Face-to-Face

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I once asked my pastor why it seemed as though my prayers hit the ceiling and bounced back at me without ever reaching heaven. He reminded me that unconfessed sin creates a barrier that needs to be removed so that communion is restored between the Creator and His creation.

As I read the verse for today, I was reminded of his words. Isaiah writes: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (59:2)

The expression of the prophet reminded me of a series of messages I prepared recently for a ladies’ retreat and of a revision of that series that I am going to start today. In the first session we talk about seeking first God’s “face” rather than always looking for His “hand.” In other words, desiring God Himself more than we desire His gifts.

As I reviewed yesterday I was reminded that when the Scriptures speak of God’s “face” they are referring to His presence, to that intimacy of relationship that we need to crave above all else in life. That connection is damaged by sin.

David wanted nothing more than to enjoy that divine presence in his life. It was something he treasured above all else and something he appreciated in times of trouble—times he never really escaped from during his lifetime.

He writes in Psalm 27: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, will I seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.” (27:4-9)

While David may have sought sanctuary in the tabernacle at some time in his lifetime he could never enter into the holiest place, so it is more than likely that he is speaking here of that tabernacle of the Lord’s presence that can be enjoyed whenever and wherever. David knows that no matter what the circumstances might be, the joy of God’s presence, that intimate relationship that they enjoy, would indeed “exalt his head” even when in the midst of an attack by his enemies.

Sin could, and would, sever the connection at times, so David prays this prayer: “Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.” (27:11) Whatever the origin of the oppression, David needed, above all else, to be constantly “face-to-face” or “presence-to-presence” with the Lord, without obstruction—as do we all.

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