By Paul Koch –
“Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” (Isaiah 45:15)
Commenting on this verse, Luther wrote, “These are the words of the prophet, who had already predicted these words of consolation. Now he is snatched into a trance of the Word of God, as if to say, ‘Dear God, how strangely you deal with us!’ It is a matter beyond comprehension to which reason cannot attain.” In one breath, the prophet praises God as a God who hides and then proclaims him as the one revealed to be the God of Israel and our Savior.
The reality of a God that actively hides himself is a struggle that raises its ugly head to mock us each time there is a tragedy in our midst. When we are faced with such senseless violence like the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night, we are left dumbfounded, consumed by questions but no answers. Roused from our comfortable lives, we find there is a God at work that we do not understand. So, we cry out and ask, “Why? Why would you allow such a thing to happen, O Lord? Where were you? What is to come from all this suffering?”
And no one seems to have a clear answer. Well, except for that one idiot.
That’s right; we can always count of Pat Robertson to unmask a hiding God, to explain what has not been revealed in the Word, to answer to our questions of “Why?” On Monday, Robertson said, “There is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him. It’s in the news. It’s in other places. There is disrespect now for our national anthem, disrespect for our veterans, disrespect for the institutions of our government, disrespect for the court system. All the way up and down the line, disrespect.” His conclusion was that “We have taken from the American people the vision of God, the whole idea of reward and punishment, an ultimate judge of all our actions; we’ve taken that away. When there is no vision of God, the people run amok.”
Now, of course, this is nothing new for Robertson. I remember a few days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when he and that other dill hole Jerry Falwell explained to the American people that this was God’s punishment for “the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle.” He even said that the ACLU was to blame, and good ol’ Pat just nodded and concurred with this interpreting of a God who hides himself.
No humility, no shame, just arrogance, blame, and fear (that happily flows along with political agendas, but don’t tell anyone).
Robertson seems to believe that human speculation about God is how we will find him. But that is precisely where he hides, so all that Pat can uncover is a terrifying god of his own creation. Like Adam and Eve seeking to find what God was hiding beyond his Word and promise in the garden, so we love to uncover what God has not revealed of himself, and in so doing, we make God in our own image, or even better, we make gods out of ourselves.
This playing of hide and seek is dangerous. A willful turning from the Word to uncover a secrete truth is not driven by the Spirit of truth but the father of lies. We would do better to heed the warning of Luther as he calls for humility and writes in The Bondage of the Will:
We have to argue in one way about God or the will of God as preached, revealed, offered, and worshiped, and in another way about God as he is not preached, not revealed, not offered, not worshiped. To the extent, therefore, that God hides himself and wills to be unknown to us, it is no business of ours.
We do not find God hidden beyond his Word but precisely in the Word. God is given to us in the Word and Sacraments and in the proclamation of Law and Gospel from the mouth of the struggling preacher standing before you. This is where God is revealed, offered, and worshiped.
Sure, this God may not have the answers to our questions the way Pat Robertson does. He may not give justification to our voting inclinations or constitutional interpretation. But the God revealed to us in his Word gives us something more: Christ alone—a Savior who embraces the frightened and confused, the angry and the hopeless; a Lord who proclaims a promise of a life beyond this age, a promise of a new heaven and new earth where there will be no more sorrow or pain, no more fear or terror.
This is the God of the Word, the God who calls you out for your sins and then speak forgiveness into your life. He is a God who kills and brings forth life. He is a God who hides himself from your speculation only to be found in his Word of life and whose abundant forgiveness can even forgive the delusions of Pat Robertson.