Conversations About God (4:2)
Some might imagine God visiting one of our churches, inviting our questions in the great controversy. Suppose one of us took courage from the story of how Abraham challenged God (Gen 18:25) and yet was welcomed as a friend (Isa 41:8; Jam 2:23). So we begin the inquiry with the following question: “God, did You lie to us when You said that sin results in death?” How do you think God would reply?
“Absolutely not! You will die precisely as I said. Any more questions?”
“Well God, like Abraham, I don’t want to sound irreverent, but are you the least bit arbitrary?”
“Certainly not! How dare you ask such questions?”
And at that moment the floor would begin to move beneath our feet, and there would be lightning and thunder and fire, and a great cloud. And God would say “Any more questions?” If such a scene were to happen would you be satisfied? Would you feel convinced? Can truth be established by the show of power? Satan tries to do that. He has to, because what he says about God isn’t true. In the absence of evidence He has to use other methods. He loves to bring fire down from heaven, as the Bible says (Rev 13:13-14), or do counterfeit miracles (2 Thess 2:9), to seduce, intimidate, mislead or deceive us.
But since the truth is with our Heavenly Father, He never has to stoop to such methods. That is one reason, I believe, that God does not show Himself to us as a rule. Because if He were to show Himself visibly our tendency would be to say, “God, if You’ve said it, we believe it, and that is all there is to it!” Jesus even told His disciples in the Upper Room, “It’s better for you that I go away” (John 16:7). There was the danger that once the disciples recognized that He was God, they would stop thinking things through. They would simply run to Him and accept His answers to their questions on the authority of who He was. It would seem like the right thing to do.
Yet in the great controversy God does not ask for that. So even gentle Jesus said, “It is better that I go away, and I’ll send the Holy Spirit, who will come as a still small voice. He’ll come to be a Teacher and a Guide to lead you into the truth. You won’t see Him. He won’t intimidate you. He only works with evidence. Most importantly, He’ll help you understand the Bible” (based on John 16:7-13 and 14:26). God does speak to us. He does answer our questions. But He does it through what we call His Word. We talk to God in prayer, and He talks to us as we study the scriptures. That’s why I believe that really thoughtful study of the scriptures is a form of prayer. That’s conversing with God as with a friend.
Now some people pray a great deal, but never hear God speak back because they never spend much time reading the Bible. But if one reads the Bible and then responds to God, there is conversation as one thinks along and says to God, “That’s marvelous, what I’ve just read.” This is conversation with God as with a Friend, and that’s the meaning of prayer.
But now, when we pick up the Bible and have this kind of conversation with Him, what do we find there? With respect to the questions in the great controversy, do we find denials? Do we find claims? No, we find evidence.
Even when a person has been falsely accused, there’s no way to establish the truth simply by denying the charges. If just denying the charges would have worked, think what God could have done back in eternity. He could have assembled all of the angels, all hundreds of millions of them, and He could have stood before them in all His authority. And He could have said, “I understand that I have been accused of the following. I want you to know it’s absolutely false. I can be trusted. I am not arbitrary. I have not lied to you. And I expect you to believe it. And remember who I am, and don’t forget My power!” And all the angels would bow their heads and say, “We agree.”
But in a setting like that, how do you know if people really do agree? So God did not try this. Even when a person has been falsely and unfairly accused of being untrustworthy, it is only by the demonstration of trustworthiness over a long period of time and under a great variety of circumstances, particularly difficult ones, that trustworthiness can be re-established and confirmed. And I understand that the sixty-six books of the Bible are precisely the record of just such a demonstration, and every one of those books is an important part.