What do you have to do to get God's attention?
Not much, as it turns out.
The Bible tells us that God actually wants direct contact. He cherishes his time with us and wants more of it. As much as he can get!
The the creation stories we read that God wants lots of people. And he wants to be with them.
Let's unpack those a bit more.
The Lord desires many in his Kingdom
When the Lord told man and woman to "be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth... (Gen 1:28)" he used three imperatives "be fruitful" (Heb. pÄrÃ¢), "grow great" (Heb. rÄ•bÃ¢), and "fill" (Heb. mÄlÄ“Ë’). These were clear instructions to produce many citizens to populate the kingdom. The first two (pÄrÃ¢ and rÄ•bÃ¢) often signify abundant offspring.1 The third verb (mÄlÄ“Ë’) describes the locusts filling Egypt's households (Ex 10:6), an overflowing winepress (Joel 3:13 [H 4:13]), and vessels filled with oil (2 Ki 4:6).
Taken together the three verbs make it clear that the Lord God desires a booming population of kingdom citizens.2
Abundant citizenry is a recurring theme in the Patriarchal narratives. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be innumerable. The promise that "I will make of you a great nation (Genesis 12:2)" is repeated often "I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted" (Genesis 13:16 cf. 17:6, 18:18).
The book of Exodus opens with the observation that "the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them (Exodus 1:7)." They were so many that the Pharaoh grew concerned. "Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us (1:9)." The more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied (1:12)! Later generations recognized that this mighty population, born as it was in hardship, was the work of God's hand (Deut 26:5 cf Psalm 105:24).
But the Lord is not content as a remote king, inaccessible to his people. The creation narratives paint the picture of unguarded communion between God and the citizens of the realm.
The Lord desires to connect with us
Genesis 3:8 provides several clues - grammar, word meaning, and context - that show the relationship between God and man before the Fall.
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself."
Adam's explanation of why he hid from God reveals the remarkable, unguarded communion between them. What explanation does Adam give for hiding in verse 9? Was Adam hiding simply because God was present? Or was he hiding because he was afraid?
The contextual clue is this: before disobeying God Adam was not afraid of his presence. In Adam's sinless state he and the Lord enjoyed direct, face-to-face communion unblemished by guilt or fear.
The phrase "walking in the garden" pulls the curtain back a bit further. The word "walk" has plain meaning here. But it needs emphasis. We see that the Lord moved thru the garden at specified times.3 Nothing in the text suggests this was unusual. It typifies the communion between God and the humans. "God does not come down from heaven, but dwells as yet on earth."4
The form of the word "walking"5 adds to this sense of familiarity, of normalcy. It describes this walk as a regular occurrence.6 "The Lord evidently visited the garden and communed with Adam and Eve on many occasions prior to their fall."7
Before, apparently, on a daily basis, the Shechinah Glory made a manifestation; there was a daily, visible manifestation of God communicating with man, and so they had fellowship with God in a visible form. Now, they heard the voice, and before seeing the brightness, they heard Him walking in the garden. The Hebrew word literally means "walking to and fro." It is a hitpael stem, emphasizing a habitual aspect. God regularly did so in the cool of the day. In the context of the Middle East, this would be late in the afternoon, toward sundown. The Hebrew expression, which is two words, karua yom, appears only here and nowhere else. Second, they hid: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God among the trees of the garden. Adam and Eve now tried to hide from God's presence, because the fellowship they used to have with God was no longer possible. There is a clear recognition of a new relationship with God, a negative one now.8
Answering the question
So how do you get God's attention? Simply ask for it! He loves to hear from you at any time. In fact, that's what prayer is - an ongoing conversation with the God who made you, who loves you and cherishes the time you spend in his presence. Here's what you need to do:
- Come to grips with the fact that he made you
- Lean into the fact that he wants your company
- Once you've focused briefly on those facts - just talk to him!
If you're going to turn that plateaued or declining church in the right direction, you've got to know what that direction is! As I stated in the first article in this series, the right direction is a firm grasp on God's mission for your church and a clear understanding of how you're going to fulfill it.
A firm grasp on your church's mission depends on your ability to understand God's mission and how your church fits into it.
That's the purpose in this series of articles about mission and vision. To help you regain your bearings so you'll know which way to turn.
In these first four articles we've sketched the beginning of an explanation of what God is doing in the world by tracing a simple outline of God's kingdom program in the creation narratives. We've identified four important motifs that will occur again throughout the rest of the scriptures.9
- God creates a perfect kingdom by the power of his word.
- God appoints humans to rule that kingdom in his behalf
- God appoints humans to fill the kingdom with citizens
- God and humankind dwell in face-to-face harmony
Do you think that'll preach, pastor?
The consummation of God's mission to restore the kingdom.
Maybe you should start reading Revelation 19-22 and take notes?
- TWOT, p. 733; BDB, s.v. ×¤Ö¸Ö¼×¨Ö¸×” â†©
- This motif, the creation of citizens for the kingdom, is amplified in the "seed promise" to the woman (Gen 3:15) and to Abraham (Gen 17:1-8). I hope to show later in the paper that this theocratic theme is continued in the Church's mission to recruit citizens for the kingdom who enter it by being born again (John 3:3-5). â†©
- Whether there's an anthropomorphism here is beside the point. Cassuto notes, p. 152, that "the Torah... chosen instead a phrase whose anthropomorphism is not excessive by Biblical standards." They heard the Lord walking in the garden at an identifiable time of day. â†©
- Von Rad, Genesis, (Philadelphia, PA.: Westminster Press, 1972 revised edition), 91. He is quoting the 1887 German edition of Delitzsch's commentary on Genesis. â†©
- It is a hithpael participle. â†©
- E. A. Speiser, Genesis, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY.: Doubleday & Co., 1964), 24, writes, "this is a good example of the special durative conjugation in Heb." The same verbal form is used in verse 24 to indicate that the cherubim was on constant guard at the entrance to the garden after the humans had been expelled. â†©
- John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, 1975), 92. â†©
- Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Ariel's BIble Commentary: The Book of Genesis (San Antonio, TX.: Ariel Ministries, 2008). â†©
- Additional kingdom principles that could be profitably adduced in a broader study of the Church's relationship to the kingdom might include rest (2:2, 3), holiness (2:3), abundance (as in the Garden 2:8, note especially the hendiadys in 2:16), communion or fellowship (2:18-23, 3:8), innocence (2:25 cf. 3:7) and others. â†©