Looking upon You (1)
The LORD looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
From the place of His dwelling He looks
On all the inhabitants of the earth;
He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works. Psalm 33.13-15
The Lord’s face
A common appeal of psalmists and prophets is that the Lord would shine His face upon them. That is, as the saints of Scripture sought the Lord, the first thing they sought was His face. Seeing the face of God is an experience much to be desired, because of all the benefits it entails.
Moses asked to see the glory of God, and God outlined the implications of that appeal by saying that no man could see His face and live (Ex. 33.18-20). Yet Moses said that the Lord spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33.11), and this, just before he asked to see the Lord’s face and was denied. Nevertheless, God Himself confirmed to Aaron and Miriam that He spoke to Moses “face to face”. He qualified this, however as meaning, “plainly, and not in dark sayings” (Num. 12.6-8). It is in this regard that Moses reminded the people on the plains of Moab that God had spoken to them “face to face” on the mountain, when He gave them His Law (Deut. 5.4).
The face of God indicates the Presence of God; and where the Presence of God is, His glory is, and He becomes known to us in real and spiritual ways. Jacob, awaking from a powerful dream, understood that he had seen God face to face (Gen. 32.20), so he named the place of his encounter Peniel: “face of God.” The face of God also carries the sense of being alive unto God or before Him, or to His observation and awareness (1 Sam. 26.20), in which sense, we are all always before the face of God.
Seeing the face of God – not literally, but with the eyes of the heart – is thus to enter the Presence of God and to experience His glory. God inspired the writers of His Word to repeat this appeal over and over again.
Let’s take a closer look at what Scripture means by referring to the face of God, and why seeking the Lord’s face matters so much.
The face of God
The “face of God” is used throughout God’s Word to signal many benefits that come from being in the Presence of the Lord and His glory. The face of God indicates blessing and favor from God (Num. 6.25); the strength of God coming upon us (1 Chron. 16.11; Pss. 27.8; 105.4); His help in our times of need (Pss. 102.2; 104.29); the filling of His Spirit (Ezek. 39.29); and the revelation of God’s glory in His Word (Ps. 119.135; 2 Cor. 3.18).
To see the face of God is to know restoration and salvation (Pss. 31.16; 80.19). The effect of seeing God’s face is to increase in righteousness and God-likeness (Ps. 17.15; 2 Cor. 3.12-18). No wonder we are commanded to seek the face of God for these many benefits and blessings (1 Chron. 16.11; Pss. 27.8; 105.4). To see the face of God is to know His approval (2 Chron. 6.41, 42), and the peace, joy, and wellbeing that come with that.
When we pray that we might see Jesus, that the eyes of our heart may be opened to know His calling, glory, and power, it is seeing the face of Jesus, and all these many benefits, that we principally seek.
But in another sense, the face of God refers to His turning against us in wrath and judgment (Lev. 20.3-6; 26.17; Jer. 21.10), and withdrawing His Presence and leaving us alone to ponder our sin (Deut. 31.17, 18; Pss. 13.1; 27.9). We want the face of God to look favorably upon us, not in judgment; and it should be the great desire of our heart to know this experience of His Presence, and to draw from it all the strength, help, favor, blessing, righteousness, and salvation that His face and glory can bestow.
So as we pray that we might see Jesus, and that God might open the eyes of our heart so that the Spirit might grant us wisdom and revelation, we look first to see the Lord’s face, to know the glory, peace, and joy that are focused on us by His glance.
And what we will find as we seek the face of the Lord Jesus, and the glory therein to be revealed, is that He is already and always looking upon us with His eyes.
He sees us
Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) wrote The Vision of God to encourage believers to seek the Lord’s face. He wanted them to be encouraged as they did, and to know that God is already looking upon them and within them as they turn to Him in prayer. He prayed, “Thou, Lord, dost regard every living thing in such wise that none of them can conceive that Thou hast any other care but that it alone should exist, in the best mode possible to it, and that each thinketh all other existing things exist for the sole purpose of serving this end, namely, the best state of him whom Thou beholdest.” He rejoiced in the Lord’s glance: “Lord, Thy glance is love. And just as Thy gaze beholdeth me so attentively that it never turneth aside from me, even so is it with Thy love…I am because Thou dost look at me, and if Thou didst turn Thy glance from me I should cease to be.”
Because of this, God’s continually looking upon us in care and love, Nicholas knew that, “With Thee, to behold is to give life; ‘tis unceasingly to impart sweetest love of Thee; ‘tis to inflame me to love of Thee by love’s imparting, and to feed me by inflaming, and by feeding to kindle my yearnings, and by kindling to make me drink of the dew of gladness, and by drinking to infuse in me a fountain of life, and by infusing to make it increase and endure.”
Seeing the face of Jesus, radiant with love for us, and knowing that He constantly looks upon us in this way, inflames us with greater love for Him; and this, in turn, causes us to increase in Him, to become more like Him, and be strong and constant in His service. Nicolas rejoiced in the Lord as He prayed, “Thy mercy followeth every man so long as he liveth, whithersoever he goeth, even as Thy glance never quitteth any. So long as a man liveth, Thou ceasest not to follow him, and with sweet and inward warning to stir him up to depart from error and to turn unto Thee that he may live in bliss. Thou, Lord, art the companion of my pilgrimage; wheresoever I go Thine eyes are always upon me.”
Knowing that the eyes of the Lord are constantly upon us, looking at us as we come seeking Him, incites us, to call on Him in earnest prayer, that He might open the eyes of our heart, and by His Word and Spirit, draw us before His gaze and into His Presence, so that by His glory, we might be welcomed, warmed, and wondrously transformed.
1. What does it mean to you to seek the face of Jesus?
2. What do you expect to happen as you gaze upon the face of Jesus?
3. Why is it important to know that the Lord Jesus is always looking upon you with His love?
Next steps – Preparation: Spend an extended season in prayer, meditating on the face of Jesus, as He looks upon you with love.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.