How God Speaks to Us Today
How does God help us to cope with problems of modern-day living? Is he speaking through humans today?
THE confusion, strife and lawlessness that mark our day cause some to conclude that God no longer cares what happens to mankind. ‘If he cares, why doesn’t he speak out? Why doesn’t he help us to solve the problems that face us?’ they ask.
Really, the problem is not that God does not speak out but that people in general are confused as to how God speaks to us today. This is evident even in the effort of one of America’s clergymen, Harry Emerson Fosdick, to explain the matter. He recently said: “God’s word does not come to man through magical handwriting on the wall, or spelled out on stone tablets, but from the inner counsel of the heart.” But is this really the answer?
If God’s word comes from the inner counsel of the heart, it may well be asked, From the counsel of whose heart? The heart of the atheist, the agnostic, the Communist, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Moslem, or from the hearts of those adhering to any one of the hundreds of conflicting sects of Christendom? Is it not for the very reason that men follow the inner counsel of their hearts that the world is in such a sorry state today? Besides, how could a wise, just and loving God speak so many contradictory things?
The fact is that the Bible warns us against the fallen, imperfect human heart: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) That is why God’s Word counsels us: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5, 6) But how can humans “take notice” of God? Does God speak to men today?
HOW DID GOD SPEAK IN TIMES PAST?
It will be enlightening for us first to examine how Jehovah God spoke to men of early times. One of the ways God spoke to mankind was by means of angels. This is clear from the Bible record, such as in the account of Abraham, for Genesis 22:11 plainly says that “Jehovah’s angel began calling to him out of the heavens.” Also, the Mosaic Law given to Israel is referred to as “the word spoken through angels.” (Heb. 2:2) The most prominent of angelic mouthpieces used by God was the one later identified in the Bible as “the Word,” or representative spokesman of God, Jesus Christ in his prehuman existence.—John 1:1, 14.
God also spoke in ancient times by means of his prophets. In this regard one of the apostles of Jesus Christ said: “God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:21) And the Bible, at Hebrews 1:1, says: “God . . . spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets.” Much of what God spoke through those prophets has been preserved for us in the Holy Bible.
The most important way that God has spoken to mankind is by means of his own Son, sending him to the earth as a man to speak the words God had given him. The inspired account at Hebrews 1:1, 2, after stating that God spoke in times past by the prophets, explains that God “has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son.” This Son when on earth acknowledged that the words he spoke were not of his own originality: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality.” Jesus’ followers well knew that he spoke God’s words, words of divine truth. In fact, on one occasion Jesus described himself as “a man that has told you the truth that I heard from God.”—John 7:16, 17; 8:40.
So God spoke in times past, not only through angels and prophets, but, most importantly, through his own Son. (Heb. 2:1-3) Now, having done this, did God stop speaking to men? No, indeed.
God now spoke to mankind through his organization of followers of his resurrected Son. For example, when a certain Ethiopian official was reading the prophecy of Isaiah and could not understand it, God sent a representative of his organization, Philip, to help this truth seeker understand what he was reading. (Acts 8:26-40) There is also the case of Saul of Tarsus. God’s word came to him in a miraculous way, Jesus Christ appearing to him. Yet in spite of thus supernaturally receiving God’s word, Saul needed help from God’s visible organization. The Lord sent the disciple Ananias to Saul; he taught Saul the truth about Jesus. At the prompting of Ananias, Saul was at once baptized, and he became the apostle Paul. (Acts 9:1-19; 22:16) This very apostle later wrote these words, showing that God speaks to mankind through humans who belong to His organization: “When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God.”—1 Thess. 2:13.
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS WORD, THE BIBLE
What God spoke through the prophets and through his Son he has had recorded. As a result, all Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, is inspired of God, just as the apostle Peter testified: “No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:20, 21) So when we hear the Bible read, we are hearing the words of God.
What God had recorded was not merely for people of generations past. No, it was written for our admonition, as the apostle Paul wrote: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that . . . we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) What the Bible says reaches far beyond the days in which it was recorded. It speaks of future days; in fact, it describes in detail the times in which we live. (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Luke 21:10, 11, 25, 26) It shows the course that we should pursue now. Yes, through it God is speaking to us today.
God’s Word is not out-of-date in this modern scientific world. The facts show that it is sound. Concerning this, Earl Chester Rex, a mathematician and author of the textbook Vector Analysis, says: “As a scientist I find my conclusions concerning God and the universe confirmed by the sacred Scriptures. I happen to believe those Scriptures. I believe all they say about the origin and direction of this universe. . . . [Critics] have been caught in errors too often for us to accept their flippant assertions.”* Even as the Bible is scientifically accurate and contains reliable history, as archaeologists have confirmed, it also contains God’s perfect principles to guide us through these hard-to-deal-with times.
COPING WITH PROBLEMS OF MODERN-DAY LIFE
God has not left us in the lurch in these modern times; what he has spoken to us is even more helpful in these critical, wicked days than ever before. Why, the counsel given in the book of Proverbs for us not to associate with wicked ones, with hot-tempered people or with talebearers but, rather, to associate with persons who love divine wisdom could never be more up-to-date. “The book of Proverbs,” once said American educator William Lyon Phelps, “is more up to date than this morning’s newspaper.”*—Prov. 1:10-19; 4:14-19; 13:20; 20:19; 22:24, 25.
Yes, God, by means of his Word, speaks to us today words of wisdom to help us cope with modern-day problems. In this materialistic age, are we tempted by the love of money? God speaks to warn us against it: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) Yes, what unhappiness, what frustrations people bring upon themselves and what crimes have been committed all because of the love of money, of material possessions! How wise this warning that God speaks to us today!
Are we concerned with preserving a happy marriage? Human nature is no different today from what it was 1,900 years ago. God’s counsel for husbands and wives that he caused to be recorded back there is as applicable to us today as when it was first written, and so God speaks to us today regarding these things also: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord . . . as the congregation is in subjection to the Christ, so let wives also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, continue loving your wives . . . husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.” Surely this counsel gets at the chief causes of marital difficulties: wives failing to be in subjection; husbands failing to love their wives as themselves.—Eph. 5:22-28.
Furthermore, God gives wise counsel on the relations between the individual and the governing authorities, between employers and employees, and between Christians and their presiding ministers. All of it fits our circumstances today.—Rom. 13:1-4; Col. 3:22–4:1; Heb. 13:7, 17.
And God speaks to us, not only with regard to modern-day individual problems, but also as to present world problems. His Word shows the only solution to the overwhelming problems facing mankind—the kingdom of God. It explains how that heavenly kingdom will solve them and bring in everlasting peace and make possible everlasting life in God’s righteous New Order. And when does God say that this is to take place? In this generation. Indeed, God is speaking to us today by means of the Bible.—Dan. 2:44; Isa. 9:7; 1 Cor. 15:24, 26; Rev. 21:2-4; Matt. 24:32-34.
GOD SPEAKS THROUGH HIS ORGANIZATION TODAY
Of course, not everyone listens to God by reading the Bible. But this does not muzzle God. No, because he sends his Christian witnesses to the homes of the people, to tell them about his kingdom, even as Jesus Christ foretold for our day: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) This is being done in 199 lands and principal island groups. What they are telling people is what God in his Word says; he is the one talking.
So, too, God uses men to speak to those within the congregation of believers. For example, when overseers in the Christian congregation counsel their fellow believers, who really is speaking? Well, who designated them as overseers? It is God’s Word that set out the qualifications. If they are serving because they meet those qualifications, they are designated by God. When they give counsel in harmony with the Scriptures, it is God who is speaking by means of them.—1 Tim. 3:1-7.
However, God is not speaking by means of everyone who takes up the Bible and uses the name of his Son. Just as there were prophets in ancient times of whom God said, “I have not sent them, nor have I commanded them or spoken to them,” so it is in our time. Jesus Christ said concerning the time of reckoning that ‘Not everyone saying to me, “Lord, Lord,” will receive approval.’ He explained: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name . . . ?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Jer. 14:14; Matt. 7:21-23) Then how can one identify the organization through which God is speaking to mankind today?
He must examine their claims in the light of God’s written Word. Do they stick to God’s Word the Bible and faithfully teach what it says? Do they live in harmony with it? Is it true of them, as Jesus said, that “they are no part of the world,” steering clear of involvement in its social and political strife? Do they produce the fruits of God’s spirit in their lives? Are they known for their unity, believing and teaching alike wherever they are, so that God’s message through them is the same to people everywhere? Are they readily identifiable as distinct from all others because they love one another as Jesus said would be true of those who really are in union with him and God his Father?—John 17:16, 20, 21; 13:35; Gal. 5:22, 23; 1 Cor. 1:10.
There are such persons today through whom God is speaking. By means of them you received this magazine. Prove to yourself whether they meet the Scriptural qualifications set out above; associate with them in the Kingdom Hall nearest you. Do not delay. Your life depends on finding out who today are truly God’s servants that speak his Word and becoming one of them.
In The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe—J. C. Monsma.
Treasury of the Christian Faith, 1949, edited by Stuber and Clark, p. 48.