Over 95% of the American people claim to believe in God. But what kind of a God? What color is he? How big is he? Is he still alive? Is he manlike or beastlike? Skeptical philosophers have long wondered about the whereabouts of this "unknown God." Bewildered theologians have long contrived to excuse his absence. Why does God hide himself from humankind?
Do you believe in anything at all that you can't see? I surely hope so because air, wind, and electricity simply cannot be seen. Yet no one who ever stopped to think about it would deny their existence. You explicitly believe in the precious air you inhale without even thinking about it. Your lungs sort out the gases and exhale the inert, unusable types — retaining the oxygen to feed the little blood corpuscles that keep all that is you alive.
The Marvelous Creation
We firmly believe in myriads of mysterious marvels extant on the earth. But we hardly ever equate these wonders of our environment with the mind of a great being who exists in another dimension just beyond ours. Yet the unseen God — the God that hides himself — reveals himself through the marvels of the physical creation. The very existence of the whole creation is proof positive that there has to be a Creator. Not so long ago a couple of distinguished British astronomers were interviewed on BBC. Under discussion were current theories of the origin of the universe. They said: "At the moment, we have to confess that our ignorance of the actual creation is more or less complete." Why should science be so unknowledgeable about the origins of this earth and the universe? Perhaps Dr. Samuel H. Miller, dean of Harvard's Divinity School unwittingly gave the true answer nearly two decades ago. He stated: "The modern era [has] abandoned religion as a basis of real life, and puts its confidence in science instead, even though the word 'God' is more popularly entrenched in America than ever" (Denver Post, June 4, 1960). The biblical revelation has largely been ignored by much of the world's intelligentsia. Thus the widespread ignorance of where the creation came from. According to the Gallup Poll, there is widespread belief in some kind of a God, but few think of him as the Creator of all they can see and know. The Bible itself rather simply describes the process of this phenomenon. The apostle Paul wrote: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them.... Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature. namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom. 1:18-20, RSV). The ancient philosophers knew God! They examined the world in which they round themselves and discovered order, harmony, system, and design. God was in this sense revealed to them! Why? Because the existence of order, harmony, system, and design absolutely demand a Creator.
Start With the Creation!
When we start with what we can know through our five senses — the physical universe — we soon find blunt proof that only a supreme Creator could have fashioned it together into such a wondrously unified whole. From the forces which bind atomic nuclei to the principles that run giant galaxies, from the fullness of the earth to the relative emptiness of space, from the beauty of creation to the human mind that can comprehend it — all are mute testimony to the power of God — all blazon forth the conclusive evidence of his existence. Look at the intricacy of nature around you. Everything you see is complex and harmonious — except for man's depredations and mistakes which occasionally throw even nature out of balance. The distance of our earth from the sun just "happens to be" the right distance to give us heat and light in the proper amounts. Think about it for a moment. If the moon were a little closer, our tides would daily sweep the continents, making the world uninhabitable for any land-dwelling creatures. If the earth were further from the sun, our temperature would be below freezing, and the earth would freeze solid. If the earth were a little closer, everything on this good green earth would burn to a crisp. (Isn't it interesting that the other planets in our solar system all tend to have incredible extremes or temperatures completely unknown to the earth?) The earth's mantle or air, like a Canopy, shields us from the rays or the sun. protects us from the daily bombardment of millions or astral bodies from space, and gives us oxygen to breathe. Did that just happen accidentally?
The Creatures of the Earth
Why do salmon have the incredible ability to return to the very river, find the same tributary, swim unerringly to the same branch, and find the exact gravel bed where they were spawned? Why do migratory waterfowl fly thousands of miles through the thickest storms and find a tiny nest with unerring accuracy that defies the finest or man's radar and navigational instruments? Isn't the existence of a great, all-knowing Creator God the only credible answer? God is known by his handiwork! His nature, character, and personality are indelibly etched into this earth and discernibly in scribed across the length and breadth of his creation. Everything you see about you reflects tremendous complexity, careful planning, meticulous detail, great beauty and harmony and follows definite, unchangeable, unshakable, immutable laws! Perhaps no living creature is a better illustration of this great principle than a bird. These little creatures have dozens of different types or specialized air frames, wing foils, and navigational equipment that is more accurate than that on modern jet planes. A bird had to be created to conform to certain aerodynamic principles. or it never would have gotten off the ground. We don't think of the fact that a bird simply must have the proper lift-to-drag ratio, an extremely lightweight structure, and a powerful system or propulsion. But there's no need to worry. The anatomy or a bird is superbly designed (by a great designer) with a streamlined body shape, wings propelled by powerful chest muscles. and a rapid heartbeat and metabolic rate — all essentials for flight. Bird bones themselves are not unlike something that came off an aircraft designer's drawing board. They are not only hollow, but also interlaced with a system or internal struts and girders — all very similar to some of the designs common in aircraft construction. Ever wonder why a bird doesn't "stall out" in mid-air flight? Incredibly its wings come equipped with a little device called an "alula" which works pretty much like an antistall device in a modern aircraft. Like aircraft, birds have varying aerodynamic designs in order to meet specific flight requirements. The albatross and the vulture have long, narrow wings which enable them to stay aloft for hours with a minimum of effort. On the other hand, hummingbirds come equipped with swivel wings that allow them to hover like helicopters. I could go on and on with the wonders of design in nature, but the point is that God has indeed revealed himself through the intricate tapestry of his physical creation. Great scientists and statesmen have recognized this fact to one degree or the other. Dr. Wernher von Braun, world renowned German scientist, once said: "Anything as well ordered and perfectly created as is our earth and universe must have a Maker, a Master Designer. Anything so orderly, so perfect, so precisely balanced, so majestic as this creation can only be the product or a Divine idea.... There must be a Maker; there can be no other way." Dr. Warren Weaver adds: "Every new discovery or science is a further 'revelation' or the order which God has built into this universe." But even with these great men and others like them, the term "God" is often used to symbolize something other than the Creator revealed in the pages or your Bible. True, "The heavens declare the glory or God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). However, there are certain limits to what man can find out about his God strictly through the knowledge or the creation. For instance. the creation itself would never tell you exactly why the Creator God hides himself from his human creatures. Only the acceptance of the biblical account can answer critical questions about God, his nature, and how and why he deals with man.
The Biblical Perspective
Visualizing the full scope or 6,000 years or human history with multiple dozens or generations strung end to end, let's understand, from the biblical revelation, the true perspective or the relationship between man and God from the very beginning of his creation. The apostle Paul, thousands of years after the fact, affirmed that Adam was indeed the very first human being — the first man. (See I Cor. 15:45; Gen. 2:7.) God dealt very intimately with his prototype for all mankind. He literally walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But very shortly, our first parents, through the influence of Satan the devil, upset and trampled upon their privileged relationship with the Creator. You know the story. Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to take what was not theirs — thus directly disobeying the specific orders or their Creator. Immediately afterwards, they reacted in typical human fashion: "... Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees or the garden" (Gen. 3:8). Originally God did reveal himself to the first man and his wife. It was they who first began to play the game of "hide-and-go-seek." They began a pattern that was to last throughout history. Their firstborn son — Cain — was the first to follow the pattern. After brutally murdering his brother, Abel, he began by denying the crime as if God had no power to know about it one way or the other. (See Gen. 4:9.) Following his arrest, conviction, and sentencing, the Bible simply records: "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden" (verse 16).
Moses' Incredible Experiences
Over the first two thousand years of human history probably less than a dozen individuals had any personal contact with God, according to the Bible. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Lot are all numbered among these few persons to have walked and talked with God. Later God actually got down in the dust of the earth and wrestled with the patriarch Jacob. Moses came on the scene about 1500 B.C. He had an extremely unusual and unique relationship with God. "And he [God] said. Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so.... With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold..." (Num. 12:6-8). Back in the 33rd chapter of Exodus, there is a very interesting account of how Moses was overcome with curiosity about God. He wanted to see God. I think you can understand it. Moses was practically dwelling with this personality — camping out on Mount Sinai with him and continually hearing this great voice, yet he was only able to see a heavy, thick, misty cloud that his eyes simply couldn't penetrate. Pick up the account in verse 9: "And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses.... And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." (verse 11). The next time Moses talked with God, he made a bold request: "And he said. I beseech thee, shew me thy glory" (verse 18). God's reply: " I will make all my goodness pass before thee.... [But] thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live. And it shall come to pass. while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in the cleft [crevice] of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen" (verses 19-23).
What Did Moses See?
The Exodus account leaves it at that. But elsewhere the Bible reveals that man was formed in the likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). So man must look like God — and vice versa. Dozens of scriptures show that God has hands (Ex. 9:3; Job 1:11: etc.). He has fingers (Ex. 31:18). It is plainly stated in the Bible that God has arms, a torso, legs, feet, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, a voice, two ears: in a word, God is formed and shaped like a human being even though composed of spirit (John 4:24). Probably the best description of what Moses saw and heard was seen by the apostle John in vision — not in the flesh, of course. Moses saw this same scene from the back — not the front. "And in the midst of the seven candlesticks [was] one like unto the Son of man. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire: and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace: and his voice as the sound of many waters.... and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength [which explains why no human being can see God's face and live)" (Rev. 1:13-16). Moses was not unaffected, even physically, by this incredible experience. Notice, in the 34th chapter of Exodus, another previously unheard of phenomenon. "And it came to pass, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables or testimony in Moses' hand [the Ten Commandments]... that Moses wist [knew] not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him [God]. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold the skin or his face shone: and they were afraid to come nigh him" (verses 29-30). Moses face was glowing with an incandescent kind of radiance. The people were so frightened that he was forced to put a veil over his face in order to conduct daily business.
The Public Reaction
Moses was curious about God, but as clearly shown by the above account, not the people. They wanted to stay as far away from God as humanly possible. When God chose to "come out of hiding" and finally reveal himself to the Israelites, here is what happened: "And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it. they removed, and stood far off. And they said unto Moses. Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Ex. 20:18-19). This is the typical manner in which mankind had been reacting to the presence of God all the way from the time of Adam. In essence. man has told God to keep his (unprintable) nose out of man's (unprintable) business. By the time of Samuel, God was pretty well totally complying with mankind's wishes. Prior to his revelation to the young child Samuel, it is mentioned that ...the word of the Lord was precious in those days: there was no open vision" (I Sam. 3:1). Finally the writing or the Old Testament books was completed. In the three-hundred-year intertestamental period, mankind as a whole (including God's own nation in Judaea) strayed further and further from God, going to every weird religious extreme. God himself was keeping hands off while his truth was almost hopelessly mongrelized out of all recognition. Then came God's full revelation to humankind in the flesh.
The Full Revelation
"Whereas in the past God spoke through many forms, fashions and figures, and communicated by various means, methods and manners. He was now ready to pour out the whole story through a Son (Heb 1:1-2. Phillips). It was God's time to completely reveal himself. He had become a human being. As strange as it may sound in the light of much of modern theology. Jesus was the very God of the Old Testament, not the Father. He was the one who directly created the universe (John 1:3: Eph. 3:9), walked and talked with Adam, dined with Abraham, wrestled with Jacob, spoke with Moses, and watched over ancient Israel (I Cor. 10:4). In the book of Hebrews, Jesus is called" the brightness of his glory. and the express image [Greek. karakter] of his person" (Heb. 1:3). Jesus and the Father, though two separate spirit beings, are one in perfect character, outlook, purpose, love toward mankind, etc. But Jesus is the member of the Godhead that has always dealt with mankind. Jesus Christ said of the Father: "No man hath seen God at any time..." (John 1:18). "And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape" (John 5:37). Yet Moses saw the one that talked with him and who called himself the selfexistent (YHVH), everliving God. The only way to square these scriptures is to conclude that Jesus — not the Father — was the God of the Old Testament.
The Rejection Syndrome
But humankind continued to play "hide-and-go-seek" with the presence of God — even in the flesh. The rejection of God's own son by his own people (John 1:11) is nowhere better illustrated than in a parable Jesus gave in Matthew 21: "...There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard ... and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants [the prophets in this analogy] to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants... and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying. They will reverence my son.
Originally God did reveal himself to the first man and his wife. It was they who first began to play "hide-and-go-seek." They began a pattern that was to last throughout history.
"But when the husbandmen saw the son [Jesus Christ], they said among themselves. This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him" (verses 33-39). Jesus then went on to explain in verse 42: "Did ye never read in the scriptures. The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner...?" A mob of faces flushed with frenzy insisted on the Roman execution of Jesus. The religious establishment set it all up in advance. They feared for their own position: they didn't want to lose their followers; they were used to the adulation of the people. In the more than 1900 years since Christ's death and resurrection, mankind has had access to God through his written Word. But organized religion has done a very thorough job of both muzzling the Bible and hiding its God! Myriads of councils, conclaves, and conferences have interpreted the Bible so that it has lost all of its practicality to a man's or woman's day-to-day life: no more laws, sabbaths, holy days, tithing, prophecy, or correction. Now even the Ten Commandments are "out of date." If Jesus Christ began his physical ministry today as something similar to the humble carpenter of Nazareth, he would undoubtedly be accused of being "the greatest threat ever to God. Christianity, and Patriotism! He would be summarily charged with treason and sedition — and his trial and execution would be festively celebrated around the earth.
Why Does God Hide Himself?
"Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself..." wrote the prophet Isaiah millennia ago (Isa. 45:15). For the world as a whole, that statement is just as true today as it ever was. This world couldn't be more unaware of the presence of the true God. But God still has all the power he needs to reveal himself to you personally. Your current relationship to God may be a good deal like that of Job's. He thought he knew a lot about God. But after a long series of eloquent arguments with his three friends, God stepped into the picture and pointed out a few things Job had never considered before. In fact, he asked Job about 40 embarrassing questions. Take a look at the vital lesson Job learned. He said to God: "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not: things too wonderful for me, which I knew not" (Job 42:2-3). He continued: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee" (verse 5). He saw for the first time the true picture of the awesome personality of God. His conscious mind had never really previously seen this God of whom he spoke. He said in essence: "I have heard, of you by the hearing of the ear — but now I get it, now I really see, now I understand, now I comprehend what it's all about. Wherefore," he said in verse 6. "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Now Job got the true perspective. And he made that most difficult of all human steps: He admitted that he had been utterly wrong — not partially wrong, but totally wrong. Could you admit, even to yourself, that you could be wrong about your current concepts concerning God? If you could, you would be on your way to becoming a Christian — in the truest sense of that term. We have a booklet on the subject. Why don't you take one more step and read our free booklet entitled "What Is a Real Christian?