The Concept of God
The twelve apostles, most of whom had listened to this discussion of the character of God, that night asked Jesus many questions about the Father in heaven. The Master’s answers to these questions can best be presented by the following summary in modern phraseology:
Jesus mildly upbraided the twelve, in substance saying: Do you not know the traditions of Israel relating to the growth of the idea of Yahweh, and are you ignorant of the teaching of the Scriptures concerning the doctrine of God? And then did the Master proceed to instruct the apostles about the evolution of the concept of Deity throughout the course of the development of the Jewish people. He called attention to the following phases of the growth of the God idea:
1. Yahweh — the god of the Sinai clans. This was the primitive concept of Deity which Moses exalted to the higher level of the Lord God of Israel. The Father in heaven never fails to accept the sincere worship of his children on earth, no matter how crude their concept of Deity or by what name they symbolize his divine nature.
2. The Most High. This concept of the Father in heaven was proclaimed by Melchizedek to Abraham and was carried far from Salem by those who subsequently believed in this enlarged and expanded idea of Deity. Abraham and his brother left Ur because of the establishment of sun worship, and they became believers in Melchizedek’s teaching of El Elyon — the Most High God. Theirs was a composite concept of God, consisting in a blending of their older Mesopotamian ideas and the Most High doctrine.
3. El Shaddai. During these early days many of the Hebrews worshiped El Shaddai, the Egyptian concept of the God of heaven, which they learned about during their captivity in the land of the Nile. Long after the times of Melchizedek all three of these concepts of God became joined together to form the doctrine of the creator Deity, the Lord God of Israel.
4. Elohim. From the times of Adam the teaching of the Paradise Trinity has persisted. Do you not recall how the Scriptures begin by asserting that “In the beginning the Gods created the heavens and the earth”? This indicates that when that record was made the Trinity concept of three Gods in one had found lodgment in the religion of our forebears.
5. The Supreme Yahweh. By the times of Isaiah these beliefs about God had expanded into the concept of a Universal Creator who was simultaneously all-powerful and all-merciful. And this evolving and enlarging concept of God virtually supplanted all previous ideas of Deity in our fathers’ religion.
6. The Father in heaven. And now do we know God as our Father in heaven. Our teaching provides a religion wherein the believer is a son of God. That is the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. Coexistent with the Father are the Son and the Spirit, and the revelation of the nature and ministry of these Paradise Deities will continue to enlarge and brighten throughout the endless ages of the eternal spiritual progression of the ascending sons of God. At all times and during all ages the true worship of any human being — as concerns individual spiritual progress — is recognized by the indwelling spirit as homage rendered to the Father in heaven.
Never before had the apostles been so shocked as they were upon hearing this recounting of the growth of the concept of God in the Jewish minds of previous generations; they were too bewildered to ask questions. As they sat before Jesus in silence, the Master continued: “And you would have known these truths had you read the Scriptures. Have you not read in Samuel where it says: ‘And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, so much so that he moved David against them, saying, go number Israel and Judah’? And this was not strange because in the days of Samuel the children of Abraham really believed that Yahweh created both good and evil. But when a later writer narrated these events, subsequent to the enlargement of the Jewish concept of the nature of God, he did not dare attribute evil to Yahweh; therefore he said: ‘And Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel.’ Cannot you discern that such records in the Scriptures clearly show how the concept of the nature of God continued to grow from one generation to another?
“Again should you have discerned the growth of the understanding of divine law in perfect keeping with these enlarging concepts of divinity. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt in the days before the enlarged revelation of Yahweh, they had ten commandments which served as their law right up to the times when they were encamped before Sinai. And these ten commandments were:
“1. You shall worship no other god, for the Lord is a jealous God.
“2. You shall not make molten gods.
“3. You shall not neglect to keep the feast of unleavened bread.
“4. Of all the males of men or cattle, the first-born are mine, says the Lord.
“5. Six days you may work, but on the seventh day you shall rest.
“6. You shall not fail to observe the feast of the first fruits and the feast of the ingathering at the end of the year.
“7. You shall not offer the blood of any sacrifice with leavened bread.
“8. The sacrifice of the feast of the Passover shall not be left until morning.
“9. The first of the first fruits of the ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.
“10. You shall not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.
“And then, amidst the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, Moses gave them the new ten commandments, which you will all allow are more worthy utterances to accompany the enlarging Yahweh concepts of Deity. And did you never take notice of these commandments as twice recorded in the Scriptures, that in the first case deliverance from Egypt is assigned as the reason for Sabbath keeping, while in a later record the advancing religious beliefs of our forefathers demanded that this be changed to the recognition of the fact of creation as the reason for Sabbath observance?
“And then will you remember that once again — in the greater spiritual enlightenment of Isaiah’s day — these ten negative commandments were changed into the great and positive law of love, the injunction to love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself. And it is this supreme law of love for God and for man that I also declare to you as constituting the whole duty of man.”
And when he had finished speaking, no man asked him a question. They went, each one to his sleep.
--Presented by the Midwayer Commission, from the Urantia Papers.
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