One of the questions we are sometimes asked is “If God is real, why doesn’t he show up and prove it?” The big answer of course is “He as shown up. He showed up in Jesus.”
At the first of Rooted sessions we talked about this. This prompted the question “Why did God wait so long before showing up? Couldn’t Jesus have shown up right at the start and died and risen rather than waiting through all those generations of wickedness?” Linked to that came the question “What about people who lived before Jesus and did not know about him nor even about the Old Testament?”
Here are some thoughts I gave in response.
1. When we talk about God showing up in Jesus, we mean that in The Incarnation, God most fully reveals himself. However, it is not that God had been absent or in hiding before then. We should not think of him jumping out and shouting “Surprise, here I am.” God shows up right through history, speaking at Creation, walking in the garden with Adam, delivering Noah from the flood, calling Abraham, rescuing the Israelites from Egypt and speaking through the prophets.
2. There must be a sense in which God’s choice to work in time and to allow the story to unfold works for his greater glory. Part of this is that we see even more sharply through all the human attempts to reach God or to live without God why we needed a saviour to come. Part of it is that all of the clues, all of the promises that pointed forward and all of the people who showed faith in the promise make it absolutely clear that those who rejected Jesus when he came were without excuse.
3. Romans 1 tells us that God has clearly revealed who he is in creation. Whilst creation does not tell us everything. There is enough there for us to know that we should worship him and not idols.
4. The sense in Romans 1 is not that we are neutral, looking at the evidence impartially. Rather, God has clearly revealed himself to us and we have refused to listen. We have turned out backs on him. It’s God’s grace that means his revelation continues to pursue us.