"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of Kings is to search out a matter"
Spurgeon states that the following are the typical interpretations of this passage. "First of all, I will give you the common interpretation which is given to these words, and the topic which is suggested to most minds thereby, namely, that it is God’s glory to conceal much of the great truth which concerns himself and his dealings with the sons of men. “Clouds and darkness are round about him.” It is his glory that he is not seen, his glory that he is concealed; while, as for kings, it is their honor “to search out a matter.”
One is immediately struck with the question, why? Why would it make God greater and more glorious if He hides what He does or has done? Is it that He gets glory when the building blocks of the universe and the laws of nature and the wonder of creation are not readily discernable but must be studied and explored. He should get great glory for the intricacy of design that He wove into the fabric of the four-dimensional space time that we inhabit. The difficulty is that with evolution being the persistent and dominant lie in our age, He gets no glory as we uncover the brilliance of His work. Instead, chance and nature get the glory. Amazing to hide the glory of God just to escape the moral implications.
I still want to ask, though, why doesn't He have His glory more on display? Why does He make it so difficult to discern the wonder of His creation? This question may only be understood in a day and age which has a perverted cultural lens through which to look at all the wonders of God.
The second idea in this verse is that it is glorious for leaders (kings) to search out a matter and that it gives leaders great prestige and honor to do their homework. It is a prestigious thing to uncover the real info behind something. It is a powerful form of honor and respect when a leader doesn't just accept the typical or surface explanation of things. The leader must dig deeper and make sure that he/she knows and understands the real reasons why things have happened individually and happened consistently and/or collectively.
This would suggest that God, at times, hides or conceals some or all of the purposes of the situations, circumstances, and events in our life. It is up to the leader to search out why did this happen. Is God trying to say anything to me? How does this fit into God's work in my life? What lessons or knowledge or understanding could God be trying to weave into my life through this episode or situation?
Spurgeon points out that this principle is not universal because it has been to God's glory to reveal a matter in a number of instances. His nature, the Ten Commandments, His Son, salvation – all types of things especially about Himself that we would never have uncovered and the more that we searched the further off we would be.
Spurgeon makes the point that the verse really deals with the nature of forgiveness and justice. That it is the glory of God when He forgives and allows a person to redeem his life from the pit and make a new start. It is the glory of leaders to search out a matter and make sure that justice is done and the guilty do not go free. In this sense it is not to God's glory when He who knows everything exposes and constantly reminds us of our sin. It is His glory and exaltation that He can conceal or forgive or cover a matter of sin. That is an amazing thing that our God allows us the privilege of forgiveness and redemption after our sins. He could rightly enforce the dictum: every soul that sins shall die; every deviation from the God-directed norm would mean death. It is God's glory that He forgives us and gives us room to repent and love Him.
It is the glory and honor of rulers, leaders, and kings to search out the guilty and punish them – to not let the guilty go free.
This may be the more correct nuance in the text because of verse 5. Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness. It is the king's responsibility to root out wickedness through justice, background checks, accountability, etc. The more wickedness he allows around himself, then the less respect they will have. It is God who forgives.
We are seeing this lived out in the pedophilia scandals of the Catholic church in our day. The leaders of the church were not ruthless in their rooting out of wickedness; they erred on the side of forgiveness and kept priests in positions of influence and power even after they were known to be perpetrators of vile wickedness. It is not to their glory and the scandal is rocking the church. They leaned too heavily on the mandate of the church to forgive and not enough on the need for leaders to search out a matter and remove the wickedness from around the leader.