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Thursday, January 9, 2014

God Reveals "I am Hidden"

Today in the Morning Prayer we read from Isaiah 45:14-19. We are in the season of Epiphany (the manifestation of Jesus to the world), having completed the twelve days of Christmas culminating with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6 (which was the earliest celebration of the Incarnation/birth of Jesus). The themes of light and revelation (apocalypse) are present as we are called to ponder what God has unveiled (apocalypse) to the world.
It begins with God’s promise to pour the wealth of the nations on the Jews. However, once I read a bit more I understood the promise in its actual context [a reminder: always read in context, context, and context!] The chapter is actually part of a longer explanation that God has done the unimaginable. He has raised up a Messiah. Who is the Messiah? Why it is Cyrus the Persian King…..
Clearly, there is some reluctance to believe Isaiah’s word; as Isaiah points out the ridiculousness of questioning God (does clay complain to the potter about its purpose? Side note, Paul uses this same image in his arguments about the ways of God. Paul read the Jewish Bible!). The idea that God of Israel is at work in the pagan king is a scandal. Not unlike the scandal of Jesus, who is also not what the people expect. Hence, the promise of wealth is fulfilled when Cyrus literally uses tax money from his empire to help the Jews rebuild their city and temple. This theme which is also present in Exodus (the Egyptians give gifts to the departing Israelites in a “despoiling”) continues into the New Testament when Paul commends the churches to give generously to the mother church in Jerusalem!
The verse which captured me was this: Truly You are a God who hides Himself. This, of course, is the great mystery of creation. Why is God hidden? Why is He not obvious and overt? Even in revelation He remains hidden. The Bible cannot be read without a commentary, and if you read more than one commentary the growing clarification seems to be accompanied by confusion of alternatives. Even in the Book God remains hidden.
The second reading today (Colossians 1:24-2:7) helps some. Following up on the great Christological hymn (He is the image of the Invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…) it portrays Jesus as the One in Whom “all the treasures” are “hidden.” The “mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to His holy ones.” This fulfills what Isaiah speaks in 45:14-19; God is the Savior and not human constructs (idols).  We live in a world where darkness and chaos seem to prevail, but behind it all (behind ‘the veil’) the hand of the Savior is at work. The mystery of salvation unveiled in Jesus remains a mystery none the less.
The hiddenness of God is something which Jesus Himself remarked upon (Luke 10:21 I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father  for such was Your gracious will.
As Paul Hanson says in his commentary (Interpretation, Isaiah 40-66, p 109) “God’s hiddenness is a hiddenness in mercy, making God’s presence available only to those whose hearts are prepared.” (emphasis added). A timely reminder to keep preparing our hearts for the Epiphany, the Apocalyptic moments of God unveiling and revealing His saving Hand at work among us each day, until it be The Day.

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