Deuteronomy 31:18: “And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.”
After I completed work on my audiobook I returned to my apartment and was aware of how quiet it was. You see when I come home and enter my apartment my two pet doves, Jonah and Shekinah, sing to me. It never dawned on me that they sing to me every time I come home. On this occasion I had my study partner, Laura, watching my doves for me at her apartment and thus there were no birds to sing to me. I got so used to them singing to me every time I come home that I never even thought about it until their little voices were hidden from me. I thought of the chapter in my book, where I discussed Deuteronomy 31:18 about how God is hidden in His hiding. Let me share that chapter with you:
A Jewish scholar named Abraham Heschel often referred to what he called divine anthropopathy.We speak of God as anthropomorphic, symbolically ascribing to God a human body, but we rarely consider God anthropomorphically as having humanlike feelings. He told the story of Rabbi Dov Baer who was walking on a street accompanied by his disciples and saw a little girl hiding in an alcove, weeping. “Why are you crying, little girl?” asked the rabbi. She replied: “I was playing hide-and-seek with my friends, but they didn’t come looking for me!” Rabbi Dov Baer sighed and said to his students, “In the answer and the tears of that little girl I heard the weeping of the Shekinah, “And I will surely hide my face. (Deuteronomy 31:18).” God is saying that He too has hidden Himself, but no one comes looking for Him. God has hidden Himself in plain sight, but we do not find Him because we are not really looking for Him.
In ancient times a king would not weep in front of his subjects. He would turn away or hide himself so he could weep in private and not show his emotions. So too in Deuteronomy 31:18, God is not hiding his face so as to punish his people for their evils, he is hiding his face because their evils have caused Him such grief, that he must turn away to weep. Their evil is having turned to other gods. Yet, no one came looking for God, He had hidden Himself in plain sight, but God was not good enough for them, so they committed spiritual adultery and gave themselves to other gods to meet their needs and like a rejected lover, God suffered such hurt that he wept, alone and in silence.
If you look at this verse in the Hebrew you will find the word “hide” is repeated twice. Actually, the first time the word hide is written it is written as an infinitive. In Hebrew, one way to communicate intensity of a verb is to precede the verb with its own infinitive. Thus our English translations will render this as “surely hide.” But a literal reading of this really speaks of twice hiding.
Certain sages suggest that this means that the hiding is itself hidden. In the first hiding, God has hidden Himself like the little girl playing hide and seek. When we miss his presence we will come searching for Him. As David said in Psalms 30:8 “When you hid, I was terrified.” When I was a college student I was a reader for a blind student. I remember talking with a student who had been blind since he was six years old and I asked him: “What is it like to have been blind for all these years. He said: “I have not seen the moon in twenty years.” I remember walking outside that evening and looking up at the moon thinking: “You know, you get used to the moon.” So too, we get used to the light of God, his presence but when we have to go without it, we realize just how important it is and like David we are terrified and will desperately seek to find his presence. Like the little girl playing hide-and-seek, she anticipated her friends finding her and experiencing the joy of their reunion. But when her friends did not seek her, she remained hidden in her hiding. She then remained hidden for another reason, so she could weep over the rejection from her friends. So too, if God removes his presence from us and we do not search for him, this rejection will cause such grief to God that he will hide in His hiding so He may weep.
The word hide in Hebrew is satham which means to conceal or to keep secret. The word is spelled “Samek, Taw, and Final Mem.” The samek in this word would suggest that this concealment or keeping secret is meant for protection or shelter. God is hiding his presence to protect Himself from the next letter which is a Taw. The Taw’s shadow is avoiding the risk of intimacy. His intimacy involves the Final Mem which is His hidden secrets. We are well aware of the pain of being intimate with someone and then having that person drawn away from us. But it is even more painful when you have shared your deep hidden secrets with that person and then have that person draw away from you.
If we are made in God’s image, would not God feel the same pain we do by being intimate with us and sharing his hidden secrets with us? Then when we draw away from Him, in His grief He will, as we learn in Deuteronomy 31:18 hide his face or presence from us. In that, if we are like David, we will be terrified over the loss of His presence and seek it again. But if we do not seek his presence again He will “surely hide” or hide His hiddenness so that He may weep over His broken heart.
If you no longer feel God’s presence, you must first determine if He is just hidden so as to draw you to search for Him or if is He hiding in His hiddenness so he may weep over His heart which has been broken by us. Perhaps He is hidden in plain sight and you are just too busy or too proud to think that God will reveal Himself in His creation, even if it is just a humble little feathered creature. God is speaking to us all the time, His voice is all around us in His creation, and we are just too self-absorbed or too busy to pause and listen.