Across the Pastor’s Desk: Who left? Was it God or was it us?
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Todd Walsh
Has God abandoned us? It may be said to be reasonable to ask given any number of circumstances around us and our world today. It is also a question that is not in the least bit out of line. It is in fact biblical. The psalmist plainly asks the question to begin Psalm 22. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus himself used those words from the cross.
Consider life in the first chapters of the Bible. Genesis 3 describes a life where the man and the woman speak directly to God and God answers. God walks among them, even taking a stroll in the evening breeze. The relationship is personal and intimate.
Then the man and the woman decide to not listen to God. They hide themselves from God. They make excuses and blame one another. The man even blames God. So God intervenes to reconcile and create a way forward for the man and the woman.
God speaks regularly and directly with the patriarchs and others who follow. Moses speaks to God “face to face.” And the Israelites travel during the Exodus with God going with them in the pillar of cloud and fire.
But there is a movement in the biblical story. God appears less and less. God’s voice becomes rarely heard. The last time the Old Testament records God speaking to a human being is when Solomon dedicates the temple in 1 Kings 9. God promises Solomon that the name of God will dwell in the temple with the proviso that king and people are faithful.
Then the voice of God changes. And Ezekiel 10 described the unthinkable. God’s name leaves the temple escorted by heavenly beings called cherubim. God is heard only through prophets who quote God. The prophets announce God’s call for people to return. And they also record God’s promise to return and set things right.
The opening words of Hebrews describe well God’s return. “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various way by the prophets. But in these last days he has spoke to us by a son.” God again walks the earth in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is rejected and killed. And God raises him to once again bring reconciliation to the children of Adam and Eve.
So who left? Was it God or was it us? Genesis 3 is pretty clear that it is the man and the woman — it’s us. And the Bible is pretty clear that God keeps coming back.
God walked around in the evening breeze of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Why doesn’t God do the same for me and appear in my backyard? What more can God do for me than sending his own Son to take me back? A backyard visit pales compared to the cross for me and you.
Has God abandoned us? The venerable words of John 3:16 answer the question: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
And there is more. We are put to work. We become partners in the life God brings. We become the messengers of God’s word. Jesus says it in Acts 1 after he is raised: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus gives us a remarkable purpose and promise at the close of Matthew. “Go, therefore and makes disciples of all nations…And remember I am with you always to the end of the age.” God has not abandoned us. God has given us the gifts to be his hands and voice among us.
Todd Walsh is director of spiritual care services at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community in Albert Lea.