How do I seek God's face?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: What is seeking the face of God? How do I do it?

Answer: If the desire of your heart is to seek the face of the Lord, then you are pursuing the very best thing possible, and it will be an honor to help you in that journey. I'll need you to indulge me for a moment, however, since we'll need to discuss some technical points concerning this particular biblical imagery. After that, we should be able to proceed with the topic-at-hand.

I'm sure you are aware that God does not have a physical body, because, in primary essence, he is a spirit being. I say primary because he also did manifest himself in his Son, Jesus, who did indeed have a human body. Additionally, the Bible teaches that we were formed in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:27), so, on some level, God does have a copyable form. But he must remain outside of our physical perceptions while we remain here on earth (John 1:18). We must remember that, in spite of the imagery, God is always a spirit being.

With that understanding in place, we can explore how God often communicates to us using a literary device called an anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is a language tool whereby a non-human entity (in this case, God) is given human characteristics to help the reader relate to the subject on human terms. For instance, in Exodus 7:5, God says, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” God does not have a physical hand, but by this description, we understand that he intends to do physical harm to the Egyptians. And in Psalm 33:6 we learn that “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” Here too, God has no physical mouth, yet we understand that this is an expression of his power as it relates to his creative will. This type of imagery goes beyond the body parts, though.

Some of these images show God as a being who performs non-physical actions that are typical of humans. For instance, Exodus 32:16 tells that God changed his mind. We know that since God is omniscient and immutable (He knows everything and he does not change) that he did not change his mind in the human sense, but rather that he wanted to teach humans on their terms, that performing godly behaviors might change an otherwise sour outcome. “So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.” (Exodus 32:14, NASB95). In Genesis, God told Noah that he would use the rainbow as a device to remember His covenant. “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”” (Genesis 9:16, ESV). In purest terms, God does not forget things…and he does not need a device—like a string tied around his finger—to help him remember! No, the device is for us — for our comfort — and the image of God "remembering" is his way of telling us that we are always on his mind.

God also uses human emotions to help us understand him. Did you know that God gets jealous? “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God...,” (Exodus 20:5, ESV). His nation of Israel often chased after other gods, and since God considered the nation as his wife (Jer. 3:14), then jealousy was the perfect image to teach the Jews about the effects of their sin. He also communicated regret over making Saul king of Israel. “... And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35, ESV). Although God knows all things, and he certainly knew how King Saul would fail, he still allowed Saul his own volitional life and expressed regret to let us know how he felt about Saul's misdeeds.

What I find most wonderful about seeking God's face is that his face does not represent any actions. One does not seek God's face for protection or for favors. One seeks it for fellowship — and that's as pure as it gets for humans. When a human basks in the presence of God with no agenda... that's worship! It is rare and it is wonderful! We Christians cheapen the notion of worship by attaching the word to activities that fight against it. Most churches use the phrase "Worship Service" to describe their Sunday activities, but an honest look at the Sunday din reveals activities like music, teaching, preaching, setting up tables, etc. All these are God-honoring when done in his will, but none are worship.

If you are seeking God's face, that means that you are seeking his presence...and only his presence. You may come to this moment with thanksgiving, but you should not come to this moment driven by the details of life which are encumbered with worry and petitions. You come alone — humbly and still.

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
(Psalm 46:10, ESV).

I will pray that you will seek him this way often.

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