God’s Face in Hiding

seek and find

A guest post by Jerry L. Snow

You hide your face and we are troubled…” (Psalm 104:29).

The writer of Psalms often gets our attention by the figures of speech he employs. In Psalm 104:29 he wrote our verse above.

Consider the sun is always there, but it is not always visible. For years the presence of God was manifest to the children of Israel by a pillar of fire or a cloud. Now they complain His face is hidden.

Here we observe, God does not withdraw His presence as an evidence of His divine sovereignty.

Jeremiah wrote, “He does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33).

Isaiah wrote, “Behold the lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot heart; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

If the consolations of the lord seem “small” to us as Eliphaz suggested to Job (15:11), it very well may be because He is trying to prevent some sin, correct some error, or remind us of some duty we have neglected.

We would do well to remember these words:

The dearest idols I have known,

What e’re that idol be,

Help me to tear it from thy throne,

And worship only Thee

So shall my walk be close with God,

Calm and serene my frame,

So purer light shall mark the road,

That leads me to the Lamb.

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Patterns from the Passages

 

I noticed a particular pattern today that I want to share with you.

In Isaiah 43-45, the pattern is found in what God is saying to the nation of Israel.

  1. First, God says to Israel, “I will restore you.”
  2. Second, God says to Israel, “I am able to restore you.”
  3. Third, God says to Israel, “I need wholehearted restoration from you.”

In Isaiah 43, notice the following:

  1. “I will restore you” – Verses 1-2, 5-7, 14b
  2. “I am able to restore you” – Verses 3, 11-14a, 15
  3. “I need wholehearted restoration from you” – Verses 22-24

In Isaiah 44, notice the following:

  1. “I will restore you” – Verses 3-4, 21b-22a, 26b-28
  2. “I am able to restore you” – Verses 2a, 6-7, 8b
  3. “I need wholehearted restoration from you” – Verses 9-17 (especially 14, 16-17), 22b

In Isaiah 45, notice the following:

  1. “I will restore you” – Verses 2-3a, 5b
  2. “I am able to restore you” – Verses 5a, 6b, 7b, 8, 11-13, 17-18
  3. “I need wholehearted restoration from you” – Verses 20-22, 25

God is able to restore you, spiritually. He will, if you will do your part. Won’t you make the simple switch? Won’t you be restored by Him today?

 

Why I’m Glad God Ignores Me

Here’s a problem I constantly encounter. There are some days when I just feel that my repeated failures are enough to make me want to stop trying to improve my character. I know I’m not alone because I have heard about some people who will choose not to follow God at all, saying, “God could never forgive my sins.”

This is why I was glad to stumble upon Isaiah 49. Come look for yourself.

When you read the first three verses, you’ll notice 1) that God addresses His servant—Israel (49:3), and 2) that Israel is aware of their God-given mission (49:1).

Next, you’ll see that Israel was fully aware of their past failures and mistakes (49:4a).

However, in spite of these mess-ups, God addresses Israel (49:5-8) to fulfill their mission:

  1. To bring Jacob back to Him / to bring Israel back to Him (49:5)
  2. To restore the preserved ones of Israel (49:6)
  3. To be a light to the nations (49:6)
  4. To bring salvation to the end of the earth (49:6)
  5. To be a covenant of the people (49:8)
  6. To restore the land (49:8)
  7. To make them inherit the desolate heritages (49:8)

God ignores Israel’s fixation on their own failure. In fact, He says, “Shout for joy … For the Lord has comforted His people …” (49:13). How?

  1. He has not forgotten His servant (49:15b)
  2. He has inscribed His servants on the palms of His hands (49:16) [*Note: Does not say, “He has inscribed the names of His servants on the palm of His hand]

Consider a simple switch in one of two ways:

  1. If you are not a Christian, and fear following God because you feel inadequate, no longer doubt. He helps you (49:8).
  2. If you are a Christian, and fear making the same mistakes over and over again, no longer doubtHe helps you (49:8).

Why I am Not a Leaf

I just had one of those days where I looked at myself and thought, “So…my whole life repeats in a cycle where I just ‘fake it to make it.’” I was looking at all the spiritual areas in my life that could still use some maturity and time for development, and concluded that I was spinning my wheels in a rut.

Sound familiar to you? Maybe you’ve tried to set goals for yourself. Maybe you’ve begun taking steps to fulfill that goal. Maybe, eventually, your motivation is derailed. Maybe, once again, you’ve digressed back to where you were originally…or worse. That’s when you think, “I know I’m better than this. Why can’t I improve this negative trait, that negative habit, this negative process, that negative endeavor, etc?”

Who knew that I would learn a lesson from ole’ Caleb? Caleb was a positive guy (Joshua 14:8; cf. Joshua 14:6-12). He was one of two guys, out of 12, who truly believed God would empower the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land (cf. Numbers 14; 32:12).

Caleb saw opportunity where everyone else saw failure; he chose to see positive rather than negative. He obviously felt confident, and was blessed as a result.

My wife encouraged me to do this, and I hope you will do the same. She told me to look at her painting she has hung in our dining room. It is predominantly green (with both light and dark shades thereof), along with some very dark black spots scattered throughout. She told me to focus on the darker areas. She said that if the painting represented my life, and the dark green areas represented my weak areas, and then I only focused on those 2-inch square dark/weak areas, then I might conclude that my life was a depiction of a leaf…rather than seeing the true masterpiece which God has painted.

When applied to your life, you’ll begin to see that you have more strong qualities than weak qualities. When you focus on the full, compiled masterpiece instead of the individual strokes and shades, you’ll help free yourself from insecurity and a lot of negative thoughts.

In sum, God uses both our weaknesses and our strengths to compile amazing works of art with our lives…if we, like Caleb, fully follow Him.

Have you made the choice to follow Him? Why would you not make the simple switch, to freedom and confidence both now and beyond?

Have You Ever Made a Mistake?

The following are my notes of a lecture given by one of my Bible teachers, put into a blog post. It is interactive, meaning you may want to get out a pen and go through the quick marking process that is outlined below. I wanted to preserve the lecture in one more way than memory, so I hope you enjoy it:

In Isaiah 55, God is speaking to His people through Isaiah, His prophet. These people are in captivity. Essentially, God says, “Just come to Me, and you will see beautiful promises because I am God.”

Invitation – (God calls the people to repent; God gives free spiritual sustenance) ~ Underline the following words/phrases in the following verses (All references from the NASB):

55:1 – Words: Come, Buy, Eat

55:2 – Words: Listen, Eat

55:3 – Words: Incline, Come

55:6 – Words: Seek, Call

55:7 – Words: Forsake, Return

55:12 – Phrase: “Clap their hands”

Reassurance – (God is not like humans) ~ Circle the following words/phrases in the following verses:

55:8 – Phrase 1: “My thoughts are not your thoughts”

55:8 – Phrase 2: “Neither are your ways My ways”

55:9 – Phrase 1: “So are My ways higher than your ways”

55:9 – Phrase 2: “And My thought than your thoughts”

55:11 – Circle the whole verse

Promises – (God blesses those who respond) ~ Box the following words/phrases in the following verses:

55:2 – Phrase: “And delight yourself in abundance”

55:3 – Phrase 1: “That you may live”

55:3 – Phrase 2: “I will make an everlasting covenant with you”

55:7 – He will have compassion on him [the unrighteous who returns to God]”

55:12 – Phrase 1: “For you will go out with joy”

55:12 – Phrase 2: “And be led forth with peace”

55:12 – Phrase 3: “The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you”

(Thanks to Dr. Dan R. Owen)

My thoughts: Sometimes I make a mistake, and wonder, “Why would God want to forgive me? He’s perfect and I’m not. What good does it do to go to Him in prayer and admit my mistakes over and over and over and over again, when anybody else would grow sick and tired of the same ole’ situation?” Then, I make a simple switch, and read this chapter. Won’t you?

When Killing Yourself is Permissible

There is a dirt trail right next to our apartment complex that follows a creek. I recently walked the trail alone and sat down on a tree that had fallen across the creek. Let’s just say that I was there because I made a mistake, and I needed some time to refresh my mind.

As I sat, a man and four children rode by on their bikes. As the man rode on ahead, one of the younger boys lost control and crashed into the grass next to him. He was crying and clearly frustrated. When the man came to his aid, he said something that has remained with me. He said, “I know it hurts, it hurts your pride more than anything.”

Wow. I never thought of it that way.

When I make a mistake in my life, I often ignore it. I will explain it away. I will make excuses about what I meant to do. I deny that I did wrong at all costs. In any way I can, I often convince myself that I did not make that mistake at all.

What about you?

Let me suggest to you that you can view your mistakes under a different light. Rather than considering your mistakes as hindrances, consider your mistakes as abilities.  In other words, let your pride take a hit. Let your pride die a little. Here’s what I mean.

As soon as you make a mistake, acknowledge it, and move on. This can be hard because you like to think you are a good person, overall. This can be hard because you want others to think you are, overall, a good person. However, acknowledging the mistake enables you to grow. When your mistakes are seen as opportunities to grow, rather than ensnaring setbacks, you will have a new sense of freedom because you will no longer be in denial.

Won’t you try it? Won’t you make the simple switch? Won’t you set yourself free?

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling” (NASU).