Do You Play Hide-and-Seek in Worship?

As a child, if I broke a rule while my parents were out of the house, they would return home to find me doing extra chores. My kid logic went something like this: if my parents see the newly empty dishwasher, they might not notice the newly empty cookie jar. Not surprisingly, my sleight-of-hand typically failed. My parents saw right through my childish trick.

In a similar way, religion can be a place we try to hide from God. There’s something about rhythms and rituals, formality and functions that trick us into thinking that God is fooled by our church attendance. We think, “Maybe if I lift my hands really high Sunday morning, I’ll distract God from what happened Thursday night.” And even if we rarely say those thoughts out loud, we know the temptation of this pattern.

Blind Fools Mock the All-Seeing God

While the prophet Ezekiel was exiled in Babylon, God showed him a vision of Jerusalem’s religious leaders committing idolatry. In this vision, the Lord brought Ezekiel to the sanctuary in Jerusalem and commanded him to dig through the walls. “And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 8:10).

The very place God intended to be set aside for his worship had become a gallery of idols. Then the Lord asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us’” (Ezekiel 8:12–13).

The elders of Israel made an embarrassing mistake: they considered the living God to be as blind as their idols. The irony is biting. They think the Lord is in the dark and does not see their sin. All the while, they are acting out a parable of their darkened hearts as they sit in a dark room worshiping graven images. Scripture tells us that idols of the nations “have eyes, but do not see,” and “those who make them become like them” (Psalm 135:16, 18). So while they foolishly believe God cannot see them, they have become as blind as the idols they worship.

Only Our God Sees

These religious leaders tried to hide from God in their fancy ceremonies. They thought their pomp and circumstance would cover them. But neither fig leaves nor incense smoke are a barrier to the “God of seeing” (Genesis 16:13).

Christian worship is unlike all the false religious rituals of the world because of this truth: our God sees.

Our worship songs are not attempts to throw the hound of heaven off our scent. Instead, the lyrics we sing overflow with the soul-piercing, marrow-dividing word of God that lays us bare as we cry out for the residential renovation of God’s Spirit (Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 29:9). Our friends, co-workers, and families only see parts of our lives. God sees all of us.

Our prayers are not attempts to impress God with our mastery of biblical allusions. Rather, we labor to articulate our delights and our shames. We beg for our joy in God to come and flood the remaining dark. Even the darkness is not dark to him (Psalm 139:12) — he sees our faults already.

You Will Be Found

Here is staggering encouragement for the struggling saint: no matter how far you feel from God, you are closer to him than when he first sought you and made you his child. Jesus loves showing grace to weak people: “For while we were still weak, . . . Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). The same God who sought us out to uncover us in our sin continues to show that grace whenever we come before him. So Christian worship will never be a cosmic game of religious hide-and-seek. The worship gathering is where we go to be found, not to hide.

My church leaders regularly set aside time for confession before God. I’m grateful they have. But no matter what order of service your local church follows, I encourage you to take a moment, even a few seconds, and offer up a prayer like this:

“God, you see us. You see me. I’m not here to hide from you, but I’m here to be found by you again.”

And as we come to worship the God who sees, we rejoice that Christ has purchased grace for us in his cross. Now, this gracious Savior will never turn back from doing us good. And one day, we will see him and never want to hide again (1 John 3:2).