A Panoramic View of God’s Purpose in History (From The Life With God Bible)
In addition to understanding the Bible’s overarching theme in the with-God life and its transformation of the People of God, it is also helpful to view the Bible panoramically across the expanse of time. From the beginning and into the ultimate future of God with humanity we can see the unity of the Bible in the interplay of two aspects of the with-God life: human character transformation and divine mediation – that is, God’s ways of arranging to be with us. Every interaction in the biblical records shows this interplay.
Adam and Eve “fell” because, though innocent, they lacked character. Innocence is not virtue. Innocence, for all its beauty, is a form of ignorance and lack of character. God certainly could have stood over Adam and Eve (“been in their faces,” as we sometimes say) and prevented them from succumbing to Satan’s clever appeals. Instead, God arranged for them to be “on their own,” and the result was then expressed in what they did. This allowing us to be “on our own” in order to develop character within us is an arrangement God still abides by and respects.
To develop Adam’s and Eve’s character – and our too – God has to be “absent” as well as present in human life. Just as our parents care for us around the clock in infancy and early childhood and then gradually withdraw their presence from us as we physically mature, so God is intently present to us at our spiritual infancy and then allows us to b increasingly “on our own” as we spiritually mature. Through the ages God purposely works to establish a balance between his “manifest presence” and his “seeming absence,” so that we will develop character: the character required of those who will not only “exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ,” but also will “reign forever and ever” with him, hence realizing his ultimate purpose for humanity (Romans 5:17; Revelation 22:5).
As in the garden of Eden, God balances his manifest presence and seeming absence through divine mediation by providing appointed figures, forms of worship, social structures, cataclysmic events, Scripture, and other revelations. These forms of mediation change over time, always building on what has gone before. At the outset of human history – from Adam to Abraham – God works directly with individuals: speaking with them, appearing to them in angelic form, instructing them in dreams, and so forth. When God is “absent” to them, his presence is mediated only by the knowledge that he is “about” and “will be back.”
Beginning with Abraham, by contrast, God begins working indirectly, mediating his presence through the social structure of the family unity: “In you,” God says to Abraham – that is, though your family – “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). This mediation develops over a long and painful history as Abraham’s descendants become tribes, a people, and then, under the monarchy, a nation that rises to great power, dominating its neighbors. All the while, God’s presence with the people of Israel is the central unifying reality in its history.
From Abraham through the monarchy, God’s presence – and absence – is mediated through Scripture, traditions, and rituals of the religion of Israel: the Torah, the judges, the levitical priests, the prophets, and more. These survive the collapse of the monarchy and the dispersion and continue to mediate God’s presence not only to the exiled biological children of Abraham, but also to the Gentiles and their kings and leaders.
During the intertestamental period, the religious institutions of Israel continue to prosper in their own homeland, even under Greek and Roman rule, and throughout the Mediterranean world. During this time new possibilities of character development and relationship to God develop within the framework of the ethnic Israelite culture.
Then, into this Greco-Roman, Mediterranean world Jesus, the Incarnate Word, who personally mediates the presence of God, is born. By the means of his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus breaks open the ethnic vessel within which the treasure of God’s presence had developed. The entire history of God-with-His-people now becomes, through Jesus Christ, the treasure of all peoples and fulfills the ancient promise to Abraham: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Now “there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human” (1 Timothy 2:5).
After Jesus’ ascension into the heavens we see God’s all-inclusive people, the “light of the world” and “salt of the earth,” being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who also personally mediates God’s presence for the formation of Christ’s character in individuals and “all nations.” This direct mediating of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit continues to develop up to the present. Alongside this continues the indirect mediating work of Scripture (the Word of God written), preaching and prophetic utterance (the word of God spoken), and sacraments (the Word of God made visible).
Ahead lies an eternity beyond human history, when we will “know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (2 Corinthians 13:12). There character formation and transformation will no longer require the mediation of God’s presence and absence to us, for Christ will fully dwell in us and we will be in him. Then the fullness of Christ’s character within us will eliminate any need for mediation, and we will be in direct and everlasting communion with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Omnipresence becomes manifest presence. No wonder Paul exclaims, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Huntington Beach, CA.
“Another way to understand your role as a mentor is to think of yourself as a coach.
“When would-be athletes are young, a coach begins with the basics. He explains everything. He’s not just on the field; he’s positioning kids’ feet and arms, showing them how to catch the pass or hit the ball. He’s involved in every movement, every choice.
“Later comes scrimmage time, when the coach moves from being in the middle of the play to being just behind it. He’s still close, but he’s not involved hands-on. He lets the players play, calling instructions as needed. At the end of practice, he’s there to point out where things went right and where they went wrong.
“When the day finally arrives for a real game, the coach stays on the sidelines. The players take the field. The coach can shout directions, but he doesn’t hold the players’ hands or demonstrate technique anymore. He waits for time-outs, halftimes, and the end of the game to offer detailed guidance.
“It’s the same way with parents who want to be spiritual mentors. In the early years, we may show our children how to pray, even giving them words to say and telling them to close their eyes. Later we might ask leading questions: ‘Are there any problems at school we should pray about? What happened today that you can thank God for? Do you want to pray first or should I?”
“Eventually our kids are praying on their own, often silently. We might wish we could elbow our way into those conversations, but all we can do is make suggestions from the sidelines: ‘I keep a list of answered prayers; it reminds me to keep praying no matter what.’ ‘Please pray for Mrs. Logan next door; she just found out her husband has Alzheimer’s.’ ‘If you’ll pray about my sales presentation today, I’ll pray about your geometry test.’
“Our shouts of encouragement may come at the end of a school day or in a note in a lunch bag. Our halftime pep talks may be delivered on a weekend or during a family vacation. Our postgame analyses may occur at bedtime or over pie at a coffee shop.
“Sometimes we’ll find ourselves sharing the coaching duties with others – camp counselors, youth leaders, or Sunday school teachers. But because we’re the parents of our teens, we’ll be their head coaches – their primary mentors – for better or for worse.”
Excerpt from Parent’s Guide to the Spiritual Mentoring of Teens.