Many people today are hiding from God. They avoid reading the Bible, they avoid attending church, or they avoid other Christians hoping that in the process that can escape some confrontation with their Creator.
They are like the little child that plays hide-and-go-seek for the first time. When told to go hide, he stands in the middle of the room with his hands over his eyes.
“What are you doing?” someone asks.
“I’m hiding,” he replies. He thinks because he can’t see others, others can’t see him.
There are a lot of reasons that people might hide from God, but as you look through the Bible you will discover that guilt – the realization that we have done something wrong – is the major motivation for running away from God. It has been that way since the Garden of Eden. Sin produces guilt and guilt results in separation—hiding—from God. But there is hope for those of us hiding from God.
1. God searches for us in spite of our sin (Luke 19:1-5).
God searches for us even when we are hiding from Him. In Luke 19, Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus without Jesus seeing him, so he climbed into a tree. Jesus stopped, looked up, and said, "Hurry, come down, for I must stay at your house today." That word "must" is "dei" in Greek, which means "of moral necessity." (Luke 19:5)
Jesus had to stay in Zaccheus home—not because Jesus didn’t have any lunch plans and needed a place to eat. He had a divine appointment with this chief sinner of Jericho to offer him what he needed most.
And notice that it is Jesus who took the initiative in seeking out Zaccheus. Jesus planned to go through Jericho to see Zaccheus just as He planned to go through Samaria to see the woman, and just as He orchestrated the events in your life to bring the gospel to you.
2. God forgives us of our sin (Luke 19:6-7).
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus knew Zaccheus’ name though He had never been introduced to him? I imagine that got Zaccheus’ attention immediately! We shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus knew the name of Zaccheus—He is the God who created Zaccheus and knew everything about him.
God knows you because God made you. He knows your name. He knows everything about you and knows exactly where you are even when you are hiding.
The one theme we’ve seen throughout Luke is that Jesus doesn’t hate those who are lost, He loves them, searches for them, and rejoices when He finds them.
3. Jesus frees us from our sin (Luke 19:8-10).
We have no idea of the actual conversation that took place between Jesus and Zaccheus at the lunch table that day. But somewhere during the meal, Zaccheus stopped the proceedings and made an announcement to the crowd that was present.
Luke 19:8 says, “And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.’”
This is not a half-hearted confession. It is better translated, "Since I have defrauded…”
His willingness to give back four times what he had stolen shows he had a repentant heart. The Mosaic Law only required that an individual return the part illegally gained in a fraud case and add 20 percent to it (Lev. 6:5). On the other hand, a case of theft required the four to one payment that Zaccheus proposed.
By his actions Zaccheus was saying that even though his sin was technically fraud and he could have gotten by with a lesser penalty, he admitted that this was really a theft and he voluntarily took the greater punishment. This was a sign of genuine repentance.
The only person who can set you free, not just from the penalty of sin in the future, but the power of sin right now is Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus came to Earth: “To seek and to save those who are lost.” To find us, to forgive us, and to free us from the power of sin, so that we can follow Him.