Today’s reading: Isaiah 45-48.
People who doubt or deny God often argue, “if God is real, why doesn’t he show himself?” How striking, then, to see Isaiah’s declaration about the invisibility of the LORD.
Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel. Isaiah 45:15
In context, Isaiah has been discussing two facts about God:
- His plan to use a foreign ruler named Cyrus, not to be born for another 100 years, to rebuild Jerusalem and return the Jews to their homeland
- The foolishness of those who doubt or question God, acting like clay pots which deny the potter who made them has any hands
Modern skeptics say similar things when they, created beings, deny the existence of a creator. God is hidden from them. Even believers act like practical atheists when we question or disregard God’s revealed word – his will for us. Isaiah’s readers questioned God’s plan to use a foreigner, a pagan Gentile, to restore Jerusalem. They couldn’t see what God was up to; his ways were hidden from them.
God said he was raising up Cyrus, and telling the world about it over 100 years in advance, so that everyone would know that he alone was LORD when his words came true. He drew special attention to idol worshippers, asking them to find any similar prediction an idol had ever made. He made a very public prediction for the purpose of making his glory known. Was he really a God who hides himself?
How God chose to reveal himself is the key to this passage. He made himself known by his word.
I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Isaiah 45:19
God still reveals himself by his word. He particularly shouts his existence through his predictions. He spoke the final word through his son, the living word, Jesus Christ. Unbelievers dare God to show himself. He answers them through his word, but it takes faith to hear him.
Alexander MacLaren has written well on this topic of God’s hiding himself, pointing out several ways that God reveals himself while remaining invisible.
- Through nature. God works through natural laws and through second causes to accomplish his will. Yet all of creation testifies of the creator.
- Through providence. God works through circumstances, but believers see his hidden hand at work in the way he opens and closes doors.
- Through hints of eternity and infinity. As Ecclesiastes says, God has put eternity in our hearts, but not so that we understand or comprehend fully. Now we see in a mirror, darkly, but even the obscure reflections point towards our infinite and eternal creator.
There is something here of God’s claim that the people would hear and not hear, see and not see. God may hide himself so that he will found by people who search for him by faith. His word is the map that shows the way.
Image by Grevel on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0