Hiding the Face Isaiah 59:2
Isaiah 59:2 says:
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God,
and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
Traditional Legal Model: God is so offended by our sins that He cannot tolerate them and turns His holy face away from sins and sinners.
Biblical Healing Model: While sin hurts God, He loves and continues to give His attention to the sinner. However, it is the sinner who cannot “see” (in the sense of understanding and appreciating) God due to a misapprehension of His character.
God is sometimes described as hiding His face:
“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? 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.” (Deut 31:17-18)
In that passage, God is not hiding His face from Israel in order to punish them nor is it because He is angry as we understand anger (see anger/wrath definition). Rather, He is honoring their free-will choice to turn away from Him to other gods. God’s reactions may also include an element of something we don’t tend to think of in relation to God – grief.
“And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.” (Deut 32:20)
“Hide my face” is not saying He has turned away and abandoned them. He has not forsaken because He still sees (“I will see”) what is going on; He does care and He is paying attention to saint and sinner alike all of whom are objects of His love.
Who is Hiding the Face?
The hiding of His face is not God’s action. Although it is often attributed to Him, it is another case of God being said to do what He merely allowed or did not prevent. See the study Love Takes Responsibility. https://characterofgod.org/love-takes-responsibility/ In reality, it is God accommodating the situation of man or honoring man’s free will which God, to be consistent with His character, cannot force.
Hiding the face is really the result of man’s action. When man sins, he feels condemnation and guilt. When the sinner believes that God is condemning and requiring payment as appeasement for his sin, he is not seeing God clearly. He cannot see God as God really is (in character). That such verses are not talking about literally seeing God with the eyes is shown by this verse:
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18)
“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9)
That seeing of the Father is not referring to physical sight; rather, it is a matter of “seeing” His character correctly. Saying that the Son has “declared Him” is not saying the Son had somehow made the Father visible to the eyesight. To “declare Him” is to make Him, His character known:
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” (John 17:6)
See the definition of “name” which represents character. https://characterofgod.org/name-definition/
Hiding the Face or Hiding the Emotions
The first mention of hiding the face, although not described using that term, is in the experience of Joseph when he was revealing himself to his brothers. And there was strong emotion with it.
“And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, Is this your younger brother, of whom ye spake unto me? And he said, God be gracious unto thee, my son. And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. And he washed his face, and went out, and refrained himself, and said, Set on bread.” (Gen 43:29-31)
The following short video segment from the excellent three-hour video on the life of Joseph shows this incident at the 5-minute mark:
Could it be that God, at times, hides His face in the same sense? Like looking for a place to weep? Here are verses suggestive of that possibility
“Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.” (Jer 31:20)
“In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (Isa 63:9)
Here is a description of God hiding His face connected with His emotions:
“Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel told a 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 Shekhinah, ‘and I will surely hide my face.” I, God have hidden Myself too, as it were, but no one comes to look for Me.” (adapted from Hebrew Word Study Revealing the Heart of God by Chaim Bentorah p283-5)
We have all caused God to weep as He yearns over us. The Bible says that “… all have sinned … (Rom 3:23) and sin inevitably causes pain all of which God feels.
He is also looking to reveal Himself to us. As you study and understand His character more accurately you will begin to “see His face” more clearly.
Return to the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary Index