When I came to the Lord at the age of 13, a worship chorus based on this verse was in vogue then. Some of you may remember Dale Garrett’s songbook, Scripture in Song. This chorus was a top favourite from that book.
I can recall how this song set off some curious questions in my mind. Still fresh then was the game of “hide and seek” which I played often with those at home. The seeker was supposed to close his or her eyes and count 1 to 10 while the rest of us scurry away to find a place or way to hide. I was actually pretty good at hiding. I knew how to “play hard to get.”
And so I asked as a young teenager: Why does God play hard to get? Why does He make us count 1 to 10 and then scurry off to conceal Himself? Why does He make it so difficult for us to find Him?
It took some spiritual growing up for me to grasp the import of this verse and understand its message. The opposite is true: God is trying to show us how to find Him.
If we are cavalier in our spiritual lives, don’t expect to hear His voice or know His presence in our lives. The world - like sin crouching at the door (Genesis 4:7) - waits readily to take over every aspect of our lives. It seeks to stand in the way of our communion with God. As Isaiah 59:2 warns us, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you…”
Jesus instead re-calls us to love God “with all heart, soul, mind and strength.”(Mark 10:30,31, Deuteronomy 6:5) Later in my Christian life, I began to understand the significance of fasting, setting aside time intentionally to read His Word, going on spiritual retreats, observing the spiritual disciplines and so on.
I once took a lesson on Siew-Mai making (prawn dumpling) from a Dim Sum master. I struggled with making it consistently. I really thought that I could learn it on the spot. After all, I paid for the cooking lesson. He said this, “It took me many years to master this. If you can learn it in one day, why do you need a Dim Sum Master?”
Not the best illustration to reference to, I suppose. But if it is so easy to deal with sin and draw near to God, why did spiritual communion have to cost the life of His Son? Now that Jesus had gone to the cross, we may think that the way to God has been made easier and more accessible. But human nature has not changed much and on this side of life, sin is ever crouching at the door. And so, I go back to the point of spiritual disciplines.
God is always present. Always loving. Always ready, like the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son to embrace us. But we are looking elsewhere and highly distracted. Unlike the Prodigal Son, we have not woken up to our senses. Sin (in the full meaning of that word) has a way of hiding Him away from us as we scurry around chasing after the things of this world. Indeed, we can’t love God and mammon at the same time (Matt 6:24).
As the apostle of love reminds us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
What I have experienced again and again is that He is not playing hard to get. Instead, I am simply too distracted. I am too mortal (not able to believe), selfish (not able to love) and fragile (easily tempted by the the triad of my desires, the world and the devil). I am always playing “hard to find.”
I need to be intentional and seek after Him. I need to close my eyes and count 1 to 10...