Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel. (NIV84)
The fact that God is, more or less, hidden from us can be somewhat mysterious, but like most biblical mysteries with proper understanding can be understood.
The first thing is to have some grasp on the very nature of God. [1 John 4:16] tells us that God is love, and that being the case, we can look at the following Scriptures with understanding.
1 John 4:16
God is love. (NIV84)
1 Corinthians 13:4–7
Love [God] is patient, [God] is kind. [God] does not envy, [God] does not boast, [God] is not proud. 5 [God] is not rude, [God] is not self-seeking, [God] is not easily angered, [God] keeps no record of wrongs. 6 [God] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 [God] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV84)
If you want to understand what sort of person God is, then [1 John 4:16] and [1 Corinthians 14:4-7] (together) make up perhaps the most valuable insight into the nature of God in all of Scripture.
This is the nature of God. If you think about it you can see that he is completely Selfless. The Selfless God is not proud or boastful, and so when he reveals himself it is not in some grandiose way.
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (NIV84)
The name here, I AM, is translated Lord in the NIV and many pronounce it Jehovah, for reasons I have never understood. Now please really think about this name. You really must ponder this name, especially in the light of the fact that God’s nature is Selfless Love, and with that in mind look at this next Scripture.
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (NIV84)
This is a very interesting Scripture to me. I remember many years ago watching the first Indiana Jones film, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, and, at the end, when they opened the Ark, those that looked were killed by an awesome power. That is not how it works. God’s awesomeness will not fry us like a bug zapper, but rather the having had seen God is too much for our pathetic pride-sensitive selves to handle. Seeing God will cause a pride overload—a pride overload unto death. Even Moses, the humblest of men [Numbers 12:3], could not see God in all his glory and survive the experience. All the glory that we can handle is a first-person news account, written in a book, as it were. Even Moses was eventually overcome with pride (because of his relationship with God) and had to be taken from the earth prematurely, to preserve his soul.
God is Selfless Love, and the opposite of Selfless Love is Selfish Self-Centeredness, which is a product of pride. To save us from pride, God has hidden himself. Pride is the most potent of all spiritual toxins. One teeny tiny drop of pride can kill the mightiest of giants. One Nobel Prize, one People’s Choice Award, one Oscar, can puff up a fine man and kill him dead. Pride is the deadliest of poisons. Can you imagine what seeing God, face to face, would do to you? If God were to appear to you, in all his glory, how could you possibly survive such an encounter? Would the God of Love kill the object of his love in this way? God’s ego does not need man’s adoration, so because God is Selfless Love, he gently reveals himself through surrogate speakers, to those that are searching for him.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. (NIV84)
God, in all his awesomeness, does not need us to puff him up, so to save us from pride, he hides his awesomeness and then reveals the true reality in such a way as to make it possible for capable individuals to discover and see him, at a slow enough pace to prevent pride death. God very much wants us to know him, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to harm us with more understanding than we can handle. It is a very fine line between knowing God, and not getting puffed up with pride. King Solomon is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Apart from Christ, Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived [2 Chronicles 1:11-12], and yet, near the end of his life, he started worshiping other gods.
1 Kings 11:9–10
The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. (NIV84)
Pride caused Solomon’s downfall. It is a very dangerous thing to gain too much understanding. James tells us…
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (NIV84)
In this context, the judgment is really discipline.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. (NIV84)
Discipline and knowledge go hand in hand. The knowledge puffs us up, then the discipline humbles back down.
1 Corinthians 8:1
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (NIV84)
And look at this…
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. (NIV84)
This is all to keep us from pride—deadly pride.
I have discovered that the gaining of understanding is a path of self-discovery. The Lord God will not allow you to understand more than you can handle, so he disciplines you, to make you stronger so that you can handle more. All of this is because he loves you very much.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (NIV84)
When we start to see God more clearly we become a bit puffed up and walk and talk arrogantly, but then God reveals within our hearts our truly pathetic selves, which is humbling. We see, clearly, that we are instead foolish, and petty, and small, then God fills us with love and comfort to bring us back to our growing place with God. It is a cycle. It is the same cycle that every good parent experiences when raising their own children. Love and rebuke, love and discipline—love. Love that desires a successful life for your children.
So, understand this: God has hidden himself for the benefit of those whom he loves.
Now, looking back at the second half of [Proverbs 25:2] “…search out a matter is the glory of kings.” God hides treasures and it is our glory to search them out. As a human person, you have no warranted glory other than what true understanding you have of God. Your true knowledge of God is the only thing that you have of true value. These are true words I am writing to you.
All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. 9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. 10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (NIV84)
God, who created all things, and therefore knows the true value of everything, is telling you here that the gaining of wisdom and knowledge is more important to you than anything else. And God surely knows. The knowledge and wisdom are hidden in the Scriptures—seek them out.