John 11:3, John 11:6, Numbers 21:5, Numbers 21:6, Isaiah 55:8-9

David Hellyer looks at where God is in all of this

David Hellyer
David Hellyer

Living through a global pandemic is the sort of thing you expect to study in school, not live through yourself. The lockdown which has rippled across the globe has changed the way all of us live our lives. It's fair to say that many people in the world are living with questions right now. Both inside and outside of the church people will have asked "where is God in all this?"

For me, in lockdown, two stories have caught my eye.

Lazarus is sick and dying and his family sends word to Jesus (John 11:3). You might think that Jesus would drop everything and rush to rescue Lazarus. Interestingly, He does not. Jesus stays two more days in the place where He was (John 11:6). When Jesus does finally arrive in Bethany to visit Mary and Martha they both (very understandably) have some questions for Him. Then, just to catch out all the readers who are reading the story with the benefit of hindsight we are presented with the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. Yes, despite having already told His disciples what would happen, Jesus is moved with compassion. He shared in their sorrows and grief. Jesus goes on to raise Lazarus from the dead, giving Him new life. The Glory of God displayed.

Whilst travelling through the wilderness, the children of Israel complained against Moses: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?" (Numbers 21:5). The Lord sends fiery serpents into the camp, people who were bitten died (Numbers 21:6). Understandably, the children of Israel ask the Lord for the serpents to be taken away. Interestingly, He does not. Rather, God provided a way out; look at the bronze snake on the pole and you will be healed and freed from death. Jesus likens Himself to this bronze snake in John 3:14, everyone who looks to Him will be healed and freed from death.

In both of these stories God does not act in the way I might imagine He would act. It is curious that Jesus delays His journey to Lazarus, and if you don't think the delay is curious (because Jesus knew He would raise Him back to life) then perhaps the fact He wept gives you pause for thought? In the wilderness, however uncomfortable it may make us feel, we cannot escape the fact the Lord sent the snakes into the camp (Numbers 21:6). God didn't just allow this judgement, He ordained it. He then doesn't remove the snakes when He was asked to - instead He provides a way out. A foreshadow of Christ Himself.

All of us have questions. Some folks like to cross every "t" and dot every "i" when issues like these come up. And as someone who has worked with young people who are developing in their faith I know that digging into these big questions is vital. We mustn't be scared by big questions. However there is also a place for remembering that any god whose actions I can explain fully and understand completely is smaller than me. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that our God isn't smaller than us in any way.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Yes, I have questions.
Yes, questions are important.
Yes, I believe God is bigger than me.

Look to Jesus.  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.