Why doesn’t God interact with us today the way He did over the periods covered in the Bible (For example He did with people of Israel)?
Why doesn’t God interact with us today the way He did over the periods covered in the Bible (For example He did with people of Israel)?
Most of the Bible was laboriously inscribed on tanned animal skins (“parchment”) during the Bronze Age. Some of it dates to the Stone Age. About a fourth of the Bible was laboriously inscribed onto mashed river reeds (“papyrus”) during the Iron Age.
During most of Bible times, the male literacy rate was about 2 percent. (The female literacy rate was probably about 0.02 percent.) Most people sincerely believed that the Earth is flat, that what we today see as mental illness was “actually” demonic possession, and that God has a physical body (but it would burn out your retinas to look at “him”).
They had no electricity. They had no TV, movies, videos, books, supermarkets, schools (well, maybe two or three schools on the WHOLE PLANET), Internet, postal service, internal combustion — they didn’t even have toilet paper. (Know what a Roman soldier in Judea used to wipe his bum? A sponge on a stick. Puts a whole new light on Mark 15:36, doesn’t it?!)
Except for the very rich, this was life: Wake up at dawn. Eat a piece of matzo, and maybe some leftover beans. Work hard all day long. About an hour before sunset, eat matzo, beans, cottage cheese, or VERY RARELY, meat. Drinking water straight from the river will probably make you sick (cholera, for example), so choke down raw, sludgy 2% wine to stay healthy. Shortly after sunset, go to bed. Without electric light, with nothing but starlight and a little moonlight most nights, the world was very dark very early. Once in a while, a wedding, funeral, or special religious occasion would break the monotony. Small wonder they made such a big deal about any break in their harsh routine!
If you’ve spent the entire day at hard physical labor, the last thing you want to do when you’re resting is listen to a dry academic lecture full of words like exegesis, hermeneutics, or aseity. You want a little fun, right? The Bible is full of stories that the hapiru nomads of 2,000 BCE considered real knee-slappers. The problem is that, 4,000 years later, most of us don’t know the first thing about what life was like in the Fertile Crescent in the Bronze Age. Worse, we read the Bible as if it had been written by Stephen King, so all we need to do is read it once, as fast as we can — so we don’t even notice that to its original audience, Judges 3:12-26 was a laugh riot. We just think, “Oh, Ehud stabbed the king” and read on. (Read The Uncensored Bible for an full explanation of why Judges 3 is hilarious. When I realized what I had actually been reading, I laughed so hard I practically wet my pants!)
Lacking movies, TV, videos, books, magazines, newsletters, board games, plays, operas, computers, radios, MP3 players, or other forms of entertainment you and I take for granted, ancient peoples took up storytelling. Because ancient peoples knew virtually nothing about the sorts of things you and I take for granted — for example, the ability to count higher than forty — they used their stories to answer questions about the world. Why are human men almost the only males on Earth that don’t have bones in their penises? Why are human women the only females on Earth who have labor pains? Why are there so many languages in the world? Why are there seashells at the top of this-here mountain? Is it possible for humans to build an artificial mountain that could touch the hammered-metal dome that separates the sky from the chaos waters beyond? Why does that salt formation in the desert look so much like a human woman?
The ancients found their entertainment in a special form of storytelling that German theologians call Heilsgeschichte. (There’s a perfectly good English equivalent, but virtually everyone alive thinks the word means “fiction,” so I won’t use it here. We are not talking about fiction!) In English, Heilsgeschichte translates as “holiness stories” or “sacred stories.”
Sacred stories teach theology — that is, the interrelationship between God and creation, especially humanity. Who is God? What has God done? What does God want from us? How do we know? Sacred stories teach theology as entertainment. Instead of gathering around the TV to watch The Real Housewives of Disgusting Overconsumption, in ancient times, people would gather around the campfire, and some child would say, “Tell us again how David killed Goliath.” Or, “Tell us again how Moses made the king of Egypt look like an idiot.” The sacred stories in the first five books of the Bible evolved over hundreds and hundreds of years of telling and retelling. Because it was so incredibly laborious to write anything down, the tanned leather scrolls of the Bible became incredibly intricate, with every single word chosen to carry several layers of meaning. Have you ever heard of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake? Like that there, but more complex.
Maybe you learned in school about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree when he was a boy, and when his dad asked him, he replied, “I cannot tell a lie.” This never happened in The Real World. It was made up in 1809 by a man known as Parson Weems. If they taught you in school that this made-up story actually happened, it was because the incident has turned into a “sacred story” of American history. It teaches Americans to value courage, honesty, integrity, and above all the sacred principle “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”
Up until a few hundred years ago, no one cared about whether the sacred stories in the Bible actually happened in The Real World. Uneducated people, simpleminded people, and children took for granted that the sacred stories were literal history. Educated and intelligent people knew (and know today) that the stories are sacred because of what they teach us about God and God’s relationship with God’s creations. Whether or not they are factual history is not the point, never was the point, and never will be the point, any more than whether George Washington actually did chop down the cherry tree is the point. Today, fundamentalists insist that if it’s not factual, it’s neither true nor valuable; therefore the Bible must be factual, a history book. It’s not. It was never meant to be.
If the Bible were food, the original authors intended it to be tough and incredibly chewy, like gristle, dried bacon rind, or dried cuttlefish, so you could think about each story for hours and hours while you were watching your herd or training your toddler not to poop indoors and never get bored. Most people gulp the Bible down as if it were popcorn. “I read the entire Bible, from page 1 to page 2,139, in only four months!” they boast. That’s like saying that a mail-order Ph.D. you buy over the Internet for $20 is just as good as ten years of study at a top university.
The Bible is a collection of sacred stories that are intended to teach about the human relationship with God in a way that’s entertaining and accessible to everyone — children, fools, dolts, fundamentalists, simpletons, and ignoramuses as much as educated people. It is not a history book, and it was never intended to be a history book. The Bible is theology. It is every bit as much theology as “Barack Obama is a Muslim socialist born in Kenya” — a fact-free statement of faith believed today by thousands of flat-Earth flatheads who hate the idea of a non-Republican president with a passion. The difference is that, unlike the message of the Tea Puppets, the message of the Bible overall is of God’s love, compassion, forgiveness, and inclusivity. “In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, enslaved or free, male or female, Democrat or Republican, Tea Puppet or progressive, gay or straight, citizen or illegal immigrant, Fox News hysteric or fact-based reasoner. There is only Christ.”
Before you continue your “Bible study,” find a course of formal study like Episcopalianism’s Education For Ministry (open to all) or Roman Catholicism’s RCIA (probably open to all). Before you can understand the Christian Testament, you have to understand the Hebrew Scriptures. To understand the Hebrew Scriptures, you need to understand ancient history (real history), ancient cultures, ancient world-views, and even ancient climates. You especially need to understand what the world was like when most people worshiped dozens of goddesses and gods, and thought first Judaism, then the Jesus Movement, were a bunch of wackadoos. Today Christianity is the dominant religion; 1,900 years ago, they called Christians cannibals who practiced incest (because they called each other “brother” and “sister”).
God revealed Godself to humanity precisely as often in Bible times as God does today. The claims of most religions to the contrary, God doesn’t play favorites.
The difference is, today, if we don’t like the story we’re hearing over the campfire after long day of hard physical labor, we can change the channel. Back then if people got bored and restless, all the storyteller could do was say something hurriedly like, “And then, he raised the dead! Yes! Elijah / Elisha / Peter / Paul raised the dead! And the boy’s mother was so happy!”
I also would ignore the ones that say the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales or mere stories to entertain the ancestors, as this is obviously from skeptics who are not Jesus-followers and hence cannot be relied upon to know the answers. They have been taught at universities by other skeptics who have decided to reject the Christian faith you confess, or are erring in the way of mere popularity and allowing their pride to overtake their logic.
So let’s talk about the context of the Bible. Contrary to what sceptics have said, much of the Bible does not contradict history and has, in fact, at times helped archaeologists find entire civilizations. For example, the Hittites were mentioned fifty times in the Old Testament of the Bible, but sceptics denied they existed until one of their cities were dug up in the nineteenth/twentieth century; and then later a treaty between Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses II and the Hittite Empire was discovered.
The Bible is an account of how the Creator of the Universe, YWH (Greek - ‘God’), created the universe and, more specifically, how YWH created humans to have a close friendship with Him (the original Hebrew language is always in the masculine and not feminine nor ‘neuter’, which verifies He is a person). The New Testament states we are all without excuse about YWH as we all receive ‘general revelation’ about his existence. This means that the complexity of the universe shows evidence of a powerful and intelligent Designer. What we see around us - an orderliness and consistency of design - invariably speaks to every human who observes it. Please see the quote below:
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
Secondly, God speaks through special revelation. This means that he chose to speak freely to persons called ‘prophets’ either as meeting them face-to-face (a theophany) or through messengers known as ‘angels’. He also chose to be physically heard by some of these prophets, such as Moses, Samuel and Abraham and, in the New Testament, Paul. To other prophets, YWH decided to reveal himself through dreams and visions. Examples of those who were led in that way are Joseph, Daniel and John - referred to as the ‘one whom Jesus loved’ in the New Testament.
Old Testament prophets were there to guide the Jewish people and to remind them that YWH was still interested in them despite any oppression from other nations. The prophets of the Old Testament were also there to point the Jewish people to a future ‘deliverer’ (Messiah) who would one day restore their relationship with YWH and bring peace. Christians believe this Messiah was Jesus, and hence there is no longer any need for future special revelation other than the Bible. The two verses to look at concerning the end of the ‘Special prophets’ after John the Baptist is found in Matthew 11:13 and Hebrews 1:1–2.
So, in the past God spoke to/ appeared to people in a precise way for two reasons:
There was a temporary theocracy set up after the Jewish people escaped from exile in Egypt. This began with Moses, and ended with Samuel, after which the Israelites asked God to give them a king, the first being Saul.
God brought prophets to speak to the Jewish people and encourage them to look for a coming Messiah (deliverer) when they were being attacked and conquered by other kingdoms, such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians and Medes.
The prophets receiving special revelations wrote them down, and they were progressively copied by scribes in the Jewish faith until they were finally compiled together into the Jewish ‘Tanakh’ , known by Christians as the Old Testament. Because Christians believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Messiah the prophets were pointing to, and as the theocracy that God had set up for Israel ceased to exist when the Jews called for a king, the jobs the prophets performed in the Tanakh were no longer required.
However, God still speaks to people whom he chooses to today, and Jesus Christ of Nazareth further states:
I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
Jesus further stated that, after he left earth following his resurrection, he would send the person of the Holy Spirit to live in all Christ-followers, who would teach and counsel those who followed Jesus Christ of Nazareth:
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you. 
This same ‘Holy Spirit’ is claimed to be the one who assisted the leaders of Israel, and the special prophets seen within the Old Testament, to hear God’s voice and to understand his guidance for Jews at the times the prophets spoke.
So, does God speak to Christians today? Yes - and all of them should be able to hear His voice through the Holy Spirit living in them. It requires discipline to spend time with God, and to be able to know God’s unique voice - in a way that does not contradict the special revelations He gave through the Old and New Testament. As John, the student of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, wrote:
1Dear friends, don’t believe all people who say that they have the Spirit. Instead, test them. See whether the spirit they have is from God, because there are many false prophets in the world. 2This is how you can recognize God’s Spirit: Every person who declares that Jesus Christ has come as a human has the Spirit that is from God. 3But every person who doesn’t declare that Jesus Christ has come as a human has a spirit that isn’t from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that you have heard is coming. That spirit is already in the world. 
Today, every believer can hear God’s voice by spending time to learn the voice inside us that the Holy Spirit allows us to hear. We must read the Bible to understand God’s will for the Jewish people and the first ‘Christians’ mentioned in the New Testament. We can hear God’s will for us through speaking to Jesus followers who have matured and have actively followed Jesus Christ of Nazareth for a longer time than you. Dreams are still a way that Christians can receive God’s will. Occasionally, angels will appear, primarily in the form of humans just like you, who will speak an answer to your prayer or assist you in times of trauma; and even the occasional non-Christian can be used to convey a message that God wants us to know if there are no other people around. Mostly in a natural way - God doesn’t have to behave in a ‘spooky’ way to get our attention.
Regardless of belief, the Bible is very much a historical book. We know a great deal about how Xerxes dealt with his defeat against the Greeks because of the book of Esther. We know what mission trips the Apostle Paul went on and when because of Acts and his letters. We know what early Christianity looked like in depth. We know the laws of a specific Semitic culture and they chronicled so much of it in detail for us. These are facts whether a person believes the Bible or not. It’s very much a historical document.
I believe the book to be gospel. Humor me for a moment if you do not and consider a few things through that paradigm. In the Jewish historical account YHWH, their God, typically would oscillate between two phases: 1) a bunch of supernatural stuff and 2) not much supernatural intervention at all. For example, He sends the children of Israel to Egypt and they’re enslaved for 400 years. Nothing happens. Then in a matter of a few months, He sends 10 plagues, judges the Egyptian Gods, and delivers them out of Egypt even parting the Red Sea. These amazing things happened in front of everyone- Egyptian and Hebrew. Then for 40 years he comes through in intermittent miracles. Then Joshua conquers the promise land and I think there is only one or two miracles in the entire book of Joshua. Then in Judges they depart from the Lord and He sends them trouble. There aren’t many miracles at that time but there are a few. In fact, there were so few that when YHWH called Gideon, Gideon said “Gideon said to Him, ‘O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.’ “ -Judges 6:13
The book of Judges ends on a civil war and there are no miracles for a while. Then I Samuel and II Samuel occur and there are a few miracles but not many. I think the most supernatural thing in either of those two books was when Saul consulted a witch and talked to Samuel after Samuel was dead. You can get a medium and do that today. It’s not a big deal. Then there were prophets and I Kings and II Kings and in all that time there were a few but not many miracles. That period lasted a long time but the supernatural was few and far between. But the Word of YHWH was not rare just yet. The prophets said a whole bunch of stuff that the people didn’t want to hear.
Between Malachi and Matthew 400 years passed. There was no new Words from YHWH and there were no miracles. Then Jesus came and BOOM!! His miracle working for just three years was so common and pronounced that even people who didn’t believe that He was who He said He was acknowledged His miracles. The Talmud writers call him a sorcerer and magician. And no one can explain the origin of the church without the literal death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus; that’s the sign to the whole world that He worked a wondrous miracle and it left a mark on history. Then for a while, there were intense workings of miracles as the faith spread like a wildfire. Then, there were not many miracles for a while. For the next 2000 years the faith waxed and waned and spread. From time to time there were revivals. The latest of which that still affects us today was the Asuza street revival in Los Angeles about 100 years ago. That movement sparked the modern day Pentecostal movement. It was across racial lines. And there were many many many miracles.
Today, some still sporadically occur. I’ve been a Christian since I could read and there have been seasons of my life when God’s presence and miracle working hand have been absolutely unmistakable. I was born with a short leg and He lengthened my leg in a revival with about 50 other witnesses. I never could walk on my heal before that. Then, often another believer I had just met would tell me deeply personal things that only God could know I was going through. And I’m not an emotional or stupid person; I’m not easily fooled for things like that and I’m so logical that I got a 730 on the GMAT.
Then there were periods, long periods where nothing or very little supernatural appeared to happen. My walk has been an oscillation between the two and I’d imagine that the faith walk is much the same way for many Christians.
The Bible records God appearing to people, performing amazing and undeniable
miracles, speaking audibly, and many other things that we do not seem to witness
today. Why is this? Why was God so willing to reveal and prove Himself in Bible
times, but almost seems “hidden” and silent today? God used miracles and direct
communication with people in order to reveal to them His character and nature,
as well as His plans and commands. His first miracle – creation – was the
primary evidence of God’s existence and exhibited many of His attributes. From
what was made, man could conclude that God is powerful, sovereign, and good. The
creation was His first declaration to mankind. “The heavens declare the glory of
God; and the expanse proclaims His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Following creation, God spoke to people to
further declare Himself and to inform man of His law and His ways. He first
spoke to Adam and Eve, giving them commandments to follow and, when they
disobeyed, pronouncing a curse upon them and their descendants. He also assured
them, and all mankind, that He would send a Savior to redeem us from sin.
Thereafter, God spoke to Moses, giving him the law for His people to follow. He
performed miracle after miracle to verify His existence to His people and to
build their faith in Him. In addition, He spoke to His prophets so they would
write down His words, words which were preserved for us in the
When Jesus came to earth, He also performed miracles to prove that
He was indeed the Son of God and to foster belief in Him (Matthew 9:6; John 10:38). After His miraculous resurrection, He
enabled His disciples to continue performing miracles in order to prove they
were truly His, again so that people would believe on Him who sent them. So why
does God no longer speak audibly to us?
There are several reasons for
this. As noted above, God has already spoken, and His words have been
miraculously kept for us down through the ages. Now we have the completed canon
of scripture, and we need no further miracles to “validate” the Bible. In His
perfect Word is everything we need “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction
and instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is complete and is perfectly
able to make us “wise to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15), a “more sure Word of prophecy to which
we would do well to take heed” (2 Peter 1:19). We need nothing more, and we are not to
seek extra-biblical revelations. To do so calls into question the efficacy of
Scripture which God has declared to be sufficient.
Second, we have within
us the Holy Spirit whom God has given to us to “lead us into all truth” (John 16:13). He speaks to us continually, teaching us (1 Corinthians 2:3),
reminding us of all things that Jesus taught (John 14:26), guiding, correcting, and convicting us of
sin (John 16:8). God is indeed “speaking” to us today through
the Holy Spirit, who is certainly not hidden. Another reason for God’s seeming
concealment is alluded to by the prophet Habakkuk: “The just shall live by his
faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). God does not give His people a continual
chain of miraculous signs; He expects them to trust what He has already done,
search the Scriptures daily, respond to the Holy Spirit within, and live by
faith, not by sight (Matthew 16:4; John 20:29).
Finally, let us remember that even in
those times when it seems that God is doing nothing, He is still the sovereign
Lord of all creation, and He is constantly at work, bringing about the fruition
of His perfect plan. One of the best examples of God’s “hidden” working is the
book of Esther, in which God is never mentioned, but which plainly shows His
sovereign hand at work from beginning to end.
The bible does reveal God in some very interactive and obvious ways, but to say that throughout ancient times God interacted directly with man often by speaking with him or showing him supernatural wonders would be untrue. Upon careful reading of Scripture, one comes to understand that God rarely spoke directly with man or interacted supernaturally with His creation. Sure, there were certain persons and certain times of great revelations, but these were not the rule.
As an example, look at the life of Abraham. The bible records that this great father of faith heard from God first when he was 75 years of age. Abraham lived to be 175 years of age. During that stretch of time, we have recorded less than ten times in which he personally heard from God. In one hundred years, this man who lived by the promises of God on a daily basis had relatively few occasions in which he heard God’s voice.
Now, ten times in one hundred years is still a lot in comparison with today. Even generations of men might live without God acting miraculously during these ancient times (think of the stretch of time from the end of Joseph’s life in Genesis 50:25-26 to the appearance of God to Moses in Exodus 3), but that is still more than today. Why don’t we hear directly from God? Another question that needs to be asked: Why would we need to?
Peter speaks to this idea in 2 Peter 1:16-21. In that passage Peter refers to the time he, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured (Matthew 17:1-8). In many ways I wish I could have been there to see that! I wish I could have seen the miracles of the days of Moses, fire called down from heaven in 1 Kings 18, Elisha guarded by spiritual armies in 2 Kings 6, and many other wondrous events. Yet in 2 Peter 1:19-21, Peter says this: “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Those revelations of God from days of old were to point man to God, to perk up his ears so man might listen, to show that God had something mighty important to say. (Look at Mark 1:27 as an example–the miracles of Jesus demonstrated the authority of His message.) Peter says we have something more impressive than those miracles: Scriptures, the written word of God.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (v. 10). He also says “as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” (v. 9). Prophecies, miraculous ability to speak in other languages, God revealed knowledge–all these things had their purpose in revealing the will of God to man, but that message has been revealed. What need have we of miracles?
I am reminded of what Jesus says in Luke 16 of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man receives his punishment for the careless way in which he lived, but he begs for the lives of his brothers (vv. 27-28). He is told that his brothers must listen to Moses and the Prophets (v. 29). “No!” he says, but asks that some messenger be sent from the dead to convince them. He is told, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (v. 31). We may wish for some supernatural interaction with God today, but God does seek to interact with us (Acts 17:27) from His word (Hebrews 4:12).
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” -Romans 15:4. Why did God appear to and speak to people in the bible? That we might be instructed, and so be encouraged to endure. That we might have hope.
Let me close by saying some of the other answers here have grieved me and angered me. They do not speak well of God or of His word. Jesus did not express such a disregard for the Scriptures. Some of these very poor answers have come from persons supposedly holding degrees and professing much learning. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). I do not wish to elevate my answer above others, but I will not pass over answers that elevate man above God. “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” -Proverbs 1:22 “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.” -Proverbs 19:25