Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Where are the Miracles?

For many of us in the satiated, scientific, self-sufficient west, life looks much different from the early church experience that was apparently much more frequently marked by the miraculous. But we are not the first people in history to have "lost" the miraculous in our midst.

After Israel's and Judah's continual rejection of God for their own selfishness, judgment comes in the form of the Babylonian destruction of the temple in 586 BC and mass deportation of those remaining in Judah. Despite the past promises and demonstrations of power in the midst of his chosen people, they now cry out,
"O God, why have You rejected us forever? We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, nor is there any among us who knows how long. Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?" (Psalm 74)
The reason "why" was because it was actually God who had been thoroughly rejected by Israel. His absence was simply a long-overdue response of withdrawal after generations of abuse, rebellion, and idolatry. He, along with the outpouring of His Spirit, were agreeing to the divide Israel had pursued for so long. And the consequences of that divide left for present and coming generations would be painful... seeming, from the subjective myopic human viewpoint, as though God had somehow changed.
"My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; my voice rises to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; in the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; my soul refused to be comforted. When I remember God, then I am disturbed. You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of long ago. Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Then I said, 'It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.' I will remember the deeds of the LORD; I will meditate on all Your work. Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. You have by Your power redeemed Your people." (Psalm 77)
It feels to the psalmist as though God changed, rejecting His people like never before. And yet, this captivity song, like the last, arises from a suffering that was first and ultimately brought on by Israel's rejection of God... not the other way around.

Today, when we look for the signs and wonders of God, the healings and miracles promised and encouraged by Jesus and the Gospel authors, we see very little here in the west. Either they seldom happen, or some great hush prevents news of them from reaching our ears.

Could it be that we, like post-exhilic Israel, are experiencing the absence of the God we've rejected? If so, could it also be that our way back to the normal and normative experience in the NT description, is the same as Israel's? Deep sorrow and repentance... both individually and as the kingdom community?

What would such repentance look like? Maybe this would be a good place to start:
"O LORD, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry; for my soul has had enough troubles. I have become like one without strength. My eye has wasted away because of affliction. I have called upon You every day, O LORD; I have spread out my hands to You. I cry out to You for help; and in the morning my prayer comes before You." (Psalm 88)

"If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

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