by Randy Bushey
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek” (Psalm 27:8).
Wikipedia’s entry on face begins with this very obvious information: “The face is the front of an animal’s head that features three of the head’s sense organs, the eyes, nose, and mouth, and through which animals express many of their emotions.”
Faces are obviously quite important to any of the species.
But the entry continues with something unique to what it means to be human: “The face is crucial for human identity…”
Even in an era of ubiquitous face-masks.
Our family has a new baby. We’ve each spent long hours examining her face – every contour, every movement, every feature, every grimace.
So what are we to make of the biblical injunction to seek the Lord’s face? If God is pure Spirit, then He does not possess a physical face (except of course, the face of the Lord Jesus in His incarnation.)
First, it should be acknowledged that the verse above is a tough piece of translation, and consequently many versions of the Bible render it a little differently.
However, what is helpful for our understanding is to know that the Hebrew word for face, also implies presence.
And therefore, the Hebrew blessing helps us understand the linkage between face and presence:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).
The Bible teaches that God – unlike any other being – is omnipresent; what He is in one place, He is in all places.
Within our universe. And beyond.
God is not like a gas that permeates every cubic millimeter of a room, because God is not physical.
But theologians talk of His cognitive or causal omnipresence: He knows everything, everywhere. And God causes effects to bring about His will, in every conceivable place. Nothing impedes or thwarts His purposes – not the darkness of night or the darkness of human resistance.
But when thinking about where God is, there is another dimension that must be considered.
In Psalm 139, David poses the rhetorical questions, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (v.7). The obvious answer is “no where”.
However, in that Psalm addressing God’s character and attributes, David refers to himself using personal pronouns more than 50 times. The clear but poetic inference is that God is relational.
He is high and transcendent and holy. He is other.
But He is simultaneously close, imminent, and near to His child.
Therefore, James could instruct with a succinct discipleship principle: Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8).
Takeaway: when we consider God’s face, we should think of the “brightness of His personal character” (John Piper).
Our seeking of His face, His presence should be intentional, a priority. Our seeking should be our passionate vocation, an obsession.
And we must seek Him with the affection of our hearts and the attention of our heads.
May we be those who make it our life’s ambition to declare emphatically, Your face, LORD, do I seek.
- graphic from freeimages.com