The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:14 (NIV)
The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.” Luke 22:61 (NIV)
I read a One Year Bible for my devotionals, which divides the Bible into 365 readings, one each from the Old and New Testaments, Psalms and Proverbs. Recently, the above two verses were facing each other on opposite pages, and I realized how alike the situations were. (Read Judges 6:11-22 and Luke 22:31-34, 54-62 for the full stories.)
Both Gideon and Peter were at their very lowest points. Feeling physically threatened and hiding – Gideon in a hole in the ground threshing his meager wheat, Peter crouching with the servants around a campfire, pretending he was somebody else. Both had a low opinion of themselves right at that moment. Both were denying the Lord – Peter outright and Gideon by his attitude. But worse, both felt let down and abandoned by their Lord.
“But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:13 (NIV)
Yet (!), in spite of their failings and weaknesses, both were being called to do great deeds and both needed strengthening. I had always imagined the looks and words of the Lord in the above verses as negative – a rebuke, a reproach, a look of disappointment.
However, all through the Bible the turning of the Face of God toward his people is a picture of favor and grace, encouraging and strengthening.
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 6:23-26 (NIV)
“The picture is of divine favor – the beaming face of a parent for his beloved.” [i]
Turn to (turn toward) me and have mercy (be gracious, show favor, have pity) on me, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16 (NIV)
But the turning away, or hiding, of God’s face is a sign of rejection.
O LORD, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face away from me? Psalm 88:14 (NLT)
But the Lord turned toward Gideon and Peter. Even in midst of Jesus’ great betrayal and passion, he turned in mercy and love, grace and encouragement toward Peter. “Come on, I know you can do it. Am I not sending you?” How that look of love must have pierced Peter’s soul!
“And the Lord turned Himself … and looked upon Peter; with his bodily eyes, with great earnestness, expressing in his looks concern and pity for him; for it was a look, not of wrath and resentment, but of love and mercy, and power went along with it.”[ii]
God calls us when we are in our holes and hiding places. He calls us out of doubt and despair, when denial and worthless words are spewing from our mouths. He calls us at our worst but calls us anyway. Like a father encouraging his little child to walk, “Come on, I know you can do it!” He sees us toddling toward him, not fallen flat on our faces. God is always looking ahead, seeing us at our best, at the end of the road. The Lord is asking you to turn to him. Gain strength and favor and guidance for your way. Turn and look full in his wonderful face, for he has already turned to you.
Image in the Public Domain. By Rembrandt – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15417264
[i] NetBible Translator’s Note on Numbers 6:25
[ii] John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible