Christianity 201

December 2, 2022

Does God Deliberately Hide Himself from Some People

Navigating the waters of the predestination debate is tough enough — the idea that some people, often referred to as “the elect” represent the “chosen” of God, with that choosing having already been established long before the foundations of the world — without also having to consider the implications that there are the “un-chosen” or if you will the “non-elect.”

But the one clearly implies the other, and of course those who hold to predestination have a number of scripture verses — think of Jacob and Esau — always at the ready in such situations.

Countering that doctrine however is the nature of God, and the place where it meets the nature of humankind, in particular with respect to the idea of free will, or to say it more succinctly, “Did I choose God or did God choose me?”

In Hosea 1:9 there is a contrast presented between what it means to be God’s people, and what it means to not be God’s people:

Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God. (NIV)

We had a devotional here in August, 2018 which explains this unusual passage:

In the same way, because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, God could not call them his loved ones or his children. Instead, he would reject them and cause them to fall as a kingdom.

And yet even in the midst of this, God makes clear that this punishment would not last forever. That the day would come when he would call them his people and his sons once again, and would restore them.

Which brings us to an even more unusual verse, our key verse for today:

At that time Jesus said, “I thank You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to infants. Even so, Father, for it seemed good in Your sight.”
Matthew 11:25-26, Modern English Version (MEV)

The website presents the idea that God shields some people from seeing him fully.

  • those who are wise in their own estimation
  • those who are arrogant

(You could argue that these are often one and the same.)

The site states,

Jesus has just finished condemning three towns in Galilee where He has performed miraculous works and powerful preaching. Despite seeing the power of God on display with their own eyes, the people of these towns failed to repent of their sin and to believe that Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 11:20–24).

Why did these people fail to believe in Jesus? A possible clue comes in what Christ thanks God the Father for in this verse. In the middle of talking to the crowds, Jesus turns to His Father, “the Lord of heaven and earth,” and thanks Him for having hidden “these things” from the wise and understanding. In other words, Jesus thanks the Father for actively participating in keeping the truth from those who are thought to be smart according to the world’s standards, or at least according to themselves. Instead, the Father reveals the hidden truth to “little children.”

What are “these things”? In the case of what Jesus has just been talking about in this chapter, they are things that seemingly should be obvious. If Jesus displays power that can only come from God—power to raise the dead and heal impossible illnesses and cast out demons with a word—then He must be the Messiah. Why would anyone not believe that?

Is this situation irredeemable? That would depend on where you land in terms of the doctrine we discussed at the outset. It could mean that God blinds such people for a period (limited or extended) of time. I base that on this verse in 1 Corinthians 5:5, (which is a verse for a whole other study!)

Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns. (NLT)

Back to Jesus’ words in Matthew; at Russ’ Bible Devotions we read,

This seems a rather unusual thing for Jesus to say, but it shows us, once again, that God does things according to His ways, not ours. We spend a lot of time, effort, and resources in attempt after attempt to prove God in accordance with human standards and rules of reasoning, logic, and rational thought. While using such tools in the study of God is not wrong, to expect them to prove God, or even to provide a complete picture of Who God really is, only causes confusion, distortion, and is mostly foolish.

I see what Russ is saying. This can’t be an intellectual exercise or you end up with people who have undergone an intellectual conversion only. In other words, you convert them deism, or you have someone for whom Christ’s atonement has never truly reached the heart level.

But I’m not sure that I agree that we might abandon all apologetics, the context in Matthew is miracles, they had seen the miracles but couldn’t wrap their minds around them. In contrast are the opposite group; all the people — in all locations and all centuries of history — who did not see the miracles, about whom Jesus says to Thomas,

Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  – John 20:29 CSB

So we’re left with more questions:

  • Are there people in my sphere of influence and acquaintance who God is preventing from seeing the truth?
  • Are there people to whom I am witnessing for which the approach of reason and apologetics is not the way to their heart?
  • Are these situations fixed permanently, or is God allowing this to continue for a season with an offer of redemption to be presented at a later date?

This can become perplexing. The higher principle is the command to go and tell. We were never responsible for outcomes to begin with. We have to act like it depends on us, and realize that ultimately everything depends on God.



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