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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: God Has Spoken to Us

Don Stewart :: In What Special Ways Has God Revealed Himself to Humanity?

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In What Special Ways Has God Revealed Himself to Humanity?

God Has Spoken to Us – Question 17

The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote that God has spoken to humanity in various ways. The Bible says,

After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1, 2 NET)

The Bible records a variety of ways God has revealed Himself to humanity—primarily through words and deeds. The Bible lists the following ways in which God has made Himself known:

1. God Directly Spoke to Humans with an Audible Voice

The Bible often records God speaking with an audible voice. In the Book of Genesis, we read the following:

So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 HCSB)

Later in Genesis, it says,

So the LORD made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River...” (Genesis 15:18 NLT)

In these instances God spoke audibly in a way that human beings could understand.

2. The Lot Was Used to Determine God’s Will

One of the ways that God made himself known was in the casting of lots, or dice. The Book of Proverbs says,

The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is the LORD’s alone (Proverbs 16:33 NRSV).

We find an historical usage of the lot to determine the replacement for traitor Judas. We read about this in the Book of Acts. Simon Peter said,

“Thus one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time the Lord Jesus associated with us, beginning from the baptism by John until the day he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness of his resurrection together with us.” So they proposed two candidates: Joseph called Barsabbas (also called Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know the hearts of all. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to assume the task of this service and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” Then they cast lots for them, and the one chosen was Matthias; so he was counted with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:21-26 NET)

While the Bible records this use of the lot by Jesus’ disciples, there is some question as to whether they were led by the Holy Spirit to choose the twelfth disciple in this manner.

Today, we would not highly regard the use of the lot. However, in the past, it did sometimes serve to communicate the mind of God to humanity.

3. Once God Wrote With a Huge Hand On a Wall

In the Book of Daniel, God revealed Himself to the evil king Belshazzar by means of a large hand writing on a wall. It puts it this way:

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. (Daniel 5:5 NIV)

The writing on the wall contained a special message from God—the Babylonian Empire would fall that very night. The prediction came true.

4. The Urim and Thummim Helped Determine God’s Will

The Urim and Thummim (lights and perfections) were one of the ways in which God spoke to the people. There is mystery surrounding exactly how this worked. The Bible commanded the high priest to use them. We read the following command in the Book of Exodus:

“Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.” (Exodus 28:30 NIV)

The high priest wore a breastplate that had a square piece of material that was folded in half. This would open at the top like a pouch. On the breastplate were twelve precious stones on which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is possible that the Urim and Thummim were two precious stones placed inside the pouch that were used, in some way, to determine God’s will.

However, exactly how the will of God was made known to the High Priest is not certain. There are a number of examples of it being put in use. Moses wrote,

“He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.” (Numbers 27:21 NIV)

Moses wrote about the use of the Urim and Thummim:

About Levi he said: “Your Thummim and Urim belong to the man you favored. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah.” (Deuteronomy 33:8 NIV)

In Samuel, we read how God would no longer answer King Saul through the Urim and Thummim:

When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. (1 Samuel 28:6 NRSV)

Scripture tells us that it was used until the time of Ezra. We read the following:

...the governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim. (Ezra 2:63 NRSV)

There is no record of anyone using the Urim and Thummim during the New Testament period.

5. God Has Revealed Himself through Dreams

While dreams are a common experience of humanity, God used them in a special way to reveal His truth. The Bible says,

Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words: When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.” (Numbers 12:5, 6 NIV)

The Bible says that nonbelievers, as well as believers, have experienced God-given dreams. The Book of Genesis gives examples of this occurring.

On one occasion, this happened to a king named Abimelech. Scripture says,

But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” (Genesis 20:3 NIV)

God supernaturally gave a dream to a man named Laban; the uncle of Jacob. The Bible says,

But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night, and said to him, “Take heed that you say not a word to Jacob, either good or bad.” (Genesis 31:24 NRSV)

God personally spoke to these people through dreams even though they were not believers.

6. God Gave Visions to a Number of People

There is some distinction between dreams and visions. Dreams happen, of course, while we are asleep. A vision can occur while the person is awake. The Bible says that God has spoken to certain people through visions. For example, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision:

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1 NRSV)

Dreams and visions, where God supernaturally spoke to certain people, are found throughout the Scripture in both testaments.

7. Paul Was Transported into the Spirit World

God transported the apostle Paul into the spirit world to show him certain things that were happening there. He testified to his experience as follows:

This boasting is all so foolish, but let me go on. Let me tell about the visions and revelations I received from the Lord. I was caught up into the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether my body was there or just my spirit, I don’t know; only God knows. But I do know that I was caught up into paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be told. That experience is something worth boasting about, but I am not going to do it. I am going to boast only about my weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:1-5 NLT)

Paul was not allowed to give any specific information about what he saw and what he heard in the unseen realm.

8. At Times, God Dictated His Truth to Humanity

On a few occasions God directly dictated what the biblical author would write. In the Book of Revelation, there are seven letters which were dictated by Jesus. One of them reads as follows:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus, write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who has a firm grasp on the seven stars in his right hand—the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works as well as your labor and steadfast endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false. I am also aware that you have persisted steadfastly, endured much for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary.’” (Revelation 2:1-3 NET)

These letters were sent to seven specific churches.

9. Sometimes God Appeared in a Human Body (Theophanies)

A theophany is the temporary appearance of God in a human body in order to reveal something specific to His people. According to the Old Testament, this has occurred a number of times. The Bible says God appeared in human form to, among others, Abraham, Joshua, and Gideon. Before the time of Christ, these theophanies were associated with the appearance of the Angel of the Lord.

10. God Used Angels to Bring His Message

God also uses angels to carry His message to people. The Gospel according to Luke reveals angels appeared to shepherds at Jesus’ birth. It says,

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NKJV)

The New Revised Standard Version translates it this way:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NRSV)

It is interesting to note that in the Book of Revelation God will use an angel to communicate to birds! We read the following:

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. (Revelation 19:17-19 NIV)

These angels exist for the purpose of doing God’s will.

11. Miracles Were Performed to Reveal God’s Power

A miracle is a supernatural sign that points people to God. Miracles reveal the existence and power of God. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached about the miracles of Jesus:

“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know...” (Acts 2:22 NRSV)

The New American Standard Bible translates the verse as follows:

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know...” (Acts 2:22 NASB)

John gave the reason why he recorded the miracles of Jesus; he wanted to create belief in Jesus as the Messiah. He wrote,

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIV)

John was selective in what he wrote about Jesus. The material that he did use was for the specific purpose of creating belief in his readers.

12. God Sometimes Gave Revelation by Means of Object Lessons

God also communicated His truth through object lessons. For example, Jeremiah was told by the Lord to buy a clay jar from a potter and then smash it in front of the leaders.

In the same way, God said that He would smash the disbelieving nation (Jeremiah 19:1-15). God made the prophet Ezekiel lie on his side for an entire year. These, as well as other object lessons were part of God’s revelation to humanity.

13. At Times, God Directly Intervened in History

Another way in which God has revealed Himself is through His activity in history. The people were told to remember God’s righteous acts. The Bible says,

“My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and from Shittim to Gilgal, so that you might know the righteous acts of the LORD.” (Micah 6:5 NASB)

Acts of God’s judgment against sin reveal the holy nature of God. The Lord told Ezekiel the following about Himself:

“‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, rejoicing with all the malice of your heart against the land of Israel, therefore I will stretch out my hand against you and give you as plunder to the nations. I will cut you off from the nations and exterminate you from the countries. I will destroy you, and you will know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 25:6, 7 NIV)

God is a God of action who intervenes when necessary.

14. The Prophets Were Used to Reveal God’s Truth

A prophet is a spokesman for God. One such man was Moses. In the Book of Exodus, the Bible says the following:

So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:11, 12 NKJV)

The New Living Translation translates the passage in this manner:

“Who makes mouths?” the LORD asked him. “Who makes people so they can speak or not speak, hear or not hear, see or not see? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go, and do as I have told you. I will help you speak well, and I will tell you what to say.” (Exodus 4:11, 12 NLT)

The Old Testament prophets brought God’s message to humanity. King David gave the following testimony:

“The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:2 NIV)

The Contemporary English Version translates the verse in this manner:

“The Spirit of the LORD has told me what to say.” (2 Samuel 23:2 CEV)

The New Testament prophets also delivered the Word of the Lord. Paul wrote about the truth revealed in the New Testament:

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 3:4, 5 NIV)

They spoke with authority because they were communicating the Word of the Lord. Today, a preacher or teacher does not qualify as a prophet, in this sense of the term, since he proclaims or explains God’s Word, which has been given previously and recorded in the Scriptures.

15. Jesus Christ Was God’s Final Word to Humanity

God’s final word to humanity was through the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to reveal what God is like. The Book of Hebrews opens by saying the following:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world... (Hebrews 1:1, 2 NKJV)

The New English Translation renders it this way:

After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1, 2 NET)

Before Jesus Christ came, God’s Word was revealed in different ways, and in different parts. The coming of Jesus Christ was a major avenue of special revelation. God spoke to us in a Son—His final revelation. He explained what God was like. We read in the Gospel of John:

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18 NIV)

Today’s New International Version translates the verse in this manner:

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God, and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18 TNIV)

Jesus, God the Son, lets us know what God the Father is like. No longer do we have to wonder or speculate; He has explained the Father to humanity. Jesus was not a partial or temporary representation of God; He is God’s final word to humanity because He is the exact representation of God’s being.

The writer to the Hebrews said,

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high... (Hebrews 1:3 NRSV)

The New Living Translation says,

The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven. (Hebrews 1:3 NLT)

Jesus Christ is God Himself!

The Bible Records All These Different Means Of Special Revelation

The Bible is the material form of divine revelation. It is the record of God’s direct communication, the theophanies, His miracles, His message to the prophets and the coming of Jesus Christ. These are all found in the Bible.

However, the Bible is not merely the record of the revelation from God. The Scripture also contains additional truths not revealed by these other sources. Thus, the Bible is the record of the different aspects of special revelation as well as special revelation itself.

While the words of the Bible were originally written to particular individuals, or to groups of people who lived at a certain time in history, the truths are for all people for all time. Scripture has something to say to every generation. Speaking of the Old Testament, Paul wrote,

And the Scriptures were written to teach and encourage us by giving us hope. (Romans 15:4 CEV)

The Bible, as God’s special revelation, has something to say to every generation.

There Must Be a Response to Special Revelation

Finally, we want to emphasize that there must be a response to special revelation. By itself, it cannot save anyone. While special revelation reveals truths about God that are absolutely necessary for humanity to know God, it is still not enough to save an individual from sin. Human beings have a tendency to reject the truths of God. Our fallen nature naturally resists the Spirit of God.

Therefore, unless a person willingly receives the truths of the gospel given through special revelation, they are still in darkness. To know God, His revelation must be received and the individual must be redeemed or saved from their sin. At that point, the various means by which God has revealed Himself to humanity will achieve their purpose.

Therefore, divine revelation must do more than merely teach; it must transform us through our acceptance of Jesus Christ. The knowledge of God comes through the working of the Holy Spirit who takes the truths of God and makes them real in our lives. He must open our eyes to the truth.

Summary – Question 17
In What Special Ways Has God Revealed Himself to Humanity?

Special revelation, also called particular or supernatural revelation, is God informing humanity concerning Whom He is and what He requires of us. The record of these divine revelations is contained in the Scriptures.

The Bible records God revealing Himself in the following ways. Direct communication, the lot, the Urim and the Thummim, by a hand writing on the wall, transportation into the spirit world, dreams, visions, dictation, theophanies, angels, miracles, object lessons, direct events, prophets, Jesus Christ, and the Bible.

While God has revealed Himself to humanity through these different methods of special revelation, it is only meaningful to the individual if he or she personally responds to the message; the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

What Does Special Revelation Do? ← Prior Section
Does Scripture Record Everything That God Has Revealed to Humanity? Next Section →
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