I love to see the littlies playing hide and seek. Their delight in thinking they are tucked in somewhere where no one can possibly see them – and the rushing out to reveal themselves.
It feels at times, like God is hiding from us. We cannot grasp him, his love and peace are elusive.
Lent, is the time we think of Jesus in the wilderness.
The Judean wilderness stretches for miles. The landscape is stark and bleak. There is nothing for shelter, no sustenance, nothing to get you out of it.
Psalm 22 begins with echoes of that, but by the time we get to the part that Tom Wright focuses on today, the tone has changed:
22and when your people meet,
I will praise you, LORD.
23All who worship the LORD,
now praise him!
You belong to Jacob’s family
and to the people of Israel,
so fear and honour the LORD!
24The LORD doesn’t hate
or despise the helpless
in all of their troubles.
When I cried out, he listened
and did not turn away.
25When your people meet,
you will fill my heart
with your praises, LORD,
and everyone will see me
keep my promises to you.
26The poor will eat and be full,
and all who worship you
will be thankful
and live in hope.
27Everyone on this earth
will remember you, LORD.
People all over the world
will turn and worship you,
28because you are in control,
the ruler of all nations.
29All who are rich
and have more than enough
will bow down to you, Lord.
Even those who are dying
and almost in the grave
will come and bow down.
30In the future, everyone
about you, our Lord.
31People not yet born
will be told,
“The Lord has saved us!”
A cry of anguish has become a Psalm of Praise. How did that happen?
The Psalmist has discovered that:
The LORD doesn’t hate or despise the helpless in all of their troubles.
When I cried out, he listened and did not turn away.
However we feel, God does listen to us. He doesn’t run away. He isn’t scared by our emotions. We don’t overpower him with the traumas we feel. God isn’t hiding, trying to squeeze into a small space, so we won’t spot him and bother him. And most emphatically – he doesn’t hate us.
God does not hide from us – but do we sometimes hide from him?
Do we want to sort things out ourselves, be seen to be coping? Are we afraid of what he might say?
I spent a lot of my life sweeping things under the carpet, pretending they didn’t matter, then one day I turned round and fell over the pile. I spent a time wandering round the wilderness, not knowing how to begin to get out of it. God was there, but I could not have begun to praise him. I preached a lot of wilderness sermons, but it was in that wilderness that I found the strength of God to live with the pain.
God is not a stranger to wilderness. He has been there, done that, and so can help us in ours. He has trodden the paths, so he can lead us on them. To me, God is what he is, so precious, so knowable, so worthy of following, because he is a God of the wilderness too – who wants a friend who is only with us in the good times? God doesn’t abandon us to our trials, but walks with us. In the times we have no other support, he is the one who holds us up. When we have nothing left, we still have him. God doesn’t abandon the sufferer (Tom Wright p 38).
Now that is a God we can praise – a God who doesn’t hide himself, even when we might hide from him.
And we can cry together:
“The Lord has saved us!”
Not because life is always nice, but because God doesn’t abandon us and hide from us in the bits that aren’t.
Thank you God that you are always with me,
that you journey with me and hold me up;
that when I have nothing else left
you are there.
Forgive me when I hide from you,
and try to manage alone.
Thank you that you never hide from me