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THE GOD WHO HIDES AND REVEALS HIMSELF

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, October 28, 2012

“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour” (Isaiah 45:15).


The Russian astronaut Gherman Titov was a Communist who denied the existence of God when he returned from outer space. He said, “Some people say there is a God out there, but in my travels around the world all day long, I looked around and didn’t see Him. I saw no God or angels...I don’t believe in God. I believe in man.”

But the American astronaut James A. McDivitt answered him. After orbiting the earth 62 times aboard Gemini 4, McDivitt said, “I did not see God looking into my space-cabin window, as I do not see God looking into my car’s windshield on earth. But I could recognize His work in the stars as well as when walking among flowers in a garden. If you can be with God on earth, you can be with God in space as well.”

These two men show the basic difference between those who believe in God and those who do not believe in Him. The atheist looks for a physical form of God. When he doesn’t see it, he wrongly assumes that there is no God. On the other hand, the Christian sees the subtle work of God in His creation.

Our text shows that God is not revealed to the materialist, who demands that God come at him yelling and banging a drum, and peeking through a window. Ridiculous! Nowhere in the Bible do we find God “proving” His existence to atheists in that way. Our text says,

“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour” (Isaiah 45:15).

Notice that the text does not refer to just any god. It does not speak of the false gods of the cults or other world religions. The text speaks only of the true God, the “God of Israel, the Saviour.” It is the true God who hides Himself from sinful man, and reveals Himself only to those He saves – “O God of Israel, the Saviour.” Then let us consider for a few minutes these two sides of God – the fact that He hides Himself from this sinful world, and the fact that He reveals Himself to those He saves.

I. First, He is a God who hides Himself.

The prophet Isaiah said, “Thou art a God that hidest thyself...” Indeed, He does hide Himself from sinful man. In the fifty-ninth chapter, the prophet Isaiah said, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).

When our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were immediately cut off from God. They hid themselves from Him. Then they were driven out of the Garden, and no longer walked in close fellowship with God. Their firstborn son was made in the same “likeness” and “image” as his sinful father (Genesis 5:3). Since Cain was born a sinner he rebelled against God exactly as his father did. He murdered his brother and God cursed him. Instead of repenting, Cain complained to God,

“Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid...” (Genesis 4:14).

“And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod...” (Genesis 4:16).

The word “Nod” means “wandering.” Instead of repenting Cain went out from God’s presence and became a wanderer, “a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth” (Genesis 4:12). My, how often we have seen that happen! A young person in the church rebels, sins, refuses to repent, and leaves the church, going “out from the presence of the Lord,” and becoming a life-long wanderer, “a fugitive and a vagabond” in the earth! How very sad!

It is clear throughout the Bible that sin causes God to hide Himself from a rebellious man. In Isaiah 1:15 God said to the sin-laden nation,

“When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15).

The prophet Micah said,

“Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings” (Micah 3:4).

Again, the prophet Isaiah said,

“For thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities” (Isaiah 64:7).

Reginald Heber (1783-1826) made this truth very clear in his great hymn,

Holy, Holy, Holy! Tho’ the darkness hide Thee,
   Tho’ the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see,
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
   Perfect in power, in love, and purity.
(“Holy, Holy, Holy” by Reginald Heber, 1783-1826).

II. Second, He has not left Himself without a witness.

That is what the Apostle Paul said to the idol worshippers at Lystra. Paul told them that God had allowed all men to “walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness” (Acts 14:16-17). He said that the rain and the food, and other good things, witness the fact that God is alive. In the first chapter of Romans, the Apostle said,

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

The Apostle Paul said that the created world, and the created plants, flowers, animals and so forth, show that there is a Creator who made them in the first place. That is what the American astronaut McDivitt meant when he said, “I did not see God looking into my space-cabin window, as I do not see God looking into my car’s windshield on earth. But I could recognize His work in the stars as well as when walking among flowers in a garden.” King David said,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).

Dr. Henry M. Morris said, “‘The glory of God,’ expounded by the heavens, is not only the infinite power, variety, and complexity seen in the stars, but also the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘The brightness of His glory’ (Hebrews 1:3)” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995; note on Psalm 19:1).

When one looks at the stars, the trees, the complexity of flowers, and other things in nature, one should see the hand of God the Creator behind them. This is called “natural revelation” by theologians.

When I was a small boy, before I ever went to church, I often sensed the reality of God in my grandmother’s back yard. I hid in the nasturtium flowers and watched the bees, and I could sense the presence of God there in those quiet times.

Later, out on the desert in Arizona, the lightning and thunder were so powerful that our little house was illuminated in the darkness, and shook on its foundations. In this, too, I sensed the power and presence of God. Through natural revelation, I knew there was a God, before I ever read the Bible or heard a sermon!

I remember catching a hummingbird. I was about 8 years old. I held the hummingbird in my hand. Suddenly it got away and flew like a dart up into the sky. I clearly remember thinking that no human being could make a toy that small, and yet that complex. I remember thinking that only God could make such a small yet complex thing as a hummingbird!

Another natural “witness” to the existence of God is man’s conscience. The Apostle Paul spoke of the conscience being a witness. He said,

“When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:14-15).

Dr. Timothy Lin was my pastor for over twenty-three years at the Chinese Baptist Church. Dr. Lin said, “Conscience is innate, implanted by the breath of God that gave man his God-like personality...Romans 2:14-15 declares [that the conscience] is both innate and universal.” He said, “After Adam and Eve sinned, conscience gave them a sense of guilt so that ‘they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord,’ Genesis 3:8.” Man’s conscience is an inbred faculty that lets people know the difference between right and wrong. Dr. Henry C. Thiessen said, “It is the presence in man of this sense of right and wrong...So conscience in man reveals both the existence of God, and to some extent the nature of God. That is, it reveals to us not only that He is [that He exists], but that He sharply distinguishes between right and wrong...It also implies that every transgression will be punished” (Henry C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971 edition, p. 35).

This is called, “The Revelation of God in Conscience.” “On the basis of conscience, the philosopher [Immanuel] Kant believed in God, freedom, and immortality” (Thiessen, ibid., p. 34). When a born-again Christian commits wilful sin, it troubles him, and God then seems far away. Thus, every Christian knows by experience that God speaks through his conscience, for when he deliberately sins he loses a sense of the presence of God.

So, God has not left Himself without a witness. People who are not Christians can see the work of God in nature. They can feel that God judges sin in their consciences. But these natural proofs of the existence of God are obscured in unconverted people by sin. If they are taught to reject the reality of God in their homes and schools, they will become increasingly less able to see the hand of God in nature and in their own consciences. They may become so insensitive to God that they say with the Communist astronaut, “I looked around and didn’t see Him. I saw no God. I don’t believe in God. I believe in man.”

When a man becomes that insensitive to God’s witness in nature and his own conscience, he is then what the Bible calls “a fool.” Thus, the Bible tells us,

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works...” (Psalm 14:1).

The more a man sins the more corrupt his conscience becomes, and his spiritual understanding is darkened. Thus, the Bible says that man, in his natural state, is “dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5). God hides Himself from those who are dead in sin.

“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour” (Isaiah 45:15).

III. Third, He reveals Himself in the Bible.

Our text says that the hidden God is “the Saviour.” That means God must be the one who reveals Himself to sinful man. And that is exactly what He has done to save those that He has chosen.

God reveals Himself by the Holy Scriptures. The Apostle Paul spoke of “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:15). The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to sinful man. The Apostle Peter said that the Bible is “a light that shineth in a dark place” (II Peter 1:19). That is why we always preach to you from the Bible. It is by the Bible that lost people find salvation from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul said,

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

The Bible is the Word of God. The Bible points us to Jesus for salvation.

When I was a little boy, I sensed that there was a God when I saw a hummingbird, and the delicate flowers in my grandmother’s back yard. Then, out on the desert in Arizona, I sensed the power and majesty of God when I saw great bolts of lightning, and felt our house shake in a thunderstorm. I also sensed the reality of God as a judge in my conscience when I sinned. But I did not know His name. I did not know Him as the “God of Israel, the Saviour.”

I tried to find God by being good. I tried to find Him by being religious. I even decided to become a minister in my attempts to find peace with God. I was somewhat like Martin Luther (1483-1546), the great Reformer, whose conversion we will see in a classic movie tonight at 6:30. But I was still lost. No matter how “good” and religious I became, I was still a lost sinner.

It was not until I heard a powerful sermon from the Bible that I looked to Jesus, and was saved. All of my religion and good works did not bring me any closer to God. I even decided to become a missionary, and joined a Chinese Baptist church to prepare for the mission field. But it didn’t do any good. It was not until I heard Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge preach the Gospel that I was saved. Then, in just a moment of time, Jesus came to me – and I was saved by Him. I could not save myself. I could not find peace with God by my religion, dedications, or prayers. I was lost until that morning, September 28, 1961, when Jesus drew me to Himself, and washed my sins clean with His Holy Blood! Then, in that moment of time, I knew what the Apostle Paul meant when he said,

“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

In that moment, I knew for sure that Jesus had died in my place, to atone for my sins, even mine. Then, in that moment, I saw the resurrected Christ by faith. Then the God who had hidden Himself from me became “the Saviour” of my soul, and the Lord of my life! How we pray that you will have an encounter with the living Christ, for He alone can save you from sin and unbelief, from judgment and from Hell! Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Psalm 19:1-11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“How Great Thou Art” (by Carl G. Boberg, 1859-1940;
translated by Stuart K. Hine, 1899-1989).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE GOD WHO HIDES AND REVEALS HIMSELF

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour” (Isaiah 45:15).

I.   First, He is a God who hides Himself, Isaiah 59:2;
Genesis 5:3; 4:14, 16, 12; Isaiah 1:15; Micah 3:4;
Isaiah 64:7.

II.  Second, He has not left Himself without a witness,
Acts 14:16-17; Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1; Hebrews 1:3;
Romans 2:14-15; Psalm 14:1; Ephesians 2:5.

III. Third, He reveals Himself in the Bible, II Timothy 3:15;
II Peter 1:19; Romans 10:17; 5:1.