God’s greatness is so vast that our merely human words always fall short in our efforts to speak about Him. This need not be surprising, for if we could fully understand God, He would be reduced to our level, He would no longer be God. Yet we must speak about Him and we can only do so by using words.
Jesus constantly spoke of His Father in heaven: and He called himself the Son of God. We shall see more about the Father-Son relationship within God later.
Here we can already say that it comes easy to us to call God our Father. We live in a most wonderful and breathtaking universe-a universe that is magnificently planned and executed, a universe that is so delicately balanced.
The man who says there is no God has not thought very deeply about the wonderful world in which he lives.
The story is told of the astronomer Kirchner. He had a friend who said that he did not believe in God. Knowing that a simple illustration would be better than a long argument. Kirchner had a globe made which was a fine model of our planet. When his friend next called, he at once noticed the globe on the table and turning it on its axis, he said:,
“Who made this globe?”
“Oh” replied Kirchner, “it made itself”.
They both had a good laugh, and then Kirchner said:
“You laugh at that as absurd, and rightly so. But it would be thousand times easier to believe that this little globe made itself than that the large one on which we live made itself”.
The biologist Edwin Conklim said the same thing from another angle: “The probability of life originating from accidents is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop.”
It is not easy for man to believe in miracles, especially when he does not see them. But the truth is that we are surrounded by most amazing “miracles”. As you sit here now, reading this page, you and this booklet, and the room and whole village or city are racing through space at the terrifiying speed of 68,400 miles per hour.
And yet there are no bumps, no falling over or off the planet. Even at night when you sleep so soundly, you travel at the same speed - never a fraction of a second slower or faster.
We sometimes think that our planet Earth is the centre of the universe. But it is just a drop in the huge ocean of space. Scientific observation has as yet revealed no limits to the universe, and has so far probed only a fraction of it. Yet to travel to the frontiers of that observed fraction even at 186,300 miles per second (the speed of light) would take at least 6,000 million years.
And the whole incredibly vast universe traveling at fantastic speed moves with the greatest accuracy, like a giant clock. The most accurate clocks used in scientific observation must be adjusted by fractions of a second. But the vast clock that is the universe is never a fraction slow or fast. What kind of Clock-maker has made it?
When you look at the stars on a beautiful night, you are looking back into the past, for you see them not as they are now, but as they were hundreds, thousands, millions of years ago. The light you see has taken all that time to reach your eye.
The light we receive from most of them began its great journey long before we were born. Even the light from the sun - only 93 million lies away - takes eight minutes to reach the earth. But from the star nearest to us, Proxima Centrauri, it takes four years. Since light, traveling at a speed of 186,000 miles per second, covers 6 million miles in a year, this means that the distance between Earth and Proxima Centauri is about 24 million miles.
A big library of books could not describe all the wonders of the universe. There is the little universe of the atom - as small as the big universe is vast. Yet it has a fixed pattern of electrons speeding round a tiny nucleus in fixed orbits and in the most exact proportions to each other - with an energy that man can use to destroy huge cities.
There is the miracle of a tiny seed lying in the dry, dusty fields through the long hot summer months. Then, following the regular yearly cycle, clouds fill the sky, the monsoon rains fall and that little seed bursts into the most wonderful life, pushing tiny leaves through the earth. As it grows it absorbs its food with its own roots and leaves, until it flowers and produces grains which can repeat the same “miracle” in the following year.
There is the miracle of the cheeky, fluffy chicken emerging from the egg, just 21 days after the hen began her patient sitting on the nest. There is the little kitten born from the cat, the lovely calf from the cow, the young elephant from its giant of a mother.
Nothing of this happens by chance. All follow a most precise and exact process - regular, exact, delicately balanced, always following the same timetable, the same cycle.
Is it more reasonable to say that all this happened by chance, that all this has no explanation or no cause? Or is it not more rational to say that beyond this wonderfully constructed universe there lies a great Mind and a powerful Builder – immeasurably grater than our human minds and building powers --and for want of a better name we call this Builder GOD?
Perhaps it is the materialist who is asking for an even greater “miracle” when he says that this magnificently designed universe has no Designer and no Builder!
The Bible, which had its origins several thousand years ago, does not set out to explain the universe in terms of 20th century science. This would have been impossible and quite unintelligible to the people of that distant past age.
This book sets out to teach a religious message – a message that shows man just where he stands in the universe, and just what is the meaning and purpose of his life. The Bible uses stories, illustrations, poetry and drama to teach its religious message. It leaves to scientists down through the ages for their efforts and research to uncover the wonders that lie hidden.
If we look for a religious message in the words of the Bible that follow, we shall not be disappointed, but shall find it a rich experience.
“In the beginning God created the heaves and the earth: the earth was waste and empty: darkness covered the abyss, and the spirit of God hovered above the waters.”
“God said, `Let there be light’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God separated the light from the darkness calling the light day and the darkness night. And there was evening and morning, the first day”.
“Then God said, `Let there be sky in the midst of the waters to divide the waters’ and so it was. God made the sky, dividing the waters that were below the sky from those which were above it. God called the sky heaven. And there was evening and morning, the second day.”
“Then God said, `Let the waters below the heaven be gathered into one place and let the dry land appear. And so it was. God called the dry land earth and the assembled waters seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, `Let the earth bring forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants and all kinds of fruit trees that bear fruit containing their seed. And so it was. The Earth brought forth vegetation, every kind of trees that bear fruit containing their seed. God saw that it was good. And there was evening and morning, the third day.”
“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the sky of the heavens to separate day from night: let them serve as signs for the fixing of the seasons, days and years: let them serve as lights in the sky to shed light upon the earth.’ And so it was, God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day and the smaller one to rule the night and then made the stars.
God set them in the sky to shed light upon the earth, to rule the day and night and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. And there was evening and morning, the fourth day.”
“Then God said, `Let the waters abound with life, and above the earth let winged creatures fly below the sky. And so it was. God created the great sea monsters, all kinds of living, swimming creatures with which the waters abound and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good and God blessed them saying, `Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas: and let the birds multiply on the earth. And there was evening and morning, the fifth day.”
“God said, `Let earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, crawling creatures and wild animals.’ And so it was. God made all kinds of wild beasts, every kind of cattle and every kind of creature crawling on the ground. And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1,1-25)
In a clear and simple way, these lines teach their religious message—using a simple pedagogy for the simple people to whom they were spoken centuries ago. That religious massage to be taught is that God is the one who made everything. He made everything with absolute ease. He did not have to sweat and toil. He made everything without the need of any previous materials, for that is what creation is - differing from manufacture or growth, where raw materials are needed to shape or feeds upon. It is only God who can create i.e., who can make something out of nothing at a single word.
We do not have to believe that the “days” were days of 24 hours. They seem to be a dramatic way in which the writer shows that everything that we can think of owes its origin to God.
This description can be quite in agreement with the theory of evolution. The “days” could be great stretches of time in which the “seeds” planted by God, or the process started by Him, unfolded and grew. What the writer of the Bible is anxious to stress is that the whole process was begun by God who designed it and who executed His design.
The theory of evolution does not remove the need of God but rather shows the magnificence of His plan for the development of our wonderful universe.
The Bible account shows, too, that everything in the universe is good. We should not be afraid of the world but should be full of joy and confidence in it. For it all comes from God, and whatever comes from Him is good.
We have had a glimpse of the splendour of God’s creating work. It is as if He has prepared a wonderful stage for a drama. The stage is set with beautiful scenery in the back-ground, with splendid props on every side.
Everything is ready except for one important thing—the main actor! Why has God created the skies and the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars, the animals in all their beauty?
All these wonders wait for their lord and their master, for the one who will make use of them all. God has prepared them all for His masterpiece, for the crown and summit of His creation. He has made them all for man. Man is the main actor for whom this fabulous stage has been set.
We can turn to the Bible to watch the entry of man into the universe:
“God said, `Let us make man in our image and likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle and over all the wild animals and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
“God created man in his image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.
“Then God blessed them and said to them, `Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle and the animals that crawl on the earth.
We can add here that his first man and woman, our first parents, are known as Adam and Eve.
PURPOSE O F HUMAN LIFE
Crowds of people throughout the world today wonder about the purpose of our human life. Why am I here in this world? How am I to live? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
Here we see man’s position. He is the lord and master of the whole universe. All that exists is to help him on his journey through life - the land and the sea, the space and the atom, plants and animals. He can use them all for himself.
Man stands at the head of the universe. But that is not the end of his story, for he, too, has been created by God. He is lord of the universe, but God is his Lord and Master. Man owes his beginning to God: he depends fully on God. He must, therefore, never forget this. He must recognize and acknowledge God as his Lord.
Religion is man telling God that he is aware of his proper place before Him, That is religion, that is worship. We can pause here and slowly and prayerfully make an act of worship. We can read the following words and listen for their call to us. And then we can say them again in our heart. This is a prayer that tells God we recognize Him, and that we see our place before Him. “When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place What is man that you should be Mindful of him, Or the son of man that you should Care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honour You have given him rule over the Works of your hands, Putting all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, Yes, and the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea And whatever swims the paths Of the seas”. (Psalm 8, 4-9). If I can say that prayer well, if I know its meaning and say it with my whole heart and soul, then I make a very deep act of religion. I build a solid foundation for my whole life. I understand what my life really means.
God’s purpose in making man was to share His life with us. Great as our universe is, it is not enough for us. God has planted deep in your heart and mine and in every man’s heart an undying hunger for Himself. “You have made us for yourself, O lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Saint Augustine.
There is only one real failure in a human life, and that is to worship my own self instead of God who is my Lord. That is what sin is—namely, love of self to the contempt of God.
The stars, the trees, the animals—everything except man—praise and worship God simply by being what they are.
But God has given man two powers that He has given to no other creature in the universe. He has given Him a mind with which he can know and a free—will with which he can love.
God wants you to know Him and He wants you to love Him. He never forces any one to love Him, because, as you know, you can never force anyone to love you. They must come to you because they want to come to you; otherwise, they come out of fear or flattery, but not out of love.
God put the first man and woman our first parents, Adam and Eve, on the stage of this wonderful universe. He gave them everything. All He asked was that they should recognize Him as their Lord—as we have just tried to do in our prayer of worship. He wanted them to do this freely, to show their real love for Him.
But Adam and Eve failed in this one all – important test that their generous and loving Lord asked of them. They failed to give Him their love. We can again read it in the Bible---this time a tragic story. Here too, it is related in the form of a drama to drive home to the simple people of that time a religious lesson that explains our human situation.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any other beasts of the field which the Lord God had made. He said to the woman (Eve), ‘Did God say: You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’ ‘The woman answered the serpent: `Of the fruit of all the trees in the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said: You shall not eat it, neither shall you touch it lest you die.’”
“But the serpent said to the woman, `No, you shall not die, for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’. Now the woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for the knowledge it would give.”
“She took of its fruit and ate it; and also gave some to her husband and he ate. Then the eyes of both wee opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
“When they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called the man and said to him, `Where are you?’ And he said. `I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid.’ Then He said, `who told you that you were naked? You have eaten then of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat.’ Then the man said, `The woman you placed at my side gave me fruit from the tree and I ate.’ Then the Lord said to the woman, `Why have you done this?” The woman said, `The serpent deceived me and I ate.’
`Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals, and among all beasts of the field; on your belly shall you crawl, dust shall you eat, all the days of your life; I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’
`I will make great your distress in child bearing; in pain shall you bring for the children: for your husband shall be your longing, and he shall be your master.
Because you have listened to your wife, and have eaten the fruit of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat; Cursed be the ground because of you; in Toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, And you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, since out of it you were taken, for dust you are ant unto dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3, 1-19)
This account shows what sin—every sin—really is. It is a man putting his own self in the place of God, his Lord and Maker. He worships his own self instead of God. He robs God—to whom he owes his very life—of the recognition of his dependence on Him. That is why he feels so terrible after sin—like the younger son in the story. For he turns his whole life into a lie—acting as if he were his own lord and as if there were no God who made him and keeps him in existence. Sin is a revolt against God; it is total rejection of Him. It is pride and ingratitude towards a loving Father who has given man everything he has ---even the very powers that he uses to sin against Him.
When we think a little about the wonderful universe that God has made and all that He has given man, and when we think how man has spilt that plan by sin, we ask, why did God allow him to do this terrible thing?
Sin brought evil and pain and death into the world. Work became a heavy burden. Man’s sin brought disharmony even into the material world; even within my own self. I experience a strong pull towards evil—in spite of my desire to do what is right and good. Why did God allow this? Why did He make men and women that He knew would do evil?
The question goes to the very centre of our human situation. God valued men and women so highly that He gave them freedom – real freedom. He would not drive us to Himself as you can drive goats or cattle. He wants us to come to Him freely - in love. If it is not possible for you or me to choose right or wrong, we are not truly free.
God takes us and our freedom so seriously that He will not prevent us using it for evil. He always waits for us to come to Him. There lies the tremendous danger of our lives: I can make a failure of my whole life by sin. And there also lies my great dignity - God Himself wants me and my love. God who made the highest mountain and the most distant star waits for me; He wants me; He loves me.
What a wonderful plan God had for us! What a wonderful world He placed you and me in!
But His plan was frustrated. It was thrown back in His face firstly by Adam and Eve and their refusal to recognize Him, and then by myself, for I have supported their sin by my own sins. I have turned away from God. I have rejected Him. I have created others and treated them unjustly. I have done them harm, I have done evil things.
I have put an end to God’s friendship, I have made myself an enemy of God. And all that is death - death to God’s plan for me, death to God’s life living in me.
A dead man cannot help himself. The younger son who left his father could never by his own strength find his way back to his father’s heart. The sinner can never make himself God’s friend or God’s son again.
Is there no hope for me then? Am I finished forever?
My only hope lies with God Himself. If I have offended someone, it is only that person who can forgive me. My sin is against God and against His love for me.
God seems to have given a spark of hope to our first parents when He told the serpent. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed ; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
God has placed me in a wonderful world. He has given me great gifts. He has shown great love for me. But I have done evil against His and against my fellow-men. I have refused to serve Him. I am dead in my sins. There is no hope for me from myself.
My only hope is - if God stretches down His hand to lift me up.
Can I hope that He will do this?
Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord
Lord hear my voice
O let your ears be attentive to the voice
Of my pleading.
If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt,
Lord, who would survive?
But with you is found forgiveness:
For this we praise you.
My soul is waiting for the Lord,
I count on his word.
My soul is longing for the Lord
More than watchman for day-break.
Let the watchman count on day-break
And we on the Lord.
Because with Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.
His people indeed he will redeem from all its iniquity.