Summary: The Christian life is to be a life of mercy. We are to have compassion on people who are lost, and in mercy share the light that leads out of darkness into life. We are to have compassion concerning every human need.
In 1867 a bearded Norwegian named Lars Skrefsrud, and a
Danish colleague found two and a half million people called the
Santals living in a region north of Calcutta, India. He quickly
learned their language and began to proclaim the Gospel. To his
utter amazement the Santals were expecting just such a message,
and they were excited and enthused about it. One of the leaders
said, "This means Thakur Jiw has not forgotten us after all this
time. Thakur means genuine and Jiw means god. The Genuine
God has not forgotten us.
Lars was dumbfounded, for he expected to tell these pagans
about a God they never heard of, and instead, he finds they have
heard of the one supreme God. He asked them how they knew,
and one of the elders told him of their oral tradition. "Long, long
ago thakur Jiw, the Genuine God created the first man and
woman. They were tempted and fall, and knew that they were
naked and were ashamed. They had 7 sons and 7 daughters, and
founded 7 clans. But the people became corrupted and so God hid
a holy pair in a cave and destroyed the rest of mankind with a
flood. The pair that was saved multiplied and God divided them
into many different peoples.
"The Santal people once obeyed Thakur Jiw, but as they made
their way through the Khyber Pass they became discouraged with
the hardships of the mountains, and they began to pray to the
spirits of the mountains, and then to the spirit of the sun. They
just drifted away from Thakur Jiw. They still recognized him as
the one supreme God, but they developed their religion around
The missionary could not believe his ears. Here was a people
who had the same experience as the Jews. They had the truth of
the supreme God in their tradition, but went after other gods, and
their religion became corrupted. When the Gospel was
proclaimed they recognized it was their supreme God showing
mercy on them, even though they had forsaken Him. If this was
only an isolated case we could put it into the category of the freak
accidents and coincidences of history, but it is not isolated. Don
Richardson, author of Peace Child, in his book Eternity In Their
Hearts reveals how the belief in one true God is a part of the
tradition in hundreds of cultures throughout the world.
This one true God has many names, but he is always the
Creator and Sustainer of all, and supreme over all. The
missionaries who confront these people have to make a decision as
to whether the name of their God is the name of the God of the
Bible, or not. In many cases they have concluded that it is, and the
result is God has a great many names.
It all started with Abraham and Melchizedek in Gen. 14.
Abraham had just come back from a victory over some kings and
Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought out bread and wine and
blest him. He was the priest of the Most High God, and he said to
Abraham, "Blessed be Abraham by God Most High, Creator of
heaven and earth." This God was El Elyon. This was a Canaanite
name, and Abraham was being blest in his name. Abraham did
not say, "Hold on there, my God is Jehovah, and not El Elyon."
He not only did not say that, but he gave this high priest of ElElyon
a tenth of all he had. Heb. 7 makes much of this and shows
Jesus Christ to be a priest forever after the order of melchizedek.
El Elyon became associated with the God of the Bible and God
was named in the Bible as Elohim, and El Shaddai.
This same thing happened in the New Testament world. Zeus
was the king of the gods, but he was so corrupt that he could not
represent the one supreme God. But the Greek writers, like Plato
and Aristotle, used another name for the supreme God which was
not contaminated. They used Theos, and this became the name
the translators of the Old Testament into Greek used for God,
and this is the name Paul used in his New Testament letters for
God. The pagan peoples of the Gentile world had names for the
supreme God that were kept pure enough to become the names of
the God of the Bible.
So getting back to Lars and the Santal people-he decided if
Abraham and Paul could do it, so could he, and so he accepted
Thakur Jiw as the name of Jehovah. He said it felt strange at first
to be proclaiming Jesus Christ as the son of Thakur Jiw, but after
a couple of weeks he felt comfortable. The response was