What happens when God visits people? Divine visitation should produce purity and confidence in us.

Source: The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, 2012. 2 pages.

Divine Visitation

The handmaid Hagar made a profound statement when approached by the Angel of the Lord in the wilderness: “Thou God seest me” (Gen. 16:13). The all-seeing eye of God is something no one can escape. This truth alone ought to encourage right living before God. But God is more than just a casual observer of the affairs of men; He is the divine, all-thorough inspector who investigates and examines every man not only in terms of behavior but also in terms of motive. He deals with men according to what He knows their hearts to be. What a warning this is to those whose hearts are not right with God, for His investigation incites His just wrath. But this should also be a comfort to those whose hearts are right toward God, knowing that there is nothing about life that escapes God’s caring gaze. Knowing that God sees us should be an incen­tive to live in such a way as to cause no offense to Him. That certainly was David’s resolve:

Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing: I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.Ps. 17:3

David was conscious of God’s visitation. The verb so often translated in the Authorized Version as “to visit” refers to far more than a social call. Its primary sense is to inspect, examine, or investigate. It refers to involvement into the affairs of another. So God’s visitation concerns His involve­ment into human affairs either in judgment or in bless­ing on the basis of His thorough and infallible inspection. Theologically, of course, we know that God’s knowledge of everything is immediate; God never has to find things out. But this word is a vivid means of highlighting the fact that we can never escape the divine scrutiny. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). A survey of this word “to visit” in the Old Testament suggests three things that ought to produce fear and wonder.

God’s Visitation: an Amazing Reality🔗

In Psalm 8, David is overwhelmed with the infinite great­ness and glory of God, particularly as he reflects on the wonders of God’s vast creation. His description of the expanse of heaven with its distant moon and stars as the work of God’s fingers is outstanding. Finger work typically refers to intricate, skillful, and minute activity resulting in some exquisite design. The point is remarkable: if the vastness of creation is just the finger work of God, how infinitely great God is. Considering how huge the uni­verse is, the corollary conclusion of God’s infinity causes David in wonderful amazement to ask, “What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (8:4). The obvious answer to the ques­tion is that man is nothing. He is so small, hardly a speck in the seeming limitlessness of a creation whose limits are known only to its Creator. Adding to the contrast between the bigness of the universe and the smallness of man are the terms David uses to designate man. He uses two different Hebrew words that both underscore man’s impotence, frailty, mortality, and dependence. This puts in bold the amazing reality of God’s visitation. Notwith­standing man’s smallness and weakness, God is “mindful of him.” This Hebrew word is often rendered “to remem­ber” and refers to God’s conscious decision to think about something. He puts His infinite mind on us. And then He visits. He observes us attentively and enters into our affairs. How amazing that the God who is so holy and so far away is also the God who is ever so near. Nothing about us, our needs, our desires, our actions, our thoughts, is trivial to Him.

What is even more amazing is that the New Testa­ment identifies the ultimate expression of this visitation in terms of Jesus Christ, who fulfilled every divine intention for humanity (Heb. 2:6-9). When the eternal Son of God became the Son of Man in that indescribable visitation, He involved Himself in our affairs in such a way as to bring us to glory (Heb. 2:10). From specks of insignificance to become sons of God  God’s visiting us as Immanuel is amazing indeed!

God’s Visitation: an Awful Reality🔗

There is a terrifying aspect of divine visitation as well. Depending on what God sees in His all-thorough inspec­tion, He either blesses or punishes. Interestingly, this Hebrew verb (“to visit”) is often translated as “to pun­ish.”

In Zechariah 10:3, the Lord says, “I punished the goats ... for the Lord of hosts hath visited his flock.”

The word “punished” is the same as “visited,” and the difference is traced to what God sees, resulting in punishment for goats and blessing for the flock. Lamentation 4:22 explicitly states the principle: “he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins.” The evi­dence of the Old Testament is that none can hide from God’s infallible scrutiny and consequences: the world (Isa. 13:11), the inhabitants of the earth (Isa. 26:21), the hea­then (Ps. 59:5), and especially the elect (Amos 3:2). Amos 3:2 is indeed a sobering declaration: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore, I will punish (visit) you for all your iniquities.” With increased privilege comes increased responsibility and accountability (see Luke 12:48), and the Lord will examine the hearts and deal accordingly, for judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). The use of this word in the Decalogue also highlights the terrible nature and contagion of sin as well as its consequences. Those who break the second commandment subject their following generations to God’s visitation (Exod. 20:5). It is as though the jealous God is saying that sin’s effects are so contagious that He is going “to keep His eyes open,” examining the following genera­tions and dealing with them accordingly if guilty of their father’s iniquity.

This aspect of God’s visitation should serve as a power­ful motivator to live and think in ways that are pleasing to the Lord in order to experience His blessing and not His wrath. That was David’s desire, that God would find noth­ing when He visited (Ps. 17:3). But even more fundamental is the incentive God’s visitation is to find a hiding place in Christ. It is only the blood of Christ that can obscure our guilt from God. Even the awfulness of God’s visitation points to its amazing reality.

God’s Visitation: an Auspicious Reality🔗

God’s purpose for His people is always their good, and His visitation is a means of accomplishing that good. Favorable circumstances or blessing always attend God’s visiting; it is for certain an auspicious reality. The problem is, however, that God’s people can become so overwhelmed by a difficult moment that they fail to recognize any prospect for greater good and even sometimes misinterpret God’s involvement as interference into what otherwise they assume would be a carefree life. Job expressed this sentiment at one point when overcome in the throes of his suffering:

What is man ... that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?7:17-18

Like David in Psalm 8, he confesses his wonder at God’s visitation, but rather than being amazed, he expresses his dismay at God’s con­stant attention. It would seem that God would have bigger issues than puny man. If God would just leave him alone, all would be well — or so he thought in his moment of suf­fering. But when faith triumphed over sight, Job saw things differently: “Thou hast granted me life, and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit” (10:12). God’s visit was a good thing after all.

The reality of divine visitation should be an overwhelm­ing factor to produce both purity and confidence: purity, because we live before and are accountable to a God who sees us and knows us better than we do ourselves, and con­fidence, because we know that God has a keen interest in us and that He will act in our behalf. He knows all about us and will do for us what is necessary and best. May we so live that we can boldly echo Jeremiah’s prayer:

O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me.Jer. 15:15

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