Why is God silent? Why is God hidden? Why doesn’t God move in a pillar of smoke and fire today like he did with the Israelites? Why doesn’t he speak to us—at least one of us—the way he did with Moses? Why can’t God be more like the up-front, out loud, in-your-face God of the Old Testament? Then maybe my friends and family would believe (or perhaps maybe then you would believe?).
These are common questions as we finish the book of Exodus, especially as we read that “In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted”. What a simple (or would that be simplistic) way to follow the will of the Lord…just look at the sky.
But notice what that did for the faith and spiritual maturity of the Israelites. Did they become stalwart God-followers who did everything right and just as God directed? Hardly! It’s more like a parent guiding their child along by the hand; but every time they let go, the child runs to play in traffic or reaches for the hot stove. God’s babysitting of the Israelites seemed to keep them as spiritual infants, but God is more interested in making mature followers out of his children.
Why is God silent? Why doesn’t he tell us his will for us every day? Because he has given us something much better than an external babysitter, he has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Counselor who guides into all truth. He has given us His Word as our daily bread that we may grow up to be mature “eaters”. As Hebrews 5:14 says, “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
Why is God hidden? Why doesn’t he make himself plain to believers—and skeptics? Jesus said that if skeptics don’t listen to those whom God sends, “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” But Jesus also said it would be better for us if he left because he would send the Spirit to guide us, teach us and remind us of the truth.
God answers these questions with the Holy Spirit and the Bible. The real question is: are you using the gifts God has given us to know him, speak with him, grow in him, find him, show him and love him?
1. Do you think it would be easier to be a Christian today if God led us like he led the Israelites? Why or why not?
2. Do you think it would be better if God communicated to us like he did with the Israelites, through a spokesman? Why or why not? What do you think it was like for the average Israelite to hear from God through Moses?
3. Read John 16:5-15. Do you agree with Jesus’ assessment that it is better that he left so he could send the Holy Spirit? Based on what you read in John, what might it be like today if Jesus was still walking around making disciples but the Holy Spirit had not been sent?