Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
Jesus is accenting Father’s intimate, intense involvement in every incident of our lives. Having used sparrows, Jesus adds another illustration for emphasis.
The average head has 140,000 hairs. Jesus numbers every one of them. Numbering is more than counting. Counting can be done in a matter of fact way. We can rattle off one, two, three, etc. while barely mindful of what we’re counting.
Numbering, though, attaches value to every item, implying each one is labeled and catalogued. In other words, Jesus knows which is hair number 48, which is number 320, etc. When we run our fingers through our hairs, and two fall out, God knows it. He takes note of them. “There went hair 276 and hair 574.”
Every hair? Surely this is hyperbole, exaggeration. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not think so. They left the fiery furnace with their hairs in full number; not one was singed (Daniel 3:27), so minute was God’s care for them.
The lesson presented here by our Master is profound. By telling us God numbers our hairs, Jesus is saying we His people are dear in His sight. We are so valuable to God that the least important piece of us is precious to Him. Jesus loves us more than we love ourselves. We do not place high priority on numbering our own hairs, but the Father keeps a register of every part of us (Spurgeon).
Be comforted, dear people. He who cares about the hairs on our head surely cares about the head under the hairs. He is interested in us, superintending even the least matters that concern our well being. We always live in His thoughts.
God interacts with falling sparrows and numbers our hairs. These images bless us, but do not leave us immune from times of serious questioning. We have all wondered, “God, when I need you most, where are you? I know you are here, but where here?” Our faith tells us Jesus is here, but feelings say He is hiding.
I recently heard Graham Cook preach on this topic. His sermon profoundly affected me and started me down a path of deep introspection and soul searching. Cook forced me to grapple with the issue of manifestation versus hiddenness.
We all enjoy times of manifestation, when God is obviously working in our lives. Our prayers are being answered, all is well with family and friends, hymns stir us, our hearts are tender toward Jesus, He seems as close as the air we breathe.
Manifestation is wonderful, but contains an inherent problem. In times of unbroken sunshine God often finds it hard to take us deeper in our understanding of the faith. Jesus unveiled and enjoyed is a glorious distraction. His blissful presence can keep us from focusing on other realities we need to deal with.
There have to be seasons of hiddenness, times when God seems far away, when prayer meets a Heaven of brass, when relief for life’s burdens is nonexistent, hearts feel hard and cold toward Jesus, hymns don’t move us like they once did.
Hiddenness is painful, traumatic, yet needed. In these times we learn more about God, His thoughts, His ways, His will for our lives. How should we handle dark, lonely days of hiddenness by a loving God? Some Bible examples may help.
First, scrutinize our lives for sin. Do massive self-inventory. At Bethel, Jacob said, “Surely the Lord was in this place, and I knew it not” (GN 28:16b).
It’s easy to know why Jacob had trouble experiencing the presence of God. Jacob experienced hiddenness due to his sin. He had lied, connived, and stolen.
When hiddenness begins, use the scalpel. Does a glaring sin need to be cut out; sex outside marriage, porn, lust, lying, stealing? Probe deep. Do we see a promise to God forgotten and unkept, a commitment unfulfilled, a tithe withheld, an acquaintance unforgiven or not apologized to? In hiddenness, remove sin first. Even if sin is not causing the hiddenness, inner cleansing is always profitable.
For believers serious about their walk with God, sin usually is not the cause of hiddenness. When manifestation leaves, do not assume we’re backsliding. For devoted believers, hiddenness is God’s good plan, not Satan’s sinister plot.
Second, examine our understanding of God. Bewildered, Job asked God, “Why dost Thou hide Thy face, and consider me Thine enemy?” (Job 13:24 NAS).
Job totally misunderstood God. The Lord was not Job’s enemy. With pride God had bragged to Satan about Job being a wonderful example of Godliness.
In hiddenness, God is sometimes wanting us to re-think our understanding of His nature. Some deem God too harsh, they rarely take time solely to enjoy Him. They think of Him as far away, never close by. Their thoughts rarely dwell on Him. Some count God too lenient. Flippant about holiness disciplines and church attendance, they do not reverence Him adequately, failing to realize God is serious about being God. In the quiet solitude of our hearts, what do we think about God? How do we view Him? Hiddenness is often God’s way of saying we need to invest some serious one-on-One time in seeking to know Him better.
Third, don’t underestimate our burdens. Jeremiah, grieved at his nation being destroyed, cried out to God, “Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?” (Lamentations 5:20). The cares of life can weigh us down and so overwhelm us that we find it hard to focus on anything else, even God. Master said “the cares of this world” can “choke the word” (Mark 4:19).
When life crashes in, and underpinnings are collapsing, these are dangerous times of hiddenness. The pain can be so intense that we become swallowed up in our own selves. All we can do in a hurricane is hold on. Life is often this way. Sometimes our greatest accomplishment is, we did not quit. In these horrific times of hiddenness, we learn one very valuable lesson. God is sufficient. When He is all we have, we finally learn He is all we need. Jesus is precious, but sometimes we don’t grasp it till pressures have blown away all else in our lives. Hiddenness helps us know if we love Him for His own sake or for what we receive from Him?
Fourth, learn. On the road to Emmaus (LK 24:16) Jesus kept two disciples from recognizing Him while He taught them from Scripture. Had the two known it was their Savior resurrected and alive, they would have become too excited to be still long enough to learn from the Bible. In hiddenness, pore over Scripture, read much, study, meditate. Ask often, “Lord, is there a lesson I need to learn, am I being oblivious to the obvious?” Often we need to learn some new, vital lesson.
Fifth, stop being stubborn. Submit, bend our will, give it up. Hiddenness is often God’s way of forcing us to accept something we don’t want. We often have to go through the agony of realizing God’s will for us is not going to change.
We want life to be one way, our way, when God has chosen another path for us. If we continue to oppose Him, He is forced to let us experience hiddenness.
Manifestation will elude us till we acquiesce in His will for us. Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). The pain was excruciating. He had to do something He did not want to do, but something God willed for Him to do. Jesus acquiesced, and experienced resurrection as a result.
Paul was tormented by a thorn in the flesh he did not want, but God wanted Paul to have it. Paul pled for its removal, but finally God told Paul to stop asking about it. When Paul acquiesced, it became a source of great power in his life.
Are we kicking against God, is there a reality we hate, one that is not going to change? The river of peace flows within us only when the stream of our will converges into the same stream with God’s will. When content to have life as God wills it, rather than as we will it, we will be content, and rediscover manifestation.
Manifestation and hiddenness–I have tasted both, having lived in white hot heat of revival, and in freezing cold of hiddenness. Granted, manifestation is more fun, and hiddenness more painful, but which is better, most helpful, for us? The one we are experiencing at the given moment. Right now I’m more in hiddenness, struggling with questions I want answered. Why war, why sickness, why birth defects, why handicaps, why is Jesus’ name trampled, why no revival in the USA?
Many questions remain unanswered. Our comfort is, even in hiddenness God is with us. Job, when calmer, told God, “Thou knowest that I am not wicked” (10:7), and confessed, “He knoweth the way that I take” (Job 23:10). Jesus knows His devoted ones are trying. He knows the path we walk, and walks it with us.
Much more needs to be said about manifestation versus hiddenness, but saints wiser than I am will have to articulate it. I end with this. Be comforted. He who watches the sparrow watches us. He who numbers our hairs walks beside us.