“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!”—Isaiah 64:1
It is my custom when I turn out the light for sleep to spend a few minutes in prayer. I offer the night to God to work in me how he will when I’m not awake to get in his way and then I say a good-night prayer or two. A few days ago, I turned out the light and snuggled down to sleep. But as I did, a picture instantly came into my mind – the black sky of deep space with pinpoints of light scattered about. Whether I was awake or asleep I do not know—God knows. I believe I was awake.
As I considered this sky, suddenly, a section in the middle of the sky moved. It’s hard to describe but I will try. The sky was still black and star-studded, but in the center of the image something like a ripple moved. That whole section of sky and stars moved just a ripple within the rest and settled down again. I knew instantly that I had seen God and it terrified me. I tried to comprehend it but I couldn’t and I absolutely cannot explain what happened. My mouth was dry, my heart was pounding, I was breathless and I was terrified. After a bit I thought, “I understand why the Israelites didn’t get it. They couldn’t comprehend God either.” Then I thought, “It’s a good thing we have Jesus.” After a minute or two, I went to sleep.
Over the next few days, I have continued to meditate on this image. Old Testament stories tells of times when a person or two saw God. Some were able to relate to him, but most weren’t. God would show up in a burning bush, a pillar of cloud, a pillar of fire, thunder and lightning and, once, in sheer silence. Very occasionally he came in the form of a person. The people, after having experienced some of this told Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” God was frightening to experience and later they made their own in the form of a Golden Calf. They wanted a god that they could see and who wasn’t so scary. Now I somewhat understand their problem. We all want to see God, don’t we? We sometimes make him in our own image.
I have a question for God here beginning Advent. If God had intended to come live with us since the beginning, why did he wait so long to show up? Why do I ask God why? I don’t know because he rarely answers those questions. Maybe, it was because he wanted us to know that we couldn’t make it without him. We had to make a thorough mess of things. What did God want? I don’t know—God knows. Maybe he was waiting for Mary. He knew her from the beginning and so, perhaps he was. God waits for someone to do what he needs to have done. God waits for a person or people to make him visible. Maybe me. Or you. Perhaps since the beginning.
Some things are not meant to be understood but experienced and known. Maybe, within that whole image, God only wanted to say “I love you.” Or perhaps it was a good-night kiss. I don’t know—God knows.
“…Your world doesn’t know You now, they close their eyes to You.
O where are the wondrous deeds You do, all for those who were true?
Sunder the heavens and come to our aid. Lord, look how Your people stand afraid.”
~ John Foley, Redeemer Lord