Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:3
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a wonderful book called Sanctified Through the Truth all about the last prayer of Jesus for his disciples, the prayer where Jesus consecrates himself to be the sacrificial Lamb of God that we might be sanctified as God’s people. Reading Lloyd-Jones’ book, I came across this stunning statement:
“He [Jesus] is now submitting himself, therefore, to the most terrible thing that he ever contemplated, namely that he should be separated from his Father. He had come out of the eternal bosom. He was in God from the beginning, he is co-equal, and co-eternal with God; but here he realises, and he faces it, that in order to save and to sanctify these people he has to undergo this separation from God and to be made a curse. It means the breaking of the contact, and he submits himself even to that. He is prepared to endure even the loss of the face of God on the cross that we might be sanctified. He separates himself to this.” — Martyn Lloyd-Jones (emphasis mine)
The loss of the face of God! “The Hebrew word for ‘face’ in the Old Testament is often translated ‘presence.’ When we seek the face of God, we are seeking His presence.”1 For those hours on the cross God would turn his face away from Jesus. Jesus would become sin for us that we could become the righteousness of God, that we might be sanctified or set apart to God. But in the process, he had to lose the face, or Presence, of God. Jesus had to endure the Face of God turned away from him, refusing to hear his cry.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2
The face of God is what Adam and Eve freely enjoyed in the Garden. It is also what they hid from.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence (face) of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 (ESV)
The loss of the Face is ultimately death. It is to be in darkness, adrift. It is to experience rejection and abandonment. The Face turning to shine on us is life and light and gracious acceptance. The light of His Face gives understanding and piercing self-realization. Isaiah’s response to seeing God was anguish at his sin, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).
The Face of God can cut to the heart, but He always sends grace and healing to the humble. After Isaiah’s anguished repentance, God sent the cleansing coal from the altar: And [the angel] touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)
From the Face of God we receive salvation, blessing, grace, peace, deliverance, and the knowledge of God.
Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved. Psalm 80: 3, 7, 19
In Psalm 80, the psalmist asks God to restore them and “make your face shine upon us” three times. The word translated “restore” is shub (שׁוּב). It means turn back, return, repair, restore and rescue. The interesting thing is that it is the same word (translated “return”) that is used in verse 14:
Return to us, O God Almighty! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine …
The Face of God turning back to us, looking down, watching over, equals our restoration, repair, rescue – our salvation and peace.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
So why do we keep hiding from him? Even if not actively hiding from Him, why is it so hard to remain before His face, in His presence? Why do I keep looking elsewhere? Why do I keep forgetting that He is right here with me when I am gasping and despairing in the midst of the storm? Why do I keep thinking I have to struggle on by myself, thinking nobody cares, no one will help me? Jesus became the sacrificial lamb and endured the complete rupture of his fellowship with God – the horrible darkness and pain of God’s face turned away – so that I could dwell in the Presence of God always.
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God (before the face of God) on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24 (ESV)
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)
1What does it mean to seek God’s face? Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/seek-Gods-face.html
Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved.