Today's Old Testament reading (Isaiah 63.15-64.9) speaks of God in an interesting and (perhaps) unusual way. In response to Israel's turning away from God, Isaiah cries out:
You have hidden your face from us.
You have let us be ruined by our sins.
--Isaiah 64.7 GW
We don't often think of God as one who hides himself, especially as the result of our sins. God's response to sin here isn't to lash out in anger or wrath as we typically think of it but to let his people wander into their own ruin, following their own ways and desires. This is exactly the same response God demonstrates in Romans 1. Many theologians, especially in the Orthodox tradition, write of Hell in exactly the same way--not so much as a place of conscious torment but as a place of utter disconnect from God, where the doors are locked from the inside to keep God distant.
So what do we do when God hides his face from us? Like Isaiah, we must turn to him and seek him with confident faith that he will be found. As Luther writes concerning seeking God in the midst of his hiddenness, "With the help and support of the Spirit, we run to an angry [hidden] God, looking for his undeserved kindness [i.e. grace] in the middle of his anger. When we lift our hearts in this way, we willingly endure punishment from God and we continue to look for his mercy...[we must be] determined to look for God's kindness and grace--no matter how hidden they might be" (quoted in Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, edited by James Galvin).
In good times and bad, we are exhorted to seek after God (e.g. Psalm 105.4, Luke 12.31, etc.). This is easy when things are going well but can be terribly difficult during hard times, especially when such times result from our sinful turning away from God. Yet, it is in these times when we most need God, when we most crave his presence, and when we most need his grace.
Thankfully, in his great mercy, his promise is that we that seek him shall find him. Thanks be to God!
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