But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. Jeremiah 7:24 (ESV)
Recently I read this verse and the idea of going forward struck me. What does that exactly mean, going forward and not backward? So, I looked up the Hebrew word translated “forward.” I love it when I find hidden treasure!
The word translated forward here in Jeremiah is paniym, and its primary meaning is “face.” Paniym means face, presence, person, toward, forward, before, in the presence, in the face of, in front of. It is used for the face of God. The Presence.
The LORD replied [to Moses], “My Presence (paniym) will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
Paniym comes from the root verb “to turn,” as in turning the face. As in not going backward anymore, but turning around and going forward. For when you are going backward you have turned your face from God. Turning around, turning your face to the light of his face – which is what repentance is all about – is going forward. Face to face with God. His heart for us.
I have been pondering holiness a lot lately. Could this be what holiness is all about? Going forward not backward? Turning toward God? Dwelling before the face of God, in His Presence? When our backs are turned away from God we travel deeper into self and all the self-stuff: pride, greed, self-love, self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy” (Galatians 5:20). But when we are going forward, no matter what, into the refining light and fire of his Presence, dying to self, letting him burn away the dross, we abide more and more in him, becoming more and more like him: his humility, obedience, self-sacrifice, and love.
In the midst of the chaos and terror and fear of almost certain death for Christians in Afghanistan, I read of one man going directly to the Taliban to share the gospel. The report did not say what happened to him. But it made me think. I don’t know if I could do that, but surely, this is true “going forward.”
Faith may falter; hope may sink. But love keeps going forward. Toward the face of God, into the Presence, deeper into love.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” John 18:4 (NKJV)
Image, copyright 2018 Derek Bair