Barb and I have been blessed through numerous hiking trips taken across the United States and Canada. One thing we’ve learned along the way is that to more fully understand and feel the essence of the special places visited, you have to spend the time, energy and sweat. You can see wonderful sights along highways and from the balconies of fancy park lodges, but to discover and be immersed in the real hidden gems of the wildernesses and mountains, you have to be willing to go further and higher, far from the proverbial “madding crowd.”
In the picture, Barb is looking south to Mount Baker in upper Washington State. The magnificent Baker-Snoqualmie Wilderness and the adjoining North Cascades National Park spreads unbroken for thousands of square miles and is one of the least visited wilderness areas in the country. To reach this viewpoint, four of us hiked for hours over miles of rough terrain gaining several thousand feet in elevation. Few people are rewarded with this spectacular scene, but I think you’ll agree it was worth it!
Revelation is God making Himself known to the world so that people can know and have fellowship with Him. General revelation is that part of God revealed primarily through nature and events in the physical world. This revelation has been and is available to all people in all places and can be seen through observing the universe, the natural world and those around us. The order, intricacy, and wonders of creation clearly speak to the existence of a powerful and glorious Creator.
Special revelation is the further, more personal self-disclosure of God made to His chosen people through the Bible, miracles, and the unfolding of history. Special revelation is both redemptive and personal and may be seen through the study and discernment of His Word, in the love and fellowship of believers, in strong Scripture-based preaching and teaching, and through hymns and praise songs that resonate in your soul. It is nurtured and encouraged by the inner prodding and instruction of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Using hiking as a metaphor, general revelation is sort of like stopping at a highway overlook and admiring spectacular scenery from a distance. The view is awesome and inspiring, but still somewhat remote and impersonal. Special revelation is like actually hiking to that far distant sight, being immersed there to experience it firsthand. You still may not fully understand or comprehend all its intricacy and beauty, but some knowledge and insight has been gained leading you to thirst for more.
The special revelation of God can come in a moment of supernatural intervention, but more often comes to the seeker/hiker who has purpose, commitment and perseverance. And it comes at a price paid in time, effort, and changes in lifestyle and priorities, what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “The Cost of Discipleship.” Eugene Peterson’s “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction” speaks to our life-long sanctification journeys to become more like Christ guided and encouraged by the Spirit. In my analogy, we accept the plan and its accompanying costs, rely on the trail map, and hike steadily and resolutely over sometimes rough terrain towards a glorious end.
God’s ultimate special revelation came in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of the “mystery now revealed” and Jesus Himself tells us “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” As we share communion this month on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday, we marvel and humbly accept God’s redemptive power and love expressed through Christ.
Bruce Fairbairn, Elder