The Word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. I Samuel 3:1While reading Scripture this morning I was struck by several Psalms that referred to God's direct and immediate involvement with humankind--statements about his provision, protection, justice, etc.
Scripture speaks often of God's promises to provide, protect, and bless. The question that comes to mind is, "If God were real, and really did those things, wouldn't we see him active and obvious in everything around us?" But we don't see that. We see hungry people who sing songs about God's provision, and continue to starve. We see oppressed people who praise God for his protection even as they are slaughtered. We do not see angelic figures stepping in to pass out bread or wield swords.
In response, we comfort ourselves with what many believe to be weak platitudes: God is protecting and providing even when you cannot see him doing it. Or God is protecting and providing in some spiritual sense. Or God is promising protection and and provision for the future, in eternity, if not now.
If God is there, though, and if he really does all he says he does (or will do all he says he will do) why don't we see him doing it? Why does his active involvement in our reality stay hidden behind the normal and natural mechanisms of cause and effect in ways that allow unbelievers to credit those activities to anything but God? Why not step out and do what he says he does in ways that are obvious and self-crediting?
Well, he has. Many times. And it made little difference as far as these particular questions are concerned.
God did at the creation, but the creation hated him. God did with the nation of Israel, but Israel hated him. God did with Jesus for the world, but the world hated Jesus. Still does. But God is patient and he is eternal. A thousand years is like a day to him. He has a plan. It is well underway in Christ. In this plan, he does not stoop to and stammer before the whims of a humanity who wants a show of evidence, who wants a feeding of the 5,000. God will show himself and restore all things in his time, and without respect to the demands of a people who will hate him anyway.
In the meantime, he is, of course, not far off at all, though he generally cloaks himself in normal providence. Like the parables that hid truth in plain sight, providence is full of mechanisms that could have other explanations. This is why God is so silent; why he does not just show himself: because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand, and sometimes God wants it that way (Matthew 13:10-17). He owes the unbelieving world nothing but judgment.
But he has not left himself without a witness in the world. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear can see him anywhere. Scripture testifies to his active and obvious involvement with men, though it has made little difference in the minds of any except those sovereignly enabled to see and hear. His divinity and power are declared in what he has created. But the Cult of the Created Thing has always hated him even when he has stood before it and announced himself with wonders and miracles. He speaks righteousness into the human conscience, which then excuses itself by calling evil good. Why should a patient God stoop and stammer for a people who would ignore him and hate him even if he were to do their "tricks?"
He shows himself when and how he wants in his time. In line with the quote at the top, there have been huge portions of history throughout which God has been relatively silent as far as new special revelation goes. We have no right to expect anything more. He showed himself before, and we hated him for it. Why should we expect anything to be any different were he to show himself at any other time?
Of course, in these latter times, God has spoken to us in his Son. He owes the world nothing but judgment for unrighteousness. But he has graciously given Christ to the world, and testified to him in his Word. Christ is God made near, made immediate, made most immanent. Christ is God with us. He is the miracle, the communication, and the show. He is the evidence that God is not far off. We are to trust him--that he is real, that he is Lord, that he died for our sins, that he rose from the dead, that he will return as he said.
Until then, we can clearly see God and his work, we can hear his voice, through the eyes and ears of faith.