The Story Challenge: Is God pulling back?
Don't you love it when you can see God orchestrate tiny details in life to work out according to his purposes? As some of you know, one of my favorite authors is Philip Yancy, and I've shared with you excerpts from his book "Grace Notes" from time to time.
Well, yesterday I came across this reflection titled "Three Questions" and thought it pertinent to our reading of chapter 5 this week, "New Commands and a New Covenant", and want to share it with you. Here are Philip Yancy's words:
Is God unfair? Is God silent? Is God withdrawn? Exodus and Numbers taught me that quick solutions to those three questions may not solve the underlying problems of disappointment with God. The Israelites, though exposed to the bright, unshaded light of God's presence, were as fickle a people as have ever lived. Ten different times on the melancholy pathless plains of the Sinai they rose up against God. Even at the very border of the Promised Land, with all its bounty stretching out before them, they were still keening for the "good old days" of slavery in Egypt.
These dismal results may provide insight into why God does not intervene more directly today. Some Christians long for a world well-stocked with miracles and spectacular signs of God's presence. I hear wistful sermons on the parting of the Red Sea and the ten plagues and the daily manna in the wilderness, as if the speakers yearn for God to unleash power like that today. But the follow-the-dots journey of the Israelites should give us pause. Would a burst of miracles nourish faith? Not the kinds of faith God seems interested in, evidently. The Israelites give ample proof that signs may only addict us to signs, not to God.
True, the Israelites were a primitive people emerging out of slavery. But the biblical accounts have a disturbingly familiar ring to them. The Israelites tended to behave, in Frederick Buechner's phrase, "just like everybody else, only more so."
I came away from my study of them both surprised and confused: surprised to learn how little difference it made in people's lives when three major reasons for disappointment with God- unfairness, silence, and hiddenness- were removed; confused by the questions stirred up about God's actions on earth. Has God changed, by pulling back, withdrawing?
It is so interesting to me that God put this very passage from Yancy in my path yesterday to notice and share with you, and yet the subject is contemplating God "pulling back" from signs. Maybe it's a good reminder to me that I need to focus more on him to be mindful of his everyday miracles? How quickly we forget that even the snow gently falling from the sky on a dreary March day is a miracle in and of itself. Every snowflake unique, and yet we trudge on through, grumbling about the mess on our boots!
I'd love to hear your thoughts this week!