My kids love “hide-and-go-seek.” While my eleven- and eight-year-olds are accomplished hiders, my six-year-old has a habit of attempting to hide in plain sight. As the count nears its end, he panics when he hasn’t found a hiding spot. So, he stops, and stands statue-like in the middle of the room with his eyes closed. In his mind, since he can’t see you, then you can’t see him. He’s attempting the art of hiding in plain sight.
I perceive similarities in the church in America. We have our own habits of hiding. In the South you can’t go far without seeing a church. Yet, while our church buildings adorn the community landscapes, our church people have failed to impact the cultural ethos. We have mastered the art of hiding in plain sight.
Hiding in Plain Sight
In Judges chapter six, the people of God are hiding. Having lost the protection of God because of their rebellion, for seven years they lived under the oppressive hand of the Midianites. They were beaten down and had stopped fighting altogether, resolved to live out their days under the backbreaking tyranny of the godless around them.
While there are many disheartening elements of this sad situation, perhaps the saddest was that this was not what God intended for His people. The people that God had redeemed from four hundred years of Egyptian bondage; the people that had seen God part the water so they could walk through on dry land; the people that had experienced God’s continuous provision in the wilderness wanderings; the people that saw God conquer Jericho and other city-states through His miraculous intercession; these same people now cowered in fear, hiding for their lives and eking out a pitiful existence. What happened to them?
They forgot God. I don’t mean that they had a lapse in cerebral activity resulting in failure to properly identify and follow God. They had a lapse in spiritual activity resulting in failure to properly identify and follow God. Simply put, they failed to live out the words to that popular hymn: trust and obey. Along the way, they failed to walk with God; failed to remember all that God had done for them; failed to live up to God’s desires and follow God’s direction.
You see, God told them when they entered the Promised Land to clear out the godless and establish a kingdom of God followers, loyal only to Him as King. He promised that if they trusted and obeyed Him, they would enjoy the riches of the land flowing with milk and honey. But, following Him meant that they would have to fight, a charge they simply weren’t interested in heeding. They were excited about the Promised Land, and they wanted to enjoy the riches of God’s blessings in that land. However, they had no desire to fight for it. Even though God had promised His presence and power in and through them in such a way that they could not lose, they ended up missing out on the fullness of His bounty because they weren’t willing to see God’s power unleashed through them. Consequently, they squandered the opportunity to plant God’s flag completely and fully throughout the Land, and in so doing they squandered the opportunity to fully experience the abundance of the Land, settling to share it with the ungodly.
Thus, we find them in Judges 6, oppressed and beaten down, hiding out, having missed the opportunity for absolute rest and peace.
The church was commissioned by Jesus to go into the world of the godless and to plant His flag, laying claim to the earth under His banner and lordship. And, we are falling behind in this task. Like the Israelites of old, we have wanted to enjoy the riches of God’s blessings in the land, but we have been unwilling to see God’s power unleashed through us to accomplish the task. We have been eager to bask under the shade tree of God’s bounty but unwilling to chop down the trees of idolatry and godlessness that have grown around us to overshadow God’s activity. We have cloistered ourselves into religious enclaves, squabbling over scraps from the secular world. Although our buildings are visible, our impact is minimal.
No More Hiding
But, there’s hope. Our God is a gracious God. In Judges six, God comes to an unsuspecting hider named Gideon. Seemingly a coward, God indicates that he was actually a “mighty warrior” masquerading as a coward. It seemed that God knew there was more in Gideon than even Gideon knew. God was tired of his people hiding, and God called this warrior to stop hiding and take his place on the battlefield to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. And make a difference Gideon did. You know the story.
In the same way, God is speaking to His people today, calling us out of hiding and reminding us that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.
We follow a God who didn’t hide. He revealed Himself to the world. And, our deliverer came seeking to save the lost. We as His people need to stop hiding. We need to follow Him in the mission of seeking.
No more hiding in plain sight, church. Let’s get busy seeking the lost.
Blake Newsom, Ph.D. serves as Associate Professor of Expository Preaching and Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as Dean of the Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as Senior Pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, AL.