The Hiddenness of God
Thoughts about the Hiddenness of God.
As Christians, we read our Bibles, pray, go to church, worship God, and do our best to serve Him. Yet, at times we may wonder whether or not we know Him, what His purposes are, and whether He is present with us. At times, God may seem to be hidden! Two passages of Scripture have captured my attention concerning the hiddenness of God. These passages are Isaiah 45:15 and Job 13:24.
Isaiah declared “Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior” (45:15). The context of this verse is the entire chapter. Isaiah 45 deals with the restoration of Israel and the salvation of the world. He shows how God would use Cyrus, the role of Israel, God’s blessing upon Israel, and the conversion of the nations. The inclusion of the Gentiles was obscure in the Hebrew mind. God did not unfold His plan all at once.
Job’s words were uttered in the context of his suffering. Deeply hurting, he asked God: “Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy?” (Job 13:24). He was a rich man who, to the best of his ability, served God and avoided wrongdoing. However, for reasons unknown to him, all his riches were taken from him. Also, he endured great personal suffering.
We know, of course, that God has revealed Himself brilliantly to us. However, over the next few days, I will present several aspects of God’s hiddenness and ask, in each case, why He is hidden. We will discuss our knowledge of God, the purposes of God, and the presence of God.
If you, your family, or your friends are suffering and seem to have no relief, I believe these “thoughts” can be helpful to you. When God seems to be so hidden from us, He is with very much us. We can reaffirm our trust in Him, knowing that He is ever-present.
More Thoughts about the Hiddenness of God.
The hiddenness of God has to do with our knowledge of Him. Concerning what we know about Him, God is both revealed and hidden. God has revealed Himself! He has revealed Himself in nature, in His actions, and through the prophets. The pinnacle of His revelation, however, comes in Christ! According to Hebrews 1:1-3a:
“1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He [Christ] is the radiance of His [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
Nevertheless, to some extent, God is still hidden. Why? We must remember that God is infinite! He is transcendent! He is greater than all that He has created! We are finite creatures. We simply cannot know “all there is to know” about God. We know, by God’s revelation, that He is just, that He is completely righteous, and that He loves us. Yet, in some respects, He remains hidden.
What should our attitude be toward His hiddenness? God wants us simply to love and trust Him. When we love and trust Him, we will hold Him in awe, we will respect Him, and we will worship, serve, and glorify Him!
For those who love and trust God, a couple of points concerning His hiddenness stand out. First, we can take great comfort in His hiddenness. His very greatness to some degree hides Him from us. If we, in our finite condition, could fully know Him, He would not be God. Because He is greater than any other, we are secure in Him.
Second, our love and trust lead us to hunger and thirst to know God better. Love and trust as motives are more powerful and persistent than mere inquisitiveness. Our very search for Him is enthralling! We can look forward to ever-expanding vistas and understanding! We can anticipate infinite progress and growth! Our relationship with Him can grow and deepen!
More Thoughts about the Hiddenness of God.
God is both hidden and revealed. As we have discussed, the hiddenness of God has to do with our limited knowledge of Him. We have limited knowledge of who He is, what He does, and the nature of His universe. Today, we will focus on His purposes.
God has revealed much about His purposes, but to some degree, His purposes remain hidden. God has revealed His plans for the universe, the peoples of the world, and for believers:
(1) Concerning the universe, we can look forward (Revelation 21:1) to “a new heaven and a new earth.” In the new heaven and new earth, the plans that God has for our righteous existence will be fully realized.
(2) Concerning the peoples of the world, God (Isaiah 45:22) offers salvation to them all. Moreover (Isaiah 45:23), “every knee will bow” voluntarily or involuntarily, to God. This is possible because Jesus gave His life for us. We will serve God and rule with Him.
(3) As far as believers are concerned, we look forward to the time when there (Revelation 21:4) “will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.” Spiritually, we will become (Romans 8:29) “conformed to the image of His Son.”
Nevertheless, we often do not understand the purpose of much that happens along the way. We understand the broad outline of God’s plan, to the extent it has been revealed, but we are sometimes confused by the unfolding details. We have to realize that God’s ways are greater than ours. In Isaiah 55:8, the Lord declares “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,'” declares the Lord.”
This hiddenness of God touches both our mission and the struggles we encounter in our personal lives. In my next thoughts, I will discuss both aspects of this hiddenness. Meanwhile, we can rejoice over all that has been revealed. As a revelation of Himself to us, God’s Son came to dwell among us. Incredible!
More Thoughts About the Hiddenness of God.
As I mentioned in my last “thoughts,” the hiddenness of God has to do both with our mission and our struggles. Today, we will discuss briefly both of these topics.
In his mission, Paul reached out to both the Jews and the Gentiles. In Romans 9-11, Paul writes about Israel and the Gentiles. What he wrote was a part of God’s unfolding disclosure of the inclusiveness of the gospel. What was perhaps obscure became very clear. In Romans 11:33 Paul exclaims: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”
We do not always understand God’s ways. In many parts of the world, the people are dominated by religions that reject Jesus. Vast numbers of people are persecuted by individuals and governments. However, often unknown to us God is at work. For example, to us, China seemed closed to the gospel for many years. Now, we know God was mightily at work during all those years.
Concerning our personal lives, when things are going well we may not pause to wonder about God’s purposes. We rightly view God as good and desirous of blessing us. Thus, without asking why, we simply praise Him for His abundant provision.
However, when we go through difficult times, we may wonder what God has in mind. Isaiah probably had Israel’s struggles in mind, as well as God’s plan of salvation, when he said, “Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior” (45:15).
Sometimes we simply do not know why God is allowing us to suffer. This was the case with Job. He couldn’t figure it out. Certainly, Job was personally suffering when he cried out, “Why do you hide your face and consider me Your enemy?” (Job 13:24).
In his case, God had a reason for not letting him know. I will discuss that reason in my next “thoughts.”
More Thoughts about the Hiddenness of God.
The hiddenness of God has to do in part with His purposes. Sometimes, we experience difficulties because God is shaping our lives with discipline. Moreover, difficult times, even when they are not disciplinary, can strengthen us.
Sometimes, however, we undergo difficult times because of a special reason that God has in mind. The experience of Job is an example of someone suffering because of a special purpose.
The scenes described in Job 1 and 2 were unknown to him. Satan (Job 1:8-12) met with God, charged that Job served God only because of His blessing, and predicted that Job, stripped of his prosperity, would curse God. God released Satan to take all of Job’s possessions. When Job did not curse God, God released Satan to touch him personally (Job 2:3-6) as well.
As a result of the conversation between God and Satan, God allowed Satan to oppress Job. To demonstrate that Job would stay true to God, Job had to be kept in the dark. Job did not know the reason why he was being tested. God had to be hidden from him. Satan thought that Job would turn away from God. Job encountered some very difficult moments, but in the end, Satan was mistaken about Job. Job remained faithful to God.
When we do not understand God’s purpose, what shall we do? We must maintain our hope in Him. Our hope is expressed under two approaches. Under the first approach, we hope, and believe, in deliverance now. We desire to see God break into our situation in power. Without being led to do otherwise, I believe this should be the approach we take.
At times, our hope for immediate results is not rewarded. We must not however lose hope. Our hope is not in vain! Instead of losing hope, we must rely on the second approach. Under the second approach, we acquiesce to a higher way. We realize that, due to God’s purposes, His timing is different than ours. Ultimately, there is no defeat in Christ. The ultimate victory is surely ours!
More about the Hiddenness of God—the Presence of God.
We have been discussing the hiddenness of God concerning our knowledge of Him and concerning His purposes. Today, we will highlight God’s hiddenness concerning His presence. When we say that God is hidden, we sometimes imply that He is absent.
The Bible is in a way the story of God seeking to dwell among His people. Samuel Terrien, in his book, The Elusive Presence, traces how God made His presence known in the Old Testament. God made His presence known to the patriarchs, at Sinai in the ark in Mosaic times, in the wilderness tabernacle, in the Temple, and the prophetic visions. The psalms, too, are testimonies to God’s presence.
When Christ was born, God was present among men in a new way. He dwelt among men as a man. Men could see Him, touch Him, and hear Him speak. We know that He is coming back. When He does, every eye will see Him. His voice will be heard.
Meanwhile, though not seen in the same way, our Triune God is still present. Jesus declares (John 14:16), “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” Moreover, He said (Mt. 28:20): “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
God is present in us and among us. Sometimes we do not sense His presence. It may have to do only with our spiritual condition. However, there may be a divine side, as well, to this seeming absence. At times, for His reasons, God may not make His presence known in the way that we desire. For whatever reason, we sometimes do not sense God’s presence. We cry out for Him to make Himself known to us. We, in our anguish, long for Him!
When God seems far away, what should we do? Surely, we must examine ourselves. Having done this, He may still seem to be absent. Then, we must endure with faith. Although our experience of God is powerful support for our faith, our faith does not depend entirely on our feelings. We must plant our feet firmly on His Word. Keep on believing! Inevitably, God will overwhelm us again with His manifest presence!
God has revealed Himself to us, He has our highest interest in view, and He is ever-present with us. Yet, He is to some degree hidden from us.
Concerning this hiddenness: (1) We do not know all there is to know about Him, but we must keep on loving Him. (2) We do not fully understand His purposes, but we must continue to have hope. (3) We do not always sense His presence, but we must have faith in Him.
Faith, hope, and love are our appropriate responses to God’s hiddenness. These abiding virtues will lead us to greater knowledge and experience of God. As we know Him better, we will love Him, and others, yet more. In the words of Paul:
George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.