Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshipped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your poets have said, ‘For we are also His offering.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17: 22-31.)
The unknown God, the God we don’t know, He is the living God: as the Apostle Paul taught, in Him we live and move and have our being. Even though we don’t know Him, we ourselves are fully known by Him. We are His children; His breath fills our lungs; we are made in His image.
I remember when I was evangelising in India. I was there during a religious festival. I decided I would go and see where they were worshipping. There was this very big elaborate temple, with two or three million people venerating a god made from stone. I watched the people carrying flowers; some gave money; others offered a whole different variety of gifts; and they were going to give them to a dead god, a god who could not answer prayer. A god they had made out of wood and stone. So great was their ignorance; they did not know the real God. The only god they knew was carved out of stone. As I was leaving - I wasn’t allowed in the temple - I saw some men, and they were sitting on some rocks. These men wore filthy clothes, their shoes were very dirty, and they had this ugly piece of stone which they were sitting on. These men were cutting the stone using simple tools and spit. I asked, what is it? The men replied, ‘We are making a god for our temple; you see this beautiful temple and the millions of people, we are making a god for them to worship.’
They were literally cutting their god out of a piece of stone. While they were spitting on the stone, they shaped his eyes and nose. Yet within a month, that god would be in the temple, and they would worship it, and they would pray to it. What tragic blindness.
Just as with the Apostle Paul talking to the Athenians, they didn’t know the real God. Going into the crusade meeting that night, I felt like Elijah. I began to challenge the people - I was preaching in a big field to crowds of people - ‘Call on your god; go to your festival, pray to your gods, and tell me if your god answers prayer. But your gods cannot answer prayer. They are inanimate. There is no life to them. They cannot answer.’ - This is what Elijah did on Mount Carmel when Israel had turned away from God. Elijah called the whole nation to Mount Carmel. He challenged the prophets of the false god Baal. He said, you call on your god, and I will call on my God, and the One who answers by fire, let Him be the true God. The prophets of Baal prayed all day. Elijah laughed at them. He said, ‘Maybe your god is deaf, maybe he has gone on holiday, maybe he is asleep. Shout louder. Call on your god.’ But their god couldn’t answer, because he was just a piece of stone made by man.
There is only one true God! There is no God like Jehovah, the creator of Heaven and earth. He is our Father; my Father; your Father, who loved you so much He sent His Son into the world to forgive your sin.
‘And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. “You call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
‘Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”’ (1 Kings 18)
‘The Living Word’ used by kind permission of www.vinesong.com