If He is really interested in me, then why does God hide himself from us? Why doesn’t He show me a sign that He is there so that I can feel reassured? Why doesn’t just he appear to the world in general, particularly unbelievers, so that they may be unable to question his existence? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if no one could deny His reality? These must be typical questions that so many people have asked themselves in those private, quiet moments when no one is around.
You wouldn’t be the first one to ask that question. Even in the Bible, faithful men have cried out with the same words on their lips. When Job was weighed down under his sufferings, he asked God “Why do You hide Your face, And regard me as Your enemy?” (Job 13:24). The psalmist also asked “Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psa. 10:1) and again “How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever?” (Psa. 89:46)
There are some very good reasons why God hides himself from us, which we intend to explore here. To do so, requires that we first look at the bigger picture so that when we arrive at the answer, we may not only be satisfied, but also hopefully, learn a little more about God himself.
Our reference point for all that we say will be the Bible, which claims in many places to be the Word of God. It is essential that we use this as our sole source of information because we believe that the only way that anyone can find God is when God reveals himself. We will not find God by ourselves, or in ourselves, or by speculating and philosophizing, because our concepts and reasoning processes are limited by our own experiences in the natural material world we live in. So we must look to direct revelation for the answers.
Whether you accept the Bible as the authoritative Word from God at this point, or not, we ask you to stay with us as we explain what the Bible consistently says about how God operates – and why.
It’s About Priorities
Let’s begin by considering the natural world which we see all around us. We include the solar system, Milky Way and other galaxies in this natural, physical world. If God is the creator of all, then all the physical reality that we’re aware of, is the product of thought. God conceived the idea, willed and energized it and it came into being. As such, everything we know is the physical expression of an idea. Behind it all is a mind – a spirit, if you like. So in the beginning “the spirit of God hovered over the waters” … “and God SAID …” and it was done (Genesis 1).
The important point to note is, that the mind, or idea, purpose, thinking, existed first – then came the physical product. Ever since then, in his dealings with man, God has discouraged man from focusing on the physical form at the expense of the way he thinks and behaves. So, when reminding Israel of their encounter with him at Mt Sinai, he said:
“Then you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the midst of heaven, with darkness, cloud, and thick darkness. And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice . . . Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female” (Deut. 4:11-16).
But Men Prefer it Another Way
It has always been the practice of many religions to give their deities some form. Whether it be Zeus and Apollo, Baal and Ashtoreth, the heavenly lights or any other thing that can be seen, their deity has been represented by some physical form. But God doesn’t want to be revered for his physical form. He wants us to love him for who he really is – his mind, his spirit, how he thinks and behaves and what he plans. This is one of the reasons why he has not revealed his physical form. He doesn’t want us to be distracted by it. Not only so, but experience has shown that when He HAS revealed Himself, it hasn’t made much difference to the way people think.
Let’s imagine that God came to us and revealed what He looks like. What would he show us? Would he be a big man? A warrior? An old or young man? A being enclosed in a bright light? Whatever He showed us, it would be superficial and though we would certainly be impressed with Him, our intimate knowledge of Him, of his thoughts and aspirations, who He really is deep inside, would be about the same as we have of some famous but distant celebrity. Before long, we would idolize him – but the connection would be a fantasy and about as real as the kind of relationship we can experience with a movie star or famous political leader.
So Why Does God Hide Himself From Us?
God has designed things in such a way that he remains invisible so that people might seek after Him. The effort and diligence required for such a quest, will produce a far better understanding of who God really is than if He was visibly and impressively present. God is only looking for a relationship with a certain kind of person – someone who is prepared to believe and trust in Him based on the evidence that He has presented to us in so many ways. This evidence is available to all, but only a certain kind of person will actually “see it”. This particular kind of person must first be shown it and secondly, be of such a disposition to be willing to accept and follow it. Such people will inevitably be in the minority among earth’s population.
When the apostle Paul stood on Mars Hill debating with the Greek philosophers, he made the following observations:
“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’ (Acts 17:24-28).
To this, we can add these words:
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb 11:6)
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see“. (Heb. 11:1)
The Special Gift Given to Humans
Describing Jesus, Paul wrote these words: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col 1:15). He is telling us that Jesus Christ fulfills the original intention that God had when creating man. How do we know this? Because in Gen 1:26-27 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Here was God’s intention when creating man. He formed man and woman in his own image and likeness, thus endowing them with the capacity to comprehend His ways and thoughts and by such means, to experience a relationship with God. He placed Adam and indeed all creation, into a natural material world that was willed into being by His energy for the purpose of accomplishing this objective. He made them lord over all the earth, with all the privileges that came with their status.
But when their relationship, their trust, in God was tested, they chose to believe a serpent instead of Him, so they lost it all. Jesus however, succeeded where they failed and so assumed the title “the image of the invisible God” and “firstborn of all creation” with all its privileges, in Adam’s place.
But we have digressed a little. The point is, that God is invisible to man. He deliberately hides Himself so that people might seek after Him. He works silently, behind the scenes, bringing about circumstances in their lives designed to teach and foster wisdom and humility, while building character. He allows us to make our own mistakes and experience the consequences of them – mistakes we might not have made if He had been visibly present to instruct us.
God does not come to us in His own person, but He will send regular everyday people as His messengers from time to time. Those He sends may not even be aware of the impact they are having. It all appears very natural and circumstantial. He does it this way because He wants us to be alert and receptive to instruction, to discern between good and evil and to grow.
Imagine if God was visibly present most of the time. He would be called upon to referee all our disputes, solve all our problems, intervene to prevent our sufferings. You might think that this would be a good thing. If it was the best way, then this is how God would do it. But the Father knows that it is best for us to be largely left to ourselves; to make our own decisions, deal with our own disputes, suffer for our mistakes. He has given us free reign over our lives because this is the ONLY WAY that CHARACTER can be developed.
Through all the twists and turns of life, peoples’ characters are either improved, or simply revealed for what they are. Either way, it is through this apparently natural process that we demonstrate whether we love the invisible God or not – and consequently, whether we are the kind of people to whom He will grant the gift of immortality.
Another Reason Why God Hides Himself
There was a time during Israel’s wilderness wanderings, when Moses’ siblings, Aaron and Miriam, challenged his authority. What motivated them to do this? Pride! But Moses, in this context, is described as “the meekest man in all the earth”. God had worked on him in his younger years and emptied Moses of himself.
So the LORD came to Moses’ defense. Listen to His words:
Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?”
Why would God speak to Moses “apparently” and without the dark sayings? Moses was not arrogant or pompous and required very little humbling. This suggests that the reason why God speaks in dark sayings, or parables if you like, is for the purpose of inducing meekness. God deliberately teaches us in a confusing manner because He requires intense concentration and effort from those who would know His secrets.
This brings us to Jesus. His miracles were without doubt, the visible hand of God in action – and this drew the wondering crowds. But whenever he opened his mouth to teach them, he only did so by using parables (Mark 4:33-34). On one occasion, his disciples asked him why he did this – and here is his answer:
“Because it has been given to you to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given. This is why I speak to them in parables – so that seeing, they may not see; and hearing, they may not hear, nor do they understand.” He went on to tell the disciples that most people were fulfilling the words of Isaiah and that the reason was, “because their hearts have become calloused” (Matt. 13:10-17).
Jesus’ teaching method was deliberately designed to sift out the genuine people from the rest. He only wanted those who sought the reflection of God, as opposed to the reflection of themselves, pursued by the majority. These would follow him until he revealed the meaning behind the stories. They would be like Elijah, who strained his ears intently, to hear the still small voice over the wind, earthquake and fire.
Now let’s extend this thought. Much of the Old Testament scriptures contain hidden meanings. Whether you’re looking at the requirements of the Law of Moses, the many stories, genealogies, even geographical locations . . . . . they all contain hidden meanings, most of them pointing forward to the gospel about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. This was “the secret that was hidden” (Eph. 3:9) but was then revealed to the Apostles, who shared it with the world.
So in summary, God deliberately hides himself from us, for the express purpose that we might seek after Him. He could easily show us His visible power but this would not help us to know His thoughts and His ways. The prerequisite to understanding the truth about Him, really knowing Him, is meekness and humility. Then His “dark sayings” are no longer necessary and He speaks to us “face to face” as it were. As long as we continue to listen to our own hearts at the expense of paying attention to what God is saying, we will never truly “see” Him. God wants us to empty ourselves that He might fill us up.
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