The Face of God

Jesus 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. 

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. 

Understands

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV) 

The Hebrew word translated “understands” above is sakal (שָׂכַל). It means to give attention to, consider, ponder, to have understanding or wisdom. The word is used 63 times in the Old Testament, but the ironic and tragic thing about this word is the context of its first use in Genesis 3:6. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (sakal), she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 (ESV) 

God yearns for us to understand and know him, but Adam and Eve desired to have their own understanding – to know and choose for themselves what was good and true. Adam and Eve had ample opportunity to give attention to, consider, ponder, come to understand God. But, if they had, they would have known that he not only practices love, but is love, he is just and righteous. The charge that God was keeping something from them would not have rung true.  

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV) 

Instead of knowing and understanding God and his wisdom, they wanted to decide for themselves what was good and evil. The ironic thing is that they did not become like God as promised, but, instead, became their own counterfeit gods. And they found themselves hiding from the real wisdom, the real light, the real life.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 

Isn’t it still the same today? But God is still calling out.

Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 

He is still seeking. He is still calling. He is still knocking. Let us come out from our hiding places and know the One who loves us.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17: 3 (ESV) 

“It was not Adam who sought God, but God who sought Adam. And this has been the order ever since.” 
~ Arthur Pink, Gleanings in Genesis 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

So let us know and become personally acquainted with Him; let us press on to know and understand fully the [greatness of the] LORD [to honor, heed, and deeply cherish Him]. His appearing is prepared and is as certain as the dawn, And He will come to us [in salvation] like the [heavy] rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth. Hosea 6:3 (Amplified)

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Every Heart

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 of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  Genesis 3:8 (ESV) 

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day about cancel culture. The first person says, “I hate cancel culture.” The second one answers, “The very first Bible story is God cancelling two people over an apple.” I wanted to put in a good word for God here.

What this meme defines as “cancelling” was God closing the doors of the Garden and not allowing Adam and Eve back in. They had just sinned, separating themselves from God, causing a rift in the relationship. And they showed a distressing tendency to continue on that path, refusing to admit their responsibility in the matter, pointing fingers at each other.  

God did not want them to eat of the tree that would give them eternal life in that state. They would have been eternally separated from God and his love for them. Isn’t that the definition of hell? It was an act of mercy and compassion banning them from the Garden and locking them out. He was giving them a chance; he was giving them time to turn, time to realize what they had lost. Until God would come back into another garden and open the door again by offering Himself up as the atonement. 

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. John 18:1-3 (ESV) 

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. John 19:41 (ESV) 

You are invited to turn around and come back into the garden and walk again with the One who loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.  

“God now fills the recovered garden, and we may without fear walk and commune with Him in the cool of the day.” — A.W. Tozer 

Come back  Salvation

Image, hand-colored lino print by Sheila Bair. Copyright 2020, all rights reserved. 

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