A Hiding God
James Smith, 1860
The dealings of the Lord with his people are often mysterious, and very trying. When they appear most to need his help — he sometimes seems to keep at the greatest distance. When they most ardently desire to enjoy his love — he sometimes hides his face from them. Often from repeated disappointments and sore trials, they are ready to cry out with the prophet, "Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel!" Isaiah 45:15.
The prophet complains of God — that God hides himself. To hide is to conceal his beauty, to veil his face — withholding the manifestations of his love, and refusing to give sensible answers to prayer. Or, it is the wrapping up his purposes and plans in mystery — so that we cannot perceive his purpose, or understand his designs in his dispensations. "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing," said Solomon. The Lord sometimes hides himself from us in times of trouble, in seasons of sickness, and when suffering from painful disappointments. This he does — to prove us — to reprove us — to improve us — and to instruct us.
The result of his hiding himself is, that we walk in darkness, encourage doubts and fears, and are often deeply depressed.
When we realize that God is present with us, when we enjoy his smiles and the sense of his favor — we then feel strong, and think we can do anything, go anywhere, or bear anything — for him! But when he hides his face — we are troubled; our strength, and courage, and confidence, fades away — and we feel what poor, feeble, and timid creatures we are!
The prophet complains to God. This we should do — carry our complaints directly to his throne.
He complains to God — as the God of Israel. As such he is the God of grace; the God who delights in mercy; the God who has promised never to leave — never to forsake his people.
He complains to God — as the Savior. Who had formerly delivered his people, who alone could deliver them now, and who had just pledged his word afresh, that he would deliver them. What an unspeakable mercy it is — that God, who delivered us at first; but who has since found it necessary to correct us for our iniquities, and hide himself from us, on account of our sins — still remains our Savior, and will yet deliver us! Having delivered our souls from damnation, he will deliver our eyes from tears, and will keep our feet from final falling.
Observe — the presence of God is the believer's joy. Nothing can make him unhappy, while he enjoys the presence of the Lord. The Lord's hiding himself from him, adds tenfold to his trouble. Yet, God for wise and holy purposes, does often hide his face, and does so when his child is under some of his heaviest troubles. The Lord's hiding himself from us, should stir us up — to pray more fervently; to examine ourselves and our conduct, in the light of his holy word; and to follow hard after him, until he reveals himself anew unto us.
We should, as the prophet did, go and tell the Lord, in all godly simplicity, what we think of his dealings with us. It is our unspeakable mercy to know, that though the Lord hides himself — he yet delivers, he is still "the God of Israel," and "the Savior." However his dispensations towards us, or his dealings with us may change — he still rests in his love, and rejoices over us to do us good. He loves us as much in the dark — as in the light; as much when he hides himself from us — as when he lifts up the light of his countenance upon us.
This is the security of his people, as he said by Malachi, "I am the Lord, I change not, therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed." So that with Jeremiah we may respond and say, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not; they are new every morning, great is his faithfulness!" Our God must be faithful to his word, he must be true to himself; and this being the case, however our frames and feelings may vary, however our circumstances may change — our best, our eternal interests are secure!
The Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake; because it has pleased the Lord, to make them his people. Let us hold fast by this, amidst all we feel within us, or witness around us; then we may boldly say, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress!"