Truly You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.
I. THE REVELATION OF HIMSELF. "O God of Israel." The God who was thus addressed was, emphatically, a Revealing One. He was known to Israel as the One who revealed himself to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, to Moses and Aaron, to Samuel and David and Solomon, to all his holy prophets. We also know God as the Being who has revealed himself in nature, in the human reason and conscience, in providence, and more especially in Jesus Christ. We worship him as the God who "hath showed us light," who has made clear to us his nature, his character, his disposition toward us, his sinful children, the conditions under which he will receive and reinstate us.
II. HIS CONCEALMENT OF HIMSELF. "Thou art a God that hides[ thyself." We see this truth appearing in various directions.
1. In the processes of nature. The power of God is in all the beneficent forces of nature, working out for us the changes of the seasons, the bounties and the beauties of the earth, the wonders of human attainment; but his hand is unseen, his touch unfelt.
2. In his government of mankind. Israel did not understand what Jehovah was doing with her; as a nation she entirely misunderstood her mission. God concealed the purpose he had in his training and his providential treatment. The other nations of antiquity - Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome - were serving a Divine purpose; but they knew it not. It was "the mystery hid from the ages and generations."
3. In his redemption of our race. How little did the apostles, while they accompanied our Lord and ministered to his wants and witnessed his sufferings, imagine that he was laying the foundations of a spiritual and universal empire - a kingdom of truth and love! What a blessed purpose, what a grand design was concealed beneath the humble person and the peaceful ministry of the Son of man! And in all the subsequent outworkings of the Divine plan, how much has there been of Divine concealment! So that, as one has said, while these eighteen centuries have been anni Domini, we have had to lament -
"Years of the Lord are these, 4. In his conduct of each human, life. We believe that God is ordering our lives, shaping and moulding them, determining their course, and deciding what shall be the witness they shall bear and the work they shall do - what shall be their contribution to the great campaign he is conducting. But, here again, his hand is all unseen. Often, generally, we cannot detect the unity, the plan, the purpose of our lives; it is because we walk by faith and not by sight that we are convinced of the presence of his intervening and overruling power. Many are the dark passages in the good man's career, when he is prompted to exclaim, "Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself." III. HIS MANIFESTATION IN REDEEMING LOVE. The last word we have to use is a word which explains everything - "the Saviour." Israel is brought very low; God's face is hidden from his people; he seems to have forgotten them; but he comes in redeeming grace, and "with the saving strength of his right hand" proves himself their Refuge and their Friend. The human race goes from bad to worse, and, when it seems delivered over to corruption and ruin, there is born in the city of David a Saviour, Jesus Christ. The hour in our experience is dark, misfortunes have multiplied, disaster is imminent; but our extremity is his opportunity, and God appears in delivering power. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." From the very edge of the precipice we are snatched by the strong and saving hand of God. 1. Circumstances of distress are no proof of God's absence. He may only be hiding his face for a while. 2. Let all souls in their integrity appeal for and anticipate a merciful and full redemption (Psalm 50:15). - C.
4. In his conduct of each human, life. We believe that God is ordering our lives, shaping and moulding them, determining their course, and deciding what shall be the witness they shall bear and the work they shall do - what shall be their contribution to the great campaign he is conducting. But, here again, his hand is all unseen. Often, generally, we cannot detect the unity, the plan, the purpose of our lives; it is because we walk by faith and not by sight that we are convinced of the presence of his intervening and overruling power. Many are the dark passages in the good man's career, when he is prompted to exclaim, "Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself."
III. HIS MANIFESTATION IN REDEEMING LOVE. The last word we have to use is a word which explains everything - "the Saviour." Israel is brought very low; God's face is hidden from his people; he seems to have forgotten them; but he comes in redeeming grace, and "with the saving strength of his right hand" proves himself their Refuge and their Friend. The human race goes from bad to worse, and, when it seems delivered over to corruption and ruin, there is born in the city of David a Saviour, Jesus Christ. The hour in our experience is dark, misfortunes have multiplied, disaster is imminent; but our extremity is his opportunity, and God appears in delivering power. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." From the very edge of the precipice we are snatched by the strong and saving hand of God.
1. Circumstances of distress are no proof of God's absence. He may only be hiding his face for a while.
2. Let all souls in their integrity appeal for and anticipate a merciful and full redemption (Psalm 50:15). - C.
1. God hid Himself when He brought them into the trouble, hid Himself, and was wroth (Isaiah 57:17).
Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself.1. Isaiah's mind is impressed with the fact that if God is "the God of Israel and the Saviour," He does some things scarcely in apparent consistency with that character. How many times did He abandon His people Israel to their enemies! And how was He about to suffer them to be led captive into Babylon for a long threescore years and ten! And even when His ways to them were evidently merciful and kind, God's acts of kindness came at times, under circumstances, in ways, by persons, that could not have been looked for; making His very mercies as surprising on the one hand as His judgments might have been on the other. "Verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself" — that hidest Thy counsels, Thy purposes, Thy mercies, Thy methods of operation.
2. A reflection of this sort might, with full as much justice, arise from a contemplation of the ways of God towards His spiritual Israel — a people to whom He is attached by still stronger ties than those which bound Him to Israel of old. Precious is His mercy; and yet how severe some of His dealings appear! And His mercies too! — how strangely they come; as though He would choose the unlikeliest of all circumstances, the darkest of all seasons, the most improbable of all means, for communicating them; as though He would make us have mercies when we expect trials, and find out of the darkest cloud there proceeds the brightest sunshine. And He works strange things — things not apparently congruous or reconcilable with His character of covenant friendship and love.
3. Nor is this any peculiarity at all, attaching itself to this part of the ways and administration of God. The same feature of the Divine conduct may be seen wherever else we look, whether at home or taking a wider circle.(1) If we look at the works of nature there is the same thing. About one half the animal world prey upon the other half.(2) Or look at man. Look at the body of man; made in marvellous wisdom, with a thousand adaptations for action; and yet this very body of man is seized upon by several thousand diseases, that inflame and torment, as though it were their domain and home. Look at the mind of man; made to be, adapted to be, a source of innumerable delights; and yet to what a vast extent it is the prey of ignorance, pride, anger, jealousy, rage, and impure and tormenting passions.(3) Look at human society. You see social affections at play, and the various circumstances in which men are placed adapted and prepared for their most delightful exercise, so that even trying circumstances are fitted for calling into exercise the liveliest and happiest affections; but yet what is human society? You may call it Aceldama — a field of Mood; a sphere in which the weak are trampled upon by the strong; in which violence, fraud, rapine, gain, plunder, the sword, and all instruments of moral and physical mischief are brought to bear upon the destruction of the happiness and the life of men.(4) And God s providence. God's providence is to be taken to be a system of wise and holy and beneficent administration; and yet what is it, when you look at it? There are many appearances, indeed, of its being so; but many dark things in it that one cannot at all understand.(5) Or if you contemplate the works of God in the state of this world — in the condition in which it becomes the theatre for the interposition of God in redemption, and affords scope for the great work of redeeming love through His dear Son — what a mystery is here! God made man upright — made a world for holiness, for happiness, for virtue, for religion; but into what a condition the world is come before it affords Him opportunity for redemption! Why, the whole world is contaminated; the world becomes a theatre of rebellion; and God, with all His love, is obliged to come forth with a curse, and reveal wrath from heaven against the universal impiety and injustice of men. Now, views of this sort are painful in two ways.
1. They give occasion to men of sceptical minds to think and to say hard things; they feed and nourish the enmity of their hearts against God.
2. They give occasion to many painful thoughts in the children of God.
(J. H. Hinton, M. A.)
I. TAKING THE CASE AT THE VERY WORST, IT IS NOTHING BUT A CASE OF DIFFICULTY. It is not that the ways of God are in any case such as yield demonstration of ill. It is admitted that these difficulties may, for aught that appears, admit of a wise and happy solution.
II. WE HAVE NO REASON AT ALL TO COMPLAIN OF THE DIFFICULTIES, THE KIND AND DEGREE OF MYSTERY, THAT NOW ATTACHES TO THE WAYS OF GOD, NOR ANY REASON TO EXPECT IT SHOULD BE OTHERWISE.
1. The mystery which attaches to the ways of God arises in part from physical, from natural causes. In fact, there is an impossibility of its being removed. And this arises out of the great diversity of knowledge and understanding that there is betwixt God and ourselves.
2. Then this mystery arises in part from the unfavourableness of our position even for making use of what faculties we have. We do not stand so in relation to God and His ways as to take the most clear and favourable view of them. We are looking upon the ways of God from the earth; let us wait till we get to a better position.
3. Then we have no reason to complain of this mystery, because God, as the Governor of the world, has a right to work in darkness. The Foreign Secretary of the English Government works in mystery. How the world would laugh at him if he did not! — if he let all men, friends or foes, know what he was about! And is the Governor of all things to have no mysteries? "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing"; and that He can form designs and work them out, and defy the whole universe to penetrate them, or to know what He means to do till He sees fit to disclose His plan in all its completeness, and lay bare the beauty in the eyes of all — there is His glory as a Governor. And there is not any one of His friendly subjects that will ever complain of this.
4. The provision of God's government, as respecting ourselves, has a probationary and disciplinary design.
III. THE WISDOM, HOLINESS, AND GOODNESS OF GOD ARE IN POINT OF FACT ESTABLISHED SO FIRMLY BY SOLID PROOFS AND ARGUMENTS THAT NOT ALL THE MYSTERY WHICH ATTACHES TO THE WAYS OF GOD AT PRESENT CAN EVER DISTURB THE TRUTH OF THEM.
IV. WHEN WE LOOK AT SUCH PARTS OF GOD'S WAYS AS ARE ALREADY FINISHED WE SEE THE MYSTERY DISAPPEAR FROM THEM; and however, if they had been looked at in their progress, they would have seemed very mysterious and difficult to be understood, when they are finished they appear wise and kind and good. For some parts of God s ways, though small comparatively, are finished. Look at the history of Joseph, for example, from the time when he provoked the jealousy of his brethren. Look at the case of Job; the apostle notices it in this way — "Ye have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." Now from one, judge all the ways of God.
V. THE MYSTERY WHICH NOW ATTACHES TO THE WAYS OF GOD MUST BE EFFECTUALLY AND COMPLETELY DONE AWAY HEREAFTER, because God Himself (if one may speak it reverently) stands as a candidate for the applause of the universe. He is working out His designs in the presence of beings whom He has made capable of understanding them in part; ourselves, for example, and the devils, and the angels in heaven. He is working out His designs in the presence of critical judges. Not that it is of any consequence to God, one may say, what we think of His ways; but yet, inasmuch as God has made us capable of appreciating His ways, and of deriving emotions from understanding them, there can be no question but that God means to stand well in the judgment of creatures whom He has thus made capable of judging. Practical improvement —
1. One may learn hence the infinite importance of a spirit of friendship with God.(1) Because it is only in the spirit of a friend that His character can be justly viewed.(2) Because of the very fact of the mystery of His ways. God's ways to yourself will be mysterious; and how can you bear to be in the hands of a mysterious Being, a Being whose ways are mysterious, without being sure that He is your friend?
2. The friends of God should learn to trust Him with unshaken confidence. We have grounds for confidence — security that God's character is all that it should be.
3. Let us anticipate with joy the world that is to come. The world to come will be the time (so to speak) for God's turning towards us the tapestry which He is working.
(J. H. Hinton, M. A.)
2. He hid Himself when He was bringing them out of the trouble (Psalm 77:19).
( M. Henry.)
I. GOD, THE SAVIOUR OF ISRAEL, IS A GOD THAT HIDETH HIMSELF. That His dispensations, though wise and merciful, are often mysterious —
1. Would be supposed by reason.
2. Is proved by experience.
II. THOUGH HE HIDETH HIMSELF HE IS ALWAYS THE SAVIOUR OF HIS PEOPLE. Though the dispensations of Providence towards them are inscrutable, they have a certain connection with their salvation.
(H. Kollock, D. D.)
(G. Felix Williams.)I. NATURE is a house of concealment for God.
II. PROVIDENCE is also a house of concealment for God.
III. God was hidden IN JESUS CHRIST.
(G. Felix Williams.)
1. God is often hidden from us in prayer.
2. He must be hidden from us whenever we presumptuously sin against Him.
3. He is also hidden when we feel a want of reliance on Him, and comfort in Him, under the ordinary trials and sufferings of the present life.
(A. Gatty, M. A.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. THAT OF GOD HIDING HIMSELF IN REGARD OF HIS OWN NATURE AND PROPERTIES. In real truth, we know nothing of God in Himself; we know Him only in His attributes, and His attributes only as written in His Word and His works. Let it only be remembered that we are a mystery to ourselves; that every object around us baffles our penetration; that there is not an insect, nor a leaf, nor an atom, which does not master us if we attempt to apprehend its nature and its growth, and we must admit that there is a presumption which outbraves language in expecting that we may ascertain what God is, and how God subsists. Even when God makes announcements of His nature, they are such as quite baffle our reason!
1. Look at the doctrine of the Trinity.
2. So soon as God has been addressed as a "God that hideth Himself" He is addressed as "the Saviour." And we are free to own, in respect of the scheme of our salvation, that whilst everything is disclosed which has reference to ourselves, there is much hidden which has reference to God. We can form no adequate notion of the Incarnation: how the Godhead could tabernacle in flesh; how Divinity and humanity could coalesce to make a Mediator; how there could be a bearing of sin and yet freedom from sinfulness; the impossibility of being overcome by temptation, and yet such a capacity of being tempted as should ensure sympathy to ourselves. It lies beyond human power, at least with the present amount of revelation, to scan the wonders of the Person, and to unravel the intricacies of the work of redemption. "Verily Thou art a God that hideth Thyself" is what we are forced to exclaim even when contemplating God as "the God of Israel, the Saviour." But in what tone should we make the exclamation? The points to which we have referred are not points which it concerns men accurately to understand, though it is at their own peril not to believe; and there is nothing by which God is so much honoured, and the soul so much advantaged, as by our taking Him at His word.
3. We observe in reference to the Bible, as before in reference to the Divine nature, that it is the sublimity which produces the obscurity.
4. And if God, when discovering Himself as the Saviour, hide much in regard of the mysteries of redemption, does He not also hide much of its individual application? How secretly the Holy Spirit enters into the heart of man!
II. THAT OF HIS HIDING HIMSELF IN REGARD OF HIS DEALINGS WITH HIS CREATURES.
1. God conceals much in the dispensations of His providence. He does not lay open the reasons of His appointments; He does not explain why prosperity should be allotted to one man and adversity to another.
2. God hides from His creatures the day of their death.
3. God has hidden muck from us with regard to a future state.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. GOD HIDES HIMSELF IN NATURE. "In Him we live and move and have our being," yet where is He? Worlds move in their orbits and "stars in their courses," because an unseen hand upholds and guides. The telescope brings distant worlds in view and reveals everywhere His presence and power, but no telescope is so powerful as to bring God within range of our vision. Study the origin of life, and with aid of the microscope gaze upon the simplest germs fresh from the hand of God, and that hand seems almost in sight, but; still He eludes our sight.
II. THE GOD OF PROVIDENCE HIDES HIMSELF. "Thy way is in the sea, and Thy footsteps are not known." His providences stagger human reason, and His purposes and ways are past finding out (Psalm 73.). We look on the wrong side of the pattern, but God is behind the curtain. His hand holds the shuttle, His foot is on the treadle, He will weave the web of our life into a pattern beautiful and glorious according to His Divine design. History is the unfolding of His providence on a large scale, which "almost reveals, but does not quite conceal," the finger that writes its records.
III. THE GOD OF GRACE HIDES BEHIND HIS PURPOSES OF GRACE. The analogy between nature and grace is very striking.
IV. WILL GOD HIDE HIMSELF IN HEAVEN ALSO; OR WILL HE COME FORTH TO VIEW IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNITY? "No man shall see Me and live" seems to imply a possibility after death. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." But do not the pure of earth see God in that sense? In a certain sense we will "see His face," but in all probability He will even in eternity be a God that hideth Himself, in order that eternity may be a continual revelation more and more of His beauty and glory.
V. GOD HIDES HIMSELF, BUT NOT HIS MERCY. His love shines on every page of the Scriptures, and "His mercy is in the heavens," above the brightness of the sun. Whatever else may be dark, the way of life is plain.
(S. L. Morris, D. D.)
II. AS REGARDS THE SOVEREIGNTY OF ALL HIS WORKS IN CREATION AND PROVIDENCE.
III. IN THE RICHES OF HIS ATONING LOVE IN JESUS CHRIST.
IV. IN THE ENERGY OF HIS SAVING POWER BY THE HOLY GHOST.
(H. M'Neile, M. A.)
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.)
1. One use is to train us to reverence.
2. God's hiding of Himself is necessary to our freedom. Our great Teacher puts this thought, as is His wont, into the parable of an Eastern lord going into a far country and delivering his goods into the custody of his servants, that, in his absence, they may so use them as to increase them. In order to the development of every human life a certain amount of freedom is necessary. The over-awing sensible presence of God would completely destroy our freedom. It would paralyse our activities.
3. It is necessary to our perfectness of nature. But perfectness in man is not simply a matter of outward condition, it implies internal correspondence with an environment in itself perfect. In order to perfectness of inward condition there must be the ability of faith in a Power outside ourselves, and of faith in all around us, the ability of perpetual hope, the ability of undying love. And it is not possible, so far as we can see, to develop these virtues unless we have room for their growth. The invisibility of God is necessary to their growth.
(R. Thomas, D. D.)I. SEE HOW CONTINUOUS HAS BEEN THIS LAW.
1. The records of the world before the flood, scanty as they are, show us that it was ever present in that earliest dispensation. Through that darkness we can see man under the dispensation of an incomplete revelation; God, ever present and yet ever hidden, and restraining His manifestation of Himself even as He gives it. What an expression it is, "God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt." That looking on it, His revelation; that turning aside from it, His hiding of His face, because He could not endure its corruption and its violence.
2. After the flood it is still the same; as to the world at large most evidently so. How soon does the knowledge of God die out, even in the family of Noah! Then the Lord calls Abraham, and reveals Himself to that one chosen witness What a hiding of Himself, even in His revelation, does this imply. Even more remarkable yet is the presence of this law amongst those to whom the light was given. Marvellous communications of Himself were made by God to Abraham. When the three mysterious strangers stood suddenly before him as he sat in his tent-door in the heat of the day, how near he is to the knowledge of the Divine Trinity; and when the men vanish out of his sight, and he is left alone "before the Lord," how is the Trinity gathered up again into the unity of the Godhead. So again, when the assurance of his own acceptance is vouchsafed to him as the lamp of God moves between the divided pieces of his sacrifice, a horror of great darkness falls upon the spirit of the favoured man. In the revelation of Himself God still hides Himself, even from the opened eye of Abraham. So it continues all along the line.
3. So it was throughout the whole prophetic dispensation. What growing light, — what remaining darkness meet us everywhere.
4. How plainly is the same feature to be traced in the personal ministry of Our Lord Himself! This is everywhere discernible in His conduct to the scribes and Pharisees, and even to the multitude. What else were those charges to one and another not to make known His miraculous works of healing; what else the wrapping up of His words in parables; that "seeing they might see and not perceive, and hearing they might hear and not understand"? And even with His own disciples He acted to a great degree on the same rule. How plainly do their words and acts convey to us the idea of men living under a sense of mystery which they could not fathom.
5. Is not the same law marked even upon the open revelation of the dispensation of the Spirit? God's sovereignty and man's free agency; the co-working of His almighty grace and our own personal responsibility; the infinite love and power of God, and the origin and being of evil; who can explain the co-existence of these wonders?
6. Nor is it otherwise, if from these unsolved difficulties of thought we turn to the direct appointments of the Church of Christ. Do not the blessed sacraments of the Gospel at once reveal and hide the Divine Presence?
7. Most signally, too, is this true as to God s dealings with individual souls in the Church of the redeemed.
8. We may trace it in the Church at large. Bright as is the light, where is it without the shadow following it?
II. ITS OBJECT. Here, then, is the dispensation. Why we are put under it the fewest words may safest tell Evidently it is of God's love for us, and of His pity for our weakness. It is because we cannot now bear more; and that we may be led on to more.
III. ITS CONSEQUENCES. What especially we should learn from His having placed us under such a dispensation seems to be —
1. That if we would know Him we must follow hard after Him.
2. The need of reverence in seeking.
3. The true mode of treating these mysteries is neither to deny their existence nor to fear their presence, still less to let them minister to the production of doubt or unbelief, but to look at them as men look at the clouds which fleck the heavens; which, though for the time they hide the sun, yet do not make it the less present in the firmament, but which may themselves become so full of its light as to give back its radiance with a beauty which, if its burning brightness had not been broken by them into the infinity of light and shade, it could not have possessed.
(Bp. S. Wilberforce, D. D.)
1. Christ as the revelation of God leads to the doctrine of the Trinity. Happy shall we be if we can feel the unity of the two aspects of mystery and revelation as the prophet did, and join them, as he did, without any sense of hostility between them.
2. If men would only see that the doctrine of a Trinity has its first ground in the longing of God to get near to man, it would not so often be pronounced hard, cold, and useless. We should all see how to use it. When life and the world seemed cruel and disappointing, seemed to be discouraging us from any attempt to find God, then we would turn to our doctrine of God and, gathering re-assurance from the announcement that there is in the Godhead not only the power of sitting afar off in mysterious grandeur, but also the power of coming near to each one of us, and being one with us, we should take up our life again with new courage, and go back to the world with new confidence, feeling sure that God is in it, and is not beyond meeting us there.
3. Another characteristic of our search for God is, that we want Him to be like us in character and feeling. If He is not, we do not see how we can form any estimate of Him, and know Him at all. And yet that desire to have Him like us has led to such evil results that men often distrust it. It has so generally resulted in making a man's God only an unnaturally magnified reflection of his own character that the pictures thus produced have been anything but attractive. They have so often had cruelty, hatred, and narrowness in them that men, rejecting such representations, have said, "We cannot know God, He is so different from us; He is a God that hideth Himself.
4. We turn again to that revealed picture of our God as it is given in the thought of a Trinity, and we find that it contains the very central idea of human life, — mutual feeling and relation.
(A. Brooks, D. D.)
I. THE FACT HERE STATED, that God hides Himself. This is a fact that none will dispute; for —
1. He is unseen.(1) In the works of nature. We do not see Him engaged in them as we see men engaged in what they do.(2) In the dispensations of providence. The word "providence" means God, foreseeing, arranging, and controlling events that happen. We are often so staggered by what takes place, it is so contrary to what we expected, that we have no answer to the question, "Where is thy God?"(3) In His spiritual operations. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," &c. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, but no one saw Him do it.
2. God hides Himself, in that He has not reavealed Himself to us in such a way as to render doubt and unbelief impossible. He has not left Himself without witnesses. God may be known by His works, not must be. God has revealed Himself in His Word. God Has revealed Himself in His Son. But the incarnation is a concealment of God, as well as a manifestation.
II. REASONS WHY GOD THUS HIDES HIMSELF. There must be some very sufficient reason for this conduct on the part of God. There is a very deep sense in which God hides Himself from us on account of our sins; that is, withdraws from us the sense of His spiritual presence and the tokens of His favour (Isaiah 59:2). But that is not the hiding to which the prophet here refers. He hides Himself because this is necessary for our moral probation and discipline. He was not always visible to our first parents in the garden; for when they heard His voice, after they sinned, they hid themselves. They would scarcely have eaten of the forbidden fruit while conscious that His eye was upon them. In like manner it is necessary for our probation that God should not be seen. He hides Himself —
1. To try our faith. Jesus said to Thomas, "Because thou hast seen thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed." Faith has reason and a sufficient revelation on which to rest; but if a man does not wish to retain the knowledge of God, he may find room for doubt and unbelief even in regions where the pure in heart see God.
2. To test our love. We must have a high and intelligent appreciation of the character of a being, and our love to him must have its roots deep down in our moral nature, if we are to continue to love him during a long absence, even though at one time we have seen him; but how high must be our appreciation of his character and work if we can say of him, "Whom having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." If we so love Christ when we do not see Him. how shall we love Him when we see Him as He is!
3. To test the strength of our principles. A master wishes to know how his servant does when he is absent; a father wishes to know how his son Conducts himself when from home. If he hears that his son is as pure and upright and loving as he ever was when the eyes of his parents were upon him, it fills his heart with satisfaction and delight; so God wishes to know what we will do when we seem to be left to ourselves. It is then that our principles are tested. God hides Himself to see what we will do. He sees us, though we cannot see Him. No dispensation could be better than the one under which we live, to develop our principles and form our character; it is a dispensation of faith, not sight, in which we are being trained to do right because it is right, even though we cannot at the time see the consequences that will follow right or wrong.
4. To test our confidence in His arrangements, whether we will trust Him even when we cannot trace Him. There are many who think that they could bear the ills of life if they were sure that God appointed them, but their trials seem to come so entirely from human sources that it seems to them as though they were just left to be the victims of human caprice. But we must endure as seeing the invisible, and say of man as Jesus said to Pilate: "Thou couldest have no power against Me except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11).
5. In order that we may seek Him. We spare no pains in seeking that which we highly value, and God will be appreciated. He seeks us, but we must also seek Him. Lessons —(1) This subject ought to rebuke ostentation when engaged in works of benevolence. God hides Himself even when He does good. How, then, ought we to hide ourselves even when doing good!(2) This also rebukes those who hide their talents because they are few, and do nothing because they cannot do great things. They think that the little they can do will never be noticed or seen, and therefore they neglect to do it. We are to hide ourselves, but not our talents. We are to do the good we can, however small it be, and even though it should never be known that we did anything.(3) The fact that God hides Himself is no excuse for our not knowing Him. He has never said, "Seek ye Me in vain." He has said, "Seek ye My face," and "They that seek Me shall find Me" (Isaiah 55:6, 7).
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