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Standing on the shoulders of giants
By: Robert Berendt (published February 4, 2016)

Among the leaders in science there is often the belief that scientists today are on the "cutting edge" of new knowledge and understanding. At times this leads to a condescending attitude toward those who have gone before and who perhaps had not arrived at the fullness of knowledge that is now available. Isaac Asimov was a man of Jewish origins who was a highly regarded scientist and a self proclaimed atheist. His words are quoted here as he came to realize the pioneers of old were giants upon whom modern science stands. He quoted the words of Sir Isaac Newton in regard to giants. "There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. 'If I have seen further than other men,' said Isaac Newton, 'it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.'" Isaac Asimov. In this quote both men reveal some of their humility and regard for those who had to struggle with far fewer technical tools and factual knowledge to try to understand the many facets of science. We only need to ponder the development of the ages of machinery, medicine, communication, music and almost any other area of human enterprise, to find that at the very first that which was "invented" was crude and very basic compared to the continual improvements that came as knowledge grew and insight was added. Today we live in a world that was not envisioned one hundred years ago, but it is a world that developed because of the continual work that has been done based on the efforts and toil of the pioneers who went before. In all facets, it is true that everything we have does arise from what went before.

In the spiritual sense this point is very clear. We possess the most remarkable book that has ever been written - the Bible. It contains the direct words and instructions of God as well as the life experiences of many human beings. It begins with two people who communicated directly with their Creator. He gave them rules to live by in the hopes they would use their freedom of choice to willingly obey Him (Gen. 2:15-30). That did not happen and mankind has been learning hard lessons from that time onward. Sin distanced mankind from God, but God never stopped reaching out to every generation. In words that were inspired to be written and spoken by His chosen prophets. At the coming of Jesus Christ, a huge growth in knowledge and understanding was added to mankind (Heb. 1:1-4,2:2,4). God also used signs and wonders as a witness of His presence and to gain attention.

It was not until about 70 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the Scriptures God wanted mankind to have were completed. The faithful followers of old did not have access to the Bible as we do today. God was working with those pioneers of the faith in the only way possible at that time, but He was also looking forward to this day in which everything has been compiled and completed for man to read and study. Just as Isaac Newton understood that he could see further because of the giants who went before and upon whose shoulders he stood. Isaac Asimov acknowledged that his understanding of science was built on the work that was done before his time. So too the writing of the Bible began with Moses who no doubt had access to some details dating back to Adam and Eve. Others followed at different periods of time in the history of mankind until it seems there were 70 different authors writing parts of the Bible and there were accounts recorded of many great and strong people who God interacted with to fulfill His plan. People like Noah, Mary the mother of Jesus or Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist are mentioned. The 12 apostles and other apostles that followed after them may have vanished from history, but all had a part to play to further the work they were given. The New Testament gathers one third of its material from the Old Testament and many references to those who went before. The work of each succeeding person is built upon the work that was done by those before them.

When we speak of "giants" who were the pioneers of much that followed, there can be no doubt that Jesus Christ who existed as the Logos and Word before Abraham is the giant of all giants upon whom everything that was made, was made (John 8:58). He inspired Moses and others to do their work as they "stood on His shoulders." Others stood on the shoulders of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the great men of the Bible. Isaiah who was also a giant was inspired to write that God would divide Jesus a portion with the great and with the strong (Isa. 53:10-12). These great and strong could be none other than the pioneers and people of old who God was inspiring and who served God with all their hearts. None of them were perfect and sin free except Jesus Christ, but all were striving to become sin free and pleasing to God. In sermons the words written by these pioneers are consistently quoted. Great men like Daniel provided shoulders for others to stand upon right up until today, but his own words express the fact that he did not understand or "see as far" as we do today (Dan. 12:4-9). God said those at the end time would understand (Dan. 12:10). But that understanding rises out of the works of the spiritual giants that went before who God worked with and used to provide us with the increased knowledge and understanding we have today.

In the progress of time, God added more details and knowledge and as we edge ever nearer to the great events that lie ahead, more knowledge will be added and the eyes of some will see further than those whose shoulders they stand upon. The book of Revelation was never read by any of the apostles including Paul, it seems, because all of them had died before John was inspired to write the book. The lack of knowledge of the book of Revelation does not in the slightest diminish the great work done by Peter, Paul and the other disciples. If they did any good in their service to God it was done because they had built upon the work of those who had gone before them.

In the church today, the words written by Paul about 1960 years ago are still true. New converts are no longer strangers or foreigners, but they have become fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). The church has been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). In every age since the time of Adam and Eve, there have been some with whom God has communicated. The times, ages and circumstances differed and so the method and progression of God's work differed. Instant communication, access to the Bible, a population of over 7 billion and a world that is greatly troubled - means God is doing things differently than before. That does not discredit in any way the dedication of the faithful of the past. They are the giants upon whose shoulders we all stand in order to see further and we all stand on the shoulders of Jesus Christ.

God is not finished yet. In the last days there will be new prophecies. The young will have dreams and visions and the two witnesses John wrote about will act (Acts 2:17-21, Rev. 11:3). All of these will see further because they too will be standing on the shoulders of giants. The future rises out of what went before in the spiritual world just as it does in the physical. Paul included some of the giants in his chapter on faith (Heb.11). Not all giants are named, and one day we may find that there were giants among us too.

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