Isaiah 45:15
Truly you are a God that hide yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself . . .—The words have been variously taken: (1) as continuing the wondering homage of the heathen; (2) as spoken by the prophet as he surveys the unsearchable ways of God. (Comp. Romans 11:33.) Through the long years of exile He had seemed to hide Himself, to be negligent of His people (Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 54:8; Psalm 55:1) or unable to help them. Now it would be seen that He had all along been as the Strong one (El) working for their deliverance.

Isaiah

HIDDEN AND REVEALED

Isaiah 45:15
, Isaiah 45:19.

The former of these verses expresses the thoughts of the prophet in contemplating the close of a great work of God’s power which issues in the heathen’s coming to Israel and acknowledging God. He adores the depth of the divine counsels which, by devious ways and after long ages, have led to this bright result. And as he thinks of all the long-stretching preparations, all the apparently hostile forces which have been truly subsidiary, all the generations during which these Egyptian and Ethiopian tribes have been the enemies and oppressors of that Israel whom they at last acknowledge for the dwelling-place of God, and enemies of that Jehovah before whom they finally bow down, he feels that he has no measuring-line to fathom the divine purposes, and bows his face to the ground in reverent contemplation with that word upon his lips: ‘Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.’ It is a parallel to the apostolic words, ‘O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.’

But such thoughts are but a half truth, and may very easily become in men’s minds a whole error, and therefore they are followed by a marvellous section in which the Lord Himself speaks, and of which the whole burden is-the clearness and fulness with which God makes Himself known to men. True it is that there are depths inaccessible in the divine nature. True it is that there are mysteries unrevealed in the method of the divine procedure, and especially in that of the relation of heathen tribes to His gospel and His love. True it is that there are mysteries opened in the very word of His grace. But notwithstanding all this-it is also true that He makes Himself known to us all, that He declares righteousness, that He calls us to seek Him, and that He wills to be found and known by us.

The collocation of these two passages may be taken, then, as representing the two phases of the Divine Manifestation, the obscurity which must ever be associated with all our finite knowledge of God, and the clear sunlight in which blazes all that we need to know of Him.

I. After all revelation, God is hidden.

There is revelation of His Name in all His works. His action must be all self-manifestation. But after all it is obscure and hidden.

1. Nature hides while it reveals.

Nature’s revelation is unobtrusive.

God is concealed behind second causes.

God is concealed behind regular modes of working {laws}.

Nature’s revelation is partial, disclosing only a fragment of the name.

Nature’s revelation is ambiguous. Dark shadows of death and pain in the sensitive world, of ruin and convulsions, of shivered stars, seem to contradict the faith that all is very good; so that it has been possible for men to drop their plummet in the deep and say, ‘I find no God,’ and for others to fall into Manichaeism or some form or other of dualism.

2. Providence hides while it reveals.

That is the sphere in which men are most familiar with the idea of mystery.

There is much of which we do not see the issue. The process is not completed, and so the end is not visible.

Even when we believe that ‘to Him’ and ‘for good’ are ‘all things,’ we cannot tell how all will come circling round. We are like men looking only at one small segment of an ellipse which is very eccentric.

There is much of which we do not see the consistency with the divine character.

We are confronted with stumbling-blocks in the allotment of earthly conditions; in the long ages and many tribes which are without knowledge of God; in the sore sorrows, national and individual.

We can array a formidable host. But it is to be remembered that revelation actually increases these. It is just because we know so much of God that we feel them so keenly. I suppose the mysteries of the divine government trouble others outside the sphere of revelation but little. The darkness is made visible by the light.

3. Even in ‘grace’ God is hidden while revealed.

The Infinite and Eternal cannot be grasped by man.

The conception of infinity and eternity is given us by revelation, but it is not comprehended so that its contents are fully known. The words are known, but their full meaning is not, and no revelation can make them, known to finite intelligences.

God dwells in light inaccessible, which is darkness.

Revelation opens abysses down which we cannot look. It raises and leaves unsettled as many questions as it solves.

The telescope resolves many nebulae, but only to bring more unresolvable ones into the field of vision.

Now all this is but one side of the truth. There is a tendency in some minds to underrate what is plain because all is not plain. For some minds the obscure has a fascination, apart altogether from its nature, just because it is obscure. It is a noble emulation to press forward and ‘still to be closing up what we know not with what we know.’ But neither in science nor in religion shall we make progress if we do not take heed of the opposing errors of thinking that all is seen, and of thinking that what we have is valueless because there are gaps in it. The constellations are none the less bright nor immortal fires, though there be waste places in heaven where nothing but opaque blackness is seen. In these days it is especially needful to insist both on the incompleteness of all our religious knowledge, and to say that-

II. Notwithstanding all obscurity, God has amply revealed Himself.

Though God hides Himself, still there comes from heaven the voice-’I have not spoken in secret,’ Now these words contain these thoughts-

1. That whatever darkness there may be, there is none due to the manner of the revelation.

God has not spoken in secret, in a corner. There are no arbitrary difficulties made or unnecessary darkness left in His revelation. We have no right to say that He has left difficulties to test our faith. He Himself has never said so. He deals with us in good faith, doing all that can be done to enlighten, regard being had to still loftier considerations, to the freedom of the human will, to the laws which He has Himself imposed on our nature, and the purposes for which we are here. It is very important to grasp this. We have been told as much as can be told. Contrast with such a revelation the cave-muttered oracles of heathenism and their paltering double sense. Be sure that when God speaks, He speaks clearly and to all, and that in Christianity there is no esoteric teaching for a few initiated only, while the multitude are put off with shows.

2. That whatever obscurity there may be, there is none which hides the divine invitation or Him from those who obey it.

‘I have never said . . . seek ye Me in vain.’ Much is obscure if speculative completeness is looked for, but the moral relations of God and man are not obscure.

All which the heart needs is made known. His revelation is clearly His seeking us, and His revelation is His gracious call to us to seek Him. He is ever found by those who seek. They have not to press through obscurities to find Him, but the desire to possess must precede possession in spiritual matters. He is no hidden God, lurking in obscurity and only to be found by painful search. They who ‘seek’ Him know where to find Him, and seek because they know.

3. That whatever may be obscure, the Revelation of righteousness is clear.

We have to face speculative difficulties in plenty, but the great fact remains that in Revelation steady light is focussed on the moral qualities of the divine Nature and especially on His righteousness.

And the revelation of the divine righteousness reaches its greatest brightness, as that of all the divine Nature does, in the Person and work of Jesus. Very significantly the idea of God’s righteousness is fully developed in the immediately subsequent context. There we find that attribute linked in close and harmonious conjunction with what shallower thought is apt to regard as being in antagonism to it. He declares Himself to be ‘a just {righteous} God and a Saviour.’ So then, if we would rightly conceive of His righteousness, we must give it a wider extension than that of retributive justice or cold, inflexible aloofness from sinners. It impels God to be man’s saviour. And with similar enlarging of popular conceptions there follows: ‘In the Lord is righteousness and strength,’ and therefore, ‘In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified {declared and made righteous} and shall glory’-then, the divine Righteousness is communicative.

All these thoughts, germinal in the prophet’s words, are set in fullest light, and certified by the most heart-moving facts, in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He ‘declares at this time His righteousness, that He might Himself be righteous and the maker righteous of them that have faith in Jesus.’ Whatever is dark, this is clear, that ‘Jehovah our Righteousness’ has come to us in His Son, in whom seeking Him we shall never seek in vain, but ‘be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.’

If the great purpose of revelation is to make us know that God loves us, and has given us His Son that in Him we may know Him and possess His Righteousness, difficulties and obscurities in its form or in its substance take a very different aspect. What need we more than that knowledge and possession? Be not robbed of them.

Many things are not written in the book of the divine Revelation, whether it be that of Nature, of human history, or of our own spirits, or even of the Gospel, but these are written that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and believing, may have life in His name.Isaiah 45:15. Verily, &c. — These are the words of the prophet, drawn from him by the consideration of the great and various works and dispensations of God toward his church, and in the world; thou art a God that hidest thyself — Namely, from thy people for a season: thy counsels are deep and incomprehensible, and thy ways past finding out; O God of Israel, the Saviour — Who, though thou concealest the grounds and reasons of thy dispensations, and often deferrest to help thy people in the time of distress, yet art still carrying on their deliverance, and the destruction of their enemies, although in a mysterious way. And therefore it is meet that we should patiently wait for the accomplishment of these glorious things here promised us.45:11-19 Believers may ask in prayer for what they need; if for their good, it will not be withheld. But how common to hear God called to account for his dealings with man! Cyrus provided for the returning Jews. Those redeemed by Christ shall be provided for. The restoration would convince many, and convert some; and all that truly join the Lord, find his service perfect freedom. Though God be his people's God and Saviour, yet sometimes he lays them under his frowns; but let them wait upon the Lord who hides his face. There is a world without end; and it will be well or ill with us, according as it shall be with us in that world. The Lord we serve and trust, is God alone. All that God has said is plain, satisfactory, and just. As God in his word calls us to seek him, so he never denied believing prayers, nor disappointed believing expectations. He gives grace sufficient, and comfort and satisfaction of soul.Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself - That is, that hidest thy counsels and plans. The idea is, that the ways of God seems to be dark until the distant event discloses his purpose; that a long series of mysterious events seem to succeed each other, trying to the faith of his people, and where the reason of his doings cannot be seen. The remark here seems to be made by the prophet, in view of the fact, that the dealings of God with his people in their long and painful exile would be to them inscrutable, but that a future glorious manifestation would disclose the nature of his designs, and make his purposes known (see Isaiah 55:8-9): 'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways' (compare Psalm 44:24; the notes at Isaiah 8:17).

The Saviour - Still the Saviour of his people, though his ways are mysterious and the reasons of his dealings are unknown. The Septuagint renders this, 'For thou art God, though we did not know it, O God of Israel the Saviour.' This verse teaches us that we should not repine or complain under the mysterious allotments of Providence. They may be dark now. But in due time they will be disclosed, and we shall be permitted to see his design, and to witness results so glorious, as shall satisfy us that his ways are all just, and his dealings right.

15. God that hidest thyself—Horsley, after Jerome, explains this as the confession of Egypt, &c., that God is concealed in human form in the person of Jesus. Rather, connected with Isa 45:9, 10, the prophet, contemplating the wonderful issue of the seemingly dark counsels of God, implies a censure on those who presume to question God's dealings (Isa 55:8, 9; De 29:29). Faith still discerns, even under the veil, the covenant-keeping "God of Israel, the Saviour" (Isa 8:17). These are the words of the prophet, drawn from him by the contemplation of the great and various works and dispensations of God towards his church, and in the world.

That hidest thyself, to wit, from thy people for a season. Thy counsels are deep and incomprehensible, thy ways and carriages are past finding out, and full of beautiful variety. Sometimes thou hidest thy face, and withdrawest thy help from thy people, and sometimes thou dost show thyself to be their God and Saviour, as it follows. And therefore it is meet that we should patiently wait for the accomplishment of these glorious things here promised to us. And this admonition is most fitly inserted here, to prevent the mistakes of God’s people, and to intimate that these promises were not to be speedily executed, but that they must expect and prepare for many and sharp afflictions before that time should come, which yet should end in their salvation. Verily thou art a God that hideth thyself,.... Who hid himself from the Gentile world for some hundreds of years, who had no knowledge of the true God, lived without him in the world, and whose times of ignorance God overlooked, and suffered them to walk in their own ways; though now he would make himself known by his Gospel sent among them, and blessed for the conversion of them. He is also a God that hides himself from his own people at times, withdraws his gracious presence, and withholds the communication of his love and grace. These seem to be the words of the prophet, speaking his own experience, and that of other saints: or rather of the church, upon the access of the Gentiles to her, declaring what the Lord had been to them in former times; but now had showed himself to them in a way of grace and mercy. Some render it "thou art the hidden God" (z); invisible in his nature; incomprehensible in his essence; not to be found out to perfection, nor to be traced in his providential dispensations; his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out. It may be applied to Christ in his state of humiliation; for though he was God manifest in the flesh, yet the glory of his deity was seen but by a few, being hid in the coarse veil of humanity; he appearing in the form of a servant, who was in the form of God, and equal to him; and to him the following words agree:

O God of Israel, the Saviour; for he is God over all, and the God of his spiritual Israel in an especial manner; and the Saviour of them from sin, wrath, condemnation, and death, by his obedience, sufferings, and death; or if it is to be understood of God the Father, who is the God of Israel, he is the Saviour of them by his Son.

(z) "tu es Deus absconditus", V. L. Tigurine version; "tu es abditus Deus Israelis", Syr.

Verily thou art a God that {t} hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.

(t) By this he exhorts the Jews to patience, though their deliverance is deferred for a time: showing that they would not repent their long patience, but the wicked and idolaters will be destroyed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. It is difficult to say whether this verse continues the confession of the heathen, or whether it contains the prophet’s own reflexion on the marvellous issue of the deliverance.

a God that hidest thyself] The prophet would perhaps hardly have used this language in his own name (see Isaiah 45:19). But to the nations of the world Jehovah had hitherto been a hidden deity; His power and glory had never been reflected in the fortunes of His own people. Now at length He is revealed in His true character, as a “Saviour” (or Deliverer) (see on ch. Isaiah 43:3). Comp., however, ch. Isaiah 55:8 f.; Deuteronomy 29:29; Proverbs 25:2, for a sense in which Jehovah might be said to hide Himself even from Israel.Verse 15. - Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself. Some commentators regard this as an exclamation made by Isaiah himself, who marvels at the unsearchable mystery of God's ways. But others, with better reason, take it for a continuation of the speech of the converted heathen, who marvel that God has so long hid himself from them and from the world at large, not manifesting his power, as he has now done in the person of Cyrus. In this recent manifestation he has shown himself especially the God of Israel, and their Saviour. The promise is now continued in the third strophe (Isaiah 45:9-13), and increases more and more in the distinctness of its terms; but just as in Isaiah 29:15-21, it opens with a reproof of that pusillanimity (Isaiah 40:27; cf., Isaiah 51:13; Isaiah 49:24; Isaiah 58:3), which goes so far to complain of the ways of Jehovah. "Woe to him that quarreleth with his Maker - a pot among the pots of earthenware? Can the clay indeed say to him that shapeth it, What makest thou? and thy work, He hath no hands? Woe to him that saith to his father, What begettest thou? and to the woman, What bringest thou forth?" The comparison drawn between a man as the work of God and the clay-work of a potter suggested itself all the more naturally, inasmuch as the same word yootseer was applied to God as Creator, and also to a potter (figulus). The word cheres signifies either a sherd, or fragment of earthenware (Isaiah 30:14), or an earthenware vessel (Jeremiah 19:1; Proverbs 26:23). In the passage before us, where the point of comparison is not the fragmentary condition, but the earthen character of the material ()'adâmâh), the latter is intended: the man, who complains of God, is nothing but a vessel of clay, and, more than that, a perishable vessel among many others of the very same kind.

(Note: The Septuagint reads shin for sin in both instances, and introduces here the very unsuitable thought already contained in Isaiah 28:24, "Shall the ploughman plough the land the whole day?")

The questions which follow are meant to show the folly of this complaining. Can it possibly occur to the clay to raise a complaint against him who has it in hand, that he has formed it in such and such a manner, or for such and such a purpose (compare Romans 9:20, "Why hast thou made me thus")? To the words "or thy work" we must supply num dicet (shall it say); pō‛al is a manufacture, as in Isaiah 1:31. The question is addressed to the maker, as those in Isaiah 7:25 are to the husbandman: Can the thing made by thee, O man, possibly say in a contemptuous tone, "He has no hands?" - a supposition the ridiculous absurdity of which condemns it at once; and yet it is a very suitable analogy to the conduct of the man who complains of God. In Isaiah 45:10 a woe is denounced upon those who resemble a man who should say to his own father, What children dost thou beget? or to a wife, What dost thou bring forth? (techı̄lı̄n an emphatic, and for the most part pausal, fut. parag., as in Ruth 2:8; Ruth 3:18). This would be the rudest and most revolting attack upon an inviolably tender and private relation; and yet Israel does this when it makes the hidden providential government of its God the object of expostulation.

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