Understanding divine visitation: Lenten meditation – Part 1
Why do we need divine visitation? We need divine visitation to bring the wisdom, power, favour, and blessing of heaven upon our efforts. Divine visitation brings heaven down and overrules the powers of the enemy at work in our situation, opening the floodgates of heaven to bring down blessings that money cannot buy, nor human influence guarantee. It stamps our work with an eternal value that is a fulfillment of that petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
One thing that summarises the exercise of fasting is the desire for a closer encounter with the Divine. We are further encouraged by such scriptural promises as in James 4:8: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” We can indeed go much further back to the prophets, for Jeremiah also writes, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
That the Lord Jesus Christ also speaks about the conditions for divine visitation clears the air of ambiguities, for we read in John 14:21,23, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
When it comes to divine visitation, we must be careful about creating boundaries of manifestation, based on our varied temperaments and denominational traditions. The heart condition transcends denominational affiliations and sentiments. No one and nothing can or should set limits for divine expression, though some have attempted to do that. God can express Himself as He chooses without being subject to any unbiblical scrutiny or narrow-minded interpretations.
Some red lights might be flashing in some readers’ minds at this point, as they wonder, in concern and exasperation, ‘How then can we curb the excesses of charlatans?” The Bible answers such genuine concerns with a genuine assurance, in Heb. 11:6: “And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Furthermore, the Lord Jesus teaches us, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11–13).
As we think of divine visitation, John Newton’s words in this hymn is reassuring:
Approach, my soul, the mercy seat; where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before his feet, for none can perish there.
Thy promise is my only plea; with this I venture nigh:
thou callest burdened souls to thee, and such, O Lord, am I.
We yearn for divine visitation, not because we are worthy – for we are not. We ask, because that is our only hope, and we ask in the name and on the merits of Christ Jesus alone. The Psalmist puts his yearning in these words, which are fitting prayers for us:
Psalm 42:1: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.”
Psalm 84:1–4: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah.”
Dvine Visitation: Whose Initiative?
God wants to visit us! His sovereignty implies that divine visitation must be at His instance, or at His pleasure. As He cannot be summoned merely by man’s wish or desire, this noble wish by mortal man can only be applauded as a befitting response to the hunger and emptiness of his heart, that clutches at the offer of God to visit us.
At the dawn of creation, the highest experience in the Garden of Eden was not its beauty and the creation around – magnificent as that was. It was rather God’s regular visits at the cool of the day. That gave the man a satisfying fellowship, a sense of identity, partnership, and fulfillment. That was the greatest loss in the Fall, and in eternity, that will be the greatest reality about hell: the absence of God. In those early years, a man like Enoch was distinguished by his relationship with God, for “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).
At a time in man’s history that could be described as the earliest form of a crooked and perverse generation that filled God’s heart with grief, we read these words: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch” (Genesis 6:11–14). God ensured the building of that ark and solely determined the occupants.
Abraham had several divine visitations – always initiated by God, as did the other patriarchs. Moses lived in that atmosphere – always as summoned by God; then Joshua, the historic Kings: David and Solomon; the prophets and priests. The supreme divine visitation is recorded in John 1:14, NLT, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” The New Testament continues with divine visitations after the resurrection appearances: the day of Pentecost, Paul’s Damascus road encounter; Peter’s vision of the large sheet from heaven and his miraculous deliverance from prison (Acts 12), right on to the apocalypse of John in those series of visions in the book of Revelation. In all these, no human voice ever said to God, “I want to see You, please!”
On the other hand, we are encouraged to express our longing for God’s intervention, His visitation in the prayers of the Psalmist, and in other prayers even in the New Testament. Several times the Psalmist prayed, “Arise, O Lord…” (7:6; 9:19; 10:12; 17:13; 132:8) and especially in times of warfare. When the persecuted disciples prayed for boldness to continue to preach and for God to manifest His presence and power, Luke tells us that “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:29–31). Another cry for God’s visitation is when God’s people cry, in the face of evil, “How long…?” We hear the last of these in the book of Revelation, “They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10).
Yes, we can ask in humility, and plead with Heaven to come down when we feel overwhelmed as individuals, families, fellowship groups, or indeed as a nation.
The Most Revd Emmanuel Egbunu is the Bishop of Lokoja, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
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