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Book Jacket

1591453062
Hardcover
224 pages
Apr 2005
Integrity Publishers

The Divine Visitor

by Jack Hayford

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

Adam had been in the service three years. Although he’d seen his family periodically while stationed stateside, once he was deployed to Iraq he knew he wouldn’t get home for at least a year. When his two weeks of leave finally approached, Adam called his folks alerting them to his plans to come home. He didn’t tell them the exact day. He wanted to surprise them. Since his family lived on a small farm one hundred miles from a major city, getting home would require Adam to take a series of buses from the base where the military transport landed. It was in the middle of the night when the Greyhound dropped the uniformed soldier off at the deserted depot in the small Kansas town. The excited but weary soldier started to walk the fifteen miles towards his parents’ place. After about an hour of walking, he slid his heavy duffle bag off his shoulder and rested on it on the side of the road. Within a few minutes a car approached. Adam jumped to his feet and waved at the driver to slow down. When asked if he could get a lift a few miles up the road, the driver invited him to hop in.

Just as the pre-dawn sky brightened, Adam was deposited at the long gravel road that led to the old farmhouse. A neighbor’s dog barked as the young sergeant bounded up the front steps. Having heard the barking, Adam’s little sister woke up and looked out her second-floor bedroom window eying her soldier brother’s silhouette.

Running downstairs, she raced into Adam’s open arms. He brought the index finger of his right hand over his broad smile. “Shhh.” He didn’t want to wake his folks prematurely. Filling the coffee maker with water and a filter-full of coffee, he waited for the fresh-brewed smell to permeate the house. Waking to the aroma they were typically responsible for, the middle-age parents clad in bathrobes walked into the kitchen wondering what was going on. The initial screams of surprise were soon replaced with tears of joy. The much-anticipated visitor had finally arrived. A morning cup of coffee had never tasted so good. A mom and a dad felt the incredible relief knowing that their son was finally home. As for Adam, he had the satisfaction of knowing that the surprise he had imagined on that twelve-hour flight across the Atlantic had come off without a hitch.

 

Isn’t it wonderful to receive a timely visit from a welcomed friend or loved one? If you’ve ever had someone you haven’t seen in a long time surprise you, it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like for that soldier’s family. There are few things as wonderful as a visit from someone we dearly long to see.

When the visitor is someone we know and care about, even planned visits are happy occasions. It is likely we have also experienced the exact opposite—you know, the awkwardness in the arrival of an unexpected guest when everything is a mess. When we aren’t prepared for company, the joy of their arrival can be somewhat diminished. And then, how many of us have known the loneliness and disappointment of having been forgotten, left alone, when no one came to visit at all?

Both the positive and negative remembrances of such experiences heighten our sensitivities as to the significance of having a visitor come. And that’s why we begin here, because our focus on this text is that God became a visitor. Let’s read Hebrews 2:6–9:

“What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

This reference to the coming of our Visitor, the Savior, draws us back to the King James Version of the Bible that reads:

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

The phrase in the New King James Version, “that You take care of him,” is derived from the poignant Greek verb episkeptomai. Episkeptomai refers to the whole idea of a visitor in the fullness of care that comes from a visit, a visitor, or a visitation. The idea is one of caring—caring so much that a person makes the point to come and visit a friend with the tenderness, for example, of a gentle family physician—one who would come to make a house call. Remember those days? That is exactly what we are being told in the Scriptures. The Great Physician has rung your bell, medical bag in hand. God became a Visitor to mankind. And in His coming, we—all of us—experienced a visitation. And like the soldier surprising his parents, God’s visit was planned for dramatic effect.

 

Think with me about this tender truth. First, what was His reason for the visit? That is what the prophet is asking when he says, “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him?” He is asking, “What is the reason? What could prompt this?”

The following words are taken from Psalm 8 in which David, that ancient songwriter, relates his awe as he observes the midnight sky. Studying the star-spangled beauty he says, “God, when I look at the vastness of space and the marvel of creation around me, I say, ‘Why do You even bother with man?’ And still, You’ve crowned him with glory and honor. You’ve given him dominion over the works of Your hands!” (Psalm 8:3–6, paraphrased).

The Scriptures repeatedly assert man’s significance in the divine design amid the cosmic order of things. But too seldom is that noted, for in contrast, to the intent of the text, people often suppose, “What is man?” to somehow assert man’s worthlessness, rather than the distinct glory the Bible declares is inherent in God’s purpose for us. However needy we are in our human helplessness and sin, God never forgets the worthy purpose He had and has for us. And in grace—unrelenting and unforgetful—He comes to us to visit us with life, health, and recovery.

On the tongue of the unknowing, the question “What is man?” may even span the spectrum of expression from an honest-hearted inquiry of human meaning, to a cynical epithet spat in scorn. One may honestly wonder what man’s purposes could be, while another may defiantly denigrate any presumption of purpose. How easily can any of us allow ourselves to be reduced to the supposedly humble and theologically correct proposition that if there is a God, then how arrogant we are to suppose significance for ourselves. The theologian may denounce worth, asserting the fact of our lostness. But a lost diamond, though lost, doesn’t reduce in value. It is only separated from its proper place with its owner. The cynic may scorn human significance amidst the sprawling cosmos of an awesome creation, but our smallness doesn’t remove meaning any more than a silicon chip’s size suggests it is negligible in its content.

Doubters may make us nothing more than an advanced collection of cells in constant chemical transition. Some will say we are but temporary objects destined for survival of the fittest at best, and headed for pointless extinction at worst. In such an atmosphere, a voice shouts, “How dare you propose ‘divine intent!’ After all, we, whose backaches testify to our animal descent, barely able to stand upright, while occupying an insignificant planet in sprawling space, and twirling around a mediocre star—how presumptuous to claim significance, being nothing more than mere products evolving from mud and slime.”

“Best admit,” the scoffer insists, “your role is to simply survive on this twisting rock, wandering through a galaxy that is but one among billions, spinning randomly through a measureless cosmos.”

But a stark rebuttal to this human doubt and scoffing and sometimes religious pretension at humility appears in our text. Man’s worth and destiny are asserted in God’s Word. At the heart of God’s purpose in providing man’s redemption is this lofty truth: He has a cosmic intention in man’s creation, and His coming to visit man is key to that intent being realized.

With even more love for His creation than the homebound soldier had for his family, the Creator attests to the worth of His creation. Our emphasis on the Bible’s declaration of a phenomenal destiny for man is not empty ego gratification; it’s a simple exercise in honesty before God’s Word. And to see this in His Word is to see why He was willing to pay so exorbitant a price to regain mankind, a price that begins with His stooping to earth, condescending to come, and revealing, above all, a love that cared enough to pay a visit.

 

The scenario unfolds in the Bible’s opening chapters. Almighty God is forced to deal with a crisis regarding His beloved creature: man. Man has breached a divinely endowed trust. Because of this, he has suffered a loss, which can only be reinstated to the Creator’s intended order by His loving initiative. The distance between the exalted God and the broken race of man can only be spanned from Deity’s side.

And He does it. He chooses to come. He chooses to care. And it is before this awesome fact that the psalmist marvels, “My God, what a wonder! What must You have in mind for mankind that You should visit him?”

But why a visitor? Visitors come for a variety of reasons. A visitor may come when someone is sick, ill, or infirm. He may visit the victim of an accident—or he may come to assist somehow when help is needed. One visitor may simply come to show friendliness, while another’s arrival may be to give comfort when someone has died. Another visitor’s presence could signal that someone needs tutoring, and a time has been set for the lesson: “Shall we say once a week at four o’clock, on Thursday afternoon? Fine. Your piano teacher will be there.”

A visitor may come simply to make an acquaintance: “Hello there. We noticed you just moved in a few days ago. We live next door and just came over to introduce ourselves and to welcome you.”

Visitors from a local church arrive at your front door to acknowledge the fact that you were at last Sunday’s worship celebration. They want to thank you for your attendance, answer any questions you might have, and perhaps offer you a small loaf of freshly baked bread before inviting you to return next week.

Visitors come when people are hungry or needy: “We are from the social welfare agency. We have been advised there is need here, and we have provisions available for your family if you’d like them.”

Or a visitor may come for simpler, more sentimental reasons. All our hearts are warmed when someone arrives or calls just to say, “I came by today just to tell you I love you.”

Ah, we need that—a visit, just because somebody loves and cares for us.

Visitors also come at very painful times. The telephone rings: “You had better come quickly; he’s weakening. There isn’t much time left, at least in this world.” And against apparent hopelessness, the visit is made. Relatives fly in from all points, hoping for one last opportunity to see a loved one.

These are reasons why visits are made, because people care about each other. And considering all of the above reasons can deepen our appreciation for that occasion when our Lord—God Himself—came to visit us. For His coming was in the style of all the aforementioned situations.

Someone had died; a race had lost its living relationship with God. And since the death-plague infected our whole race, all were sick, and He came to visit us in our sickness.

And there was need—hungry people everywhere, then as today. And beyond his immediate need of bread for his body, man’s soul still clamors for something to satisfy his deepest hunger. Covetousness goads us. The need to have something breeds an appetite for emptiness. An unending lust for “more” tugs at us all and like the prodigal son, we, too, often end our quest in a pigsty.

It is difficult to criticize the sinning that results from this human hunger, the need to have. I have concluded that most people who sin do so more from desperation than out of a conscious disobedience—sinning not so much because of an intended rebellion as because of blind hunger and not knowing where to find Life-Bread. This is why the Visitor came saying, “I have brought the bread; indeed, I am the Bread of Life, the answer to your hunger.”

This holy Visitor also came to establish acquaintance: “You can know the Living God, truly know Him personally. I have come to show you the Father.”

If ever a teacher came to visit, this is the one. He came to teach us clearly what the Father is like. “If you’ve seen Me,” Jesus said, “you have seen the Father.” He says that to those He visits. Both in John’s Gospel and Paul’s Colossian letter, Jesus is set forth as the precise revelation of Father God’s nature. He’s at direct contrast to the images which human imagination sometimes projects. How many distorted images of “father” often haunt us, and how many humanly fallible authority figures sour our view of God? But look, shedding His light and dispelling the shadows of confusion, Jesus visits us—visits to show how the eternal Father expresses authority and love in equal balance—and we see the complete reality of God in this Visitor. For in Him—in Christ—dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

And our Visitor also came just to say, “I love you.”

Dear friend, it is perfectly appropriate simply to look into Jesus’ face, and let the full measure of His words touch your emotions. He does love you—deeply and thoroughly. And unless we gain a deep sense of that love, we are going to miss more than we can possibly imagine. Let your eyes see Him. See Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem, saying, “The day of your visitation has come and you didn’t recognize it.” Let those words of the Visitor and His visitation clarify our need for and our wisdom in firmly grasping and thoroughly understanding this fact: We have been visited. Let those words sink into your soul, dear one, for no matter what you or I face, the Visitor is there, bringing a power that can flow to us now because of the visit He made long ago. For you see, He has, in that one grand visit, already accomplished whatever today’s or tomorrow’s need may demand. He has done it because of the infinite worth and purpose He sees in you and me. He stooped to reach to us because He saw so much that could be found in us if we could be recovered under the Father’s purpose.

And so now, God’s Holy Spirit has come to interpret for us and ignite in us all that is available to us. He has come to help us know the answer to the question, “Why have You visited us?” And it is because of the vast worth that He has intended of purpose in us that He has made the vastly magnificent condescendence in coming to visit us. And we cannot only survive the stress and personal failure of trials, but we can be restored to His highest purposes for us as He redeems us from our lostness and brings us under that purpose. He visits for that objective.

So speak it aloud. Declare it now: “I have been visited!” Praise Him with me: “Oh Lord, for we marvel at Your loving purpose for us, that in order to assure its fulfillment, You have paid us a visit.” And as we praise Him for that, let’s further thank Him that He has also promised to abide with us forever—never leaving us; never forsaking us.