Why doesn’t God appear to mankind? Why doesn’t He manifest Himself so everyone can see Him and know for sure that He exists? The Bible reveals the answer.
A hotly debated topic today has to do with God’s existence. Did we evolve by chance or were we created by a divine being? It would seem that if there was a God—particularly if He cared about those who believe in Him—then He would appear to mankind so doubt of His existence would be dispelled.
When enraged humans curse God, why doesn’t He respond openly so that carnal defiance is shown to be sinful and irrational? Why doesn’t He show Himself so mankind is no longer deceived by the devil, whose influence leads humans astray (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9)? What father would bring children into the world and then hide himself from them?
These questions have been asked for millennia. Wouldn’t an appearance by God greatly benefit all of mankind and answer so many questions?
God hides Himself
It may sound surprising, but the Bible does show that God hides Himself from mankind. The prophet Isaiah records in Isaiah 45:15, “Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” Isaiah is acknowledging that God actually was concealing Himself from His chosen people. Why would He do that?
King David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), lamented that He could not seem to find God in times of trouble. He stated in Psalm 10:1, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” Again in Psalm 13:1 he wrote, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” We see the same sentiment later in Psalm 89:46: “How long, Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever?”
Why would God do this? Why not show Himself? Why is He so hard to find? This is very puzzling to nonbelievers and believers alike.
Back to the beginning
If we go back to when God created mankind, we find that initially He did appear to His new creation. In chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis God personally communicated with Adam and Eve. God interacted with them on a very familiar basis, much the same way any two individuals would converse today. God was present in the Garden of Eden and spoke candidly with the first man and woman. Why won’t He do that today?
God spoke directly and personally with Adam and Eve. He provided a wonderful environment and instructed them as a loving parent. Part of His instruction was to warn them about partaking of a particular tree located in the Garden of Eden—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Choosing the fruit of this tree would result in discontinuation of the blessings God had bestowed upon them and eventual death. This tree represented a way of self-determination and preferring one’s own will over God’s.
Yielding to the serpent’s enticement, both Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit of this tree. Under the influence of the adversary, they decided to reject the way God wanted them to live—pictured by the tree of life. Instead they chose the way that would satisfy their own desires—the way of deciding for themselves what was good and evil, as pictured by the forbidden tree.
Who hid from whom?
Notice what we find next in Genesis 3:8: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”
Following this sin, we find God searching for Adam and Eve. They are the ones who hid themselves from God and in essence said, “Don’t find us.” They tried to conceal themselves from their Maker. He wasn’t hiding from them.
Sin had entered the world, and now a breach had taken place. The free, innocent communication that had been so natural and automatic was now corrupted through sin. God was no longer welcomed in their lives as He once had been.
As a result, the first man and woman had to be put out of the Garden of Eden because their minds and hearts had changed (Genesis 3:22). Mankind as a whole has followed the same path of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Romans 5:12). Because of Satan’s continuing influence (Ephesians 2:1-2), we don’t want God to rule over our lives (Romans 8:7).
The apostle Paul in Romans 3:10-11 wrote about what is in all of our hearts as humans: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.”
No man or woman has a converted mind on his or her own.
The Bible shows that even religious people can have the same basic mind-set as Adam and Eve. We read in Hosea 5:6, “With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them.”
But why wouldn’t God show Himself to those seeking Him? It is because we seek God in our own way. “Then they will cry to the Lord, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds” (Micah 3:4).
God seems hidden because our sins cut us off from access to God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Further, we seek after God according to our own desires and in our own manner, not according to His truth (Mark 7:6). Satan has deceived even the religious of this world so that they do not receive the truth of the gospel that leads them to find God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
We, in essence, are hiding from God. Indulging our human nature, we want the freedom to choose our own path, even with respect to how we worship God. Our Creator realizes that, and He will not force Himself on mankind at this time.
God reveals Himself
Interestingly, God the Father did again reveal Himself to the world in a very personal way. He sent His own Son to mankind as a witness. Jesus told His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). So God has appeared to mankind. God was with us in the form of the human Jesus Christ (Immanuel—see Matthew 1:23), but He was rejected and put to death. The rejection of Christ illustrates how the carnal mind does not want God to reveal His will for us. Even though God the Father did reveal Himself to mankind through His Son, we humans rejected Him. And sadly, many of us continue hiding from God.
We have to have our mind and thinking changed so we will welcome His presence. In Proverbs 1:24-25 God speaks through wisdom personified: “Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke.”
The good news is that God will not stay hidden forever. ... After Jesus Christ returns to restore God’s rule to this earth, He will make the knowledge of God available to all (Isaiah 11:9).God tried to reveal Himself to His nation Israel, but they did not have the heart to seek Him. God had not given Israel as a whole the ingredient needed to have such a heart (Deuteronomy 29:2-4). The ingredient Israel lacked and all humanity lacks is the Holy Spirit. From the days of Adam and Eve, God cut humanity as a whole off from having access to His spiritual knowledge of life and its purpose―the knowledge pictured by the tree of life. (For more on this important attribute of God’s Spirit, see the article “The Spirit of Truth”).
Undisturbed spiritual slumber
Satan is called the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) because he fosters a spirit of rebellion toward God today just as he did with Adam and Eve in the garden. The devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world during the temptation in the wilderness, thus showing he has mankind under his sway and this is his world (Matthew 4:9; 1 John 5:19).
The apostle Paul explained a critical truth in Ephesians 2:1-2: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” Paul confirmed that we live in an age that is not God’s. The vast majority of mankind has walked according to the course of this world. Knowledge of the true God—His love and His Spirit—is unknown unless God specifically calls us out of this present evil world (John 6:44; Galatians 1:4). True Christians were spiritually dead before God called them, but now they are alive. God is no longer hidden from them.
Because God knows that mankind, under the influence of Satan, will reject Him as Adam and Eve did, He allows a spiritual blindness to remain. He will not appear to rebellious mankind at this time, nor will He even respond when angry men curse His name.
Only those God calls now understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:11) and receive a spirit that enables them to overcome Satan’s power (1 John 4:4) and the spiritual slumber (Romans 11:8). So, out of love and to fulfill His plan, God hides Himself from His creation until His Son establishes the Kingdom of God on the earth. God allows many to experience spiritual blindness now so that He might have mercy on them later. If He did not, they would be held to a much greater degree of accountability. He chooses to call people at the best time for them. For more about this special calling, read the article “God Calling!”
God can be found
The good news is that God will not stay hidden forever. In this age God gives access to His Spirit to some―those whom He is calling. But in the future, after Jesus Christ returns to restore God’s rule to this earth, He will make the knowledge of God available to all (Isaiah 11:9).
So, when God gives us the eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to perceive through His Spirit, God will no longer be hidden. God is really not very far from us. “So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
Those who respond to the Christian calling come to see that God is no longer hiding. Through His Spirit, they have yielded to the will of God; and thus their hearts have changed. One day that will be the case with the entire world. Ezekiel 39:29 speaks of God’s Kingdom on the earth when it says, “‘And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.”
For more on this topic, read the articles in this section: “Who Is God?”
One resource that can help is “Knowing God,” our free seven-day Journey. Let us be your guide as you spend a week discovering who God is and what He has in store for you—in this life and the next.