One of my favourite hymns contains the lines, “immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes”, as well as the lines “all laud we would render, o help us to see, ’tis only the splendour of light hideth thee”. Like the Apostles on Mt Tabor we are blinded. In our blindness we grope around.
The riddle is that this God in whom we believe knows all things, and knowing that, knew when He made us that we would fall, and knowing that, prepared for us a propitiation for our sins who would free us from the slavery into which our passions would take us; but the sorrow of knowing that some of us would always reject Him, how would that be for a God who is love? Can we imagine the sorrow? How can we? The suffering of Christ gives us some sense of how much God loves us. But how much do we love Him? Enough to be silent? Enough to cease from sinning for a moment? Enough to repent?
Is the light inaccessible? Jesus is the light that lighteth the world, and yet the world did not see him. It did not see him because it was looking for a Messiah of its own creation. It knew what God was like – quick to wrath, a God who could be called upon to smite his enemies, and who, therefore, would come in a manner which would give us the satisfaction of seeing his enemies trodden underfoot – he would be like the greatest Pharaoh there ever was, a king who would make Solomon in all his splendour seem fustian.
So, when he came as a humble man, the son of a young woman, in some obscure backwater, despite the signs that were there in what we now call the Old Testament, few, if any saw him. He was humble, he rod on a donkey, not a great charger, and when his enemies assailed him, he did not call down bands of avenging angels. Instead, he was a man of sorrows, acquainted well with our grief, and he knew the keenest woes to which our flesh is heir. There was nothing in him of the earthly king, and our eyes looked for that glory and it saw nothing; for that is not God’s way.
The things we value, he held of no account; the things we do not value enough, he held of supreme account. He wept at the death of his friend; he showed compassion and mercy where the men of the Law saw only justice; he warned us, and we heard nothing apart from the sound of our egos arguing over which of us owns him.
So we believe He knows all, so knowing us as we are, He loves us; we do not love ourselves, but we are blind to the image of God in us. We make God in the image of a vengeful Father who will chastise us, because we know that is what we deserved; that is another version of the King in splendour. Except this time He will be a judge in the most splendid court, and we shall be judged. But have we not judged ourselves by our standards and found ourselves either wanting or absolved?
He made us, and to love Him. He loves us in a way we cannot love ourselves. All our sins He knew before we were conceived; we cannot conceive of that, or of how He loves us. We would not spread our arms on a cross and suffer the nails; so He did. That is all I know, and all I need to know.