In the lands of their exile, the Israelites lost touch with the true God and were overtaken with mysticism and heathenism. The Covenant God who spoke to Moses "mouth to mouth" was later called "the unknowable God," whose name the exiles knew of, but feared to speak. Even so, Judean Masoritic scribes preserved His Word and wrote His name&emdash;YHWH&emdash;faithfully in their Hebrew texts of the Old Testament. The Ancient Greeks worshiped many gods&emdash;Mercury, Venus, Zeus, Jupiter and the host of heaven. In addition, they worshiped the unknown God and inscribed an altar in his honor at Athens. The apostle Paul addressed this Unknown God and told the Athenians: "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you" (Acts 17:23). Who is THE UNKNOWN GOD?
by Jerry Gentry
"For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
Who is God? Can you really know Him? Is He so high and lofty as to be unknowable to lowly man, as the Israelites and Jews of the dispersion later claimed? Who is this Deity whom the Greeks called, "THE UNKNOWN GOD?" Who is this God, called "the LORD" over 7000 times in the King James Version of the Old Testament?
Of this Holy One, the Bible says: "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2). Yes, the Most High God looks down upon puny man, and sees every lowly, humble one who trembles with reverence and awe at the very Word of God. Of this "high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy" (Isa. 57:15), the Bible says: "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Hab. 1:13). He became unknown and later "unknowable" only to those whose "iniquities have separated between you and your God, and. . . [whose] sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear" (Isa 59:2).
Israel sinned wickedly and lost personal knowledge of the Holy One. To such a wicked nation, the prophet Hosea spent his entire lifetime and ministry declaring: "there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land" (Hos. 4:1). In such days, the Covenant God was unknown because the Covenant people had broken the Covenant, "despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment" (Num. 15:31). During the waning years of Hosea's ministry, the capitol of Samaria fell, and the Northern Kingdom of Ten Tribes were carried away captive into the Assyrian wilderness. They had lost touch with the One true God, who had promised: "If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream" (Num. 12:6). Yes, the LORD God of Israel was a thoroughly knowable God, but only to "them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name" (Mal. 3:16). Of a future time, Hosea prophesied: "Thou shalt know the LORD" (Hosea 2:20), when "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9).
Yes, that very Greek god, called "THE UNKNOWN GOD," is known through obedience, lost through disobedience. The Apostle Paul declared of this God: "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you" (Acts 17:23).
Who is the God whom Paul declared to the Athenians? The answer reveals "THE UNKNOWN GOD," removes all doubts, and opens personal fellowship with Him.
"God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Act 17:24).
Who is this God who "made the world and all things therein?"
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Joh 1:1).
"The same was in the beginning with God" (v. 2).
"All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (v. 3). Who is this God, "the Word [that] was made flesh. . . full of grace and truth" (v. 14), who made "all things?"
"His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb" (Luke 2:21). "The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20) revealed Himself by taking on a flesh body and living some 33 years among his people. "We have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life" (1John 1:1), the apostle John tells us. It is through Him and Him alone that we can approach unto the Father: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
"The LORD" is "unknowable" to all who live in sin, because they have not yielded their lives to Him. Only through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ can we know "the LORD," Alleluia! It is only through Jesus that we also find fellowship with the Father: "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1John 1:3). "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). We must come to know and yield to the one whose name is called Jesus.
We know the Father and have fellowship with Him through yielding to His Son. Then how did God, "the LORD" of the Old Testament, the very Creator, who later took on a flesh body and was "called Jesus," become "unknowable?" He was well known to Moses and David and Elijah and Daniel and Hosea and a host of other God fearing men of the Bible. How then did He become "unknowable" in later centuries and after the dispersion, all the way to the Protestant Reformation? From whence came the idea that the God of the Old Testament is an "unknowable" God, distinct and separate from the New Testament God of love?
The idea that God is unknown, as the Greeks thought, and "unknowable" as taught by later Israelites and Jews of the dispersion, is an invention of depraved, unregenerate man, at best. And at worst, this concept was proliferated by those whose hearts could never become regenerate and know the true God, because they were not His sheep. Jesus told these reprobates: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). He told these same reprobates, "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep" (John 10:26). To these, "the LORD" Jesus Christ was "unknowable."
Much earlier, Job chided his counsellor Eliphaz: "Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days?" (Job 24:1). Job knew his God. Yet there are people on earth to whom the Covenant God of Israel is unknown and "unknowable." These very people, whether goats or tares, have "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever" (Rom. 1:25). And what is the result? "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" (v. 28).
Of those who should have known God but refused and continued to pursue their own lusts, God will come and judge: "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2Ths. 1:8). For all Israelites, knowledge of God is a command and not an option. Failing to come to know THE UNKNOWN GOD is a matter of eternal significance. Failing to come to know the unknowable God, is a prepaid ticket into the fires of hell. Failing to come to personal knowledge and fellowship with that One and true God means only one thing&emdash;eternal death.
Yes, the true Covenant God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is known to all who "shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name" (Deut. 6:13). Of such an One, Isaiah prophesied: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). Emmanuel, Jesus the Christ, Saviour of His people, is His name, "to the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:12). By seeking Him and the wisdom of His ways: "Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:5).
The Unknown God. Who is He? What is His name? How can we find Him and come to know Him personally?
The Bible says: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). We must "ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed" (James 1:6). We must believe. Otherwise, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (v. 8). God is faithful when our hearts are submitted.
Further explaining THE UNKNOWN GOD, the apostle Paul continues his discourse to the Athenians:
"Neither is [he] worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Act 17:25).
"And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (v. 26).
"That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us" (v. 27).
Thus THE UNKNOWN GOD is known, worshipped and praised among His people, both at home and afar off.
"Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?" (Jer. 23:23). Yes, God is both at hand, when we yield. And He goes with His people afar, when we invite Him through our submission to His will in our lives.
"For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring" (v. 28).
"Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device" (v. 29).
"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent" (v. 30). Repentance is a change of mind and heart, away from the world, the flesh and the devil, and in favor of God and his Will. Repentance begins with admission of our total depravity, our guilty state before God, which He will come and judge.
"Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (v. 31).
Have you repented? Brother and sister, do you know the LORD? Are you put off by such a question? Then possibly you do not know Him as well as you should. Perhaps you must yet find Him in truth. "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).
Do you know THE UNKNOWN GOD? Have you sought Him with all your heart? The Savior Jesus Christ is THE UNKNOWN GOD, the very Creator and LORD of the Old Testament, from whom "all [did] drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (1Cor. 10:4).
Jesus Christ is THE UNKNOWN GOD. Do you know Him? Have you met Him personally? Do you have fellowship with the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son? Is the Holy Spirit actively working in your life? "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9).
Millions take up the name of Jesus, but few people indeed have bothered to find out what He taught and yield their lives to Him in truth. Do you know Him? Yes? Then you have yielded to His commands? Otherwise, you are rebuked of Him: "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). "Grace only" Christians are not Christians in truth, because they deny the active, personal work of God in their lives. "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:2).
There is a great future time coming when "they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jer. 31:34).
Of such a future time, God says: "I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD" (Hosea 2:20).
"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (Hosea 6:3). But to those who know not God, He says, "But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isa. 57:20).
Yes, THE UNKNOWN GOD is both knowable and known to all who yield to Him and "keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him" (Deut. 8:6). He is Jesus the Christ. Genuine grace of God produces a living, working faith in obedience to His will. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7).
Yet there are many in this world who claim to "know the Lord," but are liars. "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:16). You will find these folks everywhere, even in the pews of churches. What is the eternal destiny of these self willed "Christian" reprobates? Jesus answers: "I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." (Luke 13:27-28).
You will find these workers of iniquity in every Christian organization. They are the foolish virgins, who have no oil, no Holy Spirit, in their lamps. They are the Pharisees who thank God they are "not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican," (Luke 18:11), that is, sinners. Little do they realize that their sin is worst of all. It is that of pride and self justification. Under pressure of confrontation with personal sin, they justify themselves in their own eyes, by comparison with others.
Will you be thrust out of the kingdom? If not, then you will "know the LORD" in truth, through yielded obedience to His Son Jesus Christ, the faithful Word of God.
Christian, yield your life fully to the Savior. Submit to the gospel. Admit the truth, that you are totally depraved. Admit with the apostle Paul: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Rom. 7:18).
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (v. 24).
"I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (v. 25).
Yield yourself to Jesus and come to know THE UNKNOWN GOD. "Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:5). Alleluia!