Isaiah 64:7-12. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. 8 But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. 9 Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. 10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. 11 Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. 12 Will you restrain yourself at these things, O Lord? Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?
I am reminded over and over again of just how dark Advent really is. Outside there are lights everywhere but I’m not fooled. The darkness is thick inside. In the last 24 hours I have talked to people about suicide, marital collapse, sexual brokenness, and depression. We are planning the funeral of a beloved sister in Christ, and I will help a family bury their six week old child later this week.
Then in despair I bowed my head. “There is no peace on earth I said.”
The lament of Isaiah 64 is one that is created by the hiddenness of God. The hiddenness of God is the idea that God has not made himself as visible and obvious to us as we might like him to. Divine hiddenness means we can’t directly see and hear God. He is invisible.
God is hidden. There is no doubt about it. Pascal said, “any religion that denies the hiddenness of God is not true.” Yes there are things that reveal God to us – nature, morality, miracles, scripture. And these bring some comfort. But look at Isaiah again. In times of great distress and despair, who hasn’t wondered “where is God?” Who hasn’t said “God has hidden his face from us.” We long to hear God. We long to see him. We want him to be near. In fact, look at verse 12 again. The silence of God IS our affliction.
Isaiah 64 laments this hiddenness and silence of God. But it is a hiddenness and silence of our own making as humanity. We melt in the hand of our iniquities. As long as there is sin on earth God will be hidden. As long as we practice iniquity, God cannot be fully present.
Isaiah 64:5b-6. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
This is Advent, the waiting. God must remain hidden because even in our best moments we are polluted garments, and fading leaves.
And so we pray: Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever.
And God remembers and God responds. The hidden God does not stay hidden forever. For 400 years God was hidden until he revealed himself in a burning bush and in a glorious rescue mission through the sea. For 400 years God was silent until he revealed himself in the birth of a baby in a feed trough. God remembered and God acted. God spoke. God revealed himself. Why? Because…
Isaiah 64:5a. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways.
God will reveal himself to those who joyfully work righteousness. But who is this? The very next verse says that we are all sinners and corrupt (64:6). None of us are joyfully righteous. Quite the opposite. So unless something dramatic happens God will remain hidden and silent forever?!?!
But the hiddenness of God ended with the greatest revelation of God – the incarnation. He became a human that joyfully works righteousness. God took on flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory. God met us. We saw God.
But even in this revelation 2000 years ago, God was hidden. A human? A baby? A construction worker? A cross? The greatest revelation of God is still veiled. Veiled in flesh. Veiled in the nativity. Veiled in the crucifixion.
Because it is IN the veiling that we truly see and hear God. Yes God is hidden. But it is his hiddenness that truly reveals him to us. In the incarnation God was hidden in flesh. But that very hiddenness revealed the true heart of God to us.
At the cross God was both hidden and silent. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” But at that very same moment God the Son was exposed for all to see. His cries broke the silence for all to hear. The love and holiness and grace of the Trinity was most visible in the hiddenness of the cross. The silence of the cross.
And now God is veiled in us. Our union with Christ means that God is no longer hidden and silent. He is present and speaking in and through us. This is “to live is Christ.”
And yet we still long and wait for the full revelation of God. God remains hidden. Just like at the cross, in us, the presence of God and the hiddenness of God meet. We have him. But we don’t fully have him. We are joyfully righteous and yet still corrupt garments. This is our Advent. Our waiting. It is a place where we are meant to see and experience God IN the hiddenness and through the silence.
Has God felt hidden to you? Silent? How does your union with the cross allow you to experience God even when he is veiled?