Truly you are a God that hide yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior.
If the chapter is examined it will be seen that God's hiding Himself is regarded but as a preparation of manifestation, and as a means of it. He hid Himself in employing Cyrus, but it was that He might be better known, that His control over men and nations might be recognised. We have then to consider the truth that God's hiding of Himself is in order that He may be better known, and that His great end in all is that all the ends of the earth may look to Him and be saved.
I. THIS IS TRUE OF THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE.
1. Think of an infinite Being, a perfect and eternal One, and of dependent spirits created and sustained by Him. Should we not have expected that this great and glorious Being would make Himself known to His creatures in some direct, clear, unmistakable way? Instead of such a visible, unmistakable appearance of God we have only a vast expanse of matter. Matter everywhere; God nowhere to be seen. There are great forces moving around us; but they are not God. We cannot see a face. We believe, we feel, we know that behind all a great Will is working, but we cannot see or touch that Will. Matter in its dulness and insensibility hides God. Its crassness and opacity keep the thought of God out of our minds. We lose God in the multitudinousness of the forms He presents to us. Beauty and grandeur even enchain our souls. We are delighted with the picture, and never rise beyond.
2. Yet this matter, so often felt as a concealing of God, is truly a revealing, a manifestation of qualities in God which otherwise would have been hidden from us. How could God's almighty power have been made plain to us except through matter? The variety, which may seem to hide God, reveals the inexhaustibleness of His resources. Minuteness reveals the greatness of His care. And though God remains hidden, the fact of His existence is made clear and certain to the practical reason of man. The marks of adaptation, purpose, and design are so multiplied, so direct and obvious in some cases, and so elaborate and complex in others, that conviction comes irresistibly on the general mind. The destruction and pain that are found in some parts of nature form a contrast needful to the setting off of the beneficence displayed in the enjoyment that abounds. Would not the beauty of the world be tame and unappreciated if it were confronted with no opposite? The very inexplicabeleness of some parts of the universe, their apparent contradiction to the goodness of God, are part of the lesson, and a most important part. They give us a sense of the mystery of God. They are the very things that waken up certain classes of minds. They serve, above all, to impress us with the thought that nature is no sufficient manifestation of God. They render necessary a lofty faith in God, and make welcome that higher revelation which is its nutriment.
II. IT IS TRUE OF LAW, which is found everywhere in the material universe, that while it seems to hide God it yet manifests Him in a higher way.
1. A system of law everywhere prevails. Each separate existence has its own law, and all are bound together by general laws. The thought of this all-pervading invariable law has something in it pleasing to the intellect of man. It even gives him delight to contemplate the unvarying order, and to trace regularity and harmony where at first there appeared only confusion. But the human heart does not take kindly to this idea of law. It feels as if it were imprisoned, and God put far away and deprived of power to help. It seems even, at times, as if God were put out of the universe, and scarcely even the name of Him left.
2. But it is a groundless alarm. The belief in law neither takes away God, nor deprives Him of His freedom and power to help. To show that God's working is regular is not to make it less His working. Order is not force. The channel in which power operates is not the power. The existence of law, then, does not really hide God.. It reveals Him in a grand and elevating way. What lessons it teaches of the Divine love for order, of the unity of God's mind, and His unchangeableness. What an impression it gives of the entire absence of caprice in His nature, and His absolute reliableness. How grandly it shows the subordination of all things, even the minutest, to one vast purpose.
III. IT IS TRUE OF THE MEANS AND AGENTS EMPLOYED BY GOD that in them He hides Himself and vet reveals Himself in a higher way.
1. God's great channels of power in the moral world are two — truth and men. The truth of God is so perfectly adapted to its purpose that; it seems to be doing all the work. So also is it with the human agency that God employs. The influence of men appears to depend so entirely on the energy they put forth, upon their adaptation to particular classes of men, upon their intellectual and moral incisiveness, upon a certain shining through of conviction, and a contagiousness of nature, that it seems as if it were a thing wholly in the human sphere. God is thoroughly hidden behind man.
2. But look what a grand revelation of Himself God gives by this arrangement. What a regard He shows to the souls He has made in using such an array of truth upon them. It is one of the greatest displays of God that He condescends to win by truth, that He stoops to reason and plead. And what noble qualities God shows in using human agents as He does. Does He not show His desire to bring out of each creature all its capabilities, His desire to give to the children the highest possible honour, to make them dear and honourable to each other, by making them the channels of the very highest blessing?
IV. GOD HIDES HIMSELF BEHIND DELAY AND DISASTER, AND YET REVEALS HIMSELF THROUGH THESE IN A HIGHER WAY. It is an old cause of perplexity to men that one event happens to the evil and the-good, and that God's work moves with such incredible slowness. And yet, in all this God is revealing Himself. He reveals His grand purpose and determination that men shall walk by faith. Would it be a benefit to men to be freed from the necessity of walking by faith? It would be stopping the channel between us and all God's blessings. God makes the world so full of contradiction and disaster, makes it so incalculable and mysterious, just because He loves us and does not wish us to stray away from Himself. What wealth of consolation He spreads abroad in hearts through the occasion and opportunity of sorrow.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.