God Hides Himself to Glorify His Grace
by Heshimu Colar
Trials and failures make us see that we're sinners, and we cannot do what we've set out to do. Our intentions may be the best, but God is not going to allow us to advance too far in our own strength. God told the Israelites that they would not conquer the Promised Land in one giant swoop, and brethren, we shall bring forth fruit "little by little" (Deut. 7:22). He will take away a piece of self as He gives victorious grace. He will bind up the heart, only after He has broken it. The Great Physician is a healing physician, and those who don't need healing will soon find that they've fallen from the God-given position of poor, pitiful, and helpless into the error of self-exaltation. The Gospel is never, "Lord, look at me. Look at how well I follow Jesus Christ. Look at how much His grace has improved me." No, my friend, grace never bids the sinner to glory in self. Grace never teaches us to encourage ourselves with confidence in our own abilities or faith in our own spiritual advancements. Grace always glorifies God for doing everything. Therefore, we need to fail, and we need to have our good intentions frustrated lest we think that the way to His throne bypasses His cross. Lest we trust in our own zeal to glorify God, rather than singularly trusting the glory that He has gotten for Himself, on our behalf, through the shedding of Christ's blood. Just before going to the cross, our Lord prayed in His high priestly prayer, "… Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him (John 17:1-2)."
First, our Lord Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him with obedience unto death. Our Lord Jesus had to be strengthened and upheld as He, by faith, died for men. He could not die in His own strength as eternal God, for in all things He had to be made like unto His brethren. He willingly became God's Servant, "And being found in the fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8)."
Secondly, our Lord Jesus asked that the Father would be glorified by His obedience. Jesus Christ went to the cross to honor God's Law by the shedding of His own blood. Only by His own obedience unto death as the Sinners Substitute, could our Father be justified to bestow grace on the ungodly. According to the glory of God, since Jesus Christ bore the disobedience of God's elect, He's justified to give us His obedience (II Cor. 5:21).
Thirdly, having been glorified with perfect obedience unto death, and having glorified the Father's justice and grace by the shedding of His own blood, our Lord's third purpose for suffering was His enthronement as our Mediator. He died and has been raised again in eternal glory, so that He can give eternal life as He pleases. His own purpose to glorify the Father and Himself, is forever unified with His purpose of grace unto all of the elect.
The order of these three purposes of grace is very important. We get ourselves into trouble when we look at the cross only as the means whereby we receive, rather than seeing that God has first and second purposed to glorify Himself. Therefore, because we're prone to lightly esteem the glory of God in our salvation, He frustrates us, allows us to fail, and withholds spiritual comfort. Isaiah said properly, "Verily thou art a God that hideth thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior (Is. 45:15)."
He hides Himself to teach us the true nature of His grace. Grace, when properly understood, glorifies all of God's Person. His sovereignty is revealed by His control over grace. Like a faucet, He turns on the refreshment when He pleases, and when He pleases, He withholds heart knowledge of His Son. We also learn of the righteousness of grace. Needing comfort and spiritual power, our attempts to compel Him by prayers, confessions, and zeal, only reveal that justifying righteousness is only in His Son. Thirdly, (among many other things) He teaches us the freeness of grace. Being brought to the end of ourselves and emptied of our own strength, we learn that we can do nothing but come to him as sinners. "And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean (Luke 5:12)."
That God is a God who hides Himself is not His cruelty or indifference to the cry of His people. He hides Himself so that we might seek and find salvation outside of ourselves and in Him only. He has not told sinners bearing His promises to seek Him in vain (Is. 45:19). But, if you will know Him and persevere in the faith, then you will believe what He says about Himself. Faith is not the mere acknowledgement of a doctrine or creed. Faith glorifies God for His Person as He reveals Himself in the Risen Savior.
"They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols… there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory (Is. 45:16, 21-23)."