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.
Shine Your Face Upon Us
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.
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.
In 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.
Hiding From His Presence
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.
The Hidden Face of YHWH
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 separation between 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…
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 salvation and 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.
Turning their Back (and not their Face) to YHWH
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.”
The Pure Face of God
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.
Seek My Face
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!
Yeshua: the Face of YHWH
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.
Reflecting God’s Face
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