Can A Man Reach God?
“Canst thou by searching find out God?” —Job 11:7
Before you really understand the import of this question you probably would like to look at its setting in the Word of God. Job was a man marvelously blessed of God, blessed because he honored God, because he served God, because he testified about God, because he was a living, walking example of what God could do in a man’s life. Job had so walked before God, so obeyed God, so listened to the dictates of the voice of God that God could afford to bless him. He had many cattle, he had sheep by the thousand, he had camels in great herds, he owned much land, was the father of a splendid family, and was fabulously wealthy in his day, known to the regions roundabout as a God-blessed man.
So blessed was Job, and so marvelously did God use his testimony, that the devil was angry. He came into the council of God protesting against the blessing that was being showered upon Job. “No wonder this man serves you!” he exclaimed, “no wonder this man is willing to obey you at any cost, because of the things you do for him. You take away what this man possesses, and you will find out that he will curse you to your face.”
God allowed Job to be tested, it is His right to test men, and their reward is only greater because of the testings. God does not test men just for the amusement of heaven, nor for the benefit of the devil, but God tests men in order that He may be able to pour upon them greater blessing. God did not intend to rob Job, He only intended to make him richer and to move him higher, as a testimony to God, than he had ever been before.
The test had to come to Job, and God had to allow the devil to remove Job’s cattle, his lands, his wealth, reducing him to poverty, and the scorn of his family and friends. Still he would not forsake God, nor lift up his voice against Him, nor murmur nor complain. I tell you, in the day of disappointment, in the day of darkness, in the day of doubt it would do you good to sit down and read the book of Job,—one of the most marvelous pieces of literature that has ever been written. No tragedy, no drama ever printed on the pages of literature compares for a moment with the mighty controversy between God and Satan and Job. All the doubts men could assemble, all the philosophy of men, all the arguments of men against God, all the opinions of men regarding evil, regarding death, regarding Satan, regarding the issues of life, its value, its outcome, are packed and rammed into this book.
The devil has to admit, “Job is sitting there in the midst of his poverty, and he is not opening his mouth against you. I have failed in this test, but one more test and he will curse God. A man will give a good deal for his skin. When I touch his body he will curse you to your face.”
“Go ahead,” God permits, “but do not take his life.” Then the boils came upon Job, with fever, anguish and headache, his body undernourished, life appearing dark and gloomy through the sick man’s eyes. His cattle are gone, his camels, his children dead, and his wife comes and bitterly cries, “Curse God and die. Give up the whole business.”
“My dear wife,” he says patiently, “Shall we take good from the hand of God, and then when evil comes shall we not take evil?” You never heard a greater sentence in all history than that from Job’s lips. Job sinned not with his lips, although sitting in that fearful condition, a potsherd in his hand with which to scrape his festering boils, not a sound spot in him, all the fiends of hell dancing around him with their temptations and doubts. That is not a very favorable condition in which to trust God.
The devil brings him some comforters (?), three men. We haven’t all had the boils, but we have all had that kind of comforters. I had appendicitis once, and had it the second time, was initiated into the second degree of the Appendicitis Club, in a hospital in the city of Denver. All the people who had had appendicitis in the city of Denver seemed to know I had it. It seemed to be communicated through some secret society, and they all came to talk it over with me,—how long they were on the operating table, and what the doctor said. If you have rheumatism all the rheumatics in town will make their way to your house to tell about their case. Whenever you have trouble these comforters always come to tell you how to “cuss” God the right way, how to philosophize, how to argue about it. Oh, if there is anything a man hates at such an hour it is argument. Comfort cannot be found in argument at such a time.
These men philosophize with Job. One calls him a hypocrite, and says if he had been right with God the trouble would not have come upon him. They are looking him over like a doctor, to see if they cannot find the tender spot, thinking if Job will clear up on a certain thing he will get rid of his trouble. They ask him how he is going to know God while maintaining his integrity. There are imps at the beck of the devil ready to tempt men, who come sometimes in the shape of a human being with doubts, a system of unbelief, philosophy, to try to break down faith in God. In the midst of all his sufferings in his body, and in his heart for the loss of his loved ones, of his wealth and his old time position, he is asked this question: “Canst thou by searching find out God?” This is the text.
An Awful Question
That was an awful time to ask that man such a question, but it is a picture of the world today. The nations have wrecked and torn the castles and architecture of the old world, they have changed the old map, men have died by the millions, oceans of blood have been spilled upon European soil, cities have been turned into scrap-heaps, and as we look down upon them from a great height they look like a bunch of angle-worms trying to get into shape after an awful holocaust. No one knows what the outcome will be, with the high cost of living upon us, no one knowing what things will cost in a few years. There are few people who seem sound in body and in mind, even though a good way from the war zone. The state of the world and the human mind today is almost as wretched as before the days of the flood. The conditions about us are terrific, with pestilence and sores in the body politic, sores in the home, where there are divorce problems and awful domestic troubles, sores in governments, trouble everywhere we turn, men doubting whether God is in His universe, so great has been the holocaust of war and the awful scourge upon the earth.
One woman who had a Christian rearing in the city of Chicago, wrote one of the great poems of the war, which appeared in a popular magazine, a poem that was blasphemous, describing the terrors of the battlefield, ending each verse with the question, “Where is the God of Israel? Is there a God of Israel?” That was the state of a good many minds, many questioning the existence of God because of the awful suffering on the earth.
A Natural Impossibility
This is the question asked here. Can a man under the curse of sin, in the midst of such conditions, ask such a question as this, and can there be any answer? Can a man reach God? Can a man by searching find out God? I say to you absolutely, NO. There is no way on Earth for a natural man to reach God,—absolutely none. I defy any philosopher, any chemist, any scientist, any physicist, any theologian to show me any means by which any living being, with his own natural powers, can search after and find out God.
Man is a sinner, damned, and doomed and lost because of sin. He cannot run God into a corner and cannot by his thinking fathom with his little intellect the mysteries of God. No natural man can know God, for God says, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The natural man cannot by any natural means, or by any intellectual means find God. There is no ability in a man to reach God.
I am so sick of this talking about a man as “a spark of divinity.” He is as far from God as it is possible for him to be. I cannot insult him enough in comparing him with God, the chasm between them is so mighty that it is blasphemy to even mention the names in the same breath, of a holy God and a rotten man. Oh I know some of you think you are pretty good, but if one flash of God were to pass across your vision you would howl for the rocks to fall on you to hide you from the face of God. Man is lost, and he needs to know it.
The man who knows he is lost is the man who can find God. The Bible says mankind is lost and under the condemnation of God, and you are never going to find God until you find out that you are lost. The great trouble with the intellectual men and women of our times is that they think with their poor little human intellect (which was made by God, but which has been cursed by sin), by the putting together of certain known premises, and the coming to some logical conclusion proving the existence of God, they will have reached God.
Where is God? Mankind does not know. The Bible says that the very desk before me, the rock underneath our feet, the sand, the metal holds together by the power of Christ,—“In Him all things consist,” are knit together and held together. Where is the hand of God? Where is the foot of God? Men have found that God is here. But that is not finding Him. You may know there is a God without being able to reach Him.
I know there is a sun, I know there is a moon, I know there is a planet called Mars,—but reaching it is a different thing. The presence of God may be manifest, and yet men not be able to reach Him. You cannot locate God with that little intellect, which He gave you in the first place.
How can I reach God? Can I climb upon a beam of light and get to the sun? If I could get within 250,000 miles of the sun without a sunstroke, the sun’s flames would reach me. If God is at the center of the universe how shall I search Him out? If I cannot stand the noonday sun, how can I stand in the presence of God, who is Light? If you stood and looked at the sun during the day for five straight hours you could never see again. Sin has made you a lost creature, out in the dark, away from God, unable to reach God,—lost, lost, lost, lost!
Where are you going? How did you get here? Have you any cure for death? “But I will live forty, fifty, sixty years,—long enough to know God,” you say. But you will not. A few years and you will be gone, death will have you. The very eyes with which you look will be eaten by worms, the very tongue with which you boast will be shriveled up, the nervous system, the whole body gone back to dust. Somebody will telephone to someone else before long and say, “He is gone; he is dead.” Gone? Oh, that is a horrible thought. But it is a fact. Why do you not face facts?
Sin has done something to this old vessel called a human being, and to life, and it is the most awful fact that men are lost and cannot even keep back death. Take all the medicine you want to, and it may relieve you tonight and tomorrow, and prolong life a year or two, but you cannot hold back death when it comes.
“But, Mr. Rader, we have learned to fly.” Where? You have to come back, you have to come to Earth some time. Even if you could go to Mars you would be no closer to God.
“But we have traced down disease and know it is caused by a germ. We can isolate the germ and name it.” How is the germ made, that tiny thing that gets into your nostrils and breeds its kind and kills people? You do not know.
You think you can find God; have you ever counted the stars in the Milky Way; have you ever lain on your back on the prairie and looked into the millions and trillions of miles through which the light was shining from myriads of stars, all in God’s hands? Will you ever reach God and get Him into a corner and talk to Him? You have scolded your children and the poor folks that have worked for you, and commanded men in platoons, and have settled the affairs of nations, but God does not obey your command. How can you find Him?
“I am going to take my papers, make notes and tabulate them and find God.” When will you get through? Never. “From everlasting to everlasting” He is God. All your conceptions started with something, and will end with something, but He had no beginning, and He has no end. Where is the end of space? Shoot off from the earth in an aeroplane and go forever east. Will you come to the end of everywhere? Nowhere. Is there no end? Never, forever. You could go forever and forever and never hit bottom, and climb forever and never get out of space. People used to think metal was solid. Now we know there is no substance in which the atoms are not separate, held together by the power of God. It is pretty nearly time human beings began at least to consider God. We are mighty frivolous, we are mighty foolish in our day, mighty light, mighty stuck on our own opinions, but there is nothing in our intellects that does not have to have something to start with and something to end with. If God appealed to your reason (and He does) you would not understand Him.
Nicodemus came with the air of one knowing God so well that he was a Past Master, saying, “I know you are a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him.” Jesus puts the palaver and nonsense aside, and says, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said, “How can a man be born again? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” What was the use of asking a question like that? Jesus said, “I am talking to you about heavenly things now. I talked to you about earthly things, and if you cannot understand earthly things how can you understand if I tell you of heavenly things?”
The wind was rattling the terra cotta roof, and Jesus, wanting to show him that he took lots of things for granted which he could not comprehend, asked, “Do you know where the wind comes from? Do you know where it goes? You do not understand it? You believe something is actually taking place with the wind, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes? So is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” Where does He come from? Where is He going? I do not have to know. Without the volition of any man, without the act or the plan of any man, without the intellect or the help of any human being, Jesus was born of a woman, without the help of a man, conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit, and God, without anyone’s asking Him came into this world and died on the cross of Calvary for sin, rose again from the dead, and has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. He came from wherever He came from, and no man can fathom it; but I know that He came, for He has come to my heart. I know whom I have believed, and I know He is God.
How do I know it? By my intellect? No, but when He came, He put something in me that never was there before, and with that something I see Him and know Him. He loved me without my asking Him. When there wasn’t an eye to pity nor an arm to save, nor any philosophy that could fathom Him, when there were idols over the earth, men with theories, philosophers with their logic, none of them had found God. But Jesus Christ was God, and He came and revealed Himself to men. Salvation, my friend, is not your ability to reach God, but God’s ability to reach you. God made a way by which He could put away our sin, and by which we could be born again and have God revealed to us.
God Reaches Man
Men cannot reach God, but, thank God, He has reached man. He came where we were and because He came where we were, we are going where He is. Jacob had this revealed to him. Like Job, poor fellow, he was lonely. He had left Dad and Mother and the sweet family relation, and had sinned against his brother, who hated him. He had taken from his brother the birthright which did not belong to him. He was wandering out alone, bound for the home of some relatives, that his brother might not kill him. He laid himself down under the stars, with a stone for a pillow, and began to ask this question, “Can a man ever get to Glory? How can he break through the coffin and get out into heaven?”
Like Job, forsaken and alone, he reached out to God. He did not find God, but God came down that night and gave him a vision. He saw a ladder, and men going up and coming down. He did not understand what it was upon which a man could climb up to God and then come back to Earth again. But God whispered into Jacob’s heart, that there was a ladder. Philosophy is not the ladder, logic is not the ladder, intellect is not the ladder, physical strength is not the ladder, men cannot reach God, but O, God is not hindered from coming to us. He found a way to deal with sin, found a way to deal with a man lost and undone. He found the way down through the rugged path of the cross, and through the thorns and the spit and the scoff, and the contradiction of men. He found the way as He walked on the waters, called the dead from the grave, fed the multitudes. While they looked upon Him with scorn He found a way on Calvary’s cross to pay for the sin of men, rose in newness of life, and by the Holy Spirit can come to a man’s heart, touch him and reveal to him the ladder that reaches from Earth to heaven. The ladder is Jesus Christ, who makes it possible for a man, out of an open grave, to go into the glory and come back to this Earth again. Those who believe in Him He will take with Him.
The Ladder—Jesus Christ
As He went away He said, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” He is the ladder. Do not look at Mars, do not look at the sun, do not look at the wind or the waves, but look at the Man of Galilee,—He is God. If it were not so He would have told us. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Look at Him, while a great crowd watches. His feet have left the ground, that man like a human being, with a body out of the grave. There it goes, and they stand there gazing, while the cloud receives Him out of their sight. He is up there in the air tonight, and is coming back again before long.
When the human race on the way down to Jericho had fallen among thieves and had been left to die by the roadside, lost and undone, God made a way to save it, a way by which He could reveal Himself. Salvation is the revelation of Jesus to your heart, and not your poor intellect trying to grip God. Will you receive the revelation of God, or are you going to be like poor Nicodemus and say, “I do not understand it.” You haven’t anything to understand it with. Take it, and you will get your understander with it. The directions come along with the bottle. The way by which you know Jesus comes when you accept Him. Then the Holy Spirit bears witness with your spirit that you are the child of God. That is a greater revelation than your intellect could ever make; for when you go after it with your intellect there are always doubts and surmises and guesses, but when a revelation comes from God and God does the work in your heart, you know because God is the one who can put His intellect and His emotion, and His will, and His light into you. Salvation is a God-made affair, and you are to receive it.
No man planned for Jesus Christ to die on the cross, nobody wanted Him to go. Peter said, “Don’t do that.” None of His friends wanted Him to go, but in the Garden of Gethsemane He fought to go, and He went. By the death of Jesus Christ on Calvary God found a way to put away the sin that stands between man and God, which has dulled the heart, ruined the spirit, and damned the soul. He made a way to give us a new body, a new life, a new spirit and to reveal Jesus Christ to men; but unless you are born again you will never see the things of God, they are spiritually discerned, and it is not your spirit, but the Holy Spirit of God that regenerates you and baptizes you into Christ Jesus.
You cannot reach God, but God can reach you, and if you will submit to Him He will deal with you and talk with you. Will you let Jesus save you? “To as many as received Him, to them gave He the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on His name.”
Behold, I stand and search for God?
Christ said: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”