The Bible --Part 3

The Bible
Part 3

James Gunn

Thy Words were found and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart. Jeremiah 15:16

Divine Revelation Through Providence

Its extent: “The bow shall be in the clouds; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:16).

Its intent: “I will establish My covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the water of a flood; … to destroy the earth” (Genesis 9:11).

Its content: “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

It is impossible for the human eye to look long at the light of the sun at its meridian, but the human eye may gaze with delight upon the rainbow, the bow that is nothing else than the light of the sun broken into its great variety of rays of different intensity. The prisms formed by the rain drops analyze the light of the sun and reduce it to its many component colours. In Providence we may not see God in the same clarity that we do at the cross and the empty tomb, but in the rainbow of earthly events, we see the tokens and the proofs that He is the Preserver of all men, especially of those that believe.

The rainbow definitely is a revelation of God’s grace in Providence.

In Natural Phenomena

God, in His providential care for every creature, arranges the seasons of the year (Genesis 8:22), controls the weather (Matthew 5:45), gives physical life and breath (Acts 17:25), and supplies food for all (Acts 14:17). His presence is intimated by the calmness and brightness of a sunshiny day (Psalm 19), and His voice may be heard above the terror and tumult of an electric storm (Psalm 29).

History bears witness to Christ for its dates acknowledge His incarnation. Events have happened either in B.C. (Before Christ) or in A.D. (Anno Domini—the year of our Lord). In a similar way, the almanac, the clock, and the barometer all witness to God’s will and wisdom in Providence.

David assures all of God’s sovereignty and power over natural phenomena: “The Lord sitteth upon the flood (Marginal reading, The Lord sat enthroned at the flood); yea, the Lord sitteth King forever” (Psalm 29:10). That God controlled that extraordinary phenomenon of nature is proof that He is truly Lord over His own creation.

In National Affairs

Providence generally speaking is seen in natural causes rather than in miracles. For the Christian it is a comfort to know that God is behind the scenes controlling the affairs of the nations. This He does in a great variety of ways.

In dreams: God had promised Abraham that his posterity should become a mighty nation, that his descendants should become slaves for four hundred years, and then be delivered and made exceedingly wealthy (Genesis 15). The years passed and there was no indication of these promises being fulfilled. Abraham’s descendants, Jacob and his family, were a nomad group in a land stricken by famine, and the best son of the family was languishing in prison. What had God through Providence done for them?

A great monarch had a dream one night. In the morning he discovered that one of his staff recalled a dream, and recalled also that another fellow-worker likewise had a dream when both of them were in prison. These dreams, he told Pharaoh, were interpreted by a trustee, a man by the name of Joseph. That Joseph was brought out of prison and interpreted Pharoah’s dream is a well known story.

God in His providential administration of human affairs, through these dreams set in motion the circumstances which eventually brought Israel into Egypt. It was while there that they increased in numbers, numbers from which God was able to build the Hebrew nation.

Through insanity: Mental illness in any home is distressing, more so if it is intense. Providentially, through the temporary insanity of a great monarch, God was acknowledged as supreme. Nebuchadnezzar was told that his insanity was “to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17).

The Lord used the delusion of this monomaniac to serve His purpose in the discipline of His people Israel.

In births: The birth of a baby boy is natural. On one occasion, as probably on many more, God in a marked way was behind such a birth. He had predicted this birth and named this baby some 250 years before; the baby was the great Cyrus. Through this natural event, God made possible the return of Judah to her own land (Isaiah 44:28-45; Daniel 1:21; Ezra 1:1), the rebuilding of the temple and of the city of Jerusalem.

Through census: The decree of Caesar Augustus that a census be taken (Luke 2:1) was the act of Providence that made possible the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem, thus fulfilling prophecy (Micah 5:2). The word “taxed” in Luke 2:1 is used in its simplest sense that of “registration,” and the word “world” implies the Roman Empire.

Historians have encountered problems relative to this general registration since there are no records of it in secular history. They have also encountered problems in regard to the stipulation relative to Cyrenius for the date of his appointment to the office of proconsular that has been deduced is somewhat later than represented by Luke. Luke has been proved a very accurate historian. Furthermore, he was directed by the process of inspiration. If historians would accept without question the veracity of Luke’s account, they would be able the more accurately to state dates and events. Eventually archaeology will prove the reliability of Scripture in this case as it has in so many others.

Through execution: The Jewish mode of execution was stoning after which the body was hung upon a tree until the evening. Crucifixion was a very ancient means of execution. It was practised by the Egyptians, Persians, Assyrians, Scythians, Indians, and even by some nations in comparatively recent times.

Crucifixion usually was performed in some secluded spot outside the city, and generally the bodies were left until devoured by beasts and birds. Under Roman law, burial was generally forbidden except in the case of a Jew, this exception was decreed in their favour.

God in His providential dealings with His people put them under subjugation to Rome in order that all predicted of Christ be literally fulfilled. Psalm 22 was fulfilled in the mode of His death, and Isaiah 53 was fulfilled in the mode of His burial. God’s over-ruling Providence directed affairs among the nations so that unconsciously they fulfilled His will.

In personal experiences: The Apostle John commended certain spiritual fathers saying, “Ye have known Him that is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13). In writing to spiritual infants he says, “Ye have known the Father.” All true believers know God. In the case of the young, they know Him as Father, but in the case of the mature Christians, they should know Him as the One who is always the same from the very beginning, the immutable and eternal God. All else may change but God remains ever the same. Christian fathers learn this, not through the reading of the Word only, but through the trials and difficulties of life.

Believers may not see miracles in their lives, but they can detect God’s providential control over events.

This is illustrated by some of the expressions found in the Psalms of David. He speaks of God as “the Rock of my Salvation,” “My Deliverer,” “My Strength,” “My Fortress,” and “My Shield.”

We might conjecture and say that he learned God as his Deliverer when he killed the lion and the bear which preyed upon his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-37). It is not unusual for a young man to kill a wild animal, but it is unusual when he does so by hand. Of this event in his life David could say to Saul, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”

David surely learned that the Lord was his shield down in the valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17). He had put off Saul’s armour, laid aside his shield, and went forth to meet Goliath who was fully armed and had an armour bearer to carry his shield. Yet, Goliath was slain; David protected, and made victorious because God was His shield. Henceforth in a very practical way, David could speak of the Lord as my Shield.

On one occasion Saul and his men sought David in the wilderness of Maon. We read, “And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon” (1 Samuel 23:19-29). While David hid behind the rock, Saul heard that the Philistines had invaded the land so he had to stop pursuing David and go and fight the Philistines. That rock, naturally speaking, was David’s salvation, but he looked beyond the literal rock, and called the Lord, the Rock of my Salvation.

On another occasion when Saul pursued David in the wilderness of Engedi, a cave became a fortress to him. David hid in that cave, and although Saul and his men entered it, God preserved David and actually delivered Saul into his hands. David could have killed him, but only cut off a piece of his garment. Well might he call the Lord his Fortress, his High Tower!

Longfellow wrote, “By going a few minutes sooner or later, by stopping to speak with a friend on the corner, by meeting this man or that, or by turning down this street instead of the other, we may slip some impending evil, by which the whole current of our lives would have been changed. There is no possible solution in the dark enigma but the one word, Providence.”

To all this we can only say with Cecil, “Providence is a greater mystery than revelation.”

Divine Revelation In The Bible

Without doubt God has revealed Himself to man in Creation, in Christ, and in Providence. He has revealed His eternal power and Godhead in the wonders of nature; His grace and truth in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ; and His sovereignty and purposes in the acts of Providence. We are now to consider a self-revelation of God given progressively in the Holy Scriptures. This special revelation of God in one form or another has been contemporary with all generations since the days of Moses.

Divine revelation in the Bible is essential to Christianity for this Holy Book is the self-revelation of the Triune God through the Divine Spirit in Sacred Writings. These He has indited and wholly inspired; consequently they must be inerrant, infallible, and permanent. These Writings, the Holy Scriptures, are the predetermined revelation of the Infinite to the finite.

The Bible uses a certain nomenclature descriptive of its own characteristics and content; with this we ought to acquaint ourselves.

The Word of God (Mark 7:13; John 10:35; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:2, 9): In many of the references in which the name Word of God is found, it stands for the whole of the divine utterance of God to man, and is as comprehensive in its meaning as the term, The Bible.

The Oracles of God: An oracle is closely related to the idea of a word; it means a statement, utterance, or narrative. Paul used it in making reference to the Old Testament (Romans 3:2), and Stephen used it in referring to the Law (Acts 7: 38). There is an occurence of the word in Hebrews 5:12 where the doctrines of the New Testament are involved. God has made statements which must be accepted as divine, and these statements are found in both the New and Old Testaments.

The Scriptures: A Scripture means a writing and in its biblical sense a holy writing. This name for the Bible is repeatedly given to the Old Testament (Matthew 21:42; 22:29; John 5:39; Acts 17:18-24). It is also used in regard to the New Testament. In 1 Timothy 5:18, the Spirit of God brings the Old and New Testaments together, and calls them both the “Scripture”. In this passage Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4 and then from Luke 10:7.

In his Second Epistle, Peter classifies Paul’s epistles along with all the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16).

Timothy, from his earliest days was acquainted with the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15). Paul reminds him of this and then as a summation of all inspired writings, he says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.” The Revised Version of this verse reads, “Every Scripture inspired of God is profitable.” This version discriminates between forged and genuine writings (2 Thessalonians 2:2), and calls the genuine, Scripture.

From these considerations, it is apparent that both the Old and New Testaments are to be accepted as Holy Scriptures.