BEHOLD YOUR GOD
Approaching The Study Of God
Character is revealed by the way in which one acts, for the very simple reason that we do what we do because of what we are. Allowance must be made for the work of deception which sinful human beings practise, for some are very adept at making themselves appear to be what they are not. Nevertheless, the time comes when the masquerade is rent and the real person is seen for what he is.
With God there is no deception for He is the truth. Therefore, what He does when rightly understood, is a true and accurate revelation of what He is.
The doings of God may be divided into two general parts. Firstly, there was the revelation of God by what He did during the eternity of the past when there was no sin problem, and secondly, there is the revelation of His character by what He did in response to the appearance of sin.
In the natural way of things, it follows that the greater of these two revelations must be the one forthcoming during the great rebellion, for it is under the pressure of great testing and difficulty that the otherwise hidden depths of one’s nature and capabilities are revealed. Therefore, the fullest and clearest revelation of God’s character is afforded us because of the entrance of sin. This being so, there are some who have wickedly charged God with deliberately introducing sin so that He would be provided with the theatre in which to display such depths of Himself as would otherwise be impossible.
The enemy of God and man is the originator of these charges which the true child of God will treat with the utter disdain they deserve. Albeit, there are still the two situations in which the behavior of God is the revelation of His character. The conditions prevailing in these two eras are as different as they can be, but God remains unchanged through it all. Sin’s appearance, problem, and pressure made far-reaching changes in angels, men, and nature, but it made absolutely no change in God. He is “the same yesterday, and to day, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. While this Scripture directly relates to Jesus Christ, it is equally true of the Father for what can be said of the One, is equally true of the Other.
God is unchanged and unchangeable. He declares, “I am the Lord, I change not.” Malachi 3:6. He is “. . . “the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow or turning.” James 1:17. He is “the uncorruptible God.” Romans 1:23.
These evidences confirm that God did not follow a certain line of behavior before the entrance of sin and then, when sin appeared, engage in activities utterly unknown before the uprising of evil. Rather, the
emergency of sin brought forth from God only more of the same things He had always done.
Because there was no occasion to punish, none have any difficulty in seeing that, before the fall, God never did such a thing. Subsequent to that sad day, however, an entirely different set of conditions demanded of God as the responsible Ruler of all, a satisfactory and permanent solution. Because most men understand only the use of force as such a solution, they cannot see God doing other than bearing down with terrible punishments on the guilty. This is the only way they know, resulting in their quickly interpreting all the reported actions of God in the Old Testament as being of this character. To such, the declaration that God did absolutely nothing after the fall that He did not do before, with all the implications thereof, will certainly be a startling statement, hard to accept.
But it has to be true nonetheless. Otherwise we are compelled to accept the thought that sin did make changes in God, forcing Him, after its appearance, to do things He had never done before. This cannot be and yet God remains as the unchangeable, incorruptible God.
Some may counter that this argument breaks down when it is considered that God did do something different in giving His Son as a sacrifice for the lost.
But, when Christ’s role in the eternity of the past is rightly understood, it will be seen that God had given His only-begotten Son to the created world for their blessing long before sin ever entered the universe. The incarnation of Christ into the human family was not something new for Him. It was a wonderful extension of the role He had eternally occupied and of the work which He had everlastingly done. From the eternity of the past, Christ has ever been God’s gift to His creatures even unto the death, for their salvation. Of this, more will be revealed as the study progresses.
As surely as this is true, then so surely has God done nothing new in the period when sin emerged to establish its pernicious corruption. Therefore, by studying what God did in the unmarred ages, we will study those revelations of His character which find confirmation in the greater display of those same things in the vastly more difficult era which has followed.
The study of what God did in the sunny days of universal innocence and harmony is the investigation of the constitution of the kingdom which He formed in such wondrous perfection. How God organized that government, how He related Himself to His subjects, what He provided for them and how He ruled them is a very clear and wonderful revelation of His character. He is a perfect God, has been and will be eternally so, and therefore the government which He formed is likewise as perfect. It is the only perfect rulership ever to exist. It is the pattern for all governments to copy and they can have perfect government only as they form theirs after the divine similitude.
Before we begin the study of that government, a necessary note of warning must be given. This is necessary because of the universal human
tendency to form concepts of God’s government after the measure of human leadership. We are very familiar with the latter, from personal acquaintanceship. It is all that we really know, and so we tend to think of God and His kingdom as being the same.
But the Word of God warns of this danger and directs us to approach this study from a different standpoint. God states very clearly, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8, 9.
In His efforts to reveal to men the principles of God’s kingdom, Christ was forever faced with the problem that there was nothing in this earth with which to compare it. Everything with which man was familiar served to give a wrong, instead of correct, concept of it. So Christ said: “Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?” Mark 4:30.
“The government of the kingdom of Christ is like no earthly government. It is a representation of the characters of those who compose the kingdom. ‘Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God?’ Christ asked, ‘or with what comparison shall we liken it?’ He could find nothing on earth that would serve as a perfect comparison. His court is one where holy love presides, and whose offices and appointments are graced by the exercise of charity. He charges His servants to bring pity and loving-kindness, His own attributes, into all their office work, and to find their happiness and satisfaction in reflecting the love and tender compassion of the divine nature on all with whom they associate.” The Review and Herald, March 19, 1908.
“ ‘Whereunto,’ asked Christ, ‘shall we liken the kingdom
of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?’ He could not employ the kingdoms of the
world as a similitude. In society He found nothing with which to compare
it. Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from
Christ’s kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is
banished. This kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity. God’s church is the
court of holy life, filled with varied gifts, and endowed with the Holy
There was always the danger that the apostles might lose sight of the principles of the kingdom of righteousness. Jesus sought to teach them the great differences between that kingdom and the kingdom of men, as it is written:
“Lest the disciples should lose sight of the principles of the gospel, Christ related to them a parable illustrating the manner in which God deals with His servants, and the spirit in which He desires them to labor for Him.
“ ‘The kingdom of heaven,’ He said, ‘is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his
vineyard.’ It was the custom for men seeking employment to wait in the market places, and thither the employers went to find servants. The man in the parable is represented as going out at different hours to engage workmen. Those who are hired at the earliest hours agree to work for a stated sum; those hired later leave their wages to the discretion of the householder.
“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the least unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.’
“The householder’s dealing with the workers in his vineyard represents God’s dealing with the human family. It is contrary to the customs that prevail among men. In worldly business, compensation is given according to the work accomplished. The laborer expects to be paid only that which he earns. But in the parable, Christ was illustrating the principles of His kingdom—a kingdom not of this world. He is not controlled by any human standard. The Lord says, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ Isaiah 55:8, 9.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 396, 397.
Thus, in His Word, the Lord has warned us not to think of the kingdom of God in terms of earthly kingdoms. It is impossible to learn of the heavenly from the earthly. It cannot be done. Anyone who attempts to do so either consciously or unconsciously, will certainly be led into incorrect understandings on the nature of God’s kingdom.
Few, if any, consciously set out to learn of God’s government in this way. The student does not even question this approach because, throughout the lifetime, no other than earthly kingdoms have been known. He comes to the study of the heavenly with definite ideas already established in his mind of what a kingdom has to be. The Scriptures are read in the light of these understandings and the result is a view of God, which is opposite from reality.
Christ’s disciples took a long time to overcome this problem. From their earliest days they had heard their elders talk of the Messianic kingdom. No question was ever raised as to the constitution of that kingdom. It was taken for granted that it would be just like the kingdoms round about them, and as the Old Testament was read, every verse describing that kingdom was misread in the light of those misconceptions.
When the disciples joined the company of Christ, this misunderstanding of the true nature of the kingdom and therefore of God’s character, proved to be the greatest hindrance to their drawing into full intimacy with Christ in His divine mission. It caused Christ many unnecessary burdens,
added sorrow and terrible heartache. Despite His continued effort on their behalf, they were not delivered from this false position until after the resurrection.
No lesson from the past should be learned with greater care than the one from the experience of these men. We are to fear greatly lest we, too, come to the study of God’s kingdom with the same preconceived ideas and notions in our minds. If we do, then we will certainly emerge with an erroneous view. This in turn will make it impossible to endure the trial which is before us, for of that last successful people it is written, “In order to endure the trial before them, they must understand the will of God as revealed in His Word; they can honor Him only as they have a right conception of His character, government, and purposes and act in accordance with them.” The Great Controversy, 593.
Therefore, the very beginning of the study of the constitution of God’s government is conversion to the realization that the kingdom of God is different. It is unique. There is nothing in this world that can be likened to it. Once this conviction is gained so that the tendency to refer to earthly conditions as a guideline to understanding the heavenly has been destroyed, we can approach the study with minds fresh and clean to receive the correct understanding of God’s character as revealed in the constitution of His kingdom.
Earthly kingdoms do have a reference value in the sense that they tell us what the kingdom of God is not. In other words, wherever we find ourselves seeing the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men to be the same in any respect, we can know that we have strayed from a true knowledge of God’s realm.
So with minds fresh and clear, let the approach to the study of God and His wonderful works begin. Let us not be among that class who “fail of a satisfactory understanding of the great problem of evil, from the fact that tradition and misinterpretation have obscured the teaching of the Bible concerning the character of God, the nature of His government, and the principles of His dealing with sin.” The Great Controversy, 492.