by Kenneth J. Wells
Sentry Magazine, March 2002
"And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him in aflame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I" (Exodus 3:2-4).
A Popular Assertion
Over the years I have heard and read various Bible teachers assert words along the following line --"The Bible does not try to prove that God exists. The Bible assumes the existence of God." I believe this assertion is often made because of the words we read in Genesis 1'1. There we read -- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Based upon these words people understand the Bible to start out with God existing and then it tells us He created everything. They see no effort in Genesis chapter one to prove that God exists. We can all readily admit there is no such effort in Genesis chapter one. Thus, can we not conclude from Genesis chapter one that the Bible assumes God's existence?
To be historically and prophetically correct we must answer the prior question, "No." The Bible was not revealed with the assumption that God exists. The problem with the above noted popular assertion is that it starts with a reader's point of view looking only at the limited text of Genesis chapter one. This text is being isolated from its original context. This faulty assumption forgets the prophet's point of view when he received the words in the text. This assertion further forgets the historical timeline of the revelation of the Bible. You have to have an inspired prophet before you can have an inspired Bible. No prophet, no Bible. With these thoughts in mind let us proceed to consider Moses the first inspired writer of the Bible.
Behold They Will Not Believe Me
Have you ever thought that Moses had the same problem as Joseph Smith the Mormon? Mohammed, Ellen G. White, the Apostle Paul, and even Jesus Christ our Savior had this same problem? What is - "this problem?" All the above persons claimed to have messages from God and they all have the same problem of convincing their audience that they really have heard from God. We are likely to react the same today as people in the past have reacted when they heard someone claim to have messages from God. If someone walks up to you and says, "I have a message from God", what are you going to do? Are you going to readily accept their word without questioning a thing? Or, will you ask for some type of proof that Goo has or is speaking to them? Some have given proof of their prophetic calling (e.g. Jesus the Christ, the Apostle Paul). Others have failed (e.g. Joseph Smith, Mohammed, etc.).
At the beginning of this article, we have a quote from Exodus chapter 3 and God's call of Moses. Moses may have assumed God's existence before the burning bush, but he did not have to assume God's existence afterward. Now he knew. Heating words from God while watching a bush not be consumed by fire gives one plenty of evidence. But Moses's evidence became his problem. God instructed Moses to become a spokesman to the Israelites and to the Pharaoh of Egypt (the most powerful political leader on earth at that time) (Exodus 3:7-12). Not only was Moses to claim to have heard from God, but he was to tell the most powerful ruler on earth to relinquish control of a significant portion of his slave workforce or subjects. Moses was way ahead of his time. He rightly figured that Pharaoh would not cotton to this secessionist talk any more than Abraham Lincoln would 3,200 years later in the United States. Political rulers seldom relinquish power, they usually want and grab for more power (I Samuel 8:4-18).
I suspect a lot of us would be thinking of excuses to duck this project given to Moses. On the other hand, Moses was listening to God in front of a non-burning burning bush. One would think an instruction from the Almighty (i.e. the most powerful Being in all comers of reality) would be all the pep talk one would need. Who is a Pharaoh but less than a speck of dust on the scales compared to Jehovah the great I AM. Pharaoh was the one who should have been afraid, not Moses.
Moses logically moved in his thinking from what he was to tell the Israelites and Pharaoh to his claim of having been instructed by God. He raised the logical question or problem of - "But, behold, they will not believe me, nor harken unto my voice; for they will say, Jehovah hath not appeared unto thee" (Exodus 4:1). God proceeded to give Moses divine assistance to handle this problem. He instructed Moses on how to use three gift miraculous signs to show that God was speaking through Moses (Exodus 4:2-9). One miracle at a person's beck and call ought to get the job done for supporting a prophetic claim. But, God supported Moses with the complete number of three by giving two backup miracles to support the one that should have been sufficient. Now Moses, the Israelites, and even Pharaoh would all know that God existed from these observable miracles. Any assumptions about God's existence were to be converted into verifiable observations able to pass courtroom eyewitness tests.
That My Name May Be Declared Throughout All the Earth
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament tell us that God used Pharaoh's rebellion against the prophet and lawgiver Moses as a means to demonstrate the existence and power of the one true God -- "that my name may be declared throughout all the earth" (Exodus 9:15-16 and Romans 9:14-17). This was especially true for the pagan Egyptians. They were to receive hands-on eyewitness observation of the power, and thus the existence, of the God who sent the plagues. Notes the following phrases that state various purposes of the miraculous workings of God to support Moses:
- Exodus 7:3-5 ... "the Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah ..."
- Exodus 7:17-18 ... "In this thou shalt know that I am Jehovah ... "
- Exodus 8:8-11 ... "that thou mayest know that there is none like unto Jehovah our God."
- Exodus 8:19 ... "the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God"
- Exodus 8:21-23 ... "to the end thou mayest know that I am Jehovah in the ends of the earth"
- Exodus 9:27-29 ... "that thou mayest know that the earth is Jehovah's"
- Exodus 10:1-2 ... "show these my signs ... that ye may know that I am Jehovah"
- Exodus 11:4-7 ... "that ye may know that Jehovah doth make a distinction ... "
- Exodus 14:15-18... "And the Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah .."
- Exodus 14:30-31 ... "And Israel saw the great work ... and they believed in Jehovah"
We also know that knowledge of the miraculous workings of God in the exodus spread to other nations such as Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Canaan as described in Exodus 15:14-16. The father-in-law of Moses appears to exclaim that Jehovah God demonstrated His power over the special realms attributed to the various pagan gods (Exodus 18: 10-11). Over forty years and many miles later people in Jericho were still trembling at their knowledge of God's miraculous acts (Joshua 2:1-3,8-10).
It was within this background that Moses penned Genesis chapter one as well as the other five books of Moses. Both Moses and those who first read his writings knew first hand of God's existence having observed His powerful miraculous acts. They did not assume God existed when they read Genesis 1:1. They knew and believed based upon eyewitness testimony of His power.
Ditto for the New Testament
If we wanted to, we could pursue a similar study like above with the miracles of the New Testament. Like Moses of the Old Testament, Jesus, His Apostles, and the prophets in the New Testament confirmed their words with the miraculous support of God (Mark 16:19-20; John 3:1-2; John 20:30-31; Acts 1 :1-3; Acts 4: 5-16; and Hebrew 2:1-4). The Bible was not written with word only but with a demonstration of the power of God and His existence (I Corinthians 2:4-5).