Recall my first blog in this series. If you haven’t read it yet, go back now and read it, because this blog only works if it is read in order.
In the first part, I discussed the difficulty we all have in varying degrees with God’s apparent absence and silence. I talked about the suffering of Job and how God responded to that suffering. But today, when we suffer, we don’t even get a response from God like Job did. All we get many times is silence; and the lack of God’s presence today is discouraging to many who do not believe in God. Our mentality is that such a loving God should show Himself in order to give everyone the opportunity to believe in Him. Why doesn’t it work that way? Why does God choose to withdraw Himself from the world and be so silent?
Welcome back to the nightly news. We’d like to thank you for joining us tonight. You may remember about 6 months ago when God appeared to the entire world and made His will known to all of us. Global governments and religious experts have been dissecting the event and its purposes 24/7 since that time. Tonight, they have revealed that they believe God did this for reasons He decided to not make known to us. Their conclusion is that perhaps this Deity does not have our best interests in mind, and therefore we must make an effort to continue life as it was before the event, and perhaps even try worshiping other gods to spite this grand Deity and His selfish agenda.
Sounds kinda ridiculous, doesn’t it? Or does it? Believe it or not, this has happened plenty of times before.
Go forward in time from Job (backward in the Bible) to Deuteronomy 31:16. God has been leading the Israelites around the desert for 40 years according to their punishment for not obeying Him. The generation that has arisen is faithful to God, having learned from their parents’ mistakes. Now they are about to finally enter into the land that was promised to them by God. But before they do so, God gives Moses some insight into what He already knows is going to happen:
“these people will soon prostitute themselves to foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. On that day, I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them and they will be destroyed…they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?’ And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.”
Wait, God. So You’re saying that You already anticipate the Israelites rebelling against You and You will then turn away from them? What…why?
Well, when God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they were quick to complain to him about lack of comfort. But these were merely complaints – no great grievances were committed by the people of Israel at this time, as far as I know. No it wasn’t until a perhaps 4 to 5 months later that the Israelites turned away from God completely.
Moses had gone up Mount Sinai to receive the law from God. God’s presence on this mountain was very evident, by the way, due to its trembling and the presence of smoke and fire consuming its peak. Anyway, Moses is up there for around 40 days, receiving the law of God. Meanwhile the people grew restless.
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.'” Exodus 32:1
Hmmm….so imagine this. God has just delivered you and your gigantic family from slavery with miraculous plagues and the parting of an entire sea. And now He has led you to this mountain, where His presence is again, VERY obvious. The Bible talks about fire, and smoke, and trembling mountains, and clouds…I can’t imagine there being any doubt that God was most assuredly present on Mount Sinai. Yet, not 5 months after the Israelites have seen the evidence of a miraculous God, they are ready to worship idols within seeing distance of His obvious presence. This was unfortunately a pattern that the Israelites would continue for a very, very long time: God intervenes in the life of Israel, the people repent and turn to Him, the people quickly forget Him and turn to disobeying Him again, God turns away from them, repeat. A lot of turning.
Gee. This all sounds kinda like our fake news report doesn’t it? Both involve people who are quick to dismiss God and even spite Him shortly after His miraculous presence is seen.
Back to Israel, though: It’s no wonder that after all of this constant rebellion against God and God punishing the rebellion only to have the rebellion come back again a little while later, He finally says in the Deuteronomy passage, “I’m done punishing. Now I’m just going to turn away in hopes that in the consequences of their sins they will fall, and will fall back into Me.”
Philip Yancey, in his book “Disappointment with God” gives the analogy of God as a parent who has punished his child over and over again through their youth only to have them grow up and be a rebellious teenager. Seeing the uselessness of punishment at this point, the parent lets the teenager choose their own path in hopes that it will eventually lead them to the path on which they should be traveling.
So it would seem that God’s silence is a result of our disobedience. But then this poses a new question: If God knew that this would all happen in advance – if He knew that we were going to sin and this sin would cause Him to withdraw from us, then “why did He even make us in the first place?” Recalling the issues we had with the story of Job; did God simply create us for His own amusement? Was it just for fun so that He could have something to play with here on earth?
So what do you think so far? Do you agree with what has been said? Do you disagree? Do you have any issues with what has been said?
I find that when I don’t like something, I tend to rush through it – whether it be a game, a meal, a movie, or a book. Because of this, when I get to the end, I fail to realize the importance of all that I skipped over. For this reason, I am splitting this blog up into four parts. I know that in the beginning, the things I am talking about are tough to swallow and may only frustrate us further. But my hope is that when we arrive at the end of this series of blogs, everything will be clearer and we will realize that those parts that frustrated us further were necessary to help us grasp the full picture.
So for now, I will leave you with this, in hopes of seeing you stop by again tomorrow (hopefully – African Internet is never a guarantee) for the twist that comes next. I pray that God challenges you this week and that you will step up to the challenge and be blessed for it.