Many people view God as being a very dramatic individual. They look at God as someone that always does things on a grand scale - in a big way. The thought that God might sometimes choose to work quietly, behind the scenes and out of the limelight has never crossed their minds.
The prophet Elijah was a case in point. Elijah was accustomed to working for a dramatic God - one who raised the dead, withheld rain, conquered armies and made fire fall from heaven. Hence, when God chose to confront him on Mount Horeb, he was surprised at the form God took. A great wind smashed into the mountain and wreaked havoc and destruction, but God was not in the wind. Then a mighty earthquake rocked the mountain, but God was not in the earthquake either. Next, a fire swept over the mountain, but God was not in the fire. Finally, a whisper filled the air around the cave where the prophet was standing - God was in the whisper. I Kings 19:9-13
A Syrian general had a similar experience in dealing with Elijah's successor as prophet, Elisha. Naaman was the commander of the King of Syria's army, but he was afflicted with leprosy. Even so, one of his servants told him that the God of Israel had a prophet that He sometimes used to heal people of their diseases. As a consequence, Naaman went to Elisha's house and waited for the prophet to emerge and perform the expected miracle. Instead, Elisha sent a messenger to the general, who instructed him to go and wash himself in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was incensed - the great general was insulted. He turned to leave, but some wise servants convinced him to follow the prophet's instructions. "If he'd told you to do some great thing to be healed, wouldn't you have been willing to do it?" they asked. So Naaman relented, went down to the Jordan River and received the healing that he had requested. II Kings 5:1-15
The people of Christ's day were always asking him for a sign that he really was the Messiah. They ignored the fact that he had preached the truth everywhere, healed the sick and raised the dead. They wanted God to come down from heaven and point to him in front of the whole assembly. How could the Son of God come to them as a carpenter? How could someone from their own ranks be God's Messiah - the Savior of Israel? Christ only offered them one sign - the sign of the prophet Jonah (that he would be buried in the earth for three days and three nights, just as the prophet had been in the belly of the great fish for that period). Nevertheless, they rejected the only sign that Jesus offered them to prove that he was the Messiah. Matthew 12:39-40
It is sometimes easy to look at these examples and condemn the people involved for their shortsightedness, but don't we often do the same thing? Aren't many of us looking for a dramatic God - one who will suddenly appear in full Majesty and instantly right all wrongs?