Truly you are a God who hides himself,
O God and Savior of Israel.
When the Lord called out the Israelites and made of them a great nation whose function was to impact and bless the world, He bestowed on them a priestly blessing.
“The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
G. Campbell Morgan makes these comments about this blessing which I have summarized as follows. In the first, the LORD is pictured as the One who comes to kneel in order to serve us, and hedges us round so as to protect us. The second of the statements refers to Jehovah as not only the supply of blessing but the channel of blessing. It is His grace that comes to us in our need. God Himself becomes flesh and so the glory of His face is seen, and the wonder of His grace becomes operative. The third statement conveys the thought of a new experience created by the presence of Jehovah Himself, resulting in peace. The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Volume VIII, Pages 135-136.
For many centuries, the children of Israel repeated these blessings continually as a reminder of God’s promise of His presence. Because of the sin and idolatry of His people, however, His face and His presence were no longer realized. Even among His prophets and His spokesmen, there was a lament about God having hidden Himself from their view.
Among those who complained was Elijah, described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:3. “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.” Asaph lamented before God his condition as compared to others. “This is what the wicked are like-always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.” Psalm 73:12-14. Perhaps the most distressing call of all was heard from His prophet Habakkuk. “How long O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” Habakkuk 1:2-4 Whether the concern was personal, in regard to Elijah, or in his relationships to others as related by Asaph, or distressing circumstances experienced why Habakkuk, they all sensed the absence of God. Where is God? What is He doing? Why does He not act in my behalf or in the behalf of others?
When God hides Himself, it is always to do a hidden work. His hidden work in the nations of Israel was to bring judgment resulting in restoration. His hidden work in His followers is always that of purification and preparation. Purification is provided that they may more closely abide in Him and draw strength from Him who is their life. Preparation is furnished so that more fruit is forthcoming for the Father and so that they may be fully able to perform the eternal tasks in Glory which will serve and honor our LORD throughout the coming ages. No moment of darkness, no shadow of doubt, no perplexing thought, no heavy burden, no days of despair are permitted that are not a part of His infinite love, His limitless knowledge and His complete control.
Knowing that God is at work, whether we can see or measure His activity, makes all the difference in our lives. Job recounts the following in Job 23:8-10. “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job was stating his conviction that even though God was hidden from him, he was not hidden from God. He states that God is all knowing-“He knows the way that I take”, that He is in complete control of my life- “when He has tested me”, and that His purpose is that of infinite love which will be reflected in my good-“I will come forth as gold.”
Eternity’s greatest work was only possible because God hid Himself. Our Savior’s cry from the cross chronicled those three hours at the the end of which He exclaimed “My God! My God, why didst thou forsake me?” G. Campbell Morgan has the following comments on this period of three hours. “In these three hours of darkness we are face to face with the time when all the force of evil was brought to bear on the soul of the Son of God, and all the unutterable intent and purpose of evil wrapped Him about in a darkness that is beyond our comprehension. In the deep darkness, and in the midst of the silence, He triumphed over the forces of evil, the principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly by the Cross, putting off from Himself all that assaulted Him in, and by, and through the darkness. In those hours transactions were accomplished which through all eternity defy the apprehension and explanation of finite minds.” The Westminster Pulpit, Baker Book House, 1954-55, Volume VII, page 195.
This work of God in Christ, hidden from our view, will be marveled at throughout the ages to come as we, His body and church, will praise Him forever. The hidden work of God in our lives is meant to be revealed as well even though we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” I Peter 1:6. The following verse (I Peter 1:7) tells us that “These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
When God hides Himself, it is to produce a work in and through our lives that will be to His eternal glory and will result in our praise, glory and honor as well. This will be revealed in those who have persevered by faith, knowing that, like Job, though God may be hidden for a time from us, that we are never hidden from Him.
In Christ, Richard Spann