Seeking God's Face
"if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59:1-2 NIV).
"Then I will go back to My place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek My face; in their misery they will earnestly seek Me." (Hosea 5:15 NIV).
"My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek" (Psalm 27:8).
"Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!" (1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalm 105:4).
"Seeking God's face" is a subject like entering "God's rest" in that there are entire books written on it, yet very few people are familiar with what they actually mean. From the previous examples from the Bible, you can see that it is clearly a Biblical concept, but what does it mean to "seek God's face?"
God doesn't literally have a face. It is actually a heresy (anthropomorphism) to believe that God has a body since "God is Spirit" as Jesus specified in John 4:24. In 1 Timothy 6:15-16 we are told that God "alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see." John 1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." Not only is God invisible in the physical (Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:17, etc), but God exists in pure "light," something that is impossible for a flesh-and-bone body to behold, and no one has truly seen God. There are verses such as Exodus 24:9-18 which seem to suggest that God had a body but these are what they call "anthropomorphisms," which are symbolic renderings of God’s being, attributes, actions or emotions in human terms. God is pictured as having a face, eyes, a mouth, legs, arms, hands, fingers and a back (Psalm 27:8; 10:12; 88:5; Deuteronomy 9:10; Exodus 33:23) but that is not literal. Such anthropomorphisms are poetic symbols or metaphors representing that which would otherwise be indescribable, because God in his being is invisible and a spirit. God is "omnipresent" or "everywhere," but not in everything (Psalm 139:7-18, Colossians 1:17, Proverbs 15:3, Jeremiah 23:23-24, 1 Kings 8:27, Matthew 18:20, Romans 8:9) so it would be impossible for Him to have a physical body. However, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man while on earth, became flesh (John 1:14) and had a physical body of flesh. Christ died physically but on the third day, His Spirit and physical body became a "glorified" imperishable physical body (what is described in some of His appearances and in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58). Christ went to heaven, although over the next 40 days (Acts 1:3) he returned 11 times to make physical appearances, the last being His ascension from Mt. Olives (Luke 24:44-49, Acts 1:3-8). Christians will have the same resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20) when those who are dead or alive in Christ will meet Christ in the air with resurrected bodies (1 Thess 4:13-17, 1 Cor 15:1-58). As with Christ, our physical bodies are changed instantly (1 Cor 15:51-52) into an imperishable, immortal physical body (1 Cor. 15:35-54). So it can be argued that through Christ's physical resurrection, He currently has a face, like we will also have in our resurrection. However, we are not seeking to see Christ's physical face. We are seeking the One behind the face.
What is in a face? If you pay close attention to someone's face you can see a lot of things. In their eyes you can see if they are at peace. Jesus said, "the eye is the lamp of the body." In a face, you can see if they are happy, sad, mad, scared, or indifferent. You can tell what they think about you. Cicero said, "The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter." It's interesting that the Greek word for face, "prosopon," means literally "towards the eye." When you are seeking God's face, you are not seeking to see a physical face or imagine God with a face. You are also not merely seeking God's presence... you are seeking to know God's heart and His mind! What is more important than that? David was anointed King because "the Lord sought out a man after His own heart..." (1 Samuel 13:14). God promises you: "You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer 29:13). The problem is most people that are "seeking God" are seeking His hands, not His heart and mind. They are seeking what God can do for them. Their prayers to Him consist of please heal, please give, please fix... This is not "seeking God" and this is definitely not "seeking His face." So we must understand that we are not seeking His hands, and we are not looking for results or an experience. We are seeking Him for Himself, to abide with Christ, where we are continually aware of His fullness within us, and where His presence dwells in us in glory. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him" (Romans 6:8).
The Bible says "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Exodus 33:11). This doesn't mean Moses could literally see God's face (John 1:18, 1 Tim 6:16) but is better translated "presence to presence." It is significant how Moses would meet with the Lord. We read in Exodus 33:7, " Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about, that everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp." Did you notice where "everyone" who sought the Lord went? It tells us three times that it was outside the camp. In fact, it even specifies it was "a good distance from the camp." Where we need to go is the same place they needed to go. Jesus did the same and encouraged His disciples to do it as well (Matt. 19:27, Luke 14:33). Lastly, those who truly "seek His face" find the time and cancel hobbies, forsake TV, put away the newspaper and magazines... It doesn't mean we neglect those things God clearly calls us to, but we forsake everything else. In order to seek God's face, we need to step way out of our daily routine and comfort zone. We have to be ready to set aside any ideas and thoughts we already have about God outside of Scripture. We have to be ready to accept anything that God reveals to us. We need to let go of everything but Him. As long as we are holding on to earthly things (1 John 2:15-17) we will never ascend to the level of stepping into heavenly things. God told Israel in captivity like he is telling us today, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13). When we seek God's face, it's all about Him and not about us. He must become greater, we must become less! (John 3:30).
When we seek God's face, we intend to make our spirit dominant over our body/flesh and soul. We are not seeking anything except for Jesus Himself. Much of the Church is seeking His hands, others His food to be fed spiritually, but the one who seeks His face isn't seeking any of this. Jesus wants us to seek Him for Himself, out of love for Him, and sometimes when we do this and are focussed in the spirit, Jesus can reveal Himself and we can meet with Him. We can see remarkable things in the spirit realm and God can reveal wonderful things to us.
Francis Frangipane describes "seeking God's face" as follows:
“There are certain times when the Lord calls us out of the routine of our daily lives. These are special seasons where His only command is, “Seek My Face.” He has something precious and vitally important to give us that the familiar pattern of our daily devotions cannot accommodate. During such times people are often delivered of sins that have plagued them for years; others discover a depth in their walk with God that leads to greater effectiveness in ministry and prayer; still others experience breakthroughs in their families and are used by God to see loved ones brought into the Kingdom.”
IT IS A PROCESS
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)."
The process God had for Israel is the same process he has for us. We can't have intimacy with our heavenly Father unless we 1.) humble ourselves, 2.) pray and 3.) turn from our wicked ways. We see in Isaiah 59:2 that "your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Not only do we need to be repentant and turn from our sin, but we need to be aware of our wickedness. We need to find out from God Himself what things in our lives are displeasing to Him. We find what is "wicked" to God through prayer (talking to Him about it) and reading His Word, allowing the Holy Spirit and God's written Word (Psalm 119:11, Hebrews 4:12) planted in us to reveal those things to us that we need to get rid of (John 17:17, James 1:21, Colossians 3:16). When we do this, we soon see that we fail every day in word, thought and deed, whether we mean to or not, and that "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" to Him (Isaiah 64:6, Job 42:1-6). Sin is serious and is not merely "missing the mark." "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) and Jesus himself says to us "unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:3, 5). The next step in this process is to humbly change what God shows you, for humility precedes holiness and "without holiness, no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). What good is seeking something if you won't be able to see what you are seeking? We can't hang on to things that He hates and expect to find Him. We must let God expose the darkness in our hearts and minds, and then get it out! Confess it, expose it, hate it! As long as it hides in your heart and mind, it will keep you from God (Isaiah 59:2). It must come out into the light (Psalm 90:8, Job 12:22, Daniel 2:22, Matt 10:26-27, Mark 4:22, John 3:19-21, 1 Cor 4:5, Eph 5:8-14), "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6, emphasis mine). So seek "the face of Christ" but remember, humility precedes holiness and holiness precedes seeking His face.
WE MUST BE DILIGENT
We must be obedient and obey God if He is going to reveal Himself to us. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). David prayed, "Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." We need an undivided heart that is diligent to obey and seek Him. And remember, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you..." (James 4:8). First comes humility and obedience, then comes holiness and revelation. There is no shortcut.
Remember Elisha? He wouldn't take his eyes off of Elijah and therefore got a double portion of Elijah's anointing. There there's Jacob in Genesis 32 who wrestled with an angel. Jacob declared, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" declared Jacob (verse 26). Hosea 12:2-6 later points to Jacob as an example to be followed when one is in the midst of a struggle or a need for character change. In Mark 6:45-52, the disciples are in their boat in the middle of the sea and the winds are blowing strong. Jesus is up in the mountains praying but He's not in the dark. He sees the disciples and knows exactly what's going on. In verse 48, we read, "Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them." Jesus intended to walk right pass them. His intent was not to help them. Why was that? He wanted them to cry out for His help; He wanted them to seek Him. But when they cried out to Jesus, everything changed. "...But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, 'Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid'. And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were greatly astonished," (verses 50-51). The same is true in our lives every day. Jesus is right there waiting for us to cry out for more of Him. God wants us to seek His face with all of our hearts.
"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" 2 Chronicles 16:9).
WE NEED SOLITUDE
Jesus practiced this as He went into solitude to pray. Jesus went into the wilderness where He prayed and fasted 40 days before the temptation of the Devil (Matthew 4:1-2). Then Jesus prayed all night on a mountain before He chose the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-13). Next Jesus hears about the beheading of John the Baptist and we read that Jesus took a boat to a secluded place by Himself (Matthew 14:10-13). Shortly after that we read, ""After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone" Matthew 14:23 (NASV). As the popularity of Jesus increased – so did the demands placed upon Him. In Luke chapter five Jesus heals a man who was "full of leprosy", and warns him not to tell anyone of the healing. We then read, "However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed" Luke 5:15-16 (NKJV). The last example I'll mention is when Jesus prays in Gethsemane before His death and crucifixion, "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there" Matthew 26:36 (NKJV).
Jamie Buckingham once wrote, "Deep inside, all of us seem to know intuitively that until we withdraw from all we consider necessary to our comfort, we will not come face to face with God. Only in times and places of solitude do people have genuine spiritual confrontation. "Perhaps it is for this reason that we fear solitude. As soon as we are alone, without people to talk to, books to read, TV to watch or phone calls to make, an inner chaos opens in us—threatening to swallow us like ships caught in a giant whirlpool. Thus, we do everything we can to keep from being alone..."
These times of seeking His face are also times of tremendous favor and blessing. Hebrews 11:6 says that "anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." David recognized this and said, "He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob" (Psalm 24:5-6). As we saw in two verses at the top, David always sought God's face and because he was after God's heart (1 Samuel 13:14; 16:7; Acts 13:22), he received it.
Here's an example of a time when God called me to simply "seek His face." In 2005, before I met my wife, I had a breakup from a relationship that was bringing me down. I was shocked because out of the blue she broke up with me but I didn't get upset. I wrote her a loving letter and dropped it off with her things. She refused to give me a second chance but it was a miracle how the blessing of God was poured out on me from that day! Soon everything that was "brought down" in my life was blessed... my walk, my soul, my love, my strength, my relationships and friendships (especially with the Lord), even my work and finances... EVERYTHING! The very same day of the breakup I made $4,300 profit on one sale. Yet before the breakup, I was drained and stressed, I was working on that big sale, and my ex refused to talk to me the entire week, and finally met with me to tell me it was over... The only way I can describe what happened next is that my loving heavenly Father lifted me up and drew me into His arms... Everyone encouraged me and I got Godly counsel on my own (because she refused). The Lord used my Pastor to show me that I needed self-examination and to stop pointing the finger at my ex. God called me to take a break from ministry and He began to show me a lot of things, first of all being the sin in my heart. I realized that I should have never been in that relationship. When I finally saw all my sin for what it truly was and asked God to change my heart, He did. I sensed a need for drastic change and hungered for it. I knew what God was doing, something He has done a number of times before... He was calling me into a special season to "seek His face." This is always a humbling time when the grandest reduction happens: he becomes greater and I become less (John 3:30). It's strange but I always become like a child. I began to get more emotional and got choked up, and cried often as the Holy Spirit moved on my heart. I cried often during worship and would get "lost" in it, often for long periods of time. I would listen to long worship mixes and would worship and pray for hours at a time. I remember even getting choked up listening to "The Cartoon Song," a silly Christian song by Chris Rice! My prayer and devotional life began to take on new meaning and significance... Everything else was put on hold and I focused completely on the Lord, seeking intimacy with Him, and to know His heart (and my heart in light of His). It was also during this time I met my wife Yvethe. It's strange that I met her during this time but my friendship with her only strengthened what the Lord was doing as I sought His face. The Lord began to use her and speak through her, speaking some of the same things to both of us independently. Some warfare began (gossip and slander) but this only brought us closer to the Lord and each other (but not physically). Soon after, I sensed a need for a complete one-week fast (no food, only water) for three things: 1) Greater intimacy with the Lord and a fresh indwelling of the Holy Spirit while crucifying the flesh (Ro. 8:5-14), 2) More clarity in hearing God's voice (John 10:4-16,27) and direction in my calling/peace/unity/preparation/growth (2 Pet. 1:10-11, *Eph. 4:1-16), especially in light of some recent developments, and 3) Discernment for what to do about Yvethe! :) Closure came during a long period of prayer on the last day of the fast and the fast seemed to conclude the season of seeking His face as well, leading into His rest which often follows. As previously mentioned, the Hebrew word for presence is also translated as face, so Exodus 33:14 is also translated as, "The Lord replied, 'My face will go with you, and I will give you rest.'"
I only write this to be an example and encouragement to you as you continue your walk with your Creator and Friend. He loves you and longs to have intimacy with you... He wants you to seek His face! "...Seek his face always" (1 Ch. 16:11, Psalm 105:4).FOOTNOTES:
1. Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Ad Marcum Brutum Orator, p. 69. Accessed online at http://books.google.com/books?id=3ps1kkFWIbIC&pg=PA69&dq=%27Ut+imago+est+animi+voltus+sic+indices+oculi%27&hl=pl on June 22, 2010
2. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Barbour, 1952. p. 67 of letter "F" under "Face."
3. Frangipane, Francis. Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God, p. 17
Frangipane, Francis. Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God
© Todd Tyszka
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