Do you ever wonder why God doesn’t make this whole thing more obvious, so you really had no choice but to repent and believe?
Do you ever wish there were some water-tight proof for the existence of God?
Do you ever ask, “Where are you? What are you doing? Why won’t you speak to me?”
In Acts 17, Paul journeys to Athens, the home of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and dialogues with the epicurean and stoic philosophers—he dialogues, not monologues—with pagan philosophers!
Epicureans are like those who look to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, see that it’s “good for food and a delight to the eyes.”
Stoics are like those who look to the fruit and see that it’s “desired to make one wise.”
Either one of them might sacrifice to an idol, if they thought it might help them attain what they desired: “the Good” and “the Life.”
Paul dialogued with them, and they took him to the Areopagus, that is the council on Mars Hill. “Ares” (the Greek), or “Mars” (the Latin), was the pagan god of war.
For a Jew, this was the very heart of the Evil Empire.
They asked Paul about these “foreign divinities,” and Paul referred to their “altar to the unknown god,” saying, “What you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you… [the Lord God] made from one man every nation of mankind… that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him…. ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your poets have said, ‘for we are indeed his offspring.’”
So, why do you exist? To seek the one who made you.
Why doesn’t God make his presence obvious? Well, you don’t seek what you’ve already found… and you were made to seek.
It was Socrates who pointed out that we don’t seek what we know, and yet we don’t seek what we don’t know, for how would we know to seek what we do not know?
It was for this reason that Socrates suggested that all learning must actually be remembering. “This is my body and my blood… remember,” said Jesus.
We’re each like the breath of the Uncaused Cause, trying to remember the lungs that bore us.
We’re each like the little bird in the children’s book, who asks everyone he meets, “Are you my mother?”
We’re each made to seek, and God commands us to seek, and yet he never seems to go into detail about how we are to seek, which tells us that there is value in just the seeking.
In the words of T.S. Eliot, we will “arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Good parents play Hide-n-Seek with their children. They hide their face from their babies only to reveal their presence and say “peek-a-boo.” Each time this happens, the baby’s delight increases, and the baby begins to play peek-a-boo in return. Psychologists say that this teaches “object permanence”—the idea that another “exists” regardless of one’s own perception. It also teaches that the other chooses to be known; it teaches Grace.
My children loved to play Hide-n-Seek; they loved to find me in the place of their deepest fear—one of the dark corners of our basement. Maybe your own soul is like our basement.
“I would not seek you,” wrote Augustine, “if I had not found you already in the depth of my heart.” “God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so gives himself away,” wrote Meister Eckhardt. The temporary experience of absence increases the joy of shared presence, and so my children love me more for having played Hide-n-Seek in the basement.
God made us to seek him…and yet no one seeks, write both David and Paul.
In the beginning, Adam is alone because he’s not seeking “his Helper.”
God is our “Helper.” How does God make us to seek?
Well, in Genesis two, God apparently leaves us alone with an evil talking snake and a tree in the middle of a garden on which hangs Wisdom (that’s knowledge of Good and evil), and Life—the Life; Jesus is the Life.
We don’t seek, yet in Athens, they sought. Paul points this out, for he had dialogued and found their altar ‘TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.’ Six hundred years earlier, a plague had ravaged Athens. The Athenians had released a flock of lambs on Mars Hill on the hope that there might be a God great enough and good enough to forgive their sins and deliver them from that curse. Wherever a lamb would lie down, they would offer the lamb to the Unknown God. For six hundred years, they had preserved one of these altars in the hope that one day this God would reveal himself, and it would be known that this God was not a stranger to Athens but had once delivered them from a curse by the blood of a lamb.
Just think: For six hundred years, God had been building that altar in preparation for the day that Paul would stumble into town and start “dialoguing.”
Perhaps there’s an altar like that in every nation, every city, and every heart.
There was in Persia, and God even used the stars to build it.
That’s why the Wisemen came from the east looking for the Christ.
This entire fallen world is like an altar to the Unknown God.
Well, God arranges situations in which we need to seek, but still we don’t seek…
So he not only builds an altar, he also provides the lamb; he provides the desire to seek—it’s called faith, hope, and love.
When Adam left the garden, something left with him… or in him.
It was the fruit from the tree; it was eternal seed; it was the breath of God—I suspect it was the Spirit of Jesus. “From one man, he made all men, to seek.”
He hides in the basement of your heart, in the temple of your soul, behind a curtain, and he gives himself away. He whispers, “You’re tempted to give up, and I know it’s frightening, but why don’t you look in the basement, or maybe out back in the manger? Seek and you will find.”
Some of you are seeking and think he’ll never be found, but just the fact that you’re seeking means that he’s hiding behind the curtain in the sanctuary of your soul.
Some of you are asking, “Why doesn’t he talk to me?” But you can only ask that question… because he already is.
He whispers, “Keep seeking, and you’ll see the curtain rip from top to bottom as my glory floods the temple from inside out. Don’t give up. For in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, you’ll hear me calling ‘Olly olly oxen free,’— ‘all ye, all ye, the outs in free!’”
Then you will all the more delight in his presence for the temporary experience of his absence, in which you sought your Helper and he found your heart.