Recall my first two blogs in this “series”. If you haven’t read them yet, go back now and read them, because this blog series 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 some who do not believe in God. Some of us think 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 silent?
In the second part, I briefly discussed a small part of the history of Israel and why God may have made the decision to withdraw His presence from us. Reading Deuteronomy, it seemed that this had to do with our sinning against God, but I can’t help but sense that there is another reason behind it. Regardless, God’s demonstration of foresight in Deuteronomy posed another question for us: If God is so omniscient and knew that He would withdraw from us because of our sin, “Why did He even make us in the first place?”
We interrupt your regularly-scheduled programming to give you this special report: Two hours ago in Vatican City, a letter was delivered to the Pope. The letter had no return address and was simply signed “From God”. The letter seemed to be some sort of amorous poem to the people of the world. It is not certain whether this poem was written by man or actually by God Himself, but the timing of this letter seems to coincide all too well with God’s sudden appearance a few years ago – despite His continued silence ever since.
“Hahahaha!” you react. “This Richie guy is losing it. God would never take the time to write a stupid love letter to the people of the world, and surely if He did, it would be more obvious than that.”
You might just be right. I probably have lost it.
To answer our question that I mentioned just before the fake news report (the question we posed at the end of Part 2), we should probably go back to the beginning – the very beginning – when God first created mankind on Day 6 of Creation.
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:26-28
Okay, so from the start, we see two things – first God made us in His image. People debate over this meaning. Does God mean here that we look like Him? Or does it mean that, like Him, we have spirits unlike all other creatures? Dang it man! I’m a college graduate – not a theologian. I can’t answer that question. Besides, I don’t think it matters. The point here is that God made us like Him – set apart from all the rest of Creation because of this.
Then God just starts doing stuff. In verse 29 God “gives us” every single plant and form of vegetation for sustenance. Cool.
In Genesis 2:8, God gives man the Garden of Eden. Awesome. And then in verse 9, it says that God put all kinds of eye-pleasing food in said Garden for man to eat. Is your mouth watering too?
Then in verses 18 and 19, God decided that this wasn’t good enough for man. So He gave us the birds and animals to keep us company. Aww…so thoughtful.
But that still wasn’t enough! In verses 20-22, God decides that it would be even better if we had like company, so God made woman. Yeah God likes to save the best for last.
Wow. All of this giving is getting a little overwhelming. I don’t know about you, but when I am getting a lot of gifts from someone, I can feel especially loved – even though Gifts is not one of my love languages. And when I am giving a lot of gifts to someone, it means that I especially love them and they are constantly on my mind.
So could it be just possible that in God’s creation of man, love was not only involved, but was also a primary catalyst? It would sure seem that way.
Let’s zoom out a little more now. In the same book by Philip Yancey that I referenced in Part 2, the author describes a period of time when he went up into the Colorado mountains for two weeks of seclusion to read the Bible. He said that he decided to read the Bible from cover to cover as if it were a “story with a plot”. When doing so, he said He discovered something amazing.
Now I had always heard that the Bible was a love letter from God. In fact, I sang a song about it by The Donut Man when I was in my young elementary years in Sunday School. But I never really understood that idea. I had always thought that the Gospels were the love letter while the rest of the New Testament was full of instruction and rules and the entire Old Testament was just a series of stories and lineages – almost like a novella.
But what Philip Yancey discovered and suggests to the reader of “Disappointment with God” is that the Bible is a love letter in its entirety, showing us the development of God’s love over time.
– Like a lover trying to win the favor of a beautiful maiden, God gave man gift after gift after gift in order to please man.
– Then man disobeyed God, and like a lover slighted, God retreated a bit, but remained steadfast in His love.
– But then man became more and more disobedient throughout Genesis, and like a lover shunned, God retreated even more.
– And then man called out for help in Exodus and like a lover hearing the call of his damsel in distress, God showed His great power in hopes of winning her over.
– But then man only feared Him (Deuteronomy 18:16, Numbers 17:12-13), and like a lover discouraged, God retreated a little more.
– And then man rebelled against God, over and over and over and over again. And like a lover jilted, God retreated even more.
In all this, though, God’s love never diminished – it merely changed form. First He was present, then He was Sovereign, then He was Powerful, then He was Just. In all these ways, God showed His love for man, but would not get it in return – which is what it seems He truly desires.
How crazy is that! All this time, when God was working in the world, He was simply displaying His love for us in various ways in an effort to win love from us. So when God said in Deuteronomy 31:16 that He would hide His face from Israel, it wasn’t merely punishment for their disobedience, it was because God was trying to show them love in a different way (in this case, He went from scaring them off by displaying His power to trying to win their love through separation and ruling the world from afar – like a king giving his subjects more freedom ). What a thought!
But this begs a new question: “How does God show us His love now?” Do you see Him ruling like a king anymore? It sure doesn’t seem that way. There are a lot of unjust things in the world – the recent deaths in DC, the Somali attack in Kenya, the deadly cyclone in Manila, and the continued genocide in Syria to name a few. So how is God showing us His love today?
Well that’s where I’ll leave it for today. Chew on that for a bit. But don’t swallow it whole. Chew it thoroughly and fully appreciate its flavor. If you don’t like it, spit it out at me and tell me why – I really want to hear the opinions of others on this. If this makes sense though, and if you have managed to follow me this far (a feat in itself), get ready for tomorrow’s conclusion to this blog, because I think it is going to be awesome. But I’m biased.
I pray that God will show you something from a different perspective today and make you think. And as always, I pray for blessings on you and yours.