Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Hiding In Plain Sight"

By Charles Wheeling

Philip one day approached Jesus and said, “Show us the Father and we’ll be satisfied.”  This direct request was unusual; most of the time the disciples didn't dare just come right out and ask their questions pointedly.  The woman at the well is a good example: when the disciples returned to Jesus at the well, no man durst say anything to Him.   They were jabbering and thinking in the background, but no one came right out and asked Him what was going on.  Jesus’ answer to Philip was, “Have I been so long with you and you still don’t know who I am.” I ask myself why God would want to make himself known in a book, the Bible, that is so incomprehensible, that has taken millions of people over thousands of years to explain what this book is all about, and what this book is saying.  Why would God hide?  I have reached a conclusion: God is not hiding; He's in plain sight, but we don’t recognize Him.  What do we think Jesus meant when He said, “These people have eyes … they have ears ….” But it’s not doing them any good.  Though God appears hidden, Jesus says He's in plain sight — right here … “you're looking at Me … My Father and I are One.”  We could go into all kinds of discussion about how 2,000 years ago their language, culture and whatever were all very different from ours.  We might conclude that we are trying to read Jesus and God through all the accumulated clutter.  And that would be true.  But God, if He chose, could break through all of that clutter in a moment. 

There were a few times in the Old and New Testaments where God, through the prophets, spoke very plainly.  

Moses knew at the burning bush that he was going to have problems; that's why he said, “I don't want to do this.”  Moses knew this was going to be trouble.  Moses probably didn't even have a whiff of how great the problems were going to be.  He just sensed that Pharaoh was not going to be a happy camper.  Moses inquired of the Angel of the Lord directly, “When I get to Pharaoh’s chambers, standing in front of Pharaoh, who shall I say sent me?”  How many books do we suppose have been written on that simple phrase, “I Am that I Am”?  Do we have any idea how many books it takes to explain that?  People are still trying to plumb the depths of the simple question from Moses to the Angel of the Lord: when Pharaoh inquires, “Who is this God?”  What was Moses to tell him?  His name is “I Am.”  If you frame the expression “I Am” in English, it means “From everlasting to everlasting, I Am;” “I Am eternal.”  The expression is totally inclusive when you say “I Am;” “There is no one greater than I Am.”  This was understood even by the heathen.  This is why the Jews said, “We’ve got to get rid of this man, or we're all going to die.”  The Jews were in danger from the Romans because of, first, what Jesus was saying, and second, because of what people were saying about Jesus.  Jesus had purposefully ridden a donkey into town, while the disciples and all the people were throwing their cloaks on the streets and waving palm branches.  Every Jew knew that this was a prophecy being acted out.  In an attempt to stop this perceived heresy the leaders ran into the streets demanding that Jesus tell the people to be quiet.   The problem was that in the Roman Empire there was one king and nobody else.   “It’s better that this one Man should die, rather than we all be put to death by the Romans.” There was great fear among the Jews in Jesus’ day that they would all be wiped out by the Romans.  That was the very first thing Pilate asked of Jesus: “Art thou the king of the Jews?”  And Jesus would give Pilate no straightforward answer.  This is part of the whole business of hiding in plain sight.   “Is this something you thunk up yourself?” Jesus asked him, “Or did others tell you this?”  But Pilate has a different agenda: “The people say that you say you are a king.  Are you a king?”  He’s looking for a straight answer.  The question was straight enough.  Pilate wanted an answer.


God is still very quiet about many things.  

A perfect example is the Bible itself.  Millions of people with millions of ideas — all different — about what the Bible says, what it means and what the book is all about. Down through the ages people around the world have asked how they might get to heaven.  Each religion has a plan.  The rich young ruler asked Jesus that very question.  The jailer asked Paul, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  There are as many different answers out there as there are people on the rock. Salvation should be a pretty straightforward issue.  The question is simple enough, “How can I get to heaven?”  In Jesus’ day they had it worked out, and the key word was “worked.”  The rich young ruler asked, “What must I do that I might have eternal life?” If I do something wrong I can be lost.  We don’t have any argument with that idea.   Adam did wrong, God had told him he would die if he disobeyed, he disobeyed and the process of dying set in.  Well, then, a simple, reasonable process begins in the mind … if I can do something and be lost, then surely I can do something and be saved.  If you can do one thing wrong and be lost, surely you should be able to do something right and be saved.  I want to reverse this process. We’re back to the age-old question: are people really good at heart?  Is it true?  All we need to do is put them in a job, give them a car, give them a phone, and they will behave themselves.  Is that proving people to be good at heart?  Are people being revealed to be inherently good … or inherently bad?  People appear to be born with both the seed of evil and the seed of good within them.  Then they practice one or the other, or both.  People aren’t born with practiced evil in them; but they are definitely born with the seed of evil in every fiber of their being. If the Holy Spirit were totally withdrawn from us—which He is not—there wouldn't even be a glimmer of light in us.  The Scripture says there is a light that illuminates every man that comes into the world.   That light is the Spirit of God; and only because of grace is there ever a glimmer of goodness in—or through—anybody. The evening news plays out like this: The guy murdered 25 people, and while the parents are being interviewed it’s clear his parents believed and tearfully exclaim, “He was such a good boy.”   That’s the morning news, the lunch time news, and the evening news.  Is it not?


What the Bible really says is that not there's not a good thing in any one of us.  

“In me dwells no good thing.”  So if you see someone doing something good, how did he do it?  How did something good come out of this rotten person?  Is it not because God gave him another day, another breath?  Heaven hoping, Heaven praying that that one more breath will be all he or she needs to bring him or her to the Savior, to the light, or at least to his or her senses.  The truth of the matter is that we are so lost down here we can never save ourselves.  We don't even know where we are on the road to lostness.  We don't even comprehend how lost we are, and only God can save us. Can the Scripture formula for salvation be as simple as: “It shall come to pass in that day that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”?  Can it really be that simple?  Where in there is keeping Sabbath and paying tithe?  Can we be kept out of Heaven for not doing those things?


Let's get back to hiding in plain sight:

 God the Father, the I AM, is the One sitting on the throne.  I AM is not one, I AM is ALL. God has the unique capability of being everywhere at once.  He could be on the throne, and at the same time appear on earth as a little baby in a cow stall.  That's not two persons; because Jesus said, “My father and I are One.”  And that concept is incomprehensible to the human mind.  In this regard the Bible makes no sense to human reasoning. We see the One on the throne and we say, “That's God.”  We see this helpless baby grow into a man, then a mighty prophet, then a preacher, a healer and a miracle worker.  Finally we conclude that this is “My Lord and my God.”  He wasn't just a man.  What He essentially said to Philip was, “How many times do we need to go over this ground?  If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.”  We are one—not two.  We can’t get our heads around that, because, in our reasoning, if there's a Father and there's a Son, then that’s two.  It is two, only reckoning by created math, not Divine math.  We could say that the Father is God, and we could say that the Son is God, and we could say that the Holy Spirit is God.  You can call that the Trinity or whatever you want to call it, but the bottom line is: that's God. God is manifesting himself as one sitting on the throne; as one coming with the humility of the lamb.  He is the invisible One who can manifest Himself as fire, as a still small voice.  We could ask, which one is God?  The One on the throne?  The one in the manger?  Is He the rushing mighty wind?  Is He the fire over the head?  The answer, of course, is that they are all manifestations of God.  Here was the hitch in this get-along.  Jesus told Peter He came here to die; don't get in My way.  Don’t tell me I can’t do this; the devil is putting those words in your mouth. No matter how you look at it, God can't die.  It doesn’t matter if he's the One on the throne, the One in the manger, or the One in the upper room.  It is not possible for God to die, because God is everywhere and in every thing.  So the mind of God devised a way in the which He could die and yet live.  You and I can’t get our heads around that.  The number of ways you want to try and define God, or picture God, comprehend God are limitless.  But we are in no position to be able to define God; none whatsoever.  The reason being that we are created stuff, and that's all we ever have to compare ourselves to or connect with.  That’s exactly what the disciples were doing with Jesus.  All of the Jews were asking human questions: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  “Search the Scriptures; you’ll see Messiah is not coming out of Nazareth.”


In anticipation of His death, Jesus got the disciples alone.  

The crowds were away, so He could talk plainly to them.  He told them He was going away.  Where was He going?  He was going to the grave, and the disciples couldn’t go with Him.  “Where I'm going you cannot go.  Because if you do, you cannot come back.”  He’s hiding in plain sight, telling them plainly He’s going away.  The disciples begin to ask each other where He’s going that they cannot go.  From the human perspective this is a reasonable question.  Jesus understands the confusion, and enlarges on things.  “It's necessary—” the word is “expedient” in the King James— “It's expedient for you that I go away.”  Jesus had to practice the faith that God is asking you, me and everybody else to practice.  Otherwise how could He say, “I go to the grave—but I'm coming back”?
 The nearer Jesus got to the hour of His death the more He started trembling.  He was trembling in the Garden, blood draining from Him.  The death He’s fearful of is no ordinary death—this is the death of God!  None of the disciples understood what He was talking about.  None of the Angels understood what He was talking about—fully.  The angels were there trying to save Him out of this horrible situation; just like Peter was trying to save Him.  No one wanted to allow this to happen.  But Jesus said it was expedient for us that He go.  “If I don’t go away [to death and the grave],” He said, “The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, cannot come.”  In His last words on the cross He said, “Father, into thy hands I commend My Holy Spirit [My eternal spirit, My eternal life].”

Let’s talk for a moment about Joseph:

Joseph has dreams of majesty and power.  He dreams that one day everybody will bow down to him.  But instead of being bowed down to, Joseph winds up in Egypt, first as a slave, then as an inmate in the prison.  Time passes; things change; Joseph arrives at the moment where he knows he's going to die.  He repeats what his father Jacob said just before his death: “Swear to me that you will not bury me in Egypt.  But take me and bury me in the land that was sworn to our fathers."  Historically the story is played out so that Jacob is a stand-in for Jesus.  And Jesus is a stand-in for God.   
 But here we are with Joseph.  Joseph is repeating the same scenario.  Joseph knows he's going to die, so he calls his brothers and his family, and he reminds them, “One day God is going to bring you out of this place, and bring you into the land which He swore to our fathers.  Swear to me you will not leave my bones in Egypt.”  If you’ll check it out in the Book of Exodus, the Hebrews didn’t leave town without the bones of Joseph.  He told them, “Take my bones and bury me in the land of promise.” Jesus Himself has not yet arrived in the land of promise; He is still waiting.  But before He left Earth Jesus told the disciples, “It's expedient [a matter of absolute convenience] that I leave.”  It was necessary that He leave, because if He doesn’t leave, the Holy Spirit will not come.


In the human sphere God has done everything necessary for the salvation of mankind.  

The Godhead had an obligation to deal with our problems.  Everybody can be saved, but, of course, not everybody will be saved, because we are still left with our own choice in the matter.  It’s strange, because even though God is all powerful, He cannot keep a hold on everybody.  And everybody has the freedom to choose. When you’re trying to understand who and what God is like, you cannot just write out a few words and say, here, this is what God is like.  No, there’s a whole other side to look at.  And then there’s another side. And another. When we consider that God is representing Himself in the stories of these Biblical characters down through the ages, we get the idea that, through these characters, God is telling the universe about Himself, revealing Himself.  Remember, we’re talking about hiding in plain sight: hiding in Abraham; hiding in Isaac; hiding in Jacob, and hiding in the story of Joseph. When Jesus told the disciples it was necessary that He go, and where He goes they cannot go, they really didn't understand that He was speaking of His death.


God made it possible for us to be saved.  

He originally made us free to do righteously.  But through process of behavior we created the impossibility of doing right.  A good tree is not going to bring forth evil fruit.  By contrast an evil tree (that’s us) is not going to bring forth good fruit.  Of ourselves we can do no good thing. Our problem is that we are shortsighted.  We see a very small part of the spectrum.  But the spectrum is really quite broad.  I see that Jesus is coming … soon.  And the question I should ask is, do I see that?  Or do I want that? God is hiding in plain sight, not because he's trying to hide from us, but because we just can’t comprehend Him.  Ellen White puts this thought together like this: “Sin corrupts the thinking, and distorts our view of God.”  Sin messes with our view of life, and of basically everything.  We cannot see anything clearly.  The New Testament says we see through a cracked glass; through clouded glass.  We see everything through the distortion of sin, which in itself proves that we are full of sin.  Otherwise we would all see clearly, and comprehend everything just as it really is and ought to be.  But right now it’s just not possible. What I do know is this: when I think I have God figured out, He shows up somewhere else.  I suppose we’ve all been tempted at one time or another to think God is playing games with us down here.  The reason why we see Him first here, then there, is because He is everywhere.  And it really just depends upon your mood in that moment, and on where you are in your life and in your thinking.


No, I really do not believe God is playing games with us.  

By contrast, though, I think a lot of people play games with God.  I think that salvation is the most serious matter that has ever come into focus in creation … not just our creation, but the whole creation.  I think the salvation issue is “the” issue.  Either God is good, or He’s not.  God is not somewhere in between good and bad.  He's either all good, or He’s not.  We don't operate that way.  The way it works right now is that a person can be good one day, and bad the next; good one moment, and bad the next.  I’ll say it again, I really don't believe God is hiding from us.  I believe that it is our condition that hides God from us.  Jesus said, “They have eyes but they don't see.” If there's any measure of truth in what I'm trying to get to here, what might we consider to be a meaningful prayer if we find ourselves in this condition?  Might it not be something like, “Lord, anoint my eyes that I might see”?  Because, realistically, we sing it, we preach it, we talk it … but we don't even know what we’re talking about. Jesus said to them, “I've been here all along. I've told you who I am.  How is it that you do not understand that My Father and I are the same?” Rather than making things complicated, He’s making things simple; so simple, in fact, that He’s hidden in plain sight.  Our eyes are focusing everywhere but the right place. The reason God is able to hide in plain sight is because we are not prepared to see Him in the everyday affairs of life, the little things.  We’re always looking for some grand and glorious demonstration in the heavens.  We’re expecting to hear some booming voice shouting, “I'm God, and you’d better straighten up.”  If you can stop your mind going off on some pantheistic roller coaster ride, the truth is that if you look for Him, God can be seen in every thing and in every where.  The only real distortion is that everything is full of and covered up with sin. All the highs and lows that I feel in my long life are a demonstration of the highs and lows that God is subjected to.  “Let us make man in Our image, after our likeness,” said God.  So it makes sense that if I can feel highs and lows, then God can feel highs and lows.  If I can feel disappointment, God can feel disappointment.


If there is a Gospel or Good News, here it is: 

you don't have to be afraid of God.  Presently, because of our sinful nature, we are all naturally afraid of God.  It is fear that we're trying to see God through.  That fear distorts everything.  God is not hiding, but we, because of our fallen state, actually hide Him from ourselves.  Naturally we are afraid to see Him.  The voice within us rises: “Hide us from the face of him that cometh ….”  Because of what He told Moses: “You can’t see Me and live,” we are afraid that we would be destroyed.

 One day we will see God—face to face—and live; live like we’ve never lived before.

 Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.