To an unknown God ∙
God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” – Exodus 3:14
23 As I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
24 He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples,
25 and human hands can’t serve his needs– for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.
27 His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him– though he is not far from any one of us.
30 God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.
31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.
Would it be too extreme to suggest that most all people throughout the millennia, regardless of their location, have had some concept of God? People everywhere have asked, “Who or What is God?” When we speak of God, we are somewhat limited by the English language. English uses one term, God, to signify both the concept of God and the person of God.
The primary Western concept of God is theism. Theism is the view that there is a God which is the creator and sustainer of the universe and is unlimited concerning knowledge (omniscience), power (omnipotence), extension (omnipresence), and moral perfection (International Encyclopedia of Psychology).
It is important to distinguish the things that differ. Yet at the same time, not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Is there a difference between the concept of God and the living God revealed in the Scriptures? Most definitely.
When God appeared to Moses at Mount Sinai, Moses asked God what His name was. Moses believed in the concept of God, but he also believed in a personal God. He believed that the living God, the personal God, was now at Sinai revealing Himself to him.
Moses was no pagan. As part of the Nation of Israel, Moses was speaking with the God of his fathers. The truth of the living and true God had been passed down through the centuries via spoken stories. These stories were the accurate history of the people who lived them: men such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, or Jacob. They had not yet been compiled and inscribed in the Hebrew language. That was a yet future project still on the Father’s drawing board. At the right time, Moses would be tasked to collect and write down these stories in a book. That book would one day be named Genesis.
Moses is driven by curiosity and caught up in the moment. Moses was now in face-to-face contact with the God of his fathers. He was coming to terms with the living, personal God. Heretofore, He was simply known as “He-Who-Has-No-Name” (The Ten Commandments) or simply “The Unknown God.” Moses needed to know what the name of God was. The people would one day ask him. How would Moses answer them? God revealed His name to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM tell them that I AM [Yahweh] sent you.”
Persons have names, mere God concepts do not. The Father God revealed in The Scriptures is no mere force or idea. He is a person who can be known, loved, and experienced through a personal relationship.
13 Then Moses said to God, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”
14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”
Moses now knew the name of the personal God, I AM [Yahweh]. Through the writings of Moses, it has been passed down through the millennia to all those who believe in Him and enter into a personal relationship with Him.
On the other hand, people who only have the concept of God, are not concerned about names. Why would they be? They are not dealing with a person, only an idea.
REFLECT & PRAY
“Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God” (A.W. Tozer)
Father, thank You that You are more than an idea, a man-made concept. Thank You for overlooking my ignorance and seeking me out.
The Greeks were well known throughout the ancient world for their pantheon of gods. Many of their names are well known in Western culture: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite, Hermes, Hades. But their God concept was grossly distorted. They had many gods but what if they’d missed out on one? They wanted to cover all the bases. They did not want to offend any deity simply because they were unfamiliar with it. So the Athenians built an altar “To an Unknown God.”
When Paul spoke to the Athenians, the altar erected “To an Unknown God” provided common ground for communication. He seized the opportunity to speak of the true and living Father God, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He used the concept of God, as a launching point, a bridge to explain the personal God.
23 I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
24 He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth . . .
25 and human hands can’t serve his needs – for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need.
27 His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us.
“On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, there are the tremendous frescoes by Michelangelo. Among them is the magnificent picture of the creation of man. God is reaching out His finger, and man, just having been created, reaches out to God as well. But their fingers do not touch. This is a true Christian insight” (Francis A. Schaeffer).
The Father God of Scripture is personal yet infinite, close at hand yet distant. Being a person, He thinks and feels, and He seeks to enter into a personal relationship with sentient creatures made in His image.
Believing in God is good, but it is not good enough for eternity!
It is not enough to know about Him. He created us to know Him. He seeks us out.
Anyone can have a personal relationship with the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.