Unless God reveals himself, he could never be known. God is completely “other” than us – unapproachable in his holiness and unlimited in his power. But he is also loving. And in his love he has made himself known to us.
In the Bible, we read a song that David wrote that helps us see how God has made himself known to us. We know it simply as Psalm 19, and in it we find the two primary ways God has made himself known.
The psalm begins with the words, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The first 6 verses continue to speak of how creation displays aspects of God’s nature. The book of Romans picks up this same idea when Paul writes:
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
If you had lived your life on a deserted island, there are certain things you could learn about God if you were thinking deeply. You may think of him as powerful, the One who created the world. You may think of him as faithful, as you notice that the sun rises and sets each day without fail.
This is often known as “general revelation.” God has revealed himself in ways that everyone can see: in creation, through his actions in history, and in his special creation of people. Through general revelation, we can learn about God, but it is through the specific revelation from God that we can know him personally.
As David continues in Psalm 19, verse 7 begins to speak of the law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord….he is speaking of Scripture, part of what is known as the “special revelation” of God.
Special revelation includes God’s appearances throughout Scripture, his direct speech through the prophets, the life of Jesus as the exact imprint of the divine nature — and all of this is contained in the Bible.
Think back to life on the deserted island. If you had spent your life without Scripture, there are some things about God you could have learned. But just think if a trunk washed ashore with a Bible that you could read. You would see that this powerful and faithful God has entered covenant relationships with his people, revealing himself as loving, faithful, and forgiving. Even though his people sinned and worshiped other gods, in his great love he gave his only Son to bring about forgiveness to those who would turn to him.
In God’s greatness, he is unknowable. But in his goodness, he has made himself known. Like David, we can look at the world he created and see his glory. And we can look in his Word and see his great love for us.
Through the world and his Word, God has made himself known. And he invites us to know him, to experience his unfailing love.