Why Does God Seem To Hide Himself?

Hiddeness-of-GodIf you have seen the brilliant documentary by Ben Stein “Expelled“, you would remember Ben’s interview with Richard Dawkins in which he candidly asked Dawkins what he would do if he met God after he died, to which Dawkins replied:

“Bertrand Russell had that point put to him and he said something like, ‘Sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?’”

It would have to be one of the most brought up topics by atheists. If God is real, why does he seemingly make it so difficult for non-believers to know that he is there? Yet, is this necessarily the case? It is certainly a human trait for us to worship things that we see. The history of mankind features thousands of idols made from wood, stone and gold, yet the God of the Bible is a God who is immaterial and invisible. In Isaiah 45:15, the prophet Isaiah declares that God is hidden;

Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself, the God and Savior of Israel.

If God desires a relationship with mankind, why does he seem to avoid the very thing he desires by hiding himself? Surely, if he revealed himself to everybody, he could enjoy a relationship with everybody, right?

Here is the enigma about God and those who discover his reality. God is an extremely intelligent being. In fact, there is no limit to his wisdom and understanding. Yet, God is personable in the sense that he enjoys companionship. God is a trinity with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and their union is an eternal community of love. Consequently, 1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.” God could not be “love” if he wasn’t triune in nature. At a fixed time in the past, God brought the universe into existence out of nothing (ex-nihilo) as science has confirmed, created the earth and created man as the crowning point of his creative work. Initially, God and man enjoyed fellowship together until sin came into the world. Sin is the very thing that separates us from God and causes God and us to become distant. Isaiah 59:2 says,

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Consequently, sinful man, on his terms, cannot get into contact with God. Sinful man in his cynical pride and arrogance can try to search for God as much as he wants, but God will never be found by him. Eph 4:18 says, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

Only God sets the terms by which he reveals himself, and that is by faith. Heb 11:1,6 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. . . 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.” Considering that God made man in his image, one of the most distinguishing features of this is our “free-will”. We have the freedom to choose to love him and follow him or to reject him.

However, God has stacked the odds against himself even further by allowing Satan limited reign upon the earth and allowing him and his hordes to deceive the masses. 2 Cor 4:4 says, “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.” God has stacked the odds against himself, because his desire is to spend eternity with those who through insurmountable odds, doubts, trials and temptations persisted in living their lives in obedience and submission to Him. God could’ve created us like robots that automatically worship him, but no, God wanted us to have freewill with the ability and freedom to decide to either choose him or reject him, and this life is the life which determines that for the rest of eternity. Jesus says in Matt 24:13, “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” and in Rev ch 2 and 3 Jesus says “To him who overcomes…” a total of seven times (Rev 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21) and each time follows with a different reward to Christians who overcome in this life.

There are generally two types of atheists; skeptics and cynics. The insurmountable evidence of God’s existence throughout creation is on full display for skeptics who are genuinely seeking truth with an open mind and a humble heart, however God pushes away arrogant cynics and causes them to stumble around in the stupor of their darkened understanding because of the cynical condition of their heart. 1 Cor 1:18-31 sums it up very well…

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 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. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

God can’t stand the proud and the arrogant, yet he loves the humble and the meek. Prov 3:34 says, “He opposes and mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble.” Jesus also mentions this in Luke 10:21, “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” This has been God’s purpose all along. To frustrate the arrogant cynical mockers of this world and to reveal the reality of himself to the humble, contrite, lowly and downtrodden of this world.

Atheists demand God to reveal himself and charge that it is unethical or even hypocritical for God to hide himself. But again, it is God who sets the terms that he reveals himself. He is not obligated to reveal himself to anyone who demands him to. The terms that he reveals himself is always through faith. God chooses not to reveal himself in an environment of unbelief, but rather, he reveals himself and demonstrates his power in an environment of faith. Faith is the circumstances in which the supernatural thrives. There is a very clear example of this in Mark 6:1-6a when Jesus went to visit his home town of Nazareth.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

This is the case with the cultural divide between East and West. In the cynical West, the question is “Is there a God?” whereas in the polytheistic East, the question is “Which god is the true god?”. As a general observation, people in the East naturally understand the reality of the spiritual realm and have a well-established belief in the supernatural, whereas the West is very much entrenched in cynicism. My friend noticed this when he went on a short-term mission trip to the Philippines. He prayed for a number of sick people in an old military hospital and was astounded to the amount of miraculous healings he witnessed while he ministered. He said, it was extremely difficult for him to come back to Australia and was depressed by the unbelief and cynicism that prevails in our Western society. Another one of my friends also witnessed the same thing while he was ministering in Myanmar this year.

Yes, God does hide himself from the proud and arrogant, while at the same time provide us with incredible evidence all around us. You may have heard of the term “hidden in plain sight”. This is particularly true with those who have rejected the truth. The evidence of the reality of God is staring them in the face, yet they refuse to acknowledge it and do everything in their power to suppress it. Romans 1:18-20 says,

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 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 people are without excuse.

The truth is, there are extremely intelligent and not-so intelligent atheists and there are extremely intelligent and not-so intelligent Christians. The underlying factor here is not intellectual blindness, but rather spiritual blindness. Remember, 2 Cor 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Yet God doesn’t not intend and does not want anyone to stay in this blindness. This is why the gospel must be preached, because only the truth of the gospel can remove this spiritual blindness. Jesus said, “When you know the truth, the Truth will set you free.”

Some might say, “Well, there was a time in my life where I tried Christianity and I didn’t experience anything.” Atheists are incensed at the idea that God would “choose” some who reach out to him while “rejecting” others who also reach out to him. Why would God deliberately “hide” himself from those who genuinely want to give Christianity a go? This may seem like a paradox, but Jesus explains this paradox with the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-15

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘Though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Let’s make no mistake, there is a war over the souls of men, and that not everyone who initially believes the truth will endure to the end. It is inevitable that people will believe for a time and then fall away. But why would God allow that if he wants to be in a loving relationship with people? Yes, God does want to be in relationship with people, but only on the basis of faith. Remember, it is God who sets the terms.

Yes, the believer will undoubtably come across problems when reading the scriptures, however, the problems can be worked out through study and contextual examination. For every doubt, there is an answer, and through perseverance and diligence the answers can be found to all of the perceived problems. God is not hiding the answers to those who diligently seek it out. God says in Jeremiah 33:3 says;

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

And in Jeremiah 29:13;

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

And in Heb 11:6b;

…anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Sadly, many reject Christianity on a superficial level without genuinely investigating its claims and credentials. Many others have been deceived and led astray by believing lies from those who have committed their life to suppressing the truth. This is a clear picture of what Jesus described with “those along the path, who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts”

Jesus said in Matt 22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” God’s invitation to salvation has been made available to everybody, yet not everybody will accept the invitation.

So God is not exactly “hiding”. He has given every opportunity for those to believe and come to faith, but as I have explained, not everyone will take hold of the truth and endure to the end. Even though God has revealed himself through creation (general revelation) and the revelation of his word (special revelation), people will inadvertently come up with excuses, believe lies, succumb to doubts, suppress the truth, give in to persecution and depart the faith to pursue wealth, notoriety and pleasure. This has been the case with many examples of people falling away from the faith throughout the New Testament and throughout the history of the church. Only those who overcome, are the ones who enjoy fellowship with God for eternity. This life is the testing ground, the examination room, the dress rehearsal for the life to come.

One final note. Many have demanded that if God is real, why doesn’t he come down and reveal himself? Well, he has. His name is Jesus, and the Bible says that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15a). He was crucified on the cross for your sins. In fact, Jesus took the punishment for your sin, which would’ve resulted in your eternal separation from God. Remember, Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Our sin is what has separated us from God, and Jesus’ work on the cross has removed our sin and restored us into fellowship with him. However, we cannot enter into that relationship with God unless we come to him humbly in repentance and commit our lives to him through faith in Christ.

Jesus said in Matt 22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” God’s invitation to salvation has been made available to everybody, yet as I have explained above, not everybody will accept the invitation.

To the proud and arrogant, God has “hidden these things from the wise and learned” (Luke 10:21) and frustrated the “intelligence of the intelligent” (1 Cor 1:19), yet his hands are outstretched toward to all who would come to him in sincerity and humility. Only those with “a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15) will enjoy fellowship with God for eternity. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “he [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Will you accept his invitation?

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