Divine Intervention—What Can We Expect?
IN THE eighth century B.C.E., 39-year-old King Hezekiah of Judah learned that he had a terminal illness. Devastated by the news, Hezekiah beseeched God in prayer to cure him. God responded through his prophet: “I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here I am adding onto your days fifteen years.”—Isaiah 38:1-5.
Why did God intervene on that particular occasion? Centuries earlier, God had promised righteous King David: “Your house and your kingdom will certainly be steadfast to time indefinite before you; your very throne will become one firmly established to time indefinite.” God also revealed that the Messiah would be born in David’s line. (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:20, 26-29; Isaiah 11:1) When Hezekiah fell ill, he did not as yet have a son. Thus, the royal Davidic line was in danger of being broken. Divine intervention in Hezekiah’s case served the specific purpose of preserving the lineage leading to the Messiah.
To fulfill his promises, Jehovah was motivated to intervene in behalf of his people on numerous occasions throughout the pre-Christian era. Moses declared in connection with the deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt: “It was because of Jehovah’s loving you, and because of his keeping the sworn statement that he had sworn to your forefathers, that Jehovah brought you out with a strong hand.”—Deuteronomy 7:8.
In the first century, divine intervention likewise served to further God’s purposes. For example, on the road to Damascus, a Jew named Saul received a miraculous vision in order to stop him from persecuting Christ’s disciples. The conversion of this man, who became the apostle Paul, played a vital role in the spreading of the good news among the nations.—Acts 9:1-16; Romans 11:13.
Intervention the Norm?
Was divine intervention the rule or the exception? The Scriptures clearly show that it was by no means the norm. Although God delivered the three young Hebrews from execution in a fiery furnace and the prophet Daniel from the lions’ pit, he did not act to save other prophets from death. (2 Chronicles 24:20, 21; Daniel 3:21-27; 6:16-22; Hebrews 11:37) Peter was miraculously delivered from the prison where Herod Agrippa I had confined him. Yet, this same king had the apostle James put to death, and God did not intervene to prevent this crime. (Acts 12:1-11) While God granted the apostles the power to cure the sick and even raise the dead, he did not consent to remove the “thorn in the flesh” that plagued the apostle Paul, which may have been a physical malady.—2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Acts 9:32-41; 1 Corinthians 12:28.
God did not intervene to prevent a wave of persecution perpetrated against Christ’s disciples by the Roman Emperor Nero. Christians were tortured, burned alive, and thrown to wild animals. However, this opposition did not surprise the early Christians, and it certainly did not weaken their faith in God’s existence. After all, Jesus had warned his disciples that they would be brought before the courts and that they should be ready to suffer and even die for their faith.—Matthew 10:17-22.
Just as he did in the past, today God is certainly able to deliver his servants from dangerous situations, and those who feel that they have benefited from his protection are not to be criticized. However, it is difficult to say conclusively whether God did or did not intervene in such cases. Several faithful servants of Jehovah were injured by an explosion in Toulouse, and thousands of faithful Christians died in Nazi and Communist camps or under other tragic circumstances without God’s stepping in to prevent it. Why does God not systematically intervene in behalf of all those who have his approval?—Daniel 3:17, 18.
“Time and Unforeseen Occurrence”
When a catastrophe strikes, anybody can be affected, and faithfulness to God is not necessarily a factor. During the explosion in Toulouse, which Alain and Liliane escaped, 30 people died and hundreds were injured, even though it was not their fault. On a larger scale, tens of thousands of people are victims of crime, reckless driving, or wars, and God cannot be held responsible for their misfortune. The Bible reminds us that “time and unforeseen occurrence befall” everyone.—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
What is more, humans are subject to sickness, old age, and death. Even some who have thought that God miraculously saved their life or who credited him with an unexpected recovery from their illness eventually came face-to-face with death. The removal of sickness and death and the ‘wiping out of every tear’ from human eyes are yet in the future.—Revelation 21:1-4.
For that to happen, something far more extensive and radical than an occasional intervention is needed. The Bible speaks of an event called “the great day of Jehovah.” (Zephaniah 1:14) During this large-scale intervention, God will do away with all wickedness. Mankind will be offered the opportunity to live forever in perfect conditions, in which “the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.” (Isaiah 65:17) Even the dead will be brought back to life, thereby reversing what is certainly the greatest of all human tragedies. (John 5:28, 29) God in his infinite love and goodness will then have solved mankind’s problems once and for all.
How God Intervenes Today
This does not mean, however, that God in the meantime simply observes indifferently while creation agonizes. Today, God is holding out to all humans, regardless of their ethnic or social background, the opportunity of getting to know him and of developing a personal relationship with him. (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) Jesus described this process in these words: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) God draws honesthearted people to him by means of the Kingdom message proclaimed worldwide by his servants.
In addition, God takes direct action in the life of those who are willing to be guided by him. By means of his holy spirit, God is ‘opening their hearts’ to understand his will and to put into practice what he requires. (Acts 16:14) Yes, by providing the opportunity of getting to know him, his Word, and his purposes, God gives proof of his loving interest in each and every one of us.—John 17:3.
Finally, God helps his servants today, not by delivering them miraculously, but by giving them his holy spirit and “the power beyond what is normal” to cope with whatever situation they may face. (2 Corinthians 4:7) The apostle Paul wrote: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him [Jehovah God] who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:13.
We thus have every reason to be grateful to God each day for life and for the hope that he extends to us of living forever in a world free of all suffering. “What shall I repay to Jehovah for all his benefits to me?” the psalmist asked. “The cup of grand salvation I shall take up, and on the name of Jehovah I shall call.” (Psalm 116:12, 13) Regularly reading this magazine will help you to understand what God has done, is doing, and will yet do that can bring you happiness now and a solid hope for the future.—1 Timothy 4:8.
[Blurb on page 6]
“The former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.”—Isaiah 65:17
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In Biblical times, Jehovah did not prevent the stoning of Zechariah . . .
nor the massacre of innocents by Herod
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The time is at hand when suffering will be no more; even the dead will live again