When God told Noah to build a boat, to board a boat, and to wait out the flood in the boat, we see no expression of doubt or skepticism on Noah’s part, he just obeys, we hear no questions, nor do we hear of any argument. His faith was affirmed and verified as events of destruction & deliverance occurred, and then, God’s promise was proven when Noah saw an olive branch in the mouth of the bird.
When God told Abraham to pack up and ‘get out’, we don’t hear Abraham asking for some sort of verification – instead we see God providing affirmation through the words, ‘I will show you.’
When Moses asked God for some form of proof that this actually was God speaking to him, God said, ‘When you come back here with the rescued Hebrews, after you have done as I’ve instructed, then you will see.’
When the widow at Zarephath experienced the death of her son as well as the death of her faith, Elijah carried the revived son down the stairs and said, ‘See, your son is alive.’
When John the baptizer pointed his own followers to Jesus, John explains the direction by saying ‘I’m telling you, I saw the Spirit land on Jesus, seriously, I’m just telling you what I saw.’
When those followers of John the baptizer asked Jesus ‘where are you staying?’ Jesus simply said, “come and see.’
When Jesus found Philip and then Philip found Nathaniel and Nathaniel expressed his doubts at the possibility that someone as significant as the Messiah could come out of such an insignificant place as Nazareth, Philip simply challenged him to, ‘come and see.’
When Nathaniel quickly believed after Jesus said, “I saw you.’ Jesus expressed surprise, saying, ‘you believe because I said I saw you?, WOW, just wait for everything else you are going to see!’
And he saw! Along with the other disciples, Nathaniel saw Jesus turn water into wine, not just wine, but really, really, good wine. He saw Jesus unapologetically and confidently confront the powerful religious establishment with authority and confidence, he saw important religious leaders as well as important political officials come and see and believe. Nathaniel saw Jesus intentionally see a Samaritan woman, who responded by running back to her community and proclaiming ‘come see what I just saw! Come see the one who saw me!’ Nathaniel saw Jesus engage crowds of thousands with his words and presence and then, when Jesus saw that the crowd was hungry, he miraculously feed them with nothing but a food pantry filled with compassion. Oh, Nathaniel, and the others, saw, they saw that which they never expected to see, they saw that which they would not have believed could be seen, they saw that which they never even imagined was even there to be seen, they saw that which sometimes had to leave them wondering, ‘Did I really see that?’
Come and see. It is an odd order of an effective affirmation strategy. Think about it – to believe what God is saying, you have to commit enough to follow. Seeing is the only way to to believe and believing enough to follow is the only way to see. It is a promise that called for a purposeful commitment, and a commitment that requires a surrender, and a surrender that requires 100 percent from the beginning even before you actually see.
I have always found God’s pattern of providing affirmation a bit suspect. He gives the instructions, sometimes just a smidgen of the instructions & sometimes a lot of instructions, and then, to provide some form of affirmation or proof, he says, ‘you will believe when it is over and you have successfully completed what I have told you to do – then, you will believe because you will see.’
Imagine that I tell you to walk across a rope that I have managed to stretch across the grand canyon. You would quickly inform me that I am crazy. As I attempt to convince you that you are able to do this, you would finally ask for some proof that you can do this and that I can be trusted – being a doubting human is very helpful in instances such as this.
Imagine your response if I would attempt to assure you by naively saying, ‘you will know that you can do this after you see that you have done it.’ – You would think me a delusional lunatic. You would laugh and walk away at my guarantee that you will believe after you made it across. My offer of proof on the other side will do little to convince you to step up on the rope. The challenge to ‘go and see’ will have no persuasive pull on your deciding whether or not to ‘trust and obey’.
This, however, is the proof that God gives, it is the affirmation we need, because, it is actually the only way to see, it is the only way to believe. The call of God is not just a challenge we decide to give a chance. The call of God is an offer to be a part of what God is doing, it is an invitation to join God on your own path. Our participation is the key element to our success in following. Belief does not precede our accepting the call to ‘come and see’ nor does following develop the belief that enables us to ‘come and see.’ These are 2 mutually independent factors that are, at the same time, mutually dependent on each other.
You see, the one undeniable factor in my challenge, given at the edge of the Grand Canyon, is that I am not God and you have not been seeking me. It is not me that the Holy Spirit has led you to, it is not God calling you to a task that can only be done by faith – no matter how convincing, how charismatic, how articulate, how bombastic I may be – I lack one thing – I am not God. I am not the one you have been searching for, I am not the destination to which your path leads, I am not God.
For a 600 year old Noah, there was nothing absurd in God’s extremely intricate boat building plans, there was nothing crazy about the collection of animals, there was not even a justified rational question asked like, ‘what is a flood?’ Noah had already been following God as best as he could, he had been seeking the God that was not even on the radar of any other human on earth, including his family. His entire life had been about knowing the God that no one else cared to know.
Abraham was called by God to ‘get out’ of his father’s house, to get off of his family lands and to go to a place that God would show him, he would get out and head in the direction of a place that he had not ever seen. No one else received such a call, even those who eventually joined Abraham did not receive such a promise to see. But like Noah, Abraham had also been seeking God his entire life, as he watched his dad build idols to the false Gods, however, Abraham knew that there was a real God out there. The very God he had been seeking and searching.
Moses, who had lived a textbook life of dysfunction, who had left the family that had adopted and raised him to join the biological family who had set him afloat in a mighty river, returning to a people who were quick to see his flaws and to question his dubious past. And flawed he was, as his flaws would continue to be seen even after he packed up to get out while refocusing on his path to see the place that God was promising to show him.
The widow at Zarephath hesitantly sacrificed all that she had, seeing nothing but death for her and her son in her choice to follow God, still she did follow, and she did see, and then, she saw more.
John the baptizer said yes to God’s ‘come and see’ challenge, in return his followers left him, leaving him unprotected and vulnerable prey to a the brutal queen, and in the earthly end, he literally lost his head.
And then there was Nathaniel, who in accepting the ‘come and see’ challenge, became a part of the 120 person crowd of Jesus followers who, with each step in following, would see, they would see God in human form, they would see God revealing how to do this earth thing, they would see God’s compassion and mercy flow unhindered, they would effortlessly wait to feel the wind of the Holy Spirit, they would see thousands join their ranks, they would see because they had each, individually, accepted the call to follow, the call to ‘come and see.’ In doing so, the seeking that proceeded their calls came to a fruition, they saw and their lives were never the same.
A young male child named Samuel, from birth, had heard the stories from his mother, stories of begging God for the son that would be Samuel, crying before God for the honor of seeing God provide, stories that told of heartache, ridicule, pain, isolation, condescension, and even rejection, yet these same stories included this all encompassing factor of seeking and searching for God, of trusting that God was present even though there was no viable proof that he even existed, of a life committed to coming to God, a life convinced that she would see the hand of God. And she did see, and her son Samuel saw, the call to ‘come and see’ was an assumed reality due to the lifetime of hearing, trusting, and eventually seeing as had been testified through the life of Hannah his mother. And so, when, as a young boy, he came to live in the temple to fulfill the promise made by his mother, he laid in his bed and heard his name called out. At this point he only knew OF God, thanks to the seen example of his mother, still his experience had only been third person, his mother had followed, his mother had seen, his mother knew God – Samuel did not, but he had witnessed someone who had indeed seen. So when he heard God’s voice he began to seek and search, he began to ask questions of Eli the priest, questions like, ‘was it your voice I heard?’ Eventually his quest led him to ask God directly, ‘What?’ And to respond, ‘Here I am.’ Samuel then heard God’s ‘come and see’ call, a call that would lead him to step out on a rope across a canyon much larger and a call much more absurd than he could ever image, but he stepped out, because he knew this was God. Yes, he was too young to be living in the temple, yes he may have been too young to ask God, ‘what do you want?’ Yes, he was definitely too young to be given a calling that would scare even the most secure and confident adult, yes, it was outrageous, he should have been outside the temple kicking a soccer ball, or annoyingly running around and through the people gathered outside. But he was not in the places that made sense, he was there, in the temple, a young boy, thrust onto the path to be the instrument of God, a path of appointing Kings even before there were any Kings in the promised land, a path of confronting the powerful and foretelling of God’s coming judgement. He was called to ‘come and see’ and saw he did.
Understanding God’s bizarre motivational plan of providing affirmation after we have endured the path, after we have followed the unknown, after we have said ‘yes’ to his call to ‘come and see’ – understanding is difficult if not excruciating. To understand this we must accept 2 foundational truths about God, about us, and about the path of ‘coming and seeing.’
First, we must constantly remind ourself of our disconnect with the concept of time and timelessness. We live in realm where we are governed by time. The element of time, which was created specifically for us humans, conforms us to life on earth, it adjusts us to our reality. It is the element of time that informs us when to eat, when to sleep, when to give up and when to forge on. For us, time restricts, for God time provides. We never have enough time, time always goes too slow or too fast – but for God, in the midst of his timelessness, there is always exactly enough time to provide the space we need, the essential space to give us closure on what is past and to prepare us for what is next. We allow time be an impediment, but, God uses our time to grow and strengthen us. It only makes sense in the universe of enough time that time itself is a primary factor in our development as humans and as followers. God uses time to let us see what we could not otherwise see – we see because God has allowed us to see, we trust because time has given us the experience of trust. While we view waiting as a waste of perfectly good time, God sees it as a productive opportunity of faith growth and personal epiphany as we recognize the value of the the process through which we better understand God and our self.
Think about this one additional element of time…For God every time is the first time, every time is unique and different than anytime before. The first creation, the first flood, the first people, the first Savior, the first church, the first return. All of these are guaranteed by the success of the first time. So, it makes sense that this is how God would make the guarantee to us. Every time is ether proof that God is God or that God is not God.
The second factor we must remember is that we are fearfully, lovingly, intricately, and thoughtfully made. We were woven and knitted together, we were created by the creator with life in his creation on his mind. The reality of God’s creation was heavy on his mind during the engineering process. God loves us more than our paths, more than our destinations, more than our successes, even more than our obedience. He created us so that our paths, and even our destinations, would strengthen and develop us. He has formed us out of his love, not out of his need, he loved us even while we were sinners having already provided the sacrifice permitting us to know God.
It is an interesting allegorical visual through which the Psalmist describes our own creation. Through the art of weaving and knitting, our own formation is described in a way we can understand from all perspectives. Over the days of lockdown this past year, there have been many projects begun inside the quarantined walls across the country. My sister Beth took up making Banana and Sourdough bread, both of which benefitted us all. In our house there were frightening organization projects that sprung up in areas we had no idea needed organizing. We almost constantly had a tray of Chocolate Chip cookies on the stove top and then there were the projects including yarn and thread – knitting, crocheting, needlepointing, all took on a life of their own throughout the house. Had you taken the risk of entering our home during this time you would have found yourself automatically picking up small pieces of yarn and thread throughout the house. What began as a spool of thread or a wad of yarn, was transformed into a picture of birds, a scarf, or even a cap. This yarn and thread, which was not very strong by itself, when woven together took on a purpose and a strength that was unexpected. The truly amazing thing about these elements however, was the ability for them to be darned back together should there be a break or gap.
Blogger LAURA TRIMBLE writes of mending her child’s favorite pair of soccer shorts, a pair of shorts worn thread bare by the constant wear and tear of a three year old boy who wants to wear nothing else but these shorts every day.
‘For ten dollars and free two-day shipping, I could replace my son’s shorts. Or at the cost of two days’ worth of spare time, I can show my son he is loved so much that whatever he loves becomes worthy of my attention, too. God could have just replaced us and all of His world at far less of a cost than the cost of redemption. But He would rather have us, broken bits and all, with the marks of mending all over us, to show that it was worth any cost to Him not to throw us away. And that story makes us beautiful. I wouldn’t be mending these shorts otherwise.’Laura Trimble
We can confidently step out to God’s invitation to ‘come and see’ not because we want to keep him happy and pleased, but instead, we can say yes because we know of his love for us, the love of the everlasting father. We can sincerely agree to an invitation to ‘come and see’ even though our humanity screams that we must instead, see and then follow, that we cannot come until we first see. Knowing the riches of God’s love, as seen in his creation, and in us his created, we are reminded and assured that God calls us to follow because in following we will see – oh, we will see and we will know!
God still calls us to ‘come and see’, what is your response his call?