Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
(Hebrews 1:1-5 ESV)
Do you remember the opening credits to the 1977 movie Star Wars? The words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” appear on a silent, black, void. Suddenly the audience is translated into the midst of an alternative universe filled with strange beings, superior technology, and amazing universal conflicts. For a moment, older audience members will think, Flash Gordon. But this universe goes far beyond Buster Crabbe’s galaxy of the 1930s art deco, and we immediately forget that all this happened eons ago and not in some far distant future.
The distant, long ago world of Hebrews 1:1 was itself preceded by an even more distant world and one before that. How well we humans can know God has not been getting better over time, it has been getting worse. Doesn’t that seem to be backward? We talk about “salvation history” in the church and about the progressive revelation of God through the Old Testament. But what we forget is that if Genesis 2 can be trusted (and I believe it can), the earliest human beings who knew they were people at all had ultimate knowledge of God. Genesis is quite clear that the man also had ultimate knowledge of the creation around him. It was built into him. Thus, he was able to name every bird, animal, and plant. Even Einstein wouldn’t have been up to that task. The man did not need to discover anything. That knowledge was innate in him. He also did not need to discover anything about God. All that could be known about God was known to him.
The introduction of sin into the world began a rather quick slide down a reverse “bell curve,” where with each succeeding generation less of the knowledge of God was available until by the 300s BC prophecy had ceased altogether, and the world was plunged into a deep spiritual darkness similar to what happened in “our” western history during the Dark Ages. Onto that blank canvass, God wrote “A long time ago…” as the only light in that vast darkness. “This is what light is like. This is what knowing me is like.”
What did Adam and Eve experience? The language of belonging was there from the beginning. Total trust, complete honesty. But the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve (to borrow from C.S. Lewis) broke with their parent and chose not to know what could be known. They wanted to know on their own. Broken relationship is always the beginning of darkness. One, searching for truth instead of basking in knowledge.
And so it became necessary for God to speak more and more loudly into our self-imposed deafness. Stars in the heavens (Psalm 19), a voice whispered in the wind, a burning bush, prophets, angels, and finally, a son.
As long as it is called “today,” God will have yet more to speak. But he has spoken as loudly as he will about how we may know him. Singer-songwriter Michael Card told us, “his final word was Jesus, he needed no other one.” And on the last day of history God will speak once more and set things right. For now, you can reverse the bell curve and know Jesus. But you don’t need to go searching. The knowledge of God covers the earth, the prophet Habakkuk says, as the waters cover the seas.