AN INVOLVED GOD
The Bible, especially the Old Testament is full of stories of people who encountered God in a close, personal and unignorable way. A way that we do not see paralleled today. The interactions that God had with his people in the past seem fundamentally different. God seemed to be more in touch with His people and in a way, more tangible. When we look at the story of the Exodus we see that God guided the people in a visible and direct way as he was a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, they did not have to guess where they wanted him to go. Later, in Genesis 34 we see that Moses went up to Mount Sinai to talk with God and implored of God that He reveal himself. God headed Moses’ wish and showed himself, the glory of his presence being so strong that Moses’ face shone so brightly after this encounter that he was forced to wear a veil. When the Prophet Elijah was distressed and in hiding in the mountains, God chose to reveal his presence to him. God came down to talk with Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
These stories are just a few examples of the times when God chose to reveal himself in an irrefutable way to his people in the Old Testament. He guided them, comforted them, and spoke with them directly. Before the advent of sin, it is not hard to imagine how much closer God must have been to his people; one can conjure images of God walking and talking with Adam and Eve in Eden. There is no more intimate moment recorded between God and man as recorded in Genesis 2. Imagine God before this, forming Adam from the dust on the ground and breathing life into him, a caring and loving creator God who rejoiced in His creation and wanted nothing more than to spend time with those he made.
So, if Gods interactions with humanity used to be so personal, so undeniable and tangible, why aren’t they like that now?
AN ABSENT GOD
Frederich Nietzche wrote in the 19th century that “God is dead.” The world today is largely described as being ‘post-God’ and therefore ‘post-Christianity’; the most common claim against God is that He is not working, that he is silent, uncaring and irrelevant. That he surveyed his creation and decided that he did not want to interact with it. That he grew tired of earth and humanity. Or even worse, that if he is still there, that he is just letting everything happen, watching from a distance.
That is just not true. God’s presence is more real than ever for those who earnestly seek to know more about God.
In the New Testament, Jesus, God’s son dwelt among humanity and died as the central event of the plan of salvation. We see in the gospels that Jesus died and rose again and after a further period on earth, ascended to heaven. Before Jesus ascended, his last words as recorded in Matthew 28:19 were used to instruct the disciples “to make disciples of all nations” and that he reassured them that he would be with them “until the end of the age.” How could Jesus promise that he would be with them if he was not intending on maintaining an intimate level of interaction with them and by extension the rest of his people? What a strange thing to say upon his ascension to Heaven! It seems to be a promise that he would not be able to keep.
God’s plan for a continued connection with humanity is revealed soon after and is still in place today. In Acts 2, the disciples are recorded to be celebrating an event called the Pentecost. It was at this event that God revealed himself powerfully to the early church and made it known that he would still be an interactive force. Acts 2:2-4 says “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them,” God’s presence came to rest in each of His people in the form of the Holy Spirit! This Spirit is received when an individual truly accepts Jesus into their lives, according to Ephesians 1:13-14, the holy spirit “guarantees salvation” as those who are possessed by it are truly possessed by God and may have an experience like that described in the hymn ‘In the Garden’ by Charles Miles.
“And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.”
Each one of us has the chance to accept the Holy Spirit and enter into a deep and meaningful relationship with God. The Spirit is with us through all of our trials and struggles; it is even called the ‘comforter’ for the work that it does on earth. To be filled God’s presence we must set out to purposefully encounter God, each of us has their own way of doing this. Maybe you feel the closest to God after you have read your Bible or have convened with God in prayer. Jesus wants to place his Holy Spirit in our hearts so that he can be a part of our lives. All we have to do is to accept his calling. Once we do this, we can walk with God closely and have a relationship with God like those of the characters seen in the Old Testament, experiencing his presence through the work of the spirit. It can be as though we are walking in the garden with Christ as the old hymn reads.
By Kira-leigh Josey
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