A God of Random Acts of Kindness

 Four hundred years the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt.  Generations came and generations went in misery.  The author of Hebrews, in writing about the people of the Hebrew Bible, indicates:

 “Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”  (Hebrews 11:36-40)

God does not work quickly in the Bible, even when his hand is obvious.  He allows people to do bad things for a long time. Tyrants remain tyrannical.  They cause suffering for a long time.  God directs, redirects, and after the passage of years or even generations, he occasionally, and temporarily, ends the pain.

After four hundred years he sent Moses to Egypt; ten plagues over many months or years followed.  And eventually, Pharaoh agreed to let the people go.  God did not simply transport them out of their slavery using a Star Trek style transporter.  Nor did he kill off all the Egyptians with a rain of fire and brimstone. 

The Bible reveals that God is at work in the world, but never like a fairy godmother.  It explains the issue that so troubles some people, especially in the modern era (post Voltaire): if God is good, then why is there suffering?  The answer is simple: because the world is full of people who are free to mostly do whatever they want, in a universe where “time and chance happen to all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). The assumption that God is a genie who will snap his fingers and make all the world’s troubles vanish is simply a fairy tale.  Instead, God works gradually and intermittently, in ways that sometimes seem less than satisfying.

When Elijah and Elisha were alive, there were many suffering people.  But they solved the problems of only a handful—and then only some of their problems, not all of them.  When Jesus walked the planet, he healed but a tiny fraction of the sick.  He restored only a handful to life.  Most of the dead stayed dead.  Those who stayed dead were no worse sinners than those who ended up being raised to life.  He didn’t help anyone win a lottery.  He didn’t make the poor widow who gave all she had a rich woman (Luke 21:1-4).

The Bible does not paint a world any different than the world in which we live today. It tells us of the handful of unusual circumstances that happened to a few people here and there over thousands of years.  Most people never saw a miracle, never had face to face time with God, or ever heard the preaching of a prophet.