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Hidden Love

What is a godly deception and how is it love? Read on to discover more on God’s hidden love.

Considering recent worldwide events that have caused loved ones to be separated, virtual interactions to be at an all-time high, and the renowned words of poet Thomas Haynes Bayly “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” ringing true in our ears, it seems only fitting to investigate the biblical relevance of God’s hidden love. We may feel distant from God at times, separated from Him, and even as if He has forsaken us, but does not His Law declare, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you?” (Deuteronomy 31:6, and more). So, why does He allow us to feel His absence? Is this sense of separateness a Godly deception and ultimately His grace? In exploring the writings of the early church (prior to 325 AD) and the divine Word, we will discover a greater love beneath the surface.

In Jeremiah, we read of the mockery and rejection the prophet Jeremiah endured throughout his ministry. He was commissioned by God to condemn the people for their false worship and social injustices and to bring them to repentance. Through Jeremiah, the people were opportune to receive God’s mercy, yet in their ignorant state they refused the very person uttering their salvation. When God called him to the ministry Jeremiah was unaware of the persecution he would face, and although trialling, through his experiences Jeremiah received something far beyond value; being deceived by God, he received a hidden love. Regarding this Godly deception, in his commentary on Jeremiah, second-third century church father Origen writes:

We must understand that the deceit of God is of another kind from our deceit with which we deceive. What then is the deceit of God of which the Prophet, after he understood, spoke, when he stopped being deceived, after he knew the benefit from the deception: ‘You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived?’ …  Perhaps then, as a father wishes to deceive a son in his own interest while he is still a boy, since he cannot be helped any other way unless the boy is deceived, as a healer makes it his business to deceive the patient who cannot be cured unless he receives words of deceit, so it is also for the God of the universe, since what is prescribed has to help the race of men. Let the healer say to the patient: “It is necessary that you have surgery, you must be cauterized, but you must suffer severely,” and that patient would not continue. But sometimes he says another thing, and he hides that surgery, the cutting knife, under the sponge, and again he conceals, as I shall call it, under the honey the nature of the bitter and the annoying drug, wanting not to mislead but to heal the one who is cured. With such remedies the whole divine Scripture is filled, and some of what is concealed is pleasant, but some of what is concealed is bitter. (1)

Origen outlines that God’s deception is different from a humanly type. He likens this to the purpose of a father deceiving his son, due to the son’s state of immaturity, and the necessity to deceive him so that he might mature. Take for example a child riding a bicycle without training wheels for the first time. A father deceives his son by discreetly withdrawing his hold, as his son balances and independently navigates his new skill. This separateness of the father, although maybe resulting in some pain (if the son falls), ultimately is required for his child to grow. Origen also likens Godly deception to that of a doctor, who disguises the bitterness of a remedy in order that the patient does not resist the cure for their wound. Just as medicine can be bitter or distasteful, yet serves a good purpose, in the same way God allows us to taste the bitterness of His medicinal Word (cf. Proverbs 4:20-22), so that we may be healed. The divine Word is intentional in convicting us of our sin, bringing truth to the areas that separate us from God (cf. Isaiah 59:2), which may sting at times, however is integral in our salvation because “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32).

Origen continues,

If you see a father who threatens as if he hates the son, and who says to the son frightful things and who does not show affection but who conceals love for the son, one knows that he wants to deceive the child. For it is not fitting for the son to be assured of the love of the father, the goodwill of his devotion. For he will be set free and will not be disciplined. That is why he hides the sweetness of the affection, and exhibits the bitterness of deceit. (1)

Origen explains the love of a father who hides his love and disciplines his child, in order that he not become unruly. In the same way, our heavenly Father uses His Word to discipline us in order that we not stray from the way (cf. Matthew 7:14), as “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) and He “disciplines those whom He loves, and He chastises every son he receives” (Hebrews 12:6).

Origen goes on,

So since the healer sometimes keeps hidden the surgical knife under the tender and soft sponge, and also the father conceals the affection through the appearance of threat, and the deceits—some of which take away the tumors and varicose veins and whatever else weakens the condition of the body, the former removes the want of education and indolence—something then such as this is what the Prophet has understood that God does in mystery, and he says, when he sees in what ways he was deceived for good reason by God, ‘You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived’. It brought him to so great a grace that he prayed and said to God, “Deceive me, if this is beneficial.” For the deceit from God is one thing, the deceit from the Serpent another. See what the woman says to God, “The Serpent deceived me and I ate”, and the deceit from the Serpent caused Adam and his woman to leave the Paradise of God. But the deceit which happened to the Prophet who said, “You have deceived me, and I was deceived”, brought him to a very great grace of prophecy, by increasing in him power, by bringing him maturity and by being able to serve the will of the Word of God without fearing man. (1)

Symbolically, the Word of God is a sword or a knife (Ephesians 6:17) that divides the soul (fleshly nature) from the spirit (God’s nature) (Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, the Word (God’s surgical knife) is what takes away the illnesses within our souls.  Origen explains that at times God hides His affection from us, in order that we not become complacent with our salvation, and seek to understand His wisdom that is hidden in a mystery (1 Corinthians 2:7). Jeremiah understood the purpose of this hidden love, a deception that pushed him to draw nearer to God and ultimately gave him grace. So, we see that grace was something Jeremiah had to earn, through tribulation. Similarly, we read apostle Paul’s writing to the Church in Ephesus, exhorting them to not lose heart in his tribulation, as Paul understood this was the very process that revealed the mystery of Christ to him, ultimately being his grace (Ephesians 3:8-13).

God does not deceive like man or the serpent does. His deception conceals a hidden love, His grace. We may feel He is far away at times, but God hides Himself in darkness (Psalm 18:11), not so that He remains hidden, but so that we will seek Him deeper. By His mercy, He does not allow us to experience the fullness of His love because He wants us to mature and grow to the full stature of Christ, so that we are no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine… (Ephesians 4:13-14). Only through His surgical blade, His divine Word, is every remedy available to heal our every wound, allowing us to eventually become One with the Father.

We leave you with a beautiful exposition from Origen, who describes the relationship between the Word of God and our souls.

“Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me…” (Cant 2:9-10). The spouse of the WORD, the soul, who lives in her royal house, that is, in the church, is instructed by the WORD of God, her spouse, in all the things which are stored and hidden inside the royal hall and “bedroom” of the king. … when she is sufficiently familiar with these she receives in herself him who “was in the beginning with God, the Word of God” (cf. Jn 1:11), but not as remaining with her at all times –  for this is not possible for human nature-; rather she is at times visited and at other times left alone by him, so that she will desire him the more. (2)

References:

  1. Origen, Commentary on Jeremiah, Homily 25-26
  2. Origen, Spirit and Fire, The Great Canticle, pg. 274-275

All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010.