wasn't God's will that man sin in the beginning. And it wasn't God's will that he eventually be thrown out of the garden. But it worked out that way because of man's choices. Man ran that risk, and he suffered for it. But, within the circumstances, something might come of it that otherwise wouldn't have.
Finally, there is the ultimate will of God. You can't defy the ultimate will of God. The righteous will go to heaven, the unrighteous will go to hell, and nobody can change that!
And so, when we talk about the will of God, let's qualify it. Are we talking about God's intentional will? So many people blame God for all the bad things that happen in the world. But it's not God's intentional will that bad things happen. But He can use those circumstances to accomplish His intentional will. Life had its favorable moments, and man has his susceptible times. There are times when you can be reached, and other times when you can't. Think about the tragedy that we talked about a while ago. Because of this tragedy, something happened. There is sadness and there is loss. But someone saw his need to obey the Lord. Who knows what might come out of a particular tragedy at a particular time.
So, you see, life does have a lot of unpleasant things. Many of us know that for a fact. But who knows? Maybe even those unpleasant things will eventually "work together for good to those who love the Lord." And maybe we will have become better as a result of it.
God exists. And what a God He is. He is a God who knows all, is everywhere, who can do all, and for whom nothing is impossible. He has instruments we never thought of. His providence can work in a way that we never dreamed possible.
Paul said, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12). Do you know Him? It is not just enough to know about God, but one must come to know Him. And the only way one can come to know God is by studying His word. We need to know God like Paul knew Him. We need to come to know Him through out study of the Bible. When we do we will come to believe in Him. We will come to know His will for our lives. And we will obey Him and be saved eternally.
May we help you come to know God?
[Some closing remarks have been omitted]