So many people are yearning to know the secret of life. If they were told it is contained on an ancient tablet recently unearthed on a Tibetan mountainside, or it is contained in messages being decoded from outer space, they would be thrilled to hope there are some real answers to the fundamental questions of life. In fact, many people search down many avenues for meaning, only to come up empty.
Most of us operate under the assumption that life does have meaning, that it's not just a purposeless exercise for a short period of time, after which we cease to exist. Indeed, we have an innate sense that there is more to it than that. We know there must be a Creator, despite all of the modern, intellectual efforts to discount Him. And if there is a Creator, we assume also He has some degree of concern for His creation (us), to the extent that He would not leave us entirely clueless about our reason for existence.
As well as a reason for existence, we also inherently long for immortality. The fact of our own mortality is the muse of many poets, though for many the only solace comes in quiet resignation to fate. Yet we instinctively long for immortality, and hope there is some solution to this common human problem. Could it be that there is no hope, that we can only quietly despair of our own mortality? Surely the issues of our mortality and our reason for existence are intertwined, with a common answer.
If we make an attempt to ascertain that answer, the secret of life, through our own intellectual reasoning, philosophy, or logical deduction, we can came up with many answers. And this is precisely the reason that so many religions and philosophies exist: man's attempts to figure it out on his own. But that's a faulty approach, because if there is an original reason, then it originated from the mind of God, and any amount of attempts to deduce it on our own are futile. This is something that He would have to reveal to us, something outside of our own intellectual capabilities.
Yes, it does stand to reason that if God made us, and if He made us for a purpose, He would not leave us without any assistance in determining what that purpose is. The good news is that He has provided such assistance, a communication of what we need to know about Him and about ourselves. This supernatural revelation of His message to us was conveyed through His special group of messengers called prophets, and it is contained in the Bible.
As good as that sounds, that God has indeed provided the answers to the secret of life, He went one step better. He came down to earth Himself to communicate to us. The Bible puts it like this, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of God's being, sustaining all things by his powerful word."
Yes, the secret of life is Jesus. Oh no, you may think, not another religious fanatic wishing to force his views on others. No, not at all - Jesus doesn't force himself on anyone. But consider this: if, in fact, that man who lived in Israel some 20 centuries ago was who he claimed to be, the origin of all truth, then isn't looking in other places for the secret of life a futile endeavor? There is indeed an answer, and the answer is Jesus. Read the accounts of his words and actions in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and see if you agree that he is like no other man who ever lived! He claimed to be the source of truth and life - if so, then why not take him up on his wonderful offer?
You have said you believe "in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord." This is an unequivocal affirmation of the authority and accuracy of the Bible, which is the starting point for understanding the truth about the one true God.
I am going to proceed with the hopeful assumption that you are indeed a sincere seeker of truth, and not just blindly and unquestioningly following a religion you received from your family, culture, or social contacts. There is no question that Islam has a powerful dramatic appeal, but the true measure of validity is whether there is a factual basis behind the articles of faith. Muslims are taught to never question whether Mohammad was a genuine prophet, but why? The entire validity of Islam stands or falls on the question of whether Mohammad was a valid prophet of God. If Muslims are so sure they are correct, why are they afraid to examine this question, and why do they threaten violence against those who do?
"When Abram was ninety-nine years old, The LORD (Yahweh) appeared to him and said, 'I am God Almighty ; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.'" (Genesis 17:1-2 NIV)
God made an agreement, or covenant, with Abraham, that the nation which would emerge from his descendants would be the nation bringing the knowledge of God to the world. The earliest accounts of these encounters between God and Abraham are found in the Biblical book of Genesis starting with chapter 12.
"I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." (Genesis 17:7-8 NIV)
As a confirmation to the childless Abraham, by now an old man, that God would accomplish this covenant, Abraham was promised a son born to his wife Sarah. This son would be the descendant from whom this new nation would arise.
This extraordinary miracle birth did take place, and God instructed Abraham to name the boy Isaac.
"'I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her (Sarah). I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.' Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?' And Abraham said to God, 'If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!' Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.'" (Genesis 17:16-19 NIV)
So God clearly decreed that Isaac, not Ishmael, would be the bearer of the covenant promises.
As would be expected under the circumstances, a conflict developed between the boys, and between their mothers.
"Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.' And she added, 'Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.' The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, 'Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.' The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, 'Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. '" (Genesis 21:5-12 NIV)
Abraham was upset because Sarah wanted to expel Ishmael, but God told Abraham it was He who has made the decision to do that. Ishmael would not share in any of the covenant promises.
Though God Himself had said at the end of Bible that the Scriptures were complete and no more prophets would be speaking the oracles of God, it is some six hundred years after Jesus when Mohammad from Arabia belatedly claimed to be a prophet. This descendant of Ishmael claimed to have new revelations from God, revelations which seriously conflicted with the message of the former prophets. Even the name of God is changed by Mohammad - it is no longer Yahweh, the God of Israel, but a previously unknown deity with the name of Allah.
The name and identity of God is a crucial point. Mohammad also claimed, like Abraham had, to be the one to convey the knowledge of the one true God to the world. And Mohammad said this "god" is the same one as Abraham's God. But it is not. Abraham's God had a different name, attributes, values, and message than the invented "god" Allah. And for this and other reasons too numerous to cite here, Mohammad did not qualify as a true prophet of the God of Abraham.
The standard Islamic answer to these discrepancies is the charge that the Jews and Christians, the agents and bearers of the Scriptures, had somehow changed and distorted the true message from God. But the obvious question is this: when did this supposedly happen, and what is the evidence? In the foundational story of Isaac and Ishmael, the account recorded by Moses existed for many centuries before Mohammad, and the historical basis for it was not disputed for 2,600 years. In fact, there is no evidence that anyone at anytime before Mohammad claimed that it would be Ishmael, not Isaac, who would inherit the covenant promises granted by God to Abraham. This is true of all of the many starkly contradictory teachings of Mohammad - no evidence whatsoever exists that the earlier prophets had been given a pure message from God which was later distorted into the form it now stands in the Bible. There simply is no evidence for Islam's absurd assertion.
It is compassion and mercy, not militaristic conquest, which is the essence of God's redemptive message to mankind. The ultimate provision of the covenant God made with Abraham to bring blessings to all the world was through the promised Messiah. He was prophesied to be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David, and would appear the first time to give his life as a sacrifice of atonement for sins. It is He who would be the culmination of the Word of God communicated to all the world.
"The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.... No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like." (John 1:14,18 CEV)
King David prophesied this 1000 years before Jesus came about David's descendant who would become the King of the Earth:
"The one enthroned in heaven says...'I have appointed my own king to rule in Jerusalem on my holy mountain, Zion.' Now I will tell you what the Lord has declared: He said to me, 'You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. If you ask me, I will give you the nations; all the people on earth will be yours. You will rule over them with an iron rod. You will break them into pieces like pottery." (Psalms 2:4,6-8 NCV)
The prophet Isaiah, 700 hundred years before Jesus was born, described the Messiah who would be a descendant of King David (whose father was Jesse of Bethlehem):
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD-- and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. " (Isaiah 11:1-3 NIV)
That man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth, is the great light to illuminate God's final message to the world, and no more prophets are needed after him.
"In the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-- The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:1-2,6 NIV)
You may dispute these facts, and it matters not to me if you do, for the truth stands by itself. But it would be to your benefit if you set aside your religious zeal and reexamine the accuracy of what you have been taught. It may be that the true God, the God of Abraham, is giving you this one chance to discover Him in truth. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a God who wishes to have a personal relationship with all humans who have been made in His image. Sadly, mankind has invented many errant religions which do not lead people to God, but away from Him. You may be very fervent in your religion, but if a religion is based on fallacies, it is worse than useless.
His message is not confused and contradictory, The Father sent the Son to be the savior of the world, as all the prophets had foretold. Believing in the authority of the Son is the only way to know the true God and have eternal life. As Jesus said,
""I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself." (John 5:24-26 NIV)
In the Bible, we are often reminded of the power and greatness of God through the marvelous acts he accomplished in history.
"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: "To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit."" (Psalms 105:1-11 NIV)
It was not to Ishmael's descendants this promise was made, but to Isaac and Jacob's. Ishmael's descendants also became a nation, as God promised, and settled further to the east in Arabia. But the land of Canaan was given only to Israel's descendants.
There were conditional clauses in the Torah in which God warned Israel they could temporarily lose possession of that land if they were not faithful to God. That is indeed what happened, for the very long period of nineteen centuries from 70 AD until 1948 AD. But the Psalm above, as well as other Biblical references, affirms though Israel might lose temporary possession of the land, they would never lose the permanent inheritance.
In fact, one of the most frequently mentioned promises of God in the Bible is the eventual return of the Jews to their own covenant land. For anyone looking for proof that the God of the Bible exists and His declarations are trustworthy, this improbable fact is a very good starting point.
"Listen to me, you nations nearby or across the sea. I scattered the people of Israel, but I will gather them again. I will protect them like a shepherd guarding a flock; I will rescue them from enemies who could overpower them. My people will come to Mount Zion and celebrate; their faces will glow because of my blessings." (Jeremiah 31:10-12 CEV)
This declaration from the prophet Jeremiah could not be clearer. Israel would be regathered in spite of overwhelming and fierce opposition from enemies who tried to stop the process. The land would once again belong to them, because the God who promised it to them at the beginning was resolved to carry through His intentions.
Who are those "enemies" who attempt to stop this process? It is no coincidence many are related to the nation of Ishmael. The intense hatred expressed towards Israel was initially expressed in the resentment of Hagar, that her son Ishmael would not share the covenant promises with Isaac. But the modern expression of that hatred is conveyed through another religion that arose first among the Arab descendants of Ishmael - Islam. It is a fallacious religion which has emerged as a hostile rival to the God of Israel and to His promises to Abraham.
Eventually, those returning Jews became a nation once again, accomplishing what God had promised many times in the Bible. In 1948 and again in 1967, God executed great victories for Israel, regaining more and more of their covenant land. These were the first steps to restore, in stages, the land God promised them. This gradual repossession is direct fulfillment of what many prophets of the Bible said would happen. But the process is not over yet - God will continue to show His greatness by the final recovery of all the land promised to Israel, and the expulsion from that land of all who oppose this. The religion Mohammad invented which propels that vicious opposition will, as a result, be discredited as an impotent farce. I believe many who had been blinded by that cruel religion will come to know the true God.
"Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced." When we look at the history of Israel, we see many examples of these. Those examples refute those who smugly assert there is no evidence of God acting in history. Yet God's actions have not ceased in our time. For all with an open heart, His actions on Israel's behalf today - those wonders, miracles, and judgments - are happy confirmation of His power and greatness!