When Indiana Jones went to find the Grail, he had to cross a wide, deep chasm with no bridge in sight. His father told him the only way to cross was to take a step out over the chasm, a “leap of faith.” As soon as Indy stepped out as instructed, believing that somehow he would be able to cross, a bridge appeared beneath his feet. It had always been there, he just couldn’t see it until he used it.
The above story is obviously fictional, but it reflects a Biblical truth. The author of the letter to the Hebrew Christians wrote that faith is the reality of hope and the evidence of the unseen. In other words, in order to see what God has in store we have to step out like Indy, knowing that something is there. After we are willing to do that, after we can allow ourselves to know that truth transcends our limited sight, He allows us to see Him.
Enoch lived in the millennia before the flood reset the earth, in a time when men lived for hundreds of years and had opportunity to explore every possible imagination, good or evil. When most others pursued their own ends and lost favor with their Creator, Enoch lived his life in harmony with the God he could not see. As a reward, he was given a gift of eternal life without death, his body changed to walk in the physical presence of God. He saw God more completely than any other before or since.
Moses, though raised with every opportunity to pursue physical wealth and power, chose the life of a nomad chieftain in order to be close to God. He sought to know God, and submitted his will to loneliness, struggle, and abuse from the people he was tasked to lead. His anger was never roused so greatly as when he saw God disrespected, and when given the opportunity asked to see his protector. He didn’t want proof, only deeper connection, just as you or I would seek to look at and touch someone we love. Because Moses knew God so intimately as to crave such a thing, God allowed the privilege to the point that Moses himself carried so much of God’s glory that other humans could not physically look at him without pain.
Elijah stood almost alone in a nation that hated God. Without divine help his life would have been forfeit many times for his persistence in declaring God’s warnings to people who wanted nothing to do with God. As a reward for a lifetime of faithful service, God gave him Enoch’s gift, and carried him to eternity without death in a fiery chariot of honor.
When Elijah’s protégé, Elisha, was called to God’s service from his life as a wealthy farmer in that same rebellious nation, he not only obeyed, but quite literally burned the trappings of his old life as a sacrifice. He removed his own incentive to ever turn back. He knew God without seeing any evidence of His existence in the land. As a result he was allowed to see Elijah’s divine chariot, and it seems that he was given an even greater gift. Many years later when enemies surrounded his home, death seemed certain, and a fearful servant cried to him, Elisha asked God to show the servant what Elisha himself could apparently already see: an angel host greater than any human army standing ready to defend them. Because Elisha believed in what was invisible, God made it visible to Him.
Daniel and his friends faced immersion in an alien, pagan culture as boys. Despite what seemed to the rest of the Jewish people as visible signs of God’s desertion, the boys trusted that He was still there protecting them and held firmly to a life that honored Him. As a result, God Himself walked with three of them in human form in fires that should have vaporized them and brought them through alive. Daniel’s faith was so strong that in spite of all odds against him that faith gained respect from one godless king after another. Because he knew without seeing that God was with him, God walked with him in human form and told him the history of the next millennium in detail before any of it happened.
When Stephen was arrested for persisting in teaching and working when opposed by the Jewish counsel, his faith shone so brightly in him that even his accusers compared him to an angel of God. He faced what he knew would be at least great pain, if not death, and told a roomful of men who hated him about the power of God. When they predictably sentenced him to a brutal death, God allowed his physical eyes to see the spiritual world he entered by the blows of his enemies’ stones. Stephen saw the glory of God and Christ ruling over all because he had believed it without sight.
I can’t say that I have heard of anyone in our own age experiencing such a gift. Even in ages past it was a rare thing, but in two thousand years not a reference has been recorded. It’s a sobering thought to consider our own faith in light of that which resulted in such intimacy. Perhaps God doesn’t give such obvious boons anymore since He lived and died and rose as a human, but what if He would and our faith isn’t strong enough? Do we have the surety of God to do right while surrounded by doubt and evil? Do we have the surety of God to actively look for glimpses of His glory, to beg for a glance at even the smallest part of Him? Do we have the surety of God to walk away from everything we are and become something else when service to Him requires it? Do we have the surety of God to continue a godly life in the face of abuse and death? Do we have the surety of God to step out over the abyss and find the bridge under our feet, or will we huddle forever whimpering on the ledge while the bridge remains forever invisible?