Zachary Bright

The Wonder of it All

Why Is God Hidden?

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ImageDon’t you sometimes wish that it was that easy? Shouldn’t truth, reality, God just be obvious? Especially God. Doesn’t he reveal himself in Jesus of Nazareth? Jesus said: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life”. And yet… reality is what it is and it is complex and God is what he is and sometimes he hides himself so that we must seek him if we are to know him. I can think of several reasons why this might be so (and I’m not forgetting that in our sin we also hide from God like Adam and Eve in the Garden). But I am reflecting on one today.

What we seek, what we must give all for and to, is more valuable to us than just information dropped into our minds. And it shapes us more and transforms us as we struggle and search. In Jesus’ stories the kingdom of God is like a man who found a treasure in someone’s (!) field and he sells everything he has to buy that field or it is like a pearl merchant who finds such a wonderful pearl that he sells everything that he has to buy that one pearl.

In the book of Proverbs we are assured that “…the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…” (Prov. 2:6, NRSV). And yet we must still seek knowledge: “[I]f you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures – then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:3-5, NRSV) Even though Jesus invites disciples to follow him and be with him and teaches them how to live in the kingdom of God, still we must follow and obey and learn; we are not to be passive. Even as Jesus invites us to “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,,, (Matt. 11:29a, NRSV), still the Father has hidden some knowledge from “the wise, the intelligent” and has “revealed them to infants” (Matt. 11:25b, NRSV) and knowledge of the Father is given to “…anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matt. 11:27c, NRSV, emphasis added)

Knowledge of persons is of the kind that requires experience and a learning to trust and love so we can receive the mystery of the Other, rather than closing our hearts through fear or a narrow self-centered agenda. However, Jesus promises that when we learn from him, we find that his “…yoke [teaching] is easy…” (Matt. 11:30, NRSV).

Almost everything reminds me of a song. Of course the obvious one is “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (1987) by U2. The title almost says it all. But there is this:
“I believe in the kingdom come
When all the colors bleed into one
When all the colors bleed into one
[snip]
You broke the thorns
And loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Carried the cross of my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
So, Bono is not proclaiming unbelief or doubt. But, nonetheless I think that he is expressing that longing we each have in our heart of hearts for something more. More, because God has placed us in an amazing and complex world where there is always something more to learn. More, because knowledge of persons is immersion in the mystery of the other person and because, at least I, am always changing and need a new grip on God and his world every day. More, because there is always more of God’s kingdom to live into and to live for. More, because I am made for the New Earth and I will not be satisfied until I am there and see God face to face, until I am on the other side of the door.

The song I have been thinking about the most though, is “Relapse” (1995) by Adam Again. It has some mysterious words that have long expressed something primal for me. I am strangely moved by these words (whatever they meant for Gene Eugene, the song is rather dark):
“I’m working on a riddle
I pray to God to keep this secret safe another day
So I can find some time”
Fortunately, the song has some happier words:
“I’m leaning on forever
God knows I want to have it in my sights”
However, the ‘working on a riddle’ part is what resonates with so much of my life; and now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And now, one of my all-time favorite songs is “You” (1997) by Switchfoot:
“There’s always something in the way
There’s always something getting through
It’s not me
It’s You [God], It’s You
Sometimes ignorance rings true
But my hope is not in what I know
It’s not in me, It’s in You
It’s all I know, It’s all I know
I find peace when I’m with You
I find hope when I’m let down
Not in me, me
In You, It’s in You
I hope to lose myself for good
I hope to find it in the end
Not in me, me
In You, In You
It’s all I know, It’s all know
It’s all I know
In You, It’s in You”
Aren’t those first words so true? Especially if one is a Christian, seeking to know God and live in the world in his light, but also I think other perceptive persons have this experience of  ‘always something in the way’ but also ‘always something getting through’. We have revelation and yet it is always incomplete and sometimes there are obstacles to knowledge and sometimes the obstacles are ourselves.

Probably, many would answer the question by speaking of free will. I would rather think of that as the reality that God gives us enough to know and trust him, and yet, preserves for us the ability to make unforced choices (or true choices) appropriate to personal knowledge. What amazing wisdom and love! God has kept the secret safe and I am still working on a riddle…

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Author: Zachary Bright

Until February 2014, I was pastor of Divine Savior Presbyterian Church for about 24 years. I am interested in theology, alternative music, new worship music, culture making, philosophy and dogs. Most of all I am interested in extending the Kingdom of God and its blessings to everyone around me. I am the Director of the Southern CA. C.S. Lewis Society and I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary. My wife Terry, my dog Jack Lewis and I host a Bible Study in our home on Sunday afternoons.

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