FACE/PRESENCE: paneh/panim. Noun Masculine. (Strong’s 6440).
Sounds like: p’neh/paneem
Paneh/Panim/Face marks the 150th word of HebrewWordLessons.com… and I chose the word because it has such a profound meaning in the Gospel (Good News) story and yet, so many people do not recognize anything significant about the word. If you asked someone to list big theological words they might say faith, hope, redemption, salvation, righteousness and peace… but no one ever says face.
But the word face is profoundly significant, because it’s a key theme that ribbons through the Bible, from the beginning in Genesis, when we were exiled from God’s Presence (Face) in the Garden of Eden, to the very end in the Book of Revelation, when we become reunited with YHWH’s face in the Garden.
Panim/paneh is one of the most prolific words in the Hebrew Bible. It shows up over 2100 times and it is translated as face, but also as presence, surface, front, before and countenance.
Paneh was in the first sentences of the Bible:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface [the face: p’neh] of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface [the face: p’neh] of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
God illuminated the face of the earth, (the depths and the waters), with His presence. Genesis 1 was a set-up… it taught us how to read the Bible. Without God illuminating the surface, all would be darkness… and so the theme of light vs darkness was laid out for us in relation to the face of the earth and the face (presence) of YHWH.
The Genesis story highlighted that we needed YHWH’s presence to illuminate us, to help us to shine on this earth. The face/presence of God, illuminated everything, which was why so many Biblical author asked God to shine His face upon them:
Make Your face [paneka] shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your statutes.
In Psalm 80, a psalm of Asaph, asking YHWH’s face to shine upon them was a repeating chorus:
Psalm 80:1-7, 14-19
Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth! Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your power and come to save us!
O God, restore us and cause Your face [paneka] to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
O YHWH God of hosts, how long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears, and You have made them to drink tears in large measure. You make us an object of contention to our neighbours, and our enemies laugh among themselves.
O God of hosts, restore us and cause Your face [paneka] to shine upon us, and we will be saved…
…O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You; look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine, even the shoot which Your right hand has planted, and on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of Your countenance [Your face: paneka].
Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself. Then we shall not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
O YHWH God of hosts, restore us; cause Your face [paneka] to shine upon us, and we will be saved.
Probably the most famous benediction, which called on YHWH to shine His face on His people, was Aaron’s prayer of blessing:
YHWH bless you, and keep you; YHWH make His face shine on you [yaer YHWH panaw eleka], and be gracious to you; YHWH lift up His countenance [yissa YHWH panaw eleka] on you, and give you peace [shalom].’
This was the goal… get back to the Presence of YHWH and be complete (shalom) in the light of His Presence.
Being in YHWH’s Presence meant being in the Light. The shine of YHWH would illuminate us. The phrase “in His Presence”, was often translated as “before Him”, but it literally meant “before His face”, or “before/in His Presence”. Wisdom, personified in Proverbs 8, was described as being always in God’s presence:
Proverbs 8:30-31, 35
[Wisdom]: Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him [in His presence: l-fanaw], rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men… For he who finds me finds life and obtains favour from YHWH.
Wisdom was always in the presence of God and therefore whoever found wisdom found Life. Idols, on the contrary, had no life in them:
“Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ to a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all inside it.
But YHWH is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him [in His presence: mi-panaw].”
There was no life in idols and worshipping them was akin to worshipping death. But YHWH was all life and He was waiting in His holy Temple for His people to return to Him. He had a plan of salvation that would lead His people home:
Psalm 95:1-6 (see also Psalm 96:9-13)
O come, let us sing for joy to YHWH, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence [His face: panaw] with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For YHWH is a great God and a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before [in the presence of: li-f’neh] YHWH our Maker.
In the presence of YHWH all was light and goodness, but when God turned His face away, it was a dark day. With the creation of human (adam) and life (khava/eve), YHWH created His image bearers. He commissioned them to rule over the earth, to nourish and care for it and all the creatures within. YHWH walked with Adam and Eve, and talked with them. They lived life in the presence of YHWH, face to face.
And that’s how YHWH wanted it. He wanted these humans with Him in the Garden. It was His desire to connect with, and partner with, His creation. They were meant to be with Him, working alongside Him.
To protect this relationship, YHWH lovingly warned them: do not eat the fruit of this one particular tree and this amazing partnership can continue to flourish in the Garden.
But the Adversary of God had other plans. God made this beautiful, ordered, world, full of goodness, light, and life. But the Adversary wanted chaos, darkness and death, and so he sought out the humans and challenged their relationship with God:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which YHWH God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
The serpent made Eve question God’s motives… Is this really what God meant, that you can’t eat from any tree? But Eve was quick to correct the serpent:
The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
Eve did her best to correct the serpent, but she didn’t really get it right. YHWH never said anything about touching the tree. Seeing that his chaos and confusion was working, the serpent again challenged Eve’s perspective:
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Seeking chaos, the Adversary put ideas into Eve’s head: No, the fruit won’t kill you… God just wants to control you. He’s afraid you’ll become as powerful as He is. If you eat, you’ll become gods.
And there’s the catch… suddenly the fruit was a delight to the eyes and desirable. The fruit must be good. To be a god would be good:
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
The bite did not give them wisdom… the first knowledge they gained was that they had no clothes on and the first feeling they felt was shame. If this was what it felt like to be a god, it must have been mighty disappointing.
They heard the sound of YHWH God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence [mi-p’neh] of YHWH God among the trees of the garden.
Then YHWH God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
And so began the separation between YHWH and the humans of the Garden. Adam and Eve made the first move by hiding themselves from the face/presence of God. Before they were even banished from the Garden, they tried to get away from Him. Their impurity was very evident to them. In their shame and they couldn’t handle facing their God, and so by their own actions, Eve and Adam were exiled out of the Garden (Genesis 3:22-24). When they left the Garden they also left the intimacy of YHWH’s face. Their face no longer reflected His.
But YHWH did not abandon them in exile. He put a plan of salvation in place to bring them back Home… but it would be a long journey ahead.
In exile, Eve and Adam had children, starting with Cain and Abel. These two brothers, one an animal farmer (Abel) and one a crop farmer (Cain) decided, on their own, to bring an offering to YHWH:
So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to YHWH of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part, also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And YHWH had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance [panaw] fell.
It wasn’t long after humans left the Garden that sin grabbed hold of them like a plague. Out of pride and jealousy Cain was angry and his face showed it.
Then YHWH said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance [paneka] fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
YHWH warned Cain: sin is waiting at the door… master it before it masters you!
We don’t know why YHWH did not regard Cain’s offering. YHWH never asked for Cain and Abel to give Him a sacrifice. It was something they did themselves. They were trying to make a religion out of their faith… using symbols and rituals. And God went along with it: he regarded Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s… because Cain was not doing well. It wasn’t about his sacrifice being good enough, it was about how he was living his life. But Cain didn’t understand the message:
Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Then YHWH said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to YHWH, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face [p’neh] of the ground; and from Your face [u-mi-paneka] I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
So YHWH said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And YHWH appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. Then Cain went out from the presence of YHWH [mi-li-f’neh YHWH], and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
The Cain and Abel story was almost like a mirror to the Adam and Eve story. Cain disregarded what YHWH said to him: if you do well, your face will rise; if you do not do well sin will overtake you. By ignoring God’s warning, he ended up exiling Himself away from YHWH’s face/presence and into the wilderness, east of Eden.
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known. (John 1:18)
"...keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:14-16
And so this theme presented itself over and over and over, again and again, in the Bible. Human’s disobeyed YHWH and they found themselves outside of His presence. They were no longer reflecting His face because their sins hid His face from them.
The prophet Isaiah understood this theme:
Behold, YHWH’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separationbetween you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face [panim] from you so that He does not hear.
The separation between human and God was because of iniquity. It was 100% our doing and there was nothing we could do to fix it. Only God could save us; it was a breach that only He could heal.
But how long would He wait to heal humanity? How long would it take to see His face again?
Psalm 13:1-3a (see also Psalm 88:14)
[David:] How long, O YHWH? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face [et paneka] from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O YHWH my God… 1:18"
Psalm 69:16-18 (see also Psalm 102:2)
[David:] Answer me, O YHWH, for Your lovingkindness is good; according to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me, and do not hide Your face [paneka] from Your servant, for I am in distress; answer me quickly. Oh draw near to my soul and redeem it; ransom me because of my enemies!
The unidentified author of Psalm 104 understood that YHWH’s face (presence) and His spirit were life-giving. Without YHWH’s face, life would expire and turn to dust:
You hide Your face [paneka], they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face [p’neh] of the ground.
When life was filled with YHWH’s presence and His Spirit, then the face of the whole earth would be renewed.
David also connected YHWH’s face with Life:
[David:] Answer me quickly, O YHWH, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face [paneka] from me, or I will become like those who go down to the pit.
David understood that seeking YHWH’s face meant seeking Life. Life without YHWH’s face was a sentence to Sheol… a pit of death, darkness and chaos.
David, in humility, asked God to turn away from him and the sin he was soaked in… and at the same time he begged God not to send him away from His presence. Basically, don’t look at me and my sins, but don’t abandon me either:
[David:] Hide Your face [paneka] from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence [mi-l-paneka] and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvationand sustain me with a willing spirit.
David wanted to be in YHWH’s presence, but first he knew he had to be renewed, restored, saved, and sustained.
The good news was… YHWH only turned His face away when humans turned their backs to Him. Centuries after king David, Judah had fallen far away from YHWH. They turned their back so they could not see YHWH’s face. Even if He did shine on them they never would have seen it. So when the Babylonian’s invaded Judah, YHWH made it clear: you abandoned Me, not the other way around.
“Indeed this city has been to Me a provocation of My anger and My wrath from the day that they built it, even to this day, so that it should be removed from before My face [panai], because of all the evil of the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah which they have done to provoke Me to anger—they, their kings, their leaders, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
They have turned their back to Me and not their face [panim]; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction. But they put their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”
Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem had turned their back on YHWH. They did everything God told them not to do: they defiled the Temple and they sacrificed their children to false gods. They did not listen or receive instructions from their God, and they turned and worshipped gods and things that were not YHWH.
And so YHWH said, you show me your back, I’ll show you mine:
YHWH: “Like an east wind I will scatter them before the enemy; I will show them My back and not My face [w-lo panim] in the day of their calamity.”
However, all was not lost. YHWH was, and is, a forgiving God. IF they turned back to Him, He would graciously open His arms to them again:
2 Chronicles 30:9
“For if you return to YHWH, your brothers and your sons will find compassion before those who led them captive and will return to this land. For YHWH your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face [panim] away from you if you return to Him.”
Although it was safe for God to look, and shine, upon them, in the Tanakh it was not safe for a human to look directly upon the presence/face of YHWH.
Humans needed YHWH’s presence, but His personal presence was so pure and so blinding that even with the tiniest amount of sin, humans could not face Him head on, without fatal consequences.
When Jacob wrestled with YHWH, he recognized how out of the ordinary that was. How did he face God and live?:
So Jacob named the place Peniel [the face of my God], for he said, “I have seen God face to face [panim el panim], yet my life has been preserved.”
When Gideon saw the angel of YHWH (which was interchangeable with YHWH) he said:
“Alas, O Lord YHWH! For now I have seen the angel of YHWH face to face [panim el panim].”
YHWH said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.”
Then Gideon built an altar there to YHWH and named it YHWH is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
When Samson’s mother was visited by the Angel of YHWH she was told she would bear a son. Unwilling to believe it without hearing it for himself, Samson’s father, Manoah, begged the mysterious messenger to come back. He did come back, again only to Samson’s mother. She brought Him to Manoah and together they offered a sacrifice to the Angel of YHWH. Manoah said to his wife:
“We will surely die, for we have seen God.”
But his wife said to him, “If YHWH had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time.”
Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and YHWH blessed him.
Of all the people to see God, Moses was celebrated for the personal connection he had with YHWH. This relationship was recognized at the time of Moses’ death:
Deuteronomy 34:8, 10
So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end… Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom YHWH knew face to face [panim el panim].
That was the goal… that was the endgame that YHWH planned to accomplish: a return to the Garden where we would be continuously in the presence of God, where we could, once again, see Him face to face.
Moses’ ministry was to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage to the Egyptians, under YHWH’s direction. The Pharaoh of Egypt considered himself to be a god, and undoubtedly he understood the Hebrew belief that if they faced their God directly they would surely die. Using this, he highlighted his status as “god” by threatening Moses using God-speech. After Pharaoh announced he would not let them leave Egypt, he said to Moses:
“Get away from me! Beware, do not see my face [panai] again, for in the day you see my face [panai] you shall die!”
Moses said, “You are right; I shall never see your face [paneka] again!”
Moses was not acknowledging Pharaoh’s threat. Pharaoh was no god. YHWH was in control, and YHWH alone would deliver Moses and the Hebrew people out of Egypt. Moses would never see the face of Pharaoh again, not because it would kill him, but because he would live outside of Egypt and outside the presence of Pharaoh. Moses was leaving Egypt whether Pharaoh accepted it or not.
After leaving and wandering in the wilderness, YHWH promised the Hebrew people that His presence would go with them. They would not have to do this alone:
And He [YHWH] said, “My presence [panai] shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Feeling bold, Moses made a request:
…Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
Here was YHWH’s response:
And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of YHWH before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face [panai], for no man can see Me and live!”
Although it couldn’t happen without damage to Moses, YHWH really wanted to say, “yes”. He desired to walk side by side with His creation. He wanted them back in the Garden, a completed peace, where they could see His face without consequence. And so He allowed Moses to safely get a glimpse of Him, because it was what He so desperately wanted:
Then YHWH said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face [u-panai] shall not be seen.”
After this, YHWH replaced the broken tablets of His words (ten commandments) and He made a new covenant with His people, and then Moses came back down the mountainside of Sinai.
When he descended amongst the people his face, unbeknownst to him, glowed:
…Moses did not know that the skin of his face [panaw] shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face [panaw] shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
But Moses called them to him, and shared what had happened. He commanded them to do all that YHWH asked of them, and then he put a veil over his face (Exodus 34:33).
But whenever Moses went in before YHWH to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face [et p’neh] of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face [p’neh] shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face [panaw] until he went in to speak with Him.
Approximately 1400 years after the incident at Sinai, Paul made some insightful observations about Moses’ veil. He recognized that Yeshua (Jesus) was the face of YHWH, and His sacrifice on the cross removed the veil between humans and God. But for the Jewish people who had not accepted that Yeshua was the long-awaited Messiah, it meant that there was still a separation between them and God:
2 Corinthians 3:13-18
[We] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face [Greek: prosopon] so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Messiah.
But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face [Greek: prosopo], beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
The only way for humans to reflect the glory of God’s face was to remove the veil that separated us from YHWH. Yeshua’s broke the separation with His sacrificial death. Because He swallowed up our sins, sent them to the grave, and conquered death, we were free to see God’s face… without a veil, and without a rock to hide behind. We were also free to reflect the face of YHWH onto others.
Even before His death Yeshua boldly made the claim that, in Him, His followers were seeing God. While Yeshua was ministering on earth He went up a mountain with some of His disciples and He transformed in front of them:
Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face [Greek: prosopon] shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell face [prosopon] down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said,“Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.
The disciples fell, face down, at the sight of Yeshua’s glowing face, but He did not hide behind a veil. Instead He told them to get up, and not be afraid. They lifted their eyes towards His face and saw only Him.
Although the Messiah broke the barrier between humans and God, in the Old Testament they could only hope for a day when they would be able to look at YHWH’s face directly. And so, there was a continual commandment through the Hebrew Bible to seek YHWH’s face:
1 Chronicles 16:11-16 (see also Psalm 105:4-9)
[David:] Seek YHWH and His strength; seek His face [panaw] continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth, O seed of Israel His servant, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
He is YHWH our God; His judgments are in all the earth. Remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac.
Solomon built the Temple for YHWH and offered prayed a prayer of dedication. In response YHWH commanded the people to seek His face:
2 Chronicles 7:14, 16
[If]… My people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray and seek My face [panai] and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land… For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”
But over and over the Hebrew people did not seek YHWH’s face. He, however, always kept the option open for them to return to Him:
I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face [panai]; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
The Psalms of David, as we have seen, consistently focused on the face of YHWH:
[David:] Hear, O YHWH, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O YHWH, I shall seek.” [L’ka amar libbi, “baq’shu panai, et paneka YHWH a’vaquesh.”]
Do not hide Your face [paneka] from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation!
David held onto the truth that God was a God of Salvation. He was promised that from His throne a Messiah would come to save the people. This was also the hope and the message of the prophets. YHWH would save us and redeem us, so that we could live in His presence:
“Come, let us return to YHWH. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him [in His presence: l-fanaw].
So let us know, let us press on to know YHWH. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”
Hosea announced that YHWH would raise us up on the third day so that we could live in the presence of YHWH. That was quite a foreshadowing revelation!
We are called to be the image bearers of God, but Yeshua (Jesus) was the pure presence of YHWH on earth. He was the face of God, sent to walk amongst the people.
He was also the crux of YHWH’s tragically beautiful plan to bring us back into His presence. He would send Himself, through His son, to die so that we wouldn’t have to. Yeshua would take our sins upon Himself so that we wouldn’t have to bear the weigh of our failures. He would pay the entrance fee for us to return to the Garden and walk and talk with our Creator.
Yeshua understood His ministry from the beginning and He warned His disciples of what was to come:
Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”
But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.
And so they went to Jerusalem and Yeshua was arrested and tried in front of the High Priest:
But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”
Then they spat in His face [Greek: prosopon] and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Messiah; who is the one who hit You?”
Yeshua’s accusers spit in His face… the very face we are all called to seek.
David, the celebrated human ancestor of Yeshua, had the greatest hope in the Messiah to come. The Messiah would not decay. His presence would conquer death so that we would not have to face the grave [Sheol], instead we would live in the fulness of YHWH forever, in the light of His face:
[David:] I have set YHWH continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence [paneka] is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Paul shared with the Corinthians that God’s face was the Light that shone in the darkness and that in Yeshua’s face was the glory of God:
2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [Greek: prosopo] of Jesus the Messiah.
And so the Bible began with the story of humanity being exiled out of the Garden, but it ends with our glorious return:
Revelation 22:1-5 (last chapter of the Bible)
Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face [Greek: prosopon], and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
This passage brings the story to it’s triumphant conclusion. Humanity was expelled from the Garden which held the throne of God… but YHWH made a plan to bring us back. Yeshua, as the sacrificial Lamb, redeemed us; He paid the entrance fee that was needed to bring us back Home… back into the Presence of YHWH. All who gathered at His throne sought His face and were illuminated by it… just like Moses at Sinai, and just like Jesus at the transfiguration. It would be all the light we would need… forever and ever.
But here’s the thing: It’s not just that we receive God’s blessing when His face shines upon us, it’s that we start to reflect His face. We become His true image bearers because when He shines on us, we shine on others. We become who we were meant to be and the world benefits from our presence. That is our purpose on this planet… we are to be God’s image-bearers shining His love onto others.
I pray that you have hope in this: when your day on this earth comes to an end, you will find yourself back in the Presence of YHWH, seeing Him face to face and celebrating in His glory… and it will be more beautiful than you can imagine.
Aaron’s blessing highlighted the key to this whole epic adventure of human history. Seeking YHWH’s face would bring peace. It was the fulfillment of our long journey. We were exiled from God by our own doing but, because of our gracious and sacrificial God, we get to return. And when we do, YHWH’s face will shine on us forever. Until that day, may YHWH bless you and keep you…
YHWH bless you, and keep you; YHWH make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; YHWH lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace [shalom].
Next week: Fountain
Sarah Fisher is an admirer of old books, and old languages, old stone carvings, old photos and pretty much everything old. She is the administrator of the website www.booklives.ca and is a library technician at the University of Prince Edward Island. Sarah has a Master of Arts degree in Early Medieval Studies from the University of York in England. Her recent love of learning the Hebrew language from pictographic proto-Canaanite to the adopted Aramaic script has led her to create this blog.
About 5 BC a young girl named Miriam, who was about 16 years old, and living in Northern Israel, was startled by an angel’s appearance announcing she was to bear a son without benefit of either sexual intercourse or marriage. A rather complete account is to be found in the gospel of Luke:
A vast amount of speculation about Mary has been written — enough to fill whole libraries--for example as Wikipedia has documented.
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. “And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. “But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless. So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
“Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house. Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” So they made signs to his father--what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him. Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David, As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began, That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” (Luke 1:5-80)
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,”which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.“ (Matthew 2:18-25)
But limiting ourselves to what the writers of the New Testament actually recorded, Miriam (Mary) subsequently married Joseph and they had sons and daughters. Since Joseph drops out of mention early on, it is likely he was older and died early leaving it to Jesus, the first-born son, to support his mother and his younger half-brothers and half-sisters.
Jesus traveled annually from Nazareth to Jerusalem (on foot ~80 miles) with his parents, as they observed Passover. He started his public teaching about the age of 30, (Luke 3:23), and was murdered about 3.5 years later Passover AD 30 according to many estimates.
Links to Related Articles:
Growing up in Nazareth
His Final Trip to Jerusalem
Last Dinner with Friends in The Upper Room
Jesus, Plain and Simple
And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here, while I pray.' And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be very amazed, and to very weighted down; And said to them, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: wait here, and watch.' And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.' And he came, and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, Simon, 'why are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.' And again he went away, and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither did they want to answer him. And he came the third time, and said to them, 'Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.' 'Rise, let us go; he who betrays me is at hand.' And immediately, while he spoke, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. And he who betrayed him had given them a token, saying, 'Whoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.' And as soon as he was come, he went straight to him, saying, 'Master, master'; and kissed him. And they laid their hands on him, and took him. And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Are you come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.' And they all forsook him, and fled. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked. And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. (Mark 14:32-52)
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.” Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:1-25)
For forty days after His return from the dead until His ascension, Jesus visited only those who knew Him. He had a totally new body, except for the nail prints in his wrists, ankles and side. A careful look at the references in the New Testament to the post resurrection appearances of our Lord lets us get a good preview of the new bodies now waiting for those of us who know Him. We can supplement this with John 14:1-3:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
"Heaven" is an entirely new habitat about which we can already draw many inferences from clues in the Bible.
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud (the Shekinah) received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men (angels) stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11)
“For I (Paul) delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Peter, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
The Author was the Apostle John, one of the sons of Zebedee. He was probably born in 6 AD in Bethsaida, Galilee.
He was a very young man when Jesus called him to be a disciple. He was known as the "beloved Apostle."
On the cross, Jesus asked John to care for his mother Mary, (John 19:25-27).
According to church history, John moved to Ephesus in Turkey taking Mary with him
--after the other apostles had been martyed and Jerusalem destroyed in AD 70.
John's Gospel and Three Letters are believed by many scholars to have been written as late as AD 90.
It was on the Island of Patmos, where John had been exiled about 90 AD,
that he received the great vision which is now our Book of the Revelation.
John was exiled to the Island during the persecutions of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD,
but apparently released after Domitian was assassinated. John probably died about 100 AD.
(See Wikipedia for extensive notes on John)
1:The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.
3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.
4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,”says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” 9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and,“What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,
“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. 19 “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. 20 “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus
who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate,
that you keep this commandment without spot,
blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing,
which He will manifest in His own time,
He who is the blessed and only Potentate,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone has immortality,
dwelling in unapproachable light,
whom no man has seen or can see,
to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
(1 Timothy 6:13-16)
I remember Mama standing in front of me, her hands poised on her hips, her eyes glaring with hot coals of fire and saying in stentorian tones, “Just what is the big idea, young man?”
Instinctively I knew my mother was not asking me an abstract question about theory. Her question was not a question at all—it was a thinly veiled accusation. Her words were easily translated to mean, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” She was challenging me to justify my behavior with a valid idea. I had none.
Recently a friend asked me in all earnestness the same question. He asked, “What’s the big idea of the Christian life?” He was interested in the overarching, ultimate goal of the Christian life.
To answer his question, I fell back on the theologian’s prerogative and gave him a Latin term. I said, “The big idea of the Christian life is coram Deo. Coram Deocaptures the essence of the Christian life.”
This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.
To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.
To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. The uniform experience of the saints is to recognize that if God is God, then He is indeed sovereign. When Saul was confronted by the refulgent glory of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, his immediate question was, “Who is it, Lord?” He wasn’t sure who was speaking to him, but he knew that whomever it was, was certainly sovereign over him.To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God.s
Living under divine sovereignty involves more than a reluctant submission to sheer sovereignty that is motivated out of a fear of punishment. It involves recognizing that there is no higher goal than offering honor to God. Our lives are to be living sacrifices, oblations offered in a spirit of adoration and gratitude.
To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God. A fragmented life is a life of disintegration. It is marked by inconsistency, disharmony, confusion, conflict, contradiction, and chaos.
The Christian who compartmentalizes his or her life into two sections of the religious and the nonreligious has failed to grasp the big idea. The big idea is that all of life is religious or none of life is religious. To divide life between the religious and the nonreligious is itself a sacrilege.
This means that if a person fulfills his or her vocation as a steelmaker, attorney, or homemaker coram Deo, then that person is acting every bit as religiously as a soul-winning evangelist who fulfills his vocation. It means that David was as religious when he obeyed God’s call to be a shepherd as he was when he was anointed with the special grace of kingship. It means that Jesus was every bit as religious when He worked in His father’s carpenter shop as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.
Coram Deo . . . before the face of God. That’s the big idea. Next to this idea our other goals and ambitions become mere trifles.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in In the Presence of God: Devotional Readings on the Attributes of God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003).
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