Face to Face
“Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.”
Psalm 80:3, 7 & 19 (NIV)
Imagine for a moment that your teenage child is not behaving as you would like. They are spending their time at parties instead of studying. They are taking money from the household budget and using it on alcohol and drugs. No matter how much you speak with your child and try to get them to change, the child continues on an irresponsible and self-destructive path.
You still love them, are still concerned for them, are still there for them, but they have turned their face away from you. That scenario helps us to understand the Hebrew concept of hester panim, which means “hiding of the face.” It’s a term often used of the book of Esther where God’s name isn’t mentioned, yet the hidden presence of God is realised and revealed in the outcome of the story. It’s somewhat like the sun on an overcast day: Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. God’s providential care is there for us whether we perceive it or not.
In Deuteronomy 31, God told Moses that the Israelites would eventually abandon Him, and as a result, “I will hide my face from them” (verse 17). Unlike the re-assurance that hester panim refers to God’s hidden presence for good, in this case it refers to the terrifying prospect of the withdrawal of the divine presence. In other words, sin and selfishness causes the divine presence to be hidden from us, but that is because we have removed ourselves from him. God’s face is hidden from us because we have turned. God “hides his face” from us because our own desire for evil blinds us to the truth of his presence. Hester panim is not only ‘absence of divine presence’ but ‘presence of divine absence’.
In Adam, this is what all humanity has done. Adam sinned, ran and hid himself from the divine presence and as a result, and for his own good, was banished from the garden. Mankind has been hiding ever since. What hope is there for Adam’s race? The Apostle John gives us the clue. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning”(John 1:1-2). John tells us that the ‘logos’ was “with” God. Here he uses the preposition pros which means ‘towards.’ In other words, the ‘logos’, was ‘face to face’, with God.
Here is the solution to mankind’s dilemma. Even though we have turned from God and hid, Jesus Christ came to undo Adam’s sin and reconcile us to the Father. Through his vicarious life, death, resurrection and ascension, the ‘Second Adam’ has taken humanity into himself and restored us to a ‘face to face’ relationship with the Father.
Truly the cries of the Psalmist have been heard: In Christ we have been restored. In Christ we have been saved. And in Christ, the Lord God Almighty’s face shines upon us.
Father, thank you that in Christ you have included us in the circle of your relationship with the Son and the Spirit. May we glory in the light and love of your face forever.
Study by Barry Robinson
Worldwide Church of God London
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
Local Congregational Contact:
Phone: 07958 386944