God Who Seeks Man Before Man Seeks God
We Are All Lost Sheep
The God Who Seeks Us
We hear a lot of talk about men searching for God or finding God. I would propose, though, that their search is very much related to the fact that God has first sought them. In Luke 19:10 Jesus said, "...the Son of man (referring to himself with the term reserved for the Jewish Messiah) came to seek and to save the lost." Shortly before his death, Jesus told his closest followers, during what is now known as the Last Supper, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide..." (John 15:16) To me the most important truth in Christianity is that God loves us enough to seek us out even before we start trying to find him.
Most people wonder at some time in their lives whether there is a God, and, if so, what he is like and what he requires of them. Most of the world's religions provide some answer to these questions. Each religion has a unique view of God, or its gods, since some religions have more than one. Some religions have a book they consider authoritative in faith and how to live life. Other's like Hinduism, have many writings they refer to. Because these views of God or gods differ from one another, it's rather silly to say that all religions worship the same God with different names. When looking at the various religions, it's a good idea to see what the religion teaches about the character of it's God or gods. What motivates the God's behavior? What does he or she demand of religious followers? How does that religion deal with sin or imperfection?
The religions I have studied most are those that claim to worship the God of the Old and / or New Testament of the Bible. Since I am most familiar with the teachings of the Bible, I will limit my discussion to the God revealed in the Bible. You can be the judge of whether the view of God taught by other religions is the same. I assume you would not make that judgment unless you were a student of both religions and had read their books.
God's Initiative in Creation and Communication
Most religions have some teaching about creation. The Bible teaches that God created the earth and all that's in it. In Genesis 1 God had initiated the relationship with the first people by creating them and communing with them. He did not leave them to wonder about their purpose. He created them in his own image, male and female, and he told them to have dominion over the other living things he had created. He also gave them all the plants for food and he told them to be fruitful and multiply.
We're told that God also created the perfect garden environment for man, giving the first couple access to everything in it except for one tree -- the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. (You can find all this in Genesis 2 and 3.) Most people have heard the story of how the serpent tempted Eve, the first woman, and convinced her to disobey God's only command. After they ate the forbidden fruit, they became aware of their disobedience by recognizing their nakedness and they hastily sewed clothes for themselves from fig leaves. They also hid themselves from the presence of God, as if one really could hide from God.
Although God knows good and well where they are, he asks, "Where are you?" forcing them to acknowledge that they are hiding. Through his questions, they finally admit their disobedience, with Adam blaming Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit. Eve then blamed the serpent. God pronounced judgement on them all, beginning with the serpent, and saying that there would forever be enmity between his seed and the seed of the woman, and that the seed of the woman would bruise his head, while the serpent's seed would only bruise the woman's seed's heel.
The curse also included pain in childbirth for the woman and the presence of thorns and thistles in the ground so that man would have to work hard to produce his food now, instead of just picking it. The first couple were then driven out of the garden of Eden and were told their bodies would eventually return to the earth, from which they were made. Sin had entered the world, and the sentence was death. Man was now on his own in the world, alienated from God. But God was still keeping an eye on man. He still personally deals with the punishment of Cain, after he kills his brother, Abel.
In the generations that followed, God still was known by the rest of Adam's descendants. As the number of these descendants grew, so did wickedness among them, and by the time of Noah we are told in Genesis 6 that God was sorry he'd even made man. The author of Genesis states Noah was a righteous man in his generation and walked with God. God took the initiative in communicating with Noah and telling him how to save himself and his family from the judgment that would come to the earth with the great flood. Noah's action in building the now famous ark, was an act of faith that he believed what God said even though it didn't make sense to most of his neighbors to build an ark on dry land with no navigable body of water nearby.
God Gave Noah the Rainbow Sign
God Keeps Taking the Initiative
Throughout the Old Testament, we see God communicating with his people, even when they are not especially trying to find him. He generally reaches out to them while they are in the midst of their daily routines or at night. We read in Genesis 12, that after Abram's father died, the Lord appeared to him and asked him to pick up all he had, including his family, to move to a land "that I will show you." He didn't give Abram a map and let him know the final destination, but he did promise to make of Abram (later renamed Abraham) a great nation. Thus begins the story of the Hebrew people. You can read the rest of the story of how God continued to intervene in the lives of the Hebrews, bringing them out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land of Canaan. They go through various cycles of sin and repentance as God sends prophet after prophet to let them know what to expect and how to get back to him.
Finally, the prophet Isaiah appears (about 734 B.C.), and he prophesied during the reigns of King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. After King Hezekiah's near fatal illness, Isaiah writes some of the most moving words in the Bible, beginning in Chapter 40, which is later quoted by John the Baptist as he prepared people to recognize Jesus. (Luke 3:4-6) In fact, many passages in Isaiah point to the later coming of Christ to redeem his people and pay the ultimate price for their sins. Isaiah looked ahead to the death of Jesus in Isaiah 53, a good 600 years before Jesus was born. Much of the content of Handel's Messiah comes from the Book of Isaiah. Probably no book of the Bible ties the Old and New Testaments together as well as Isaiah. The prophecies in Isaiah were given ahead of time so that the people of God would have promises to comfort them later when they went into captivity. Isaiah looks ahead and even names Cyrus, who will later deliver them from their captivity after capturing Babylon in 539 B.C. God takes the initiative again in letting his people know what's in store for them before it happens.
Light Pierces the Darkness
Jesus, the Ultimate Seeker after Men
The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, tell the story of the ministry of Jesus on earth. They and many passages in the rest of the New Testament quote relevant prophecies from the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus. Certainly there is way too much there to try to condense here. If you are seeking to know Jesus and see where he fits into the scheme of things here on earth, and why his life might be important to you, you are better off reading the Bible itself than to expect to get a complete picture here.
The one book of the New Testament that comes closest to showing how God reached out to humanity was written by Jesus' closest friend, John the disciple and apostle. He was one of the original twelve who followed Jesus closely, lived with him, and listened to his words. He was the one who was standing near the cross with Jesus' mother Mary when Jesus was dying. To John, Jesus entrusted the care of Mary, his mother after his death.
According to John, Jesus was the Word of God, made flesh, to dwell among men, show men what God was like, and form relationships with them. As he interacted with them, many came to believe that he was indeed the Messiah, the promised King of the Jews, who would put all things right again. Instead, Jesus took the role of the suffering servant described in Isaiah 53. It was not a role he could play by just reading prophecies and doing what was necessary to fulfill them. He did not control the others who had roles to play, such as Pontius Pilate or the soldiers who drew lots for his garments. You will see this if you read the details in the Gospels.
Jesus was not universally loved, since he was rocking the boat of the religious establishment of his day. He demonstrated the power of God as he healed the sick, raised the dead, fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and in many other ways. His miracles were not unique, as God had also performed miracles through some of the Old Testament prophets. The prophet Elisha had multiplied a poor widow's supply of cooking oil to save her from financial ruin. He also increased a present of food someone had given him to feed 100 men. He healed the Syrian captain Naaman of leprosy. He also raised from the dead the son of a couple who had often offered him hospitality when he was in Shunem. (These stories are in II Kings.) The miracles of Jesus validated his ministry with the people so they would have grounds for believing he was who he said he was, and that they would gradually realize they were in the very presence of the Son of God himself. The final validation was that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion.
What does John say about Jesus? In John 1, he says "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father....For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came from Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." In the rest of the book of John shows many of the things Jesus said and did, and at the end of the book John tells us he is the author who saw what he wrote about, but that he had to leave a lot out because there would not be room to contain all the books that could have been written.
Paul, who had originally persecuted the Christian church, had a later encounter with Jesus after Jesus had ascended to Heaven. You can read about this encounter and Paul's conversion in Acts 9. He became one of Jesus' most ardent followers after that, suffering much himself for the sake of Christ, including imprisonment, beatings, and, finally, death. He had this to say about Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20: "He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible....He is before all things, and in him all things hold together....For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things...making peace by the blood of his cross."
The ultimate way one can reach out to another and to seek them out is to come to them and communicate. This is what God did, first through the prophets, and later through Jesus. The main work of Jesus was to be the ultimate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin that was foreshadowed in the Jewish Passover the night the Hebrews left Egypt. Jesus refers to himself as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus not only sought man out, he also gave his very life so that people could be reconciled to the Father from whom they had been alienated since since God had expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.
This hub is not intended to be an exhaustive resource for those looking for examples of how God has made contact with man. Nor is it written to convince anyone that God exists. It is simply a starting point for those who would like to look into the Christian view of God for themselves. Its thesis is that the God of the Bible reached out to men and revealed himself rather than waiting to be sought and found by men.
To conclude, I will use the words of Paul in the beginning to his letter to the Hebrews:
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a son....He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.