When we do not recognise divine visitation: Lenten meditation – Part 4
God can come to us incognito! However, He usually gives enough clues to make divine visitations unambiguous. But when our minds are fixated on particular forms, we run the risk of missing the reality of divine visitations. Though angelic beings are not, strictly speaking, divine in themselves, (except that they share in the glory of the divine presence and serve as divine messengers) we will reckon with them in our instances of divine visitation.
Manoah and his wife prayed for the reappearance of the angelic visitor, who announced Samson’s birth: “And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field …And Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come true, what is to be the child’s manner of life, and what is his mission?’” (Judges 13:9, 12, ESV).
In the New Testament, the prophetic signposts about the Messiah and His forerunner loomed large on the horizon. Zechariah the Priest came face to face with Angel Gabriel, and yet the announcement of the child to be born couldn’t add up with the reality of his circumstances. Thankfully, he eventually realised what had happened.
As they came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples asked, “why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10–13. See also 21:32)
Right from the time of Christ’s birth, the chief priests and scribes met accurate prophecy with lethargic smugness. Herod had asked, when the Magi came with their unsettling announcement of a new-born king, where the Christ was to be born. They knew the facts but missed the fulfilment unfolding right before their eyes (see Matthew 2:3-6). Unlike the shepherds who said, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Luke 2:15), they shrugged off this alert, and carried on with business as usual.
The voice at Christ’s baptism and the many signs and miracles were loud testimonies that God had come down to His people. But as John records in his prologue, “He came to his own people, and even they rejected him” (John 1:11, NLT). They expected a warrior-like Messiah, but He came as a baby and grew up as a peasant. The final week of His earthly ministry faces us with the pronouncement of this verdict: “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43–44).
Can it be that we have also missed God’s visitation because we are looking for Him in the wrong ways and in the wrong things and places? Can this holy season of Lent – so full of heavenly blessings – be to us no more than mere ritual? Is it not time to break up our fallow ground and seek the Lord more earnestly and be open to His revelation in unlikely ways – possibly in uncomfortable language or through people we really do not like?