Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.
God is beyond the wisdom of man. Christ crucified is unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. Though men may speak of gods many and lords many, yet the world by wisdom knows not God. When “the God of Israel” was manifest in the flesh, he took upon him the seed of Abraham. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” Yet how precious is the testimony of the apostle: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Hidden from the natural sight and wisdom of men, yet by the unspeakable mercy and power of the Holy Ghost revealed to the faith of the elect, so that they endure as seeing him who is invisible (Heb. 11:27). But cannot man, by diligent study, by concentration of the powers of the natural mind upon the Scriptures, find out God? Never! The thoughts of the wise are vain. When every possible investigation has been made, the natural man can conceive of nothing but an idol, which in his vain imagination he thinks is the only true and living God (Rom. 3:11). In types and shadows, in all “the ordinances of divine service” in which typical Israel worshipped God under the first covenant, how hidden was the way of the Lord. The natural Jew might observe all these things in the letter, and yet utterly fail to know the mercy, the grace and the salvation of God, and even the one who was “a Jew inwardly” how were all the things of the Lord, veiled in types and shadows. The things that are made, the marvelous works of God which men behold. Oh what power, what majesty, what handiwork we see! Our thoughts are lost when we try to think of the infinite greatness of the invisible God. Are there not times when, in our meditations in spirit we exclaim, “Lo, these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him; but the thunder of his power who can understand” (Job 26:14).
“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” The Scriptures peculiarly belong to the Israel of God, and in the manifestation of them as born of the Spirit how true it is in their experience, that their God, their Savior, hideth himself. When first brought under divine teaching, made alive to their sad and awful condition as vile transgressors of the law, which is holy, just and good, what woe does the poor sinner experience! He feels the holy anger of God revealed in the law to burn against him, condemned and bowed down beneath the burden of his transgressions. From day to day he gropes along with many sighs over his sinful condition. The cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner”, is in his heart, but he fears there can be no mercy in store for him. How can there be mercy for me? How can the Lord love such a rebel? How can the Lord show kindness to such an ungrateful worm? He feels the holy God dwells in “thick darkness”, and from the thick darkness issues forth condemnation and woe to the transgressor. The demands of the Lord in the law wax louder and louder, and the strength of the poor sinner weaker and weaker. Amidst all the condemnation and sorrow which the elect of God experience when they are made to feel their sinnership before the Most High, how hidden is the mercy, the grace, the tender love, the marvelous loving-kindness of the Lord their God. The poor, troubled soul little thinks that all the terrible things he is being taught and has to endure are in the everlasting love of Jehovah. At present this is veiled from his sight, though often from his longing soul the inquiry arises, Will the Lord have mercy upon such a poor sinner? Will the Lord in salvation ever break forth from the thick darkness? Will the Sun of Righteousness ever arise and shine upon such a wretched sinner? Taught of God, the sinner finds out, to his sad dismay, that in his flesh there dwells no good thing; that he cannot please God; and by the deeds of the law, all hope in himself of justification in the sight of God perishes. Then how graciously the Holy Ghost works in the heart of the sinner that feeling after the Lord (Acts 17:27). The felt need of the Mediator Jesus Christ is in this inwrought feeling after the Lord, and our soul’s desire is, “Oh that I knew where I might find him” (Job 23:3). And when the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, is pleased to testify of Jesus to the soul, that he is the Lord our Righteousness, oh what sacred joy and peace fills the poor sinner’s heart which he sings the praise of the Savior.
In matters of divine providence, how often have many of the dear people of God to say, “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior”. In meditation upon the life of Joseph, how instructively, beautifully, this is set forth. Even good old Jacob at one time exclaimed, “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these thins are against me” (Gen. 42:36). and in the eventful and rugged life of David it is recorded, “David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” (1 Sam. 27:1). And when we are led to contemplate the many incidents in our own pilgrimage, how dark, shut up and mysterious has our way at times appeared. We have thought, How shall I be able to surmount this trouble? What can be the meaning of all these things? And sometimes it has appeared that our way grew darker and darker.
“We see each day new straits attend,
And wonder how the scenes will end.”
“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself.” We are ready to inquire, How can there be mercy and goodness to me in these things? How can it be that all these things shall work together for any good? We fear the dark and threatening clouds, and think that in these trying matters our God is against us. Oh what searchings, what earnest, sorrowful cries are forced forth from our troubled souls to the God of our salvation who hideth himself from us. And in a measure we enter into companionship with Job, to say with him, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him” (Job 23:8-9). But in the midst of all that is so difficult to understand, and that we judge to be hard and against us, the invisible hand of the gracious Lord our God is still our support, and a little hope at times is felt that the Lord will, in his time, make all things plain. Then we know a little of what it is to be reconciled to God, and we are enabled to endure and to wait for the salvation of the Lord. “Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.” Oh have we not proved this, and found that “the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11). And on no account would we have one pathway otherwise than it has been.
“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”
“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” This is verily experienced by the chosen of God under the chastening hand of their heavenly Father. What can be more painful to the children of God than the hiding of the face of the Lord from them? Have we at any time indulged ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, or has there been any bitterness, wrath, malice and evil speaking in our hearts? It cannot be that we can nurse these things in our bosom, and at the same time delight ourselves in the light of our heavenly Father’s face. In the sight of men we may wear a cheerful countenance, but it cannot be so beneath the frown of our God. When we have gone on forwardly in the way of our vile hearts, our God has hidden himself and was wroth (Isaiah 57:17). Oh what gloom has overshadowed us, and how depressed and weary we have become. In all our forward ways, desolation, confusion and captivity is our portion from the Lord. That sweet enjoyment of his love, and reviving and consoling tokens of the love and wonderful favor of the Lord all seem to be taken from us.
Ah, when the dear Lord is pleased to open up to us the iniquity of our hearts, to show us our ungrateful wanderings from him, oh what confusion and shame we are in. We then realize we are away off from our God and his delightful land. “The house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies; so fell they by the sword. According to their uncleanness, and according to their transgressions, have I done unto them, and hid my face form them” (Ezek. 39:23-24). We hear them, therefore, bemoaning themselves, saying, “Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off for our parts” (Ezek. 37:11). The God of Israel, the Savior, has hidden himself behind the thick cloud of our sins. And when he thus hideth himself, who can behold him? (Job 34:39). But our Jesus hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Savior for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins, and the language of our chastened souls have been, “I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him” (Isaiah 8:17). What a precious, holy and soul-melting time we have proved when we have felt with power the gracious word of the Lord in our heart, saying, “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy upon thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:8). The Lord has healed our backslidings; he has “blotted out as a thick cloud our transgressions, and as a cloud our sins”; and once more in the light of the countenance of our gracious and loving God we have been made to rejoice. There are many lessons to be learned under the hidings of the face of our Savior. Nothing can compare to the blessedness experienced by the poor sinner when he beholds the face of the dear Redeemer shining with tender mercy, pardoning love upon him. And when at any time the beloved Lord Jesus withdraws his shining, and is veiled out of sight, then we are made to know the terrors and sorrows of the night. Many ravenous beasts creep forth, the adversary is lively in his attempts to fill us with doubts and fears and hard thoughts. Wearisome nights are appointed us. How lonely, weak and disquieted are we when Jesus has withdrawn himself and gone. When will the night be gone? We are filled with tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day (Job 7:4).
“Flowers need night’s cool darkness,
The moonlight and the dew;
So Christ, from one who loved it,
His shining oft withdrew.
And then for cause of absence
My troubled soul I scanned;
But glory, shadeless shineth
In Emmanuels’s land.”
Yes, we are troubled when our God and Savior hideth himself from us. But in the night seasons the Lord does forsake us, for he says, “I will be as the dew unto Israel ” (Hosea 14:5). Israel ’s heavens shall drop down dew (Deut. 33:28). There is given unto us an humble and contrite heart, our couch is moistened with tears, and our souls are filled with desires for our Emmanuel to show his face, to chase away the gloom and sorrows of the night, for we have learned, and now see that our precious Jesus is all our light, all our salvation, all our joy. The Lord hideth himself in his teaching. He is pleased to bring us into experimental knowledge of the Scriptures. Here a little and there a little, we receive instruction. Like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, we journey along communing with our own hearts. Jesus is near, but unrecognized. Our eyes are holden that we should not know him (Luke 24:16). But our hearts burn within us while he talks with us by the way, and while he opens up to us the Scriptures. And when our eyes are opened, we see it is Jesus who has been instructing us. While here in the body, in our brightest “visions of God” by faith it may be said, “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself.” “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). “We shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
“And when on Thy bosom reclined,
Thy face I am strengthened to see;
My fullness of bliss I shall find,
My heaven of heavens in Thee.”
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 103, No. 9