When God calls you must answer, my Baptist preacher bellows from his pulpit. Everyone has a purpose on this earth, but God has chosen a special few to help him carry out his divine plan, he continues. Countless Sunday mornings I spent listening to my pastor preaching about man?s encounters with God. He explains the significance of the encounters to the people of antiquity and he even relates the encounters to our every day lives. If one has met with God and seen His glory he is truly blessed. My pastor is correct no man has walked away from an encounter with God without being blessed, or the experience altering his life. Each divine experience occurs under very different circumstances, but all of them end with man having a better understanding of his purpose on this earth. The character could wrestle with the Lord and demand a blessing, like Jacob, or like Moses he could have been drawn to God by his own curiosity. The Lord came to Elijah when he was at the lowest point of his life and he wanted nothing more than to die, and He blessed him. Isaiah volunteered to help God to teach to the people of Israel, and the Lord blessed Isaiah for his enthusiasm. Job?s encounter with God is a combination of each of the above experiences. His experience exemplifies the individual relationship with God. The encounters with God may appear to be similar and indeed they do have common elements, but there is an important difference in the way God selects each character to fulfill his mission. In the early encounters, God selects the individuals. He calls and they answer. Towards the end the accounts however, the characters go in search for God?s blessing, unlike their early counterparts they demand or challenge God and their enthusiasm is rewarded. The different episodes show the gradual change between God and humanity. Throughout the accounts in the Bible God has loses favor with man, and this loss of favor is due chiefly to man?s failure to obey God?s laws. God?s selection of His chosen people reflects clearly God?s love for the early patriarchs. God did love the later characters, but towards the end of the accounts God loses a tremendous amount of faith in humanity. Nonetheless the God does bless all whom He encounters, and His presence to each character helps to clarify the character?s purpose in life. Therefore, no matter how one is selected each character will receive a mission, promise and of course a blessing.
First was Jacob; he was a descendent of a long line of pious men. He was the son of Isaac and the bearer of a covenant between God and his people. Jacob, like the angel of the Lord predicted, was the ruler over his brother Essau?s tribe; Jacob?s sons would later make up the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob fled his homeland, in fear of percussion because he allegedly tricked his brother out of his birthright. He went to Haran back to his mother?s tribe to seek asylum, and he met his wives Rachel and Leah. Jacob built a great clan with the help of God and defeated Laban and became the head of the family. Many years passed and God smiled upon Jacob, a man of great standing, but he was yet to receive his true blessing. On Jacob?s way home before he met his brother Essau, Jacob encountered a man and fought with Him. ? ?Someone wrestled with him until day break and he could not master him, struck him in the hip socket? (Genesis 32). Although Jacob was clearly hurt he never relinquished his fight, ? I will not let you go until you bless me,? Jacob replied? (Genesis 32).? Jacob had the first physical encounter with God, and he wrestled with Him and refused to let go until he was blessed. God did bless Jacob at dawn on the riverbank . He renamed him Israel because, ?[He has] shown his strength against God and men and have prevailed? (Genesis 32).? Jacob was a good example of what my Pastor called wanting God?s blessing so much that you will even fight for it. Jacob fought for his true blessing he knew that in the presence of God he had to prove he was worthy of His blessing. This encounter not only changed Jacob?s life, for offspring were named the twelve tribes of Israel, it also changed his name. Along with his hip being broke, so was his old life. God gave him a new identity. Jacob?s encounter also exemplified the Lords early relationship with the patriarchs; the Lord in the beginning had physical contact with humans. In the later encounters God distanced himself from humanity. Also the Lord could not defeat Jacob, it was as if God and Jacob were equals. God even asked him to let him go for he was tired and it as daybreak. In the later encounters the Lord mostly demonstrates his superiority over human beings. Jacob was a good beginning, but unfortunately for the relationship between God and humanity it took a turn for the worst.
Moses was another example of God?s earlier feeling for humans. Moses?s life began with him being an outcast; he was neither a Hebrew nor an Egyptian. Moses like Jacob fled his homeland in fear of persecution; and while he was in Midan?s wilderness he saw a bush burning across the river. Moses was on Mountain Horeb, a mountain of God, and he was drawn to the bush because it was not burning in the middle. His curiosity increased and he thought, ?I must go across and see?why the bush is not being burnt up (Exodus 3:3).? When Moses crossed the river he heard the Lord calling him, ?Moses, Moses,? and he answered, ?Here I am (Exodus 3).? Moses then threw off his shoes and covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Moses? curiosity brought him across the river that afternoon, and he witnessed God?s glory. God also chose Moses. God called and he answered. God told Moses his mission was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses objected because he thought he was unworthy of executing God?s plan. However God convinced him it was his only alternative and He promised he would send someone to help him. Moses, with God?s help, led the Israelites out of Egypt and he led them into the wilderness. In the wilderness God and Moses met several times, and Moses became the mediator between God and the Israelites. God and Moses outline the Covenant and the Commandments on Mt. Sinai, another Holy Mountain, which were the laws the Israelites had to obey. While in the wilderness, Moses and God met frequently in the Tent of Meeting. There he and the Lord, ?Would talk face to face, as a man talks to his friend (Exodus 33). Moses? encounters showed typical situations where God met his chosen people. Both cited examples in this text were on one of God?s holy mountains. Mountains were symbols of greatness and because of their extreme height were thought to be closer to God. It was thought one was mostly likely to find God on a mountain; therefore, many encounters between God and the early patriarchs were on mountains. God also encountered many people in the wilderness and the wilderness was also thought of as one God?s holy places. The Lord?s chosen people were usually shepherds, who roamed the wilderness, and were considered holy because they worked and lived on God?s Holy Land. Lastly Moses? encounters demonstrated the open and friendly relationship the Lord had with the earlier patriarchs. Moses and God were described as friends and they spoke frequently. This friendliness was unheard of in the later encounters with God. Mosses was the last example of God?s fatherly relationship with humanity, later the relationship will develop into the Creator watching over His creation.
Elijah like the earlier characters fled from his homeland, and while on his flight he encountered God. Elijah escaped to Mt. Horeb to evade the wrath of Jezebel, who wanted to kill all of the prophets. He went into the desert to die, exhausted he rested under a tree and fell asleep. He prayed to Yahweh, ?Please take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.? Suddenly an angel of God awoke Elijah and commanded him to eat to rebuild his strength. Elijah regained his strength and his journey began again, and it ended in a cave at the side of Mt. Horeb. While in the cave Elijah heard the voice of God command him to go outside to the side of the mountain to see him. The Lord sent a thunderstorm an earthquake and finally he appeared in a ?murmuring light.? The light asked Elijah, ?What are you doing here Elijah?? Elijah explained his plight to the Lord and God commanded him to get up and go back to Israel, because he had a job to complete. Elijah?s story was a story of a man who was on his way down, and the Lord picked him up and saved him. One should look at the story and get a message from Elijah?s plight. If a man was in trouble God came to rescue him was the message the story sent to the reader. The story gave man a positive outlook on his relationship with God. Again the story parallel the others in so much as God gave Elijah a promise and a mission, as was His routine when He encountered man. God promised Elijiah would be saved from the sword and also told him to go and anoint Elisha and Hazael. The story also described the different ways the Lord appeared to the later characters. In Elijah?s story the Lord appeared from a light, but first before coming to Elijah he sent natural phenomena like earthquakes and thunderstorms. The Lord no longer appeared in human form to men, instead, He only spoke to them through a natural phenomenon. The natural phenomena were examples of God power and were meant to scare the humans into humility. Elijiah was humble in the presence of the Lord and so was our next character, Isaiah.
Isaiah was a prophet, which meant he was a mediator between God and the people of Israel. God was angry with the people of Israel, because of their disobedience and he planed to destroy the entire nation. Isaiah was in the temple of God when he saw the Lord sitting on his throne with seraphs above his head. The Lord sat in his throne and commanded the natural elements, because the floors shook and the temple filled with smoke. Isaiah suddenly realized he was unfit to be in the presence of the Lord, because he was human and had unclean lips. The seraph came down and touched his lips with coal and absolved his sins. Then the Lord spoke, ?Who shall I send? Who will go for us? (Isaiah 6)." Isaiah the answered pick me Lord I will go and speak to the people. The Lord warned him the people would not listen to him and He still planned on destroying them, and the people of Israel, God said will not listen until the country was totally abandoned. God would rebuild Israel with only with holy seed of David. Isaiah?s encounter with God was different from the other characters, because Isaiah did not see God in a typical holy place like a mountain or the wilderness. The Lord appeared in the temple and God appeared on a throne and seemed distant from Isaiah. The Lord did not even speak to Isaiah until he was clean, and even then he did not speak directly to Isaiah until he called attention to himself. God appeared as an almighty king on his throne who was too busy to speak to his lowly subjects. When God met Jacob or Moses he came in a human form and physically touched the human beings, but in the stories of Elijah and Isaiah He distanced Himself from the characters. Humanity disappointed God and their disobedience began in Genesis when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, and when the people of Israel built a false idol to replace God, he gave up on humanity. God predicted he would destroy His creation and begin again with holy seed. Humanity however, was given one last chance one more mediator is going to save them from destruction. This mediator will come from the seed of David and he shall be the king of all men. Isaiah referred to this mediator as the Messiah who will bring God, humanity and nature together once again. The coming of the Messiah should repair the fallen relationship between God and his subjects. Isaiah?s story demonstrated a human being?s eagerness to be a part of God?s mission. The Lord unlike in the examples of the earlier characters, did not pick Isaiah, however, instead Isaiah nominated himself. Isaiah?s eagerness was rewarded and he was allowed to execute God?s mission of warning the Israelites. Isaiah?s story depicted the zealous nature of individuals to help God in any way possible. The last story, Job?s story explained how an individual could find God?s favor.
Job was God?s favorite man and He blessed Job with great wealth and a large family. Job was also a pious and wise man and he knew all of his prosperity was due to the blessings of God. Job thanked God everyday for this wonderful life, but one day all, which was given to him by God, disappeared and he was left with nothing. Job throughout his ordeal confessed no guilt and wanted to speak with the Maker in order to fix the mistake. Job left the city and sat outside on the town dump, where he believed he was going to die and pleaded with the Lord to speak to him. Job believed he was being prosecuted for wrong reasons and demanded an answer, however, Job never cursed God and remained pious in the face of God. Finally God came down to speak with Job and reminded him of his insignificant status among the cosmos. The Lord told Job a new creation story, one, which expanded upon the one told in Genesis. The Lord expanded His rule to the underworld and world of the monsters. Job was awestruck by the power of God and humbled himself in the face of the Lord. God however restored Job?s wealth and rewarded him for his tenacious attitude, because Job had passed the test of his faith. God tested Job because he wanted to reevaluate the covenant He made with man. Job was withered down to nothing to see if he would curse God to his face, but he stood firm and never doubted the power of God. Job never knew he was the example, which would make or break the covenant, and he saved a piece of the relationship between God and humanity. Job?s story answered the question of how an individual could find favor in God. The answer was even if one has nothing and can not stand on your own have faith in God and He will prevail. Job?s story gave individuals hope, because even if God was angry with the group one might be saved if he lived right and had faith. The story summed up the tenacious attitude of Jacob, the curiosity of Moses, the downtrodden sprit of Elijah and the humility of Isaiah. The story of Job was an every man story, because it combined tenants, which all men could relate to their lives.
God blesses all everyone who recognizes and accepts His power. From Job?s story humanity is given guidelines to follow in order to be blessed by God. Jacob and Moses? stories demonstrate God?s earlier position on the condition of humanity, and later character?s stories depict how the relationship disappears over time. After the story of Isaiah, man feels abandoned and all hope seems lost. However, the prophecy of the Messiah by of Isaiah and Job rejuvenates the hope of continuity for humanity. A promise, which was given to man a long time ago, but due to his disobedience over time man, has lost the essential tenants to uphold his end of the bargain.