Why Does God Hide Himself?
July 6th, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
WHY DOES GOD HIDE HIMSELF?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-6-88 7:30 p.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor delivering the message entitled Why Does God Hide Himself? Reading in the Scripture from Genesis chapter 3, beginning at verse 7:
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
This is the background text that you will see in a moment why it is so tragically pertinent. The title of the message, Why Does God Hide Himself?
When we think of the terrors of the earth, how is it that God could preside over such catastrophic and violent hurt? There are storms, there are earthquakes, there is child abuse, there is woman abuse, there is pain and there is suffering; there is hurt and tears everywhere; and where is God?
“A pair of glasses for God to wear,” that’s what the hand-written sign irreverently suggested. It was posted in the middle of a scorched, wind-eroded field: severe drought had devastated the area. I delivered the keynote address for the conservative Baptist convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota this week. I have never seen such devastation. The day I left it was one hundred degrees. That’s in a country that has forty degrees below zero in the wintertime. The day I arrived it was ninety-six degrees. And the fields are burned and scorched. It was posted in the middle of a field wind-eroded and burned. Severe drought had devastated the area. In desperation, local farmers hung a battered bucket on a weathered fence pole, and tacked this sign above it: “Please contribute coins here to buy God a pair of glasses, so He can see the suffering of man and beast.” The words were clearly legible in the light of the blazing sun. It wasn’t that the farmers were atheists: to the contrary, some of them had probably gone to church repeatedly to pray for rain. But no rain fell on the parched land, not a drop. Why? Didn’t God see? Didn’t He comprehend? Does He need a pair of glasses? Why does not God do something? Why does He allow such suffering? Doesn’t He know? Doesn’t He care? Where is God?
One night a man in agony stayed on his knees all night long, praying God to reveal Himself. He cried, “Just one word. Anything, just say something. Let me know for sure You are there, and I will believe the rest.”
Well, when we look at war, and strife, and famine, and starvation, and death, there are three possibilities. Number one: God is aware of our tragic situation on this planet, but His powers are limited. He is not really almighty; He is not able. Or, a second possibility: God is almighty and powerful, but He doesn’t care; He is not really and totally good. There is a third possibility: to dismiss the whole thing as a mystery; forget it. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die [Luke 12:19]. Why cannot we do or accept either one of those suggestions? We cannot thus dismiss the longing in our hearts for God.
- Isaiah 64:1-2 says, “Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down . . . to make Thy name known.”
- “Our hearts cry out,” Job 13:24, “Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face, and holdest me for Thine enemy?”
- Psalm 10:1: “Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest Thou Thyself in time of trouble?”
- “The wicked say in their hearts, God hath forgotten: He hideth His face; He will not see it. Arise, O Lord . . . forget not the humble” [Psalm 10:11-12].
- Psalm 13:1, “How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?”
- Psalm 89:46, “How long, Lord? Wilt Thou hide Thyself for ever? Shall Thy wrath burn like fire?
- Remember how short my time is” [Psalm 89:46-47].
- Isaiah 45:15, “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel.”
What is the answer? The answer lies in the verses you just now read. Who hides himself, man or God? Who was the first to hide? Who hides himself? What did you read? “They heard the voice of the Lord as He came into the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord. And God called Adam, and said, Where, where art thou? And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid myself” [Genesis 3:8-10]. We place a distance between us and God. Proverbs 1:24-31:
Because I have called, and ye refused; God says, I have stretched out My hand, and no one regarded;
You have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof:
Therefore I will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
Then shall you call upon Me, but I will not answer; you will seek Me, but you will not find Me:
For they that hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:
They would have none of My counsel: they despised all My reproof.
Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
Who hides himself? Who hid himself from God?
The Lord made us, created us, to be together with Him. I don’t know whether you ever saw or heard that Negro play called “Green Pastures,” but you remember God when He created the whole earth, and the heavens, and the sidereal spheres, the oceans, the mountains, the seas, the forests, the continents, when God looked at all of His creation, God said, “I am lonesome. I am lonesome. Stars and oceans and mountains do not fellowship with the Spirit of the living Lord.” And in that play, God says, “I am lonesome, and I will make man, that I can talk to him, and he can talk back to Me. And I will love him, and he will love back to Me.” God did that for our companionship and fellowship with Him. But sin separated between God and us.
Isaiah 59:1-2: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your sins have separated between you and your God, and your iniquities have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.” God cannot fellowship with evil. Habakkuk 1:13: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity.” God withdraws His presence, and leaves us to our own devices. This is the reason why suffering, and panic, and death: we are reaping the reward of our own ways. Our sinful transgressions have separated us from God, and brought on us the judgment of death.
Deuteronomy 31:16-18: “When this people forsake Me, then My anger shall be kindled against them, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and many evils and troubles shall befall them. And I will surely hide My face from them in that day for all the evils which they have wrought.”
Could I turn aside, and say of us, how in the earth can we expect the blessings of God upon America when we are filled with transgressions? Even on Sunday no one in the legislative assemblies of our nation would say, “We ought to keep this a holy day.” “Forget the holiness of God and the worship of God. Let’s open these stores on Sunday, and let’s traffic and make merchandise of God’s holy day.” How is God going to bless a people like that?
- Isaiah 1:15, “And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear.”
- Hosea 5:6, “They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord, but they shall not find Him; He hath withdrawn Himself from them.”
- Micah 3:4, “Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but He will not hear them: He will even hide His face from them because they behaved ill in their ways.”
Well, we say, “But you know God has hid Himself, and He has separated Himself from us; but if He were to come down, if God were to come down and live in our midst, we would serve Him. If we could just see Him and touch Him,” like that man who prayed, “Lord, just any kind of a word from Thee, and I’ll serve Thee and believe the rest.” If God will come down and be here where we can see and touch Him, if He will just show Himself, we’ll believe Him and accept Him.
Didn’t God do just that? His name is Immanuel, He says, “God with us” [Matthew 1:23]. And we could see Him, and touch Him, and talk to Him, and be in His presence. What did we do? Isaiah 53:3, “We hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” Matthew 21:38, in the parable, “But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said, This is the heir; let us kill him.” When God came down, Immanuel, what did we do? We arrested Him and tried Him [Matthew 26:47-27:31] and nailed Him to a tree. We crucified Him [Matthew 27:32-50]. That’s the humanity to which we belong.
The visible signs of God, do they lead us to Him? The Old Testament signs of the presence of the Lord, a cloud by day and a fire by night [Exodus 13:21], and manna from heaven that they might eat and never die [Exodus 16:12-15]; but they never reached the Promised Land except Caleb and Joshua [Numbers 32:11-13]. The signs of God daily were with them; and they perished in the wilderness.
The signs of God in the New Testament are the most dramatic that mind could imagine.
- The Son of God came raising the dead [John 11:43-44].
- Opening the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-30].
- Unstopping the ears of the deaf [Mark 7:31-35].
- Cleansing the lepers [Matthew 8:2-3; Luke 17:12-14].
And they slew Him [Matthew 27:32-50]. The signs of God are everywhere seen today.
Acts 14:17, “It is not without witness that God lives and reigns,” there are signs in nature. We can depend upon the rotation of the earth, a thousand miles an hour; you don’t have to ever worry about God’s ableness in keeping that rotation. The night followed by the day, followed by the night. God’s unchanging atmosphere: oxygen and hydrogen. Gravity, you never have to reconsider or think about God’s gravity; it’s always constant.
Someone said, a great scientist, “The miracles of nature make those of the Bible seem small and commonplace.” You see God everywhere. Just look: the stars at night, the sun by day, a thousand providences.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The rich, ripe tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland
The charm of the goldenrod—
Some say, ‘Well that’s Autumn;’
But some of us say, ‘That’s God.’
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And millions, who, humble and nameless,
The plain, hard pathway trod—
Some people say, ‘Well that’s consecration;’
But some of us say, ‘That’s God.’
[“Each in His Own Tongue”; William H. Carruth]
See Him everywhere. See Him in the moral sensitivity of our own hearts. One of the most dramatic and traumatic of all the scenes you could ever read in literature: when Jezebel and Ahab have slain Naboth [1 Kings 21:5-14], and Jezebel says to her husband, “Arise, and possess. For he is dead that refused you” [1 Kings 21:15]. So Ahab arises to possess; and in the middle of the garden where Naboth’s blood stained the ground, there stood Elijah the prophet of God, an incarnate conscience [1 Kings 21:16-20]. You are that way: on the inside of your very deepest soul, there is the voice of God crying, convicting, pointing to the Lord to deliver us and to save us. And that spiritual commitment is ever an appeal of the Holy Spirit in our deepest souls [John 16:7-15].
And I close. Someday, someday, at the end of the way, at the consummation of history, someday we shall see our Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. “Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God,” says Ezekiel 39, “Neither will I hide My face any more from them” [Ezekiel 39:28-29]. And in the great final climactic Revelation: “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and the kindreds of the earth will cry because of Him. Even so, Amen” [Revelation 1:7].
He is not seen by our naked eyes now, because our transgressions have separated between Him and us [Isaiah 59:2]. But the day will come when sin is no more, and transgression shall cease, and we will be resurrected in new and heavenly bodies, and we will see our Lord as He walks and lives in our presence [1 John 3:2]. Blessed day! Heavenly day! Promised day!
Now, Dr. Hanson, you come over here to this organ; and our minister of music, you lead us in a song of appeal, and I’ll be standing here at the center of the altar. And somebody you, to give himself to Jesus [Romans 10:9-13], “Pastor, here I stand,” a family you, coming into the fellowship of our dear church; or anybody you, answering the call of God in your heart; make the decision now. And in this moment when we begin to sing, on the first note of the first stanza, come. May angels attend in the way, while we stand and while we sing.
WHY DOES GOD HIDE HIMSELF?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Terrors of earth
1. Violence, child abuse, pain, war, famine, starvation
2. Why not do something?
1. God is aware but is power limited, not really Almighty
2. He is Almighty powerful but just doesn’t care
3. We can dismiss the whole thing as a mystery and forget it
III. The answer
1. Who hides himself? Genesis 3:6-11
2. We place distance between us and God. Proverbs 1:24-31
3. Sin separates us from God Isaiah 59:1-2
4. God cannot fellowship with evil Habakkuk 1:13
IV. We say, “But if God were to come down here, live in our midst, we would see Him.”
1. That is exactly what God did and we rejected Him.
2. Immanuel – “God With Us”
3. Isaiah 53:3 – we hid from God when He came
4. Matthew 21:38
5. We tried and crucified Him.
1. Signs of God are all around us in nature Acts 14:17
2. Moral Jeremiah 20:9
3. Spiritual – call of Christ and the Christian commitment
VI. Someday He will return Revelation 1:7