Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Does Our Lord Hide Himself from Us?

We struggle with doubts, confusion and instability. It seems that life would be so much easier if Jesus would just appear, hold our hand, and explain away all of our confusion. We fail to understand why He doesn’t do this. To make matters worse, the atheist taunts us:

  • If your God is more than a fairy tale, why doesn’t He just appear and perform some great miracles. How can he expect anyone to believe in him if he doesn’t provide some solid evidence?
Scripture’s reassurance that God purposely keeps certain things secret (Deut. 29:29) provides little comfort. I think we need to be comforted with the understanding why He doesn’t reveal all.

Perhaps the best place to find this understanding is in the account of Joseph and his tumultuous relationship with his brothers. They had been jealous of his father Jacob’s preference of Joseph, who had been the first born of his favored, but now deceased wife, Rachel. They determined to kill him, but instead sold Joseph as a slave into Egypt where he suffered for many years in jail until Pharaoh elevated him as the #2 man over all Egypt.

God had revealed to Joseph a future seven year famine, and so Joseph made great preparations to store grain for the famine. After enduring starvation for several years, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to procure grain.

It had been so many years, that the brothers didn’t recognize Joseph, and Joseph didn’t disclose himself to them. Instead, he imprisoned them, falsely accusing them of being spies. They protested that they weren’t, explaining that the father remained behind in Canaan with his favorite and youngest son, Benjamin.

After three days, Joseph released them, keeping one brother in jail, and told them that if they didn’t return with their youngest brother - the one other son of Rachel - they would never see Simeon again.

They returned to their father with the life-saving grain and explained that they would never be able to return for more without Benjamin. However, this famine persisted and Jacob relented, allowing Benjamin to accompany them. However, he warned that if Benjamin failed to return with them, he would surely die.

When they returned to Egypt, Joseph – his identity still remaining hidden – threw them a great banquet. However, he purposely tried to incur their jealousy by giving Benjamin five times what he had given the brothers.

After they left with their packs filled with grain, Joseph’s servants caught up with them, accusing them of stealing Joseph’s silver goblet. They searched and found it in Benjamin’s pack. The servants therefore brought the brothers back before Joseph:

  • Joseph said to them, "What is this you have done? Don't you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?"    "What can we say to my lord?" Judah replied. "What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants' guilt. We are now my lord's slaves--we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup."     But Joseph said, "Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace." (Genesis 44:15-17)
However, they knew that they couldn’t return home to their father without Benjamin. It would kill their father! Therefore, Judah pleaded:

  • "Please let your servant remain here as my lord's slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father." (Genesis 44:33-34)
How different from the way they had treated Joseph many years before! They now were willing to sacrifice themselves for the favored son!

  • Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, "Have everyone leave my presence!" So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh's household heard about it.  (Genesis 45:1-2)
Why hadn’t Joseph revealed himself earlier? He had wanted to. He had also wept on their first visit. He loved them and wanted to bring the entire family under his protection, but were they ready for receive such a blessing? Would they instead be consumed with jealousy as they had been before? If they weren’t ready, such a blessing would have been counter-productive. It would have enflamed their jealousy even more as they watched their beloved father fawning over Joseph.

However, they had now grown. Joseph had tried to inflame their jealousy over the favoritism he showed to Benjamin. However, this ploy failed to prevail over their commitment to their father.

When Joseph saw this, be broke and revealed himself. However, he first had to send the Egyptians out of the room. They were not ready for such a revelation. Even then, the brothers were terrified.

There are some revelations that we are unprepared to receive. Jesus had wanted to reveal more of Himself to His Apostles, but informed them that they were not yet ready. When I became a supervisor at the New York City Department of Probation, I naively thought that if I conducted myself in a transparent, just and concerned manner, my subordinates would reciprocate. Instead, they took kindness for weakness and tried to take unwarranted liberties. Consequently, I had to bring some of them up on charges. They therefore hated me, and I hated them. They proved themselves unable and unwilling to handle what I had revealed about myself, and I learned a painful lesson.

We are not ready to handle everything that our Lord would like to reveal about Himself. He feeds us with a miracle-lean diet, because this is the very diet we now need. He allows us to struggle with doubts and confusion, because, for now, we need this kind of weakness in order to grow into a trusting relationship with Him. However, we are promised that it will not always be this way.




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