Getting to Know God
General Revelation, Special Revelation, Existence of God
Increasingly we are hearing people say they are atheists; they don’t believe in God. Most of these people, if asked what evidence convinced them that there is no God, could not answer that question.
Most are not atheists because of evidence, they either parrot what they have been taught; or they don’t like the idea of a God that has authority over their lives (regardless of the evidence). Many simply don’t know if there is a God. They are not really atheists, they are agnostic; they don’t know whether or not God exists.
In Psalm 19 David tells us that we can know God. He tells us that God has revealed Himself to His creation. He has made Himself known. He has told us about Himself indirectly and directly.
God Can Be Known Indirectly Through His Creation (1-6)
1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.
David argues that when we look at creation we see that God has left His fingerprints everywhere. In the book of Romans Paul wrote something similar,
19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:19-20)
In theology this is called General Revelation. In other words there are things about God anyone should be able to see. We need direct revelation from God as to how to know Him but we can know that he exists by observation.
Albert Einstein when he articulated the theory of General Relativity concluded (much to his chagrin) that the earth had a beginning. Edwin Hubble (for whom the Hubble Telescope is named) observed the universe expanding (which implies is started from someplace). These Scientists concluded creation could not have always existed. This is the basis for what is known as the cosmological argument for the existence of God; the existence of the cosmos points to the existence of God. The question raised from these scientific observations is: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” “How did everything get started in the first place?”
David declares that there is something because it is obvious that there is someone of something who made it all. Some scientists talk about creation in a sense creating itself. That is nonsense! Nothing comes from nothing! Every effect has a cause.
A second conclusion from creation is that there must have been a designer (this is called the teleological argument for the existence of God). The argument is that the intricate design and balance of the universe necessitates a wise designer.
The illustration most often used is that of a person who finds a Rolex watch in the woods. That person would not conclude naturally that this watch was a product of the evolution of nature. Instead they would conclude that someone dropped the watch because it was obvious that the watch did not come about naturally. There is a design that could not have happened by chance. Our world and even our bodies are more intricately designed than the watch. The idea that it all happened by chance is ridiculous. Our world is wonderfully complex and fine tuned to support life (this is called the Anthropic principle).
Think a few of these facts
- Oxygen comprises 21% of the atmosphere. If the oxygen was 25% fires would erupt. If it was 15% we would suffocate.
- If the gravitational balance with the moon was greater there would be a tidal effect that would create enormous problems. If it was less than it is it would create orbital changes and climate instabilities that would make life impossible.
- If the CO2 levels were greater than they are now we’d all burn up; If they were less, plants wouldn’t be able to maintain photosynthesis (producing oxygen) and we’d suffocate.
- If Jupiter were not in its current orbit, the earth would be bombarded with space material. Jupiter’s gravitational field acts as a cosmic vacuum cleaner for earth.
- If the rotation of the earth took longer than 24 hours, temperature differences would be too great between night and day. But if the rotation period were shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would be too great.
- If the 23-degree axis tilt of the earth were altered even slightly, surface temperatures would be too extreme on earth.
The point is that the universe is so specifically designed to sustain life that it is unreasonable to conclude that it happened accidentally. This design argues for a Creator. We can know several things about this Creator from these observations:
- He must be self-existent, timeless (or eternal) and immaterial (or supernatural . . . beyond nature). The Creator is not made. If god were created then whoever made god would be God!
- He must be unimaginably powerful.
- He must be supremely intelligent, to design a universe of such incredible precision.
- He must be personal in order to “choose” to convert nothingness into the creation we now know.
There is a second element to this indirect revelation. It is the moral sense that is within each of us. This is the Moral argument for the existence of God. If we all have an inherent sense of right and wrong (seen in our conscience) then that moral sense must have come from somewhere. A common moral law points to a Law-giver.
Some will argue that moral values are cultural. Some moral practices are cultural but that doesn’t mean that the values behind the practices vary. For example, different cultures may honor parents in different ways. That doesn’t mean the value of honoring parents is different, only the expression of that value. There is no land where murder is virtue and being grateful is a vice.
C. S. Lewis adds:
“Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five.”2
Our inherent moral sense argues for a law-giver; an authority. We can conclude some things about the Law-Giver: He is interested in right conduct. He advocates unselfishness, the value of human life, courage, good faith, honesty, and truthfulness.
This leads to another conclusion: If there is no Law-Giver then every one of our moral beliefs is just opinion and therefore it is impossible to declare something is right. Right and wrong are objective standards. So, we are left with chaos and anarchy. If there is a Law-Giver who administers justice (and it seems reasonable to believe there is), then we are in trouble because we break these laws and we know a just Law-Giver must punish disobedience. If there is a God then we already can see indirectly that we are in trouble and need someone to rescue us. We need a Redeemer.
God is Known Directly Through the Bible and Jesus (7-14)
Fortunately, God did not leave us with only this indirect or General Revelation of His character and will. God also gave us special (or direct) Revelation in the Bible and in Jesus. He did this so we could know Him better and enter into a real relationship with Him.
David points to God’s Word as a primary way we learn of God. David understood that the Bible is a book of Instruction, Testimony, Commandments, Principles, and judgments or rulings. This book tells us what we need to know. David wrote,
The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.
9 Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair.
10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.
11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.
In a world where we may feel we can’t trust anyone or anything, the Bible is a Rock we can stand on. It is unlike any other book because it is given to us through the hand of God. It is God explicitly telling us what He desires from us.
David lists some of the things the Bible does: Since it is perfect it revives the soul. In times of weariness the Bible restores us. It gives hope to the defeated, strength to the discouraged, guidance to the confused, and peace to the dying. The Word of God gives us the perspective that we need for life.
Second, because God’s Word is trustworthy it makes wise the simple. The Bible cuts through our defenses and the nonsense that often masquerades as knowledge. It speaks to us truthfully about our heart, the reality of sin, the need for repentance, and the way that is right.
A person can be highly educated yet lack true wisdom. They can be wonderfully competent in their work yet still be lost. True wisdom starts with the fear (or respect for) the Lord. That respect is seen foremost in our willingness to listen to what He tells us.
Third, because the Law is Right (or straight) it brings joy to the heart. This is just the opposite of what unbelievers believe. They resist reading and following God’s revelation because they believe it will spoil all their fun. They are dead wrong. Sinful behavior can be fun but it isn’t fulfilling. It doesn’t really give us what we are looking for.
Many people relate to the Bible much like men tend to relate to instructions for how to work or assemble something. Many men lay the instructions aside because they feel 1) they are smart enough to figure out things on their own and 2) people who write instructions only confuse what is plain.
However, in my experience, when I set the instructions aside, the result is whatever I am doing takes long, must be redone, creates frustration for everyone, and eventually results in a mad search for the instructions that I tossed aside.
God’s Law gives us the directions we need for a fulfilled life. God wants us to know joy. He wants us to experience His love, His forgiveness, and His commitment to those who are His own. He wants us to even find peace and even joy in death because it is not the end we must avoid; it is a new beginning and the reward for which we strive.
Fourth, Since the Law is Radiant it serves as a light for our path. When you walk around in the dark (think of getting up in the middle of the night in a hotel room) you will run into things and hurt yourself. The Bible gives light to our path so we can avoid what is unpleasant and discover what is good.
Fifth, the Law of the Lord is Pure so it endures forever. The Word of God never goes out of date. It never is irrelevant. It never changes direction. This is because it reveals the ENDURING truth rather than the whims of public opinion.
Finally because the Word of the Lord is sure, there is great reward in following that Word. To put it in today’s words David is saying, God’s Word is better than chocolate, and more satisfying than the world’s biggest trophy. In verse 11 David says, the benefits of God’s Word are twofold: it warns us of danger and it brings reward to those who obey.
Puritan John Bunyan had it right when he said of the Bible, “This Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.”The Bible warns us of the pitfalls that most do not even see. It reveals the lies that Satan will try to get us to believe. It shows us the emptiness of what often is celebrated as “knowledge”. However, it is one thing to be warned and entirely another thing to heed the warning.
David tells us that we can not only know that there is a God, we can also know this God personally. We can know Him because: 1) He is clearly seen in what He has made (the argument from origin, design and moral core) and 2) He has spoken to us in His Word.
When we come to the New Testament we discover that God has not only spoken to us in His Word. But even that is not all. He has most clearly revealed Himself through His Son. If you want to know who God is, look at and listen to Jesus.
God has revealed Himself because He wants to have a relationship with us. He created us for this purpose. Francis Schaeffer had a great title for one of his books: “He is there and He is not silent.” God is not some absentee landlord. He is present and eager for a relationship with us.
Responding to the Revealed God
David concludes with an appropriate question and response,
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
When we pay attention to what God has told us about Himself in nature, our conscience, His Word, and through His Son, two things will happen. First, we will be motivated to turn to this God who has reached out to us.
It doesn’t do any good to know the rationale for believing there is a God is you are not willing to know Him and enter into a relationship with Him. The Bible tells us that the way God has made for us to know Him is through confession of sin and faith in Jesus and the sacrifice He made on our behalf.
So, do you believe in God? If you do, is it a merely intellectual belief or is it personal and passionate. Have you turned to this God to find meaning, purpose, direction, and new life? Are you willing to trust His provision for your life in Christ? Are you willing to listen to and follow His counsel for your life? There are many people who believe IN God but they do not BELIEVE God. In other words their faith is academic rather than personal. What kind of faith do you possess?
Second, David asks God to search Him. He asks God to expose the sin and rebellion in his life so that his life might change and life a life that is pleasing to the Lord. He asks the Lord to expose his rationalizations, justifications, and lame excuses. He does this because he knows that any remnants of sin in life will be a barrier between us and the great God we serve. David wants nothing to hinder this relationship. He wants to serve and honor this magnificent God in every breath he takes.
I hope this final prayer is one that you have learned in your time as a follower of Christ. If not, memorize it. Once you have memorized it, begin to pray this prayer in your life. Ask God to help you honor Him with the choices you make, the words you say, and even the thoughts you think.
Do you want to know God? You can. God is not silent. He is not hiding. I encourage you to go outside and really notice the world in which we live. Look for His fingerprints in creation. Marvel at the intricacies of a flower and the wonder of a human life. Ask yourself the simple question: why is there something rather than nothing?
Think about your values. Where did they come from? Is there a moral standard that is universal? If so, where did that standard come from? Who is it that placed this law in our hearts and minds?
Pick up the Bible. Don’t just read it academically. Don’t just seek to master stories and details. Listen to what God is telling you about Himself in the stories, the commands and even the judgments. Read about Jesus and observe God’s character as it is revealed in His Life, Death, and Resurrection. Listen to the clear teaching of the apostles as they bring all the pieces together under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
God exists and He has clearly revealed Himself to us. Those who claim to be atheists or agnostics are either not paying attention, or they refuse to bow before the truth that seems so clearly apparent.
 Norman Geisler, Frank Turek I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004) p. 105
 Ibid Geisler and Turek (p. 93)
2 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p.19.
 Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (174). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.