Seeking the face of God

The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
(Psalm 24:1-6)  

 

Scripture Study

24:1–2. This first stanza (recording perhaps the words of a Levite or a temple servant on seeing the approach of pilgrims) echoes Genesis 1:1–10: God is the lord of all things because he created them (cf. Ex 9:29; Deut 10:14) and he set the earth upon the seas (in line with ancient eastern cosmogony: cf. Job 38:4–6; Ps 104:5); yet, at the same time God has made himself accessible in the temple. St Paul appeals to the opening words of this psalm, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”, to show that there are no unclean foods, contrary to the view of some Christians of Jewish bent (cf. 1 Cor 10:25–26). These words show that all created things are good.

24:3–6. These verses would have come from an entrance rite at the temple: to a question put by visitors (v. 3), a Levite or porter replies by stating the conditions to be met if one is to receive the Lord’s blessing there (vv. 4–5). Unlike Psalm 15, where there is mention only of proper respect for one’s neighbor (referred to in a condensed way here), there is the additional requirement about not worshipping idols (“what is false”: v. 4). Verse 6 may come from a reply made by incoming pilgrims—identifying themselves as worshippers of the God of Israel.[1]

 

Reflection

“Such is the race that seeks for him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.”

What does it mean to “seek the face of God?” The scriptures are full of references about seeking God’s face (Job 33:26; Psalm 11:7; Hosea 5:15; 1 Cor 13:12). The biblical evidence, to me, is overwhelming.  Requesting and expecting the face of God not only seems to be allowable, but encouraged.

Stately, fear-minded worshipers might scoff at face-statements as too brash, too disrespectful, too irreverent, too assuming.   Casual, face-seeking worshipers might balk at overly transcendent worship language as too distant, too cold, unworshipful, and mood-killing.  The reality, as in many instances, lies somewhere in between.  And perhaps a good marker of being somewhere in the middle is a fully authentic willingness to say or sing, “Lord, I want to see your face,” while in the back of your mind remembering, “but I know that is a potentially dreadful and awesome request.”

Such balanced face-seeking in worship actually makes the face-seeking all the more rich and meaningful.  It ups the ante of the request instead of cheapening the manifest presence of the Almighty One.  It’s my hope that we all can grow in seeking God’s face together.

– Zac Hicks

 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

[1] James Gavigan, Brian McCarthy, and Thomas McGovern, eds., Psalms and the Song of Solomon, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2003), 99–100.