Saturday, January 28, 2012

Encountering God

“From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.”

~Acts 17:26-27 (NRSV)

As a sequel to The Nearness of God, where verse 27 above is poignant, we need to seek the Lord and find him, continually.

We find the context, of course, with the Apostle Paul making his speech at the Areopagus in Athens, regarding the altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” His intention is to boil all their myriad deity down to one God—the Creator; of all things.

Isn’t it revealing to compare that day with ours—with the prevalence of horoscope, New-Age faiths, tarot, Feng shui, etc. Our society, as far as religion is concerned, is really no different to Athens or any other learned society. The more self-sufficient we get, the harder it is to ‘attain’ God.

God will not be found anywhere other than by faith that’s truth-based. The only ‘god’ worth seeking and finding is one steadfast in love and abounding in grace; the God of truth and all wisdom.

What It Takes To Seek And Find GOD

The Greek equivalent to the word “grope,” which Paul uses, has a philosophical association—“to reach out for God”—that goes back to Plato; it has the sense of vague guesses at the truth. We might liken this to how we viewed God before our first encounter and, indeed, to the many experiences where God feels absent. Our groping feels in the dark, but we must continue to grope.

For most people to encounter God there is the need to grope in order to find; though, as Paul mentions, the Lord is never far from each of us.

The Lord is close and closer than we can imagine, but central to revelation is in understanding our Place. Where we struggle with Place we struggle with finding God.

Understanding Place

In inside-out form (in discussing verse 26 after verse 27) it is, perhaps, necessary to understand and accept that proof of one Creator—as was Paul’s mission to convince his contemporary hearers—centres on the fact that we have been placed in our lives, geographically and to familial ends, and there are boundaries.

That there is a system in place to check, and control, our way in this world, and that no one is beyond such a system, reveals a divine order sacrosanct to life itself. We are here, at this time, in this place, by no accident.

Understanding and accepting our Place—by steering clear of envious comparisons, discontented complaint, and resisting moral compromise, whilst reconciling our states of discord—is truly a nucleic condition for encountering God.

The Lord of All Glory cannot be known to anyone unrepentant of heart—truthful to the core of their being.


Pivotal to encounters with God is the humble acceptance, however painful it may be, of our Place in life right in the instant. When we are on such terms for truth, the Lord comes close, providing strength and grace and light for hope.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: David J. Williams, Acts – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers/Paternoster Press, 1985, 1990), p. 307.

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