Deus Absconditus: Why Does God Hide Himself?
Deus Absconditus: Why Does God Hide Himself?
Do you ever wonder why God doesn’t make things more clear? We pray and pray and pray. We desperately want to know God’s will. It would be so easy for Him to simply tell us what He wants. But He doesn’t. Why doesn’t Jesus reveal Himself to our friends and relatives who don’t believe in a way that doesn’t leave any doubt? Do we sometimes feel like God is hiding from us, like He’s purposely making it difficult to find His will?
Why does God like to remain hidden? Why doesn’t He do everything right out in the open for all to see? If He wants people to believe in Him, why doesn't He show Himself? Doesn’t God want to show all people His salvation? Why doesn't God give us clear answers to our prayers? Why doesn't He give us guidance in the decisions we have to make?
The very Scripture that God inspired actually asks all these same questions:
Isaiah 45:15 – Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel.
Psalm 10:1 – Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 44:23-24 – Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
"Why does God hide Himself?" is asked at times, not only by believers seeking a personal experience of God, but also by the atheist or agnostic seeking either to believe in God or to cast doubt on His existence.
The atheist's rant: If God exists, why isn't his existence obvious? If God reveals himself to religious believers, why doesn't he do it with everyone? If God is a real entity with a real effect on the world, why isn't it just obvious? Why is God playing hide and seek? If he were deliberately hiding himself from us, leaving maddeningly frustrating and inconsistent hints about his existence, always staying one step ahead, always keeping carefully out of sight, that would make us pawns in his manipulative, passive-aggressive game, especially if he punished us at the end of the game with intolerable, permanent torture, just because we guessed wrong. The principle of informed consent is that having the best possible information is essential to making good decisions. Why is God an exception to that rule? Believers claim that because God is a spirit, he can't be seen physically. But if there is a spiritual world affecting this physical one, we should be able to observe those effects, even if we can't observe the causes directly. For example, we believe in gravity, even though we can't measure it or detect it or even explain it. If religious believers had good evidence for their beliefs, they'd be giving it. Doesn't it seem likely that the reason we don't see him is that he doesn't exist?
Romans 1:20 – For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Examples of evidence that the world has a Designer:
• The structure of the eye
• Eyelashes and eyebrows
• Hormones and blood proteins
• Monarch butterflies
• Intricate interdependencies, indicating that the whole system of creation had to come into being at once, and not develop over millions of years
• DNA – Dr. Anthony Flew
• The laws of physics and time are imposed upon us from outside • We can't conceive of the universe not being contained in something
• Where did the Big Bang come from?
From creation, from the things that are made, we can see that there is a God and that He is allpowerful. However, what we cannot see and cannot know from nature is how God regards us. So the natural assumption is that if things are going well, God loves us, and if things are going poorly, if our prayers are not being answered, God must hate us – a wrong assumption, but one that we very often fall into, because God's purposes are hidden.
Why does God like to remain hidden?
Matthew 11:25-28 – At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Why? "for such was your gracious will", "for so it seemed good in Your sight", "for this was your good pleasure." In God's plan, it is good to hide salvation from some and give it to others. It is good and glorifies God to do such a thing, for God never does anything which would not bring Him glory. God has no obligation to reveal Himself to anyone.
The wise and prudent are those people who think they can learn and know about God simply through studying, and through worldly wisdom.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 – But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not —to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
Matthew 13:10-16 – The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: 'Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.' In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
According to Matthew 11:27-28, "no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me" – (1) the Son must reveal the Father to the person, and (2) the person must come to Jesus.
God is hidden. He has no obligation to reveal Himself to anyone. He reveals Himself to some.
He opens their minds by the Spirit, changes their heart, and enlightens their understanding about Him. The Son wills to reveal the Father in a special and personal way in which it will not always be the same. Compare the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch and the Apostle Paul.
God reveals Himself in His own time and in His own way. And strangely enough, God does not reveal Himself to everyone. Actually, the number of people He does not reveal Himself to is far greater than to those He does. In doing so, He leaves Himself wide open to accusations of unfairness, but He has plans that will bring Himself glory which none of us knows anything about.
The greatest revelation of the Father was the incarnation of Jesus. God appeared in plain view and performed miracles to prove His divinity, yet so many refused to believe in Him, because He didn't fit their pre-conceived ideas of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4 – The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
When we resent God's hiding Himself, essentially what we’re wanting is for God to operate by sight, not faith. We want Him to tell us in advance how He’s going to work things out. We want to see, not trust. But that’s just not how God does things. He likes to be trusted.
Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
If you want to please God, trust Him, not what you see or feel. To trust Him, you have to first know Him and His promises. That takes time and effort. God likes to be sought and so He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. His promises are in the Scriptures.
Luke 24:13-35 – Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Several important things are shown clearly in this passage:
1. While nature gives us abundant evidence of God's existence, Scripture is necessary to reveal God's overall plan of salvation and His great love for us. He wants us to believe in Him based on the testimony of Scripture itself. That prevents us from basing our perception of Him solely on personal experiences, which can often be conflicting.
2. The Bible, with its scarlet thread of salvation running through the unified story of Jesus' ancestors, traced through dozens of generations, spanning 4,000 years, and written by 40 writers is unique among religious books, and is sufficient proof of its divine authorship.
3. Bits of God's hidden plan were revealed progressively to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets, all pointing to Jesus.
4. The supreme moment of the revelation of our hidden God was on the cross at Calvary – the love He displayed there for those who had not yet shown Him any love. Indeed, Martin Luther sometimes referred to Christ crucified as the point at which God appeared to be the very contradiction of all that one might reasonably have anticipated Him to be. Although God may hide Himself in times of trouble, this is so that He can show Himself – but not where we expect. God hides Himself in order to reveal Himself in weakness and suffering, in sacrifice and the cross. There on the cross, precisely where our natural eyes see a weak, pathetic, miserable dying man, there we see God truly revealed. Where God is most hidden, on the cross, there is God revealed for who He truly is: the One who suffers with us, who suffers for us, who has endured our suffering and even taken it on Himself. When it seems as though the Lord is standing far off from us, hiding Himself in our times of trouble, He is hiding Himself precisely so that we will cry out to Him for rescue, confess our sins, and then see God not in an earthly triumph but in suffering.
5. God is revealed in the simple things, like the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine. God is a God who hides Himself to the patterns and expectations of this world. But He is not hidden from us. He is revealed to us in the means of grace, and there – and only there – we can know God’s disposition toward us, namely, that He loves us, forgives us, and is not far off when we are suffering.
So why isn’t God more clear or obvious to us? Because if He were, there would be no need to walk by faith, to believe Him rather than our circumstances. If He always spelled things out to us, we wouldn’t feel compelled to seek Him and so we’d never get to know Him any better. Our confusing circumstances, difficult trials and unmet needs are an invitation to seek God and trust Him today. Don’t focus on your circumstances. Don’t panic. Don’t anxiously look around you for a quick way out. Choose to spend time with Him. Dig into His word to know Him better and discover His promises to us, so that you can believe Him. He will reward you.