Why Get to Know Who God Is?
IS THERE a true and living God? If so, should we be concerned with what he is like, with what he thinks? Should we know whether he cares about mankind or involves himself in men’s affairs?
Some clergymen say “God is dead”—that he has no part in current history. But what if these persons are wrong? What if God is concerned about human affairs and is working out a purpose toward humankind? Would it not be dangerous for those who think “God is dead”?
If we, having the opportunity to know him, prove to be the ones who do not care about God, might it not be to our calamity?
WHO GOD DECLARES HE IS
If a person has been delaying or avoiding a decision on whether there is a God who cares about men, it is time for him to search his own heart and thinking abilities. Is he delaying the decision in order to sidestep accountability? The fact that, of all earth’s living things, only man has intelligence and reasoning powers does not mean that man is independent of a yet higher intelligence and that he can run the earth in his own way. The facts of history prove that he cannot. Man’s intelligence is given to him so that he can follow the laws of his Creator, and this results in his own welfare.
God speaks to those who should know him, those who have his Word of truth, as people in Christian lands have. He says: “Have you not come to know or have you not heard? Jehovah, the Creator of the extremities of the earth, is a God to time indefinite.”—Isa. 40:28.
By virtue of his creatorship, Jehovah is God. He said to Abraham: “I am God Almighty.” (Gen. 17:1) The psalmist writes: “To Jehovah the Sovereign Lord belong the ways out from death.” (Ps. 68:20) The Christian apostles acknowledged him as such One, saying, “Sovereign Lord, you are the One who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them.”—Acts 4:24.
Bible history, therefore, testifies that God exists. It reveals that he is not “dead” but that he has much to do with the affairs of men.
THE WORLD POWER HAD TO KNOW
Someone may say, ‘If he is almighty and a God of good, why, then, does he not let us today see him doing something?’ Well, we have to consider that, as Sovereign, God has the right to act when and how he pleases. And we must realize that, being a God of order, he has a time schedule for the development of his purposes.—1 Cor. 14:33; Gal. 4:4.
We may consider the seventy or so years of our life as a long time, or several centuries an almost interminable time. To God, who sits high above the earth, the inhabitants of the earth who oppose him are as grasshoppers. How long does a grasshopper live? But of Jehovah it is written: “A thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch during the night.” (Ps. 90:4; Isa. 40:22) So an event that occurred as far back as the year 1513 before our Common Era, nearly three and a half millenniums ago, took place a mere half week ago in God’s time reckoning.
It was indeed an event that took place this “half week” ago that illustrates to us the reason why we need to get to know who God is. And we do not want to disregard that event as a small-scale thing. It seriously crippled the world power of that day. That mighty nation came to know who God is, but very reluctantly, and in a calamitous way that they could have averted had they used the reasoning and good sense to know God in a peaceful, friendly way.
What happened then is a part of history that is repeating itself in this day, only on a far grander scale. The power that dominated the earth in that sixteenth century B.C.E. was of one of the three great branches of the human family from Noah, namely, the one through Noah’s son Ham. Also dwelling in that land, Egypt, was a nation springing from Shem, another son of Noah. These people, though numerous, were not political agitators. They were peaceful residents of that land. Nevertheless, just as we have seen in some nations in our time, that Hamitic government began a campaign against those Shemites, a program of genocide.
Was it, as is often the case, a racial issue that brought about this genocidal attempt? No. It was a RELIGIOUS issue. The Shemites, though they had become slaves in Egypt, refused to share in worship of the many gods of the land. This was because they knew and worshiped the one God of all the earth, the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.
Jehovah had made wonderful promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the forefathers of the Shemites. But he had not yet brought the fulfillment of the most significant promises. These forefathers knew God and his name Jehovah, but likely some of the sons of Jacob or Israel did not know God fully for who he really is. However, Jehovah had given their forefather Abraham a prophecy setting forth the time when he would bring an end to their affliction in this land. Then they would come to know God as never before. In that sixteenth century B.C.E. the time had finally arrived.—Gen. 15:12-14.
By God’s deliverance of those oppressed Shemites the great military power of Egypt also came to know who Jehovah is.
HOW DID GOD DO IT?
In order to convince that mighty enslaving nation that he is God, the Sovereign, who does as he purposes among mankind, Jehovah had to use superhuman power, miraculous power. In this way, not only would he be recognized as existing; he would also make his name to be respected, indeed, to be feared by the great world power as well as by the other nations with whom his people would later have dealings. By these demonstrations of power and intelligence far beyond anything men possess, he proved that he is indeed GOD.
Egypt had its many gods and its magic-practicing priests. How, then, would miraculous acts of God be distinguished so that the Egyptians would not attribute them to their own gods or their priests? In a simple and very effective manner. God would use a man as his spokesman or prophet to announce the miracles beforehand. Then, when they occurred, particularly when the miracles adversely affected the Egyptian gods, the people would be forced to know that their gods had been powerless before the superior might of Jehovah.
In working out his purpose God had a qualified man available. This man was Moses, born in Egypt and trained by his mother in the knowledge of the true God. Moses had attempted the Israelites’ deliverance forty years previously, but found it was not yet God’s time and was forced to flee from Egypt. For the next forty years he experienced training in patience, endurance and humility as a shepherd in Midian. Then, at Mount Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai, God sent his angel to Moses, saying:
“You must tell the Israelites this, that it is JEHOVAH the God of their forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, who has sent you to them. This is my name for ever; this is my title in every generation. Go and assemble the elders of Israel and tell them that JEHOVAH the God of their forefathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to you and has said, ‘I have indeed turned my eyes towards you; I have marked all that has been done to you in Egypt, and I am resolved to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt, into the country of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ They will listen to you, and then you and the elders of Israel must go to the king of Egypt.”—Ex. 3:15-18, New English Bible.
THE CHALLENGE MADE AND MET
That it was a religious issue was made clearly evident when Moses appeared before Pharaoh and requested that the Israelites be allowed to go a distance into the wilderness to celebrate a festival to Jehovah. Pharaoh replied: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice to send Israel away?” Then, to back up his defiance of Jehovah as if He were a mere Nobody, the idol-worshiping Pharaoh added: “I do not know Jehovah at all and, what is more, I am not going to send Israel away.”—Ex. 5:1, 2.
God’s sovereignty was hereby brazenly challenged. He met the challenge in a way that left no doubt in the minds of God’s bitter opponents as well as of his worshipers. He proved that he was a God concerned, even taking action, in the affairs of men. By bringing a series of ten devastating plagues upon Egypt he brought Pharaoh to his knees.
The first three plagues, (1) turning the Nile waters into blood, (2) frogs in all the land, and (3) swarms of gnats, were experienced by both Egyptians and Israelites. Israel knew, however, that Jehovah was not meaning to punish them, but by suffering also they were enabled to feel how real a blow it was to the oppressive Egyptians. Doubtless any among them who doubted came to know Jehovah in this way.
Because of these circumstances, Pharaoh and his priests may have doubted Jehovah’s ability to protect his own people. Additionally, the magic-practicing priests seemed to imitate the first two plagues. But at the third, the plague of gnats, they were powerless to duplicate it and had to admit: “It is the finger of God!” It is notable that they avoided using God’s name Jehovah. But the facts spoke for themselves as to who brought the plagues against them and their gods.—Ex. 8:19.
Was there any protection possible through worshiping the true God, even this God with the unliked name? This question was undeniably answered by the fourth plague. For this plague as well as those that followed did not touch Israel. So on two counts Pharaoh was made to know that the true God is Jehovah: first, the priests were unable to duplicate the plagues, starting with the third one; and second, Jehovah separated and protected his own people. In fact, when the seventh plague hit, a very heavy hail, even the servants of Pharaoh who heeded Moses’ warning and brought their livestock under cover saw them spared. This proved that Jehovah was not a mere tribal or national God, but the God of the whole earth and the Preserver of all those who put their trust in him.—Ex. 9:18-21.
There is a warning to the nations today in what followed. Three more plagues came, ending with the death of the firstborn of all the Egyptian households. Then Pharaoh made haste to let Israel go. Surely God had given Pharaoh and his subjects more than enough opportunity to come to their senses and save their lives. He was long-suffering with them. But with Pharaoh the principle proved true: “A man repeatedly reproved but making his neck hard will suddenly be broken, and that without healing.” How?—Prov. 29:1.
A few days after Israel’s release, when they were camped by the Red Sea, Pharaoh showed that he was unworthy of any favor or further patience. He had hardened himself against Jehovah beyond recovery. As Jehovah had said to Moses: “Pharaoh will certainly say respecting the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering in confusion in the land. The wilderness has closed in upon them.’ So I shall indeed let Pharaoh’s heart become obstinate, and he will certainly chase after them and I shall get glory for myself by means of Pharaoh and all his military forces; and the Egyptians will certainly know that I am Jehovah.”—Ex. 14:1-4.
However, it was not the Israelites who were trapped, but the Egyptians who fell into a trap for their destruction. For that night, under the light of the Passover moon, the hundreds of thousands of Israelites passed across the bed of the Red Sea with the miraculously parted waters of it on each side of them. The military forces entered the dried seabed in pursuit, but when Jehovah began to hamper their progress, the Egyptian military forces sensed danger and began to feel that they were fighting against Jehovah. At last making an acknowledgment of Him by name, they said to one another: “Let us flee from any contact with Israel, because Jehovah certainly fights for them against the Egyptians.” But it was too late, for Jehovah caused the waters to close in upon them to their destruction, while his people Israel were safely on the opposite shore looking on.—Ex. 14:25.
IN WHAT WAY WE OUGHT TO KNOW GOD
Thus the Egyptians knew that God is Jehovah before they went into destruction. Political rulers and nations today who have a Pharaoh-like attitude against that name should take care. And individuals in such nations can, if they will, take note of this actual historical example and avoid a like fate. Those hardened against the Divine Name will know that God is Jehovah just before their destruction, but this is not a desirable way to find out about him. We should want to know him now as the true God and Sovereign, the Purposer, and the Protector of those who trust him. We should know him as Moses did and as Jesus Christ encouraged others to know God. It is a matter of life or death, as Jesus truly said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
Jehovah’s witnesses, who themselves have heeded the preaching of the good news, have come to know Jehovah by studying his Word. They are glad to help others, free of charge, to come to this knowledge. You will profit by studying the Bible in your own home with them.