My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, O LORD, I will seek. Ps 27:8
“These sacred Words give you the very image of Christ speaking, healing, dying, rising again and make him so present, that were he before your eyes you would not more truly see him.” Erasmus
In our earlier studies, we indicated that verse 7 marks a significant change in the character of this psalm. Before, God is spoken “about.” From now on, he is spoken “to.” We see this same pattern in Psalm 23, where the Good Shepherd is described in verses 1-3. Then at verse 4, the psalmist stops talking “about” God and talks directly “to” God. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will not fear for you are with me.” The same pattern repeated in Psalm 119. In verses 1-3, the psalmist describes how those who walk in the ways of the law are blessed. Then, in verse 4, the psalmist directs his words upward, “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! [Ps 119:4-5]
This pattern helps us to learn a crucial principle concerning the way God has determined to bless us. God speaks to the psalmist through the Law. The psalmist speaks to God through prayer. God gives promises through propositions. The psalmist claims those blessings by petition. The principal is this: The two tracks that lead us to God’s blessing are the Word and prayer. If either is missing, the train will be derailed.
To study scriptures without humble prayer is to become like the Pharisees. We may be familiar with its writings but fail to engage the one person to whom all scripture points to, Jesus Christ. [John 5:39] If we fail to combine a devotion to the Scriptures with prayer, we may become like the scribes. Jesus said to them, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? [Mark 12:21] So, prayer and the Word enable us to see and experience more of God’s glory and his power.
For six verses, the psalmist has celebrated the ways the Lord watches over him, but he is not satisfied. He is not content to just be safe. The man who has a glimpse of God’s glory is never satisfied with just his gifts or his blessings. He has a passion to know him, to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”  He desires to get close to the One in whom are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” [Col 2:3] Only in God will he find “joy in his presence, with eternal pleasures at his right hand.” [Ps 16:11] So, out of the depths of his being he declares, “Your face will I seek.” What does it mean to seek the face of God?
In Exodus 33:11, it is recorded that “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” From that passage, we can say that seeing the face of God means one is drawn into an intimate and extraordinary relationship with God. God condescends to communicate with man as a friend would speak to a friend. I would think that means that there was no intermediary between the two. God spoke. Moses heard. Moses spoke. God heard. In Numbers 12:8, we get a little more detail. God described his relationship with Moses like this: “With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.” These words remind us of Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” [John 15:15] Moses hears “secrets” from the heart of God.
We are given even more clarity when we look at Exodus 33:19-23. Moses has recognized his absolute dependence upon God’s presence to enable him to lead the people to the Promised Land. It is the presence of God that distinguishes Moses and Israel from all of the other peoples of the earth. So, Moses asks God to teach him his ways so that he will be able to continue to find favor with him. God responds to Moses request: “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” [Exodus 33:17]
But Moses is not through. He asks for more: “Now show me your glory.” [Ex 33:18] Moses does not know what he is asking for. There is a “face” of God that we don’t want to see. It is the face that caused Isaiah to cry out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips.” [Isa 6:4-5] It is what theologians call the transcendent holiness of God. He is totally other than we are, both in his essential brightness and in his moral uprightness. If our finite and sinful body were to see the glory of God in its fullness, we would instantly be consumed.
That is why the Lord responded to Moses request by saying, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But, you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” [Ex 33:19-20] Moses could not directly handle the awesome glory of God. But, God would proclaim his name to Moses. That Name is the character of God; his goodness, his mercy, compassion, and his sovereignty.
So, when the psalmist says, “your face I will seek,” what is he seeking? He is seeking a new, personal and powerful awareness of the character of God. I am sure some would disagree, arguing that he was really asking for an experience, a moment of blinding light or tingling of the spine. But an experience without a growing awareness of the character of God is paganism or Gnosticism. God has a Name. That Name is character. That character has content. He is holy, good, merciful, compassionate, righteous, love, and sovereign.
When God wanted to reveal all the glory we could handle, he sent his Son, the Word. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14] When we want to seek his face today, we pursue Jesus. We pursue him by reading, studying and obeying his words. We can now experience the face of God by the Spirit. Jesus declared of Him, “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. [John 16:14-15]
God has ordained that the primary way we see the face of God is through His Spirit empowered Word. That is what Erasmus meant when he wrote of the Scriptures, “These sacred Words give you the very image of Christ speaking, healing, dying, rising again and make him so present, that were he before your eyes you would not more truly see him.” That is what Paul meant when he prayed, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. [Eph 1:17-18] Therefore, if you have a passion to see the face of God, ask the Spirit to open your eyes so that you can see the wonderful things in his law. [Psalm 119:18] He will come and personally speak to your heart through His written Word. Ask him to open your heart to his secrets. Your walk will be transformed.
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