February 14, 2015

I Spy God

A friend of ours packed up his belongings to move from southeast Asia back to Canada. One problem was his bike. As he pondered how to ship it, a deaf mute living in the same apartment complex came along. He watched for a minute and then gave the universal “I have a good idea” sign. He rushed out and came back with an empty flat screen television box. The bike fit perfectly inside and was soon on its journey to a faraway home.

In the OT Exodus, the journey of God’s people was not as far, but it was a difficult one. Theologians compare their journey to the spiritual journey of a sinner going from slavery to sin to the freedom God offers in a new “land” of promise. However, those ancient Israelite were often reluctant travelers and stubborn. God said to them, “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

When the people heard these disastrous words, “They mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, ‘Say to the people of Israel, “You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.” (Exodus 33:4–6)

Comparing this to my spiritual journey, I am aware of the need to remove enhancements. I must take off all layers of attempts to make myself look better to people, even to God, than I am. This is part of what it means to be a Christian. We are to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith . . . .” (Hebrews 12:1–2)

Another part of that spiritual journey is even more startling. Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:18–20)

This points to the vital step of seeing God. Yes, I know He says that no one can see His face and live, but this part of my spiritual journey goes beyond a literal vision. Of course God does not have a ‘face’ for He is spirit and cannot be seen, at least with the eyes. However, there is a sense of seeing God for He reveals Himself to those He is seeking and saving. In that ‘seeing’ something amazing happens. It is described as regeneration, the new birth. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Colossians 3:3 is even more graphic: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” We are crucified with Christ and given new life in Christ. This is the beginning of living in God’s land of promise.

The next reading is that love story again, the story that pictures Jesus and His bride, the church. While I am amazed that God reveals Himself, I am also amazed that He became a man, came to earth making Himself visible, and allows us to see Him, I’m also amazed at the way He looks at us . . . “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!” (Song of Solomon 4:9–10)

As I wonder at the way God reveals Himself and the way we are transformed by that revelation, the NT reading seems unrelated to those from the OT. It speaks of Jesus and a miracle. He feeds 5000 men plus women and children using the lunch of a boy. Here is a small piece of the story . . .  

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. (John 6:5–13)

Does this have anything to do with seeing God? I nearly missed it, but of course it does. Here is God in the body of a man doing only what God can do — making something out of nothing, well, practically nothing. Who but God can multiply a very insignificant offering and use it to bless thousands? And now I remember the verse in Hebrews that says, “Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature . . . .” (Hebrews 1:3) This event from the life of Jesus reveals God. In Him I can see the God who looks at the needs of His people and meets them, often in unexpected ways and through unlikely people.

We once played a game called “I spy God.” At the end of each day, we shared the ways God revealed Himself to us that day. This game was revived in our home today, starting with a bike and a shipping container!

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