Recall my first three 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. They 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?”
In the third part, we had a bit of a plot twist. Going back to the very beginning of the Bible, we found the story of God’s creation of man. Looking at this story, we realized that God made us purely out of love. He displayed this love to us over and over and all He desired was for us to return that love. But like a girl playing VERY hard-to-get, we kept driving Him further and further away. This made us realize that God wasn’t punishing us by withdrawing from us, but was rather changing His approach in loving us in hopes of winning us over. But this creates a new question: “How does God show us His love now?”
Thanks Brick for that weather update. Yet another dry October in the 100s – such an inconvenient truth. Our next story follows the events that have transpired over the last 10 years. You’ll recall that a decade ago, almost to the day, a grand Deity appeared and revealed Himself to the whole world. We have since disregarded this Deity as being merely self-minded. Then a mysterious love letter to the world appeared at the Vatican and was signed by God. Now, almost 7 years later, we have a new story unfolding. A man, who goes by the name Joshua – just Joshua, has appeared in New York City, claiming that He is God. Religious organizations and experts are scrambling to figure out just who this person is, but initial reports say that these religious leaders are discouraging all people from believing in Joshua as God, despite rumors of his healing the blind and raising the dead.
Okay, so let’s put the whole Antichrist issue aside here. This is strictly allegorical. With that in mind, it may not be too difficult to see where I am going with this; however, I hope you will read on despite what you think you know. It may not be what you expect.
Okay so we left last time asking, “How does God show His love now?” He used to appear to the Israelites and then He retreated and began ruling the world from afar, it seemed, like a king.
But this didn’t seem to work either. Israel continued to falter and they were constantly dominated by the various empires of history as a result. Something else needed to be done in an effort to win over the people of the world. So God did something extraordinary.
As you may have noticed, I am reading “Disappointment with God” by Philip Yancey. It’s a fantastic book and I highly recommend it. Much of what I have talked about from this blog has been a result of the things I’ve learned in this book and the Scriptures I’ve investigated in relation to the book. One of the most intriguing things I have read in this book, though, was not from Scripture. Rather, it was paraphrase from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments. Check this out:
“Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden. The king was like no other king. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all his opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by his love for a humble maiden.
How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his very kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to his palace and crowned her head in jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist – no one dared resist him. But would she love him?
She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know?
If he rode to her forest cottage in his royal carriage with armed escorts waving bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget that he was king and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross the gulf between them.”
This is a great way to picture what God might have been going through while He was trying to woo the world. We see Him as the King and Ruler that He is. We know He is Just and Sovereign. We even know that He is Loving. But it’s truly hard for us as humans to love Him in return – whether that be due to fear, the fact that we have trouble loving things we can’t see, or something else altogether.
Paul puts it this way:
“[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:6-8
This verse holds two different gifts for us to unwrap. So let’s unwrap them.
In the first part of this passage, Paul is talking about Jesus’ becoming flesh. Jesus was God, therefore God took human form.
Paul said that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”, meaning He realized that it would be difficult for us as humans to grasp the fullness of Jesus as God. So instead, He descended to our level to become human.
This coincides with the second part of Kierkegaard’s story. The king, realizing his dilemma, decided to shed his royal robes and attendants; and instead, he dressed up like a common person and approached the woman he loved in order win her love as an equal.
In the same way, Jesus decided to shed His royal glory and angels; and instead He dressed up like a common human and approached the world he loved in order to win its love as an equal.
But humbling himself to the status of human wasn’t enough. The second part of this passage is at the very end where Paul says that Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient to death.” Taking on human form was one thing, but taking on death was quite another. Jesus didn’t have to die. He never sinned once, and therefore was not subject to the consequences of sin, being death. But instead, He humbled Himself even to the most excruciating death of His time, death by crucifixion. Nailed to a cross by the wrists and ankles, the worst criminals were executed this way, made to hang there for hours until they were asphyxiated.
This act of enduring torture and death is many times seen as the only act of love Jesus showed the world. But the fact is it was actually the second major act of love. The first and (in my opinion) larger one was a much more silent act of shedding glory and supreme power and authority over the Universe to become a humble and incredibly vulnerable baby.
This is why I see now how the entire Bible is a love letter, and not just the Old Testament as I explained in part 3. After a long fight for the love of the world in which God slowly withdrew from the world in order to show them love, He instead chose to get as close to us as He had been to Adam and Eve, but outside of His glory and power so as not to scare us away as He had done to the Israelites.
So follow with me the path we have thus far traveled.
To begin with, we asked “Why doesn’t God just show Himself to the world?” The answer we got from Job was “Because He is God. He doesn’t have to explain His actions to us.” This may not be what we wanted to hear, but it holds true nonetheless. Regardless, we stubbornly continued our pursuit of a more satisfying answer to the question “Why does God choose to withdraw Himself from the world and be so silent?
Deuteronomy demonstrated God’s slow physical withdrawal from the world due to our disobedience. This was confirmed by the constant disobedience of Israel throughout Exodus and Numbers. This then begged the question “Why did God even make us in the first place?”
So we looked at Creation in Genesis 1 and 2. There we found God lavishing man with constant gifts out of love for him. Following the story forward, it seemed like God wasn’t being vengeful or punishing man by withdrawing from us. Rather, it seemed like He was trying to give us the space we needed in order to return His love. This changed our entire perspective of the events of the Bible and God’s reasoning behind being distant. But it still made us wonder “How does God show us His love now?”
Finally, today we realized that God shows us His love now in the life of Jesus, who was God. He desired so much to win our love that He humbled Himself and came to earth only to die after a short 33 years so that we can each have salvation in Him – being the permanent sacrifice. This gives us a hope today that was never possible before Jesus’ time.
So why doesn’t God show us to the world? I think it’s because He loves us. I think that He knows that if He shows Himself to us, He might get the allegiance He seeks, but it won’t be with the love that He so desperately desires. He knows from experience.
But is that where it ends?