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“We Will See Face To Face”: God’s Face and Our Worship

The apostle Paul’s reminder to the Corinthian Christians (1 Cor. 13:12) is reflected in the words of the well-known hymn: “Face to face with Christ my Savior, face to face what will it be?”72 This question is especially meaningful because the face plays an important role in our everyday experiences. If we say that we wish to see someone “face to face,” we may mean that we desire to have a meeting with that person. We could also mean to have a “face to face” confrontation with that one. If we report that we said something “to his face,” we indicate that we spoke openly in that person’s presence.

The face can reveal many things concerning someone’s inner feelings. A “long face” betrays a sense of gloom, while a “shining face” displays a sense of happiness or contentment. If someone “puts on a bold face,” he attempts to appear confident. A “false face,” however, indicates an attempt to hide one’s feelings or opinions. To “make a face” at another can indicate contempt.

The face appears in many of our idioms. If we “face up” to a problem, we confront it in an effort to solve it. To “fly in the face” of prevailing opinion suggests a course of action contrary to an accepted policy, belief, or standard, while “setting one’s face against” someone indicates open defiance or determination to oppose that person. If we “show our face” at an event, we attend it or perhaps allow ourselves to be seen there. By doing so we may either “lose face” or “save face,” that is, we may lose or maintain our respect. An anonymous person at such an event, however, may be said to be “faceless.” The face can also be used for the surface of a thing such as a clock. The “face value” of a document or a coin is determined by what is written on it. Climbers at times scale the “sheer face” of an outcrop of rock. A king, queen, or jack in a deck of cards is called a “face card.” A stock that seems advantageous to buy may to all appearances be a good prospect “on the face of it.” Even the sun is said to have a face and Keats spoke of “the nights’ starr’d face, huge cloudy symbols of a high romance.”73

One of the most distinctive features of the face is the nose. A reporter who “has a nose for news” is able to track down the desired information. He may “ follow his nose” in gathering the details. A “nosey” person, however, pries into others’ affairs and is said to have “poked his nose” into them. A close victory can be expressed as “winning by a nose.” Those who pay an unreasonable price for something have “paid through the nose.” If we “count noses” we tally the number of people in attendance or who can be counted upon to support our position.

Something “under my nose” is in plain sight. Rude or tactless people can “rub someone’s nose in it” by reminding him of his mistakes. They may “look down their noses” in disdain while doing so. Some people may “have their nose out of joint” that is, be unduly displeased about something. Likewise someone can “cut off his nose to spite his face” by doing that which is injurious to his own welfare. To be “led by the nose” is to be dominated by someone else.

The nose’s sense of smell is also used figuratively such as in “smelling” danger or “smelling out” the facts in a given situation. It could be hoped that in using the sense of smell figuratively we would not mix our metaphors in doing so such as in the case of the British parliamentarian who remarked, “I smell a rat, I see it floating in the air, and I’ll nip it in the bud.”74 The wide use of facial features in figurative expressions should alert us to expect to find them in God’s communication to us. We shall see that the Bible uses many of them.

Scriptural Faces

“Cause Your FaceTo Shine” (Ps. 80:3, MT)

The face is associated with many inanimate objects in the Bible. Thus Cain complained to the Lord that he was driving him from the “face of the land,” to places where he would disappear from God’s sight and possibly by the victim of some person’s murderous act (Gen. 4:14). Jeremiah speaks of “the face of the kingdoms which are … earth” (Jer. 25:26) and Moses warned his people that God would remove the disobedient from the (face of, MT) land (Deut. 6:15). Indeed, it was the Lord who scattered the post-deluvial population “across the face of the entire earth” (Gen. 11:8).75 Jehu, the founder of the fourth dynasty in the Northern Kingdom, gave instructions concerning the remains of Queen Jezebel’s body to the effect that it should lie “like manure on the surface (lit., face) of the ground” (2 Kings 9:37). Not only the land but also the surface of the sea could be termed its “face” (Gen. 1:2, MT; Job 38:30, MT). Similar terminology is used of the horizon of the sky (Mt. 16:3, Grk).76

“Face” can also be used in connection with an object such as a scroll (Ezek 2:9-10, MT), a building (Ezek. 40:7-8; 41:14, MT), or even a tent (Ex. 26:9, MT). The face also appears in giving directions. Thus the twelve bulls, on which the basin known as the Sea rested, were arranged “three facing northward, three westward, three southward, and three eastward” (1 Kings 7:25). In Jeremiah’s opening vision he reports having seen a boiling pot “tipped toward us from (lit., its face from the face of) the north” (Jer. 1:13).

The Bible describes many kinds of faces. Solomon pointed out that “a joyful heart makes a face cheerful” (Prov. 15:13). On the other hand, there are times when sadness of face is good for the heart (Eccl. 7:3, MT). At still other times a “sad face” can betray sorrow (Gen. 40:7, MT) or a heartfelt need. Thus Nehemiah’s face of sadness brought such concern to the Persian king that he sent him back to Jerusalem to oversee the repairing of its walls (Neh. 2:1-9).

The Scriptures record many other facial features. A “pale face” can indicate fear or fright (Joel 2:6; Dan. 5:6).77 Jesus warns about those with a false or hypocritical face (Mt. 6:16).

A “hard” face is indicative of defiance (Jer 5:3), impudence (Prov 7:13) ruthlessness (Deut 28:50). A “shining” face is evidence of joy (Job 29:24). A “shamed” face points to defeat, frustration, humiliation (II Sam 19:5). A “flaming” face is one convulsed by terror (Isa 13:8). An “evil” face is a face marked by distress and anxiety (Gen 40:7) A “fallen” face stems from
very strong anger or displeasure (Gen 4:5).78

Personal Attitudes And The Face

“He sees God’s face with rejoicing” (Job 33:26)

The face appears in various figurative expressions involving personal emotions or attitudes.79 Covering the face can indicate grief. When king David learned of the death of his son, he “covered his face and cried aloud, ‘My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam. 19:4). God commands Ezekiel to “cover your face so that you cannot see the ground because I have made you an object lesson to the house of Israel” (Ezek 12:6). By this act he was to symbolize the fact that although the king would attempt to flee the coming captivity of Jerusalem, he would neither escape nor see the land in which he would be held captive (vv. 12-13). Such indeed proved to be the case, for Zedekiah was blinded by his captors and led away in chains to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; Jer. 39:4-7). He would also never see his own land again, for he would die in captivity (Jer. 52:11). Thus Ezekiel’s covering of his face in this context symbolized not only grief but also shame, and a sentence of judgment ending in doom.

Covering the face as a sign of shame occurs in other texts as well (cf. Gen. 38:15). Thus the psalmist implores God that when he judges Israel’s enemies to “cover their faces with shame so they might seek you, O LORD” (Ps. 83:16). The face could also be covered in the awesome presence of the Lord God. For example, Elijah “covered his face with his robe” when he heard a gentle whisper and recognized it as the voice of God (1 Kings 19:13). The angelic seraphim also covered their faces with two of their wings in the presence of the Holy One (Isa. 6:2).

Bowing down with one’s face to the ground/floor or falling on one’s face appears in many contexts whether to indicate honor or respect (e.g., 1 Sam. 28:14; Dan. 2:46), especially of a king (2 Sam. 9:6; 14:4; 18:28; 1 Kings 1:23, 31), self-humbling (Num. 14:5; 16:4), or worship/reverence in the presence of God (Ezek. 3:23; Lk. 5:12; 1 Cor. 14:25; Rev. 11:16). At times this indicates a prostration in prayer (Mt. 26:39). Prayer may also be expressed as “lifting up the face” (Job 22:26-27), “seeking God’s face” (1 Kings 13:6; Ps. 27:7-8; cf. 2 Kings 13:4), especially in repentance and submission (Hos. 5:15), or “putting the face between the knees” (1 Kings 18:42).

Submission or respect for a superior or elder was demanded in the Old Testament. “Stand up in the presence of (lit., the face of) the aged, show respect (lit., honor the face of) for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32). At times this was expressed by “bowing one’s face to the ground.” Thus Joseph, in seeking his father’s blessing for his two sons, “bowed down with his face to the ground” (Gen. 48:12). Nabal’s wife Abigail performed the same act before David (1 Sam. 25:23). Falling on one’s face to the ground, however, could indicate being terrified or frightened (Dan. 10:7-9; cf. 8:17, MT).

Personal Actions And The Face

“Seek his presence (lit., face) always” (Ps. 105:4)

To be sure, the figures and idioms employing the face in the previous section also involved activity in some cases. Nevertheless, we have preferred to group the above examples in accordance with the attitude or emotions behind the actions. Although attitudes will also be evident in some of the following cases, our emphasis here is on the activity itself. Thus to “set the face” toward some place involved physical movement. As Jacob fled from Laban, his father-in-law, he “headed for (‘set his face toward’) the hill country of Gilead” (Gen. 31:21).80 After capturing the town of Gath, the Aramean king Hazael “turned to attack (‘set his face toward’) Jerusalem” (2 Kings 12:17). When Balaam the hireling prophet “saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned (lit., set) his face toward the wilderness” (Num. 24:1). A far different prophet of the Lord, the prophet Daniel, reports, “I turned to the LORD (lit., I set my face toward) my God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and sackcloth and ashes” (Dan. 9:3).81

Activities represented by the face may be positive or negative. In the former category we may note that a bright or shining face may reflect approval or being pleased: “In the light of a king’s face there is life” (Prov. 16:15).82 Similarly, “A joyful heart makes the face cheerful, but by a painful heart the spirit is broken” (Prov. 15:13). Washing the face indicates purity or happiness. Accordingly, Jesus advised that fasting ought not to be undertaken with external accompaniments such as a disfigured face or somber look. Such is a hypocritical observance. Rather than drawing attention to oneself, one should wash his face so that only God would be aware of the person who fasts (Mt. 6:17). Thus what Jesus “condemns is ostentation in fasting. Moreover he forbids any sign at all that a fast has been undertaken. Because the human heart is so mixed in the motives that the desire to seek God will be diluted by the desire for human praise, thus vitiating the fast.”83

A further positive note is the scriptural prophecy that God would send “my messenger, who will clear the way before me” (lit., my face; Mal. 3:1). Although this one is later identified as the translated prophet Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6), Jesus declared that this prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist (Mt. 11:9-10). Since John knew categorically that he was not Elijah (Jn. 1:21, 23), his mission was but in the spirit and power of Elijah, who is yet to come. Scholars generally concede that Malachi’s prophecy concerning Elijah has to do with the prophetic line that culminates in the eschatological era.84 The application of Malachi’s prophecies concerning Elijah thus gives positive assurance that the final fulfillment of the prophecies will definitely take place and thus of the truthfulness and divine inspiration of the Bible (Ps. 119:160; 2 Tim. 3:16).85

Another positive text including actions and the face is found in Elisha’s instructions to Gehazi, his servant, to run ahead and lay Elisha’s staff on the face (i.e., the body) of the Shunamite’s dead lad (2 Kings 4:29). “The staff as the symbol of God-given prophetic power (cf. Ex. 4:1-4; 17:8-13) signified Elisha’s faith that God would stay further physical degeneration until he could come.”86 With the reviving of the lad a positive result occurred so that the power of God through his designated prophet was displayed. Truly the power and spirit were shown to reside in Elisha (cf. 2 Kings 2:9-15). And what a positive and powerful ministry Elisha was to have!87 Here indeed was a man of prayer (2 Kings 4:33; 6:17-18). Surely God’s faithful servant must have received the divine blessing concerning which David would later write: “ Such godly people are rewarded by the LORD and vindicated by God who delivers them. Such purity characterizes the people who seek his favor (lit., face of), O God of Jacob” (Ps. 24:5-6).

Some actions in which the figure of the face is found were negative in nature, however. Thus spitting in the face was a sign of public rebuke and shame (Num. 12:14; Mk. 15:19). In most cases a literal act is involved. A particularly prominent case involved the situation of brothers living communally together. If one of the brothers died, it was the prescribed obligation of the surviving brother to marry the widow. If he refused to do so, however, a public ceremony was to follow during which his brother’s widow was to approach him “in view of the elders, take off his sandal, spit in his face and say, ‘This is what is done to any man who does not maintain his brother’s family line’” (Deut. 25:9). To be sure the face is understood to be literally involved in the action but the deed symbolized something greater. Indeed, the brother’s failure to perform the required obligation was considered a serious breach of Mosaic Law. Eugene Merrill describes the rationale behind the stipulation: “The sandal, again, represented forfeiture by the derelict brother of any claims he might have had to his departed brother’s estate. The act of spitting displays the utmost disdain or contempt.”88

A still more poignant case is that of God’s servant. Although he is faithful and obedient, he is mistreated with severe disrespect and insulting behavior: “I offered my back to those who attacked, my jaws to those who tore out my beard; I did not hide my face from insults and spitting” (Isa. 50:6). As Edward Young points out, the description of this servant goes far beyond any human sufferer: “It would be impossible for any sinful human being, no matter how fine a person he was, to undergo the sufferings herein described without a spirit of rebellion welling up within him… . The only One who can so patiently suffer is the One without sin, the Christ of God.”89 Indeed, Isaiah goes on to describe this One in terms that surely can apply to no one other than the Messiah, God’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isa. 53:3-12).

Therefore, the apostle Paul can rightly say, “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus himself predicted, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and experts in the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him severely, and kill him. Yet after three days, he will rise again” (Mk. 10:33-34). Such literally came to pass (Mk. 14:65; 15:19; 16:1-8). It is of interest to note that although the practice of spitting in the face was designed to be symbolically negative, in God’s providence this odious act was overcome through the suffering of the triumphant Christ. Negative deed became changed to positive outcome. Such a despicable act may account for Job’s feelings of mistreatment by his former friends and neighbors: “He has made me a byword to people. I am the one in whose face they spit” (Job 17:6). Whether Job’s words are to be understood literally or figuratively (or both) is uncertain.90 If Job’s words are to be understood figuratively in an attempt to describe the general public contempt he feels, the figure is certainly a strong negative one.

A particularly graphic figure utilizing the face is that of “pulling up the skirt over the face.” The image is related to the act of harlotry. Thus in prophesying concerning the fall of Nineveh Nahum charges the Assyrian capital city with being a “wanton prostitute” (Nah. 3:4). “Nineveh is here seen as using both immoral attractions (the city was a center of the cult of Ishtar—herself represented as a harlot) and sorcery (Assyrian society was dominated by magic arts …) as a means to enslave others. The metaphor is very close to the reality.”91 Therefore, the punishment would fit the crime: “‘I am against you,’ declares the LORD who commands armies. ‘I will strip off your clothes (lit., lift your skirts over your face)! I will show your nakedness to the nations and shame to the kingdoms’” (Nah. 3:5).

Nineveh’s fate was also pronounced against God’s own people because of their religious harlotry in entertaining false gods (2 Kings 21:1-11; Jer. 32: 26-35). Accordingly, God declared their just judgment: “I will pull your skirt up over your face and expose you to shame like a disgraced adulteress! People of Jerusalem, I have seen your adulterous worship, your shameless prostitution to and your lustful pursuit of, other gods. I have seen your disgusting acts of worship on the hills throughout the countryside” (Jer. 13:26-27). How shameful that God’s people would leave the source of true life and turn to other fascinations! Well does the apostle John warn today’s believers: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21).

The figure of the face may be seen in still other settings. Armies are said to face each other (2 Kings 14:11). In such circumstances it is reassuring to be aware of the Lord’s presence (2 Chr. 20:17). In addition to hostile situations like open warfare, the idiom “to one’s face” can indicate rebuke. Thus Paul writes of a situation that caused him to oppose Peter. For at Antioch Peter had withdrawn from fellowshipping with Gentile believers because of the arrival of emissaries from James. Because of Peter’s actions, “I opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong” (Gal. 2:11). Indeed, Peter should have known better, for he himself had been used to minister the Gospel to a Roman centurion named Cornelius at Caesarea. At that time he confessed, “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s rebuke and James’ own words stand as good advice to all of us: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show prejudice” (Jas. 2:1).

Personal Relationships And The Face

“I hope to come visit you and speak face to face” (2 Jn. 12)

The face often appears in contexts involving personal relationships. For example people are often said to meet one another “face to face.” Jeremiah predicts that Zedekiah will be captured and will speak to the king of Babylon “face to face” (Jer. 32:4; cf. 34:5). In discussing the case concerning the apostle Paul the Roman official Festus points out to the Jewish king Agrippa that “it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met his accusers face to face” (Acts 25:16). King Amaziah of Judah at one time sent a military challenge to king Jehoash of Israel saying, “Come face me on the battlefield” (2 Chr. 25:17).

Those officials who enjoyed special access to the Persian king were said to “see his face” (Esth. 1:14, MT). Joseph denied access into his presence to his brothers by telling them, “You will not see my face unless your brother is with you” (Gen. 43:5). Paul made mention of those in Laodicea who had not “met me face to face” (Col. 2:1). The image here is that of a personal meeting or relationship. As he writes to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them that he had been “separated from you … for a short time in presence (lit., face) not in affection” (lit., in heart; 1 Thess. 2:17) but was praying “ earnestly night and day to see you (lit., your face) and make up what may be lacking in your faith” (1 Thess. 3:10). Likewise, John wrote to his friend Gaius that he hoped “to see you right away and we will speak face to face” (3 Jn. 14).

It should be noted that in some of the texts mentioned above that the face could stand for the whole person. Simian-Yofre notes that the face is often used to represent the whole person, especially in constructions where “face” is followed by the controlling noun. He lists such instances as: Isaac (Gen. 27:30) and Joseph (Gen. 44:26), the poor (Lev. 19:15), and the aged (Lev. 19:32), servants (2 Sam. 19:5), priests (Lam. 4:16), and kings (1 Sam. 22:4) such as Solomon (1 Kings 10:24) and Pharaoh (Ex. 10:11), and the wicked (Ps. 82:2). He goes on to point out that in most of these cases to translate the Hebrew noun as ‘face’ or ‘countenance’ is improper92 Similarly, Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to “join in helping us by prayer so that many people (lit., many faces) may give thanks to God on our behalf for the gracious gift given to us through the help of many” (2 Cor. 1:11).

A closely related idea is seen where face occurs in combination with certain prepositions indicating a sense of presence such as “in the face of” to point to the whole person or object (i.e., before someone or something). “So Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before (in the face of) Pharaoh” (Ex. 11:10). As Simeon cradled the infant Jesus in his arms he remarked, “My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence (before the face/presence) of all peoples” (Lk. 2:31). ).93

The face is often used for certain verbs expressing personal relationships or encounters. One would “seek the face” of someone in an authoritative position. For example, “Everyone in the world wanted to visit (lit., seek the face of) Solomon to see him display his God-given wisdom” (1 Kings 10:24). The author of Proverbs appropriately observes, “Many people seek the face of a ruler” (Prov. 29:26). If one turns his face to/toward someone, he pays attention to or addresses that one (1 Kings 8:14, MT) but to turn the face can mean rejection. Indeed, the sinning Israelites “turned away (lit., their faces) from the Lord’s dwelling place and rejected (lit., turned their backs on) him” (2 Chr. 29:6). Similarly, “hiding the face” can display displeasure or revulsion (Isa. 53:3).

To “lift up the face” to/toward someone can indicate showing respect to him or currying his favor. Thus Jacob sought Esau’s good reaction to his coming by sending gifts ahead with his servants. He thought, “After that I will meet him (lit., see his face). Perhaps he will accept me” (lit., lift up my face; Gen, 32: 20). Not “to lift up the face,” however, indicated disrespect. Israel was told that their disobedience could bring God’s judgment in the form of a fierce nation coming against them that had “no regard for (lit., will not lift up the face of) the elderly” (Deut. 28:50). To “lift up the face” can also indicate partiality. Indeed, “It is terrible to show partiality to (lit., lift up the face of) the wicked” (Prov. 18:5; cf. Ps. 82:2). One should not pervert justice by showing “partiality to (lift up the face of) the poor nor honor (lit., honor the face of) to the great: (Lev. 19:15). “Lifting up the face” could also indicate the granting of a request (Gen. 19:21, MT) but “turning back the face” meant refusal.

The author of Kings makes an interesting play on the word face in relating the incident when Adonijah’s plot to secure his father David’s throne failed. At that time he approached Bathsheba and pled with her saying, “You know that the kingdom was mine and all Israel considered (lit., set their face to) me king. But then the kingdom was given to my brother, for the LORD decided it should be his. Now I’d like to ask you for just one thing. Please don’t refuse me” (lit., turn back my face; 1 Kings 2:15-16).

It can be seen, then, that the figure of the face was widely used by God’s people in many varied contexts. We turn next to note those passages that speak of the face of God.

God’s Face

“Moses, Who Knew The LORD Face To Face” (Deut. 34:10)

One of the most intense experiences in the life of Jacob occurred as he was returning with his family toward his homeland. He had served Laban for many years and now faced the prospect of meeting his brother Esau whom he had defrauded so long ago. As we have noted, in preparation for that meeting he sent gifts ahead so as to conciliate Esau hoping that Esau would “lift up the face” of Jacob (i.e., receive him cordially). Now on the night before that dreaded meeting, he found himself alone. Suddenly, “A man wrestled with him until daybreak” (Gen. 32:24). That opponent turned out to be an angel from whom he received a blessing, “‘No longer will your name be Jacob,’ the man told him, ‘but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed’” (Gen. 32:28). The eighth century prophet Hosea, looking back on that night, wrote, “He struggled with an angel and prevailed; he wept and begged his favor” (Hos. 12:4).94 Jacob himself was so overcome by the events of that night that he “named the place Peniel, explaining, ‘Certainly I have seen God face to face, and survived’” (Gen. 32:20).

Did Jacob really see God “face to face”—really see God’s face? In the first place, the text appears to indicate that it was pitch black that night—so dark that he could not even recognize his opponent (cf. Gen. 32:29). As we have noted before “face” can figuratively represent the whole person. It is likely, therefore, that “face to face” in this context describes a personal encounter between two individuals (i.e., person to person).

Confirmation of this understanding comes from Moses’ encounter with God before Mount Sinai. On one occasion in a tent of meeting, which lay outside of the Israelite camp, God was said to “speak to Moses face to face the way a person speaks to a friend” (Ex. 33:11). In that same context the Lord assured Moses, “My Presence (lit., my face) will go with you and I will give you rest” (Ex. 33:14). Moses understood God’s presence well, for he pleaded with God further, “If your Presence (lit., face) does not go with us, do not take us up from here. For how will it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people?” (Ex. 33:15-16). Clearly, then, it is God’s personal presence with his people that was essential and the Hebrew word in question in this context is not to be understood literally as “face.” Further confirmation of all of this comes from Moses’ own later words to the Israelites: “Because he loved your ancestors, he chose their descendants who followed them and personally (lit., by his face/presence) brought you out of Egypt with his great strength” (Deut. 4:37). To the same effect Isaiah writes, “Through all this that they suffered, he suffered too. The messenger sent from his very presence (lit., face) delivered them” (Isa. 63:9).

Sadly, God warned the sinning Israelites of Ezekiel’s day that in a future time he would send them again into exile among the nations: “And there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. Just as I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you” (Ezek. 20:35-36). God’s personal presence with them would surely not be a pleasant one. Yet it would involve a purification that would bring them into a new covenant relation with God and “then you will know that I am the LORD” (Ezek. 20:38).

In all of these cases God’s “face” means his personal presence in accomplishing his purposes and especially his power as the means by which God accomplished his mighty deeds. The same idea may be seen in the case of unbelievers in the great tribulation period that will climax earth’s present history. Those who fear the awesome power of God’s presence in judgment are portrayed as crying, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Rev. 6:16).

Neither God’s essence nor his literal face can be intended for no one should (Ex. 33:23) or could (Ex. 33:20) see God. In fact no human has ever seen God himself (1 Tim. 6:16). Rather, it is in Christ supremely that God has been known and seen (Jn. 1:18; 6:46; 1 Jn. 4:12). “A man must perish if he looks on or even hears God (Ex 19:21). For this reason Moses (Ex 3:6), Elijah (1 Kgs 19:13), and even the seraphim (Isa 6:2) cover their faces in God’s presence.”95

Therefore, instances in which a believer is said to have seen God and yet lived involved either a manifestation of God’s glory and majesty (Deut. 5:24), a revelation through the Angel of the Lord (Judg. 6:22-33; 13:20-22), or a visionary experience (Isa. 6:1-5). Leon Wood rightly points out that the latter two cases were situations in which the men involved felt strongly their sinfulness in the presence of the divine appearance.96 William Dyrness points out further that the term “face” is commonly used “of God’s face in a metaphoric way for his presence in general.”97

The figure of God’s face is used in many contexts in which his divine actions are involved (Ezek. 20:35). As in the case of human activity in which the “face” is utilized, the action may be positive or negative. For example, God provided comfort and enjoyment to his people by giving instructions as to how Aaron was to bless the people: “The LORD bless you and protect you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-26). A believer may seek the “face” of God and pray, “Lift up upon us the light of your face, O LORD” (Ps. 4:6; cf. Pss. 67:1; 80:3; 119:131) but should realize that God is “aware of our sins; you even know about our hidden sins (lit., what we have hidden to the light of your face)” (Ps. 90:8).

Sin can cause fellowship with God to be broken so that the Lord will hide his “face” from his people (Deut. 31:16-17). In such cases not only will pain and sorrow follow (Ps. 13:1-2, MT) but dire circumstances can occur. For example, the psalmist prays, “Do not reject me (lit., hide your face from me) or I will join those descending to the grave” (Ps. 143:7). Yet “God is merciful and compassionate; he will not reject you (lit., turn his face from you) if you return to him” (2 Chr. 30:9). God warned the nation Israel through his messengers that if his people sinned against him, judgment would surely come, whether upon individuals (Lev. 17:10) or the nation: “I have determined not to deliver this city but to bring disaster on it (lit., I will set my face against the city for evil and not good)” (Jer. 21:10). So also Ezekiel prophesies concerning Jerusalem, “I will give it to foreigners as loot … I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place” (Ezek. 7:21-22).

Such literally came to pass in the fall of Jerusalem to the Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonians) in 586 B.C. and the carrying away of God’s people into exile. Even then God gave a gracious promise to his people through Ezekiel that a day was coming when he would make a new covenant with a repentant people and “I will not leave any of them in exile any longer. I will no longer hide my face from them, when I pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezek. 39:28-29). Indeed, when God’s people pray for cleansing, they may anticipate God’s forgiveness so that they rejoice in his presence. Thus the psalmist prays, “Hide your face from my sins! Wipe away all my guilt!” (Ps. 51:9). “The imagery here personifies God in his turning his back on sin and thereby not being able to see it again.”98

A common phrase indicating God’s actions is that of “lifting up the face.” This idiom can imply favoritism or partiality. God’s impartiality was demonstrated in the judgment and exile of his people: “The LORD himself (lit., the face of the Lord) has scattered them; he no longer watches over them. They did not honor the priests; they did not show favor to the elders” (Lam. 4:16). The apostle Peter also came to realize that “God does not show favoritism (lit., receive the face/respect the person) in dealing with people but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him” (Acts 10:34; cf. 1 Pet. 1:17).99 Paul also recognized that God’s judgment is just for Jew and Gentile alike, “For there is no partiality with God” (Rom. 2:11; cf. Col. 3:25).

Clearly, then, the figure of God’s face is not to be construed in physical terms. Rather, it is given for mankind in order that people may understand his active presence in world affairs, particularly in connection with his own people. He reminds all men that warm, active fellowship with God is possible but warns all people that sin can mar that fellowship and bring God’s just judgment.

The Nose On The Face

“Smoke Ascended From His Nostrils’ (Ps. 18:8)

Before turning to examine texts that remind us of our obligations before God, we pause to look at what the Bible says concerning one of the prominent features of the face—the nose. Perhaps the most prominent image relative to the face is that of the hook in the nose. “Biblical imagery of the hook in the nose symbolizes mastery or forced leading. Prophets have used this image to warn nations of God’s wrath and of their coming doom (2 Kings 19:28; 2 Chr. 33:11).”100 Thus God denounces the mighty Assyrian Empire and its king Sennacherib in particular: “Because you rage against me and the uproar you create has reached my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bridle between your lips, and I will lead you back by the way you came” (Isa. 37:29). Such metaphors suggest that God views himself as Sennacherib’s master. Much as an owner puts a bit and bridle on his animal so as to make it do his bidding, so God is really the one who is in charge of Sennacherib. Sennacherib is virtually likened to a stubborn beast, which must be put under restraint by the Lord.101

A still more important text concerning the nose or nostrils is found in the Genesis account of man’s creation: “The LORD God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). It can be observed that, “every living thing has the breath of life in its nostrils, but only man has the breath of God in his nostrils.”102 Elsewhere the figurative use of the nose revolves around the sense of smell. The psalmist points out the impotence of idols by noting, “They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see, ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell” (Ps. 115:5-6).

Several texts speak of God’s nose or nostrils. Most commonly they are employed in connection with God’s pleasure with the sacrifice that is being offered to him. For example, after the great flood, Noah “built an altar to the LORD. He then took some of every kind of clean animal and clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma and said to himself (lit., in his heart), ‘I will never again curse the ground’” (Gen. 8:20-21). Once again we see a poignant image. God is likened to one whose nostrils smell a very fragrant and pleasing aroma. Pleasing aromas are reported in connection with the Levitical sacrifices well over a dozen times. Even as late as Ezra’s time the importance of sacrifices being pleasing to God was recognized (Ezra 6:10). Both the offering and the offerer’s attitude in presenting the offering were deemed acceptable and satisfactory to God. Particularly satisfying was the life and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. For by these he demonstrated that he “loved us and gave himself for us as a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God” (Eph. 5:2). Christ’s substitutionary atonement on Calvary stands as the culmination and completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system that pointed to it. As such it was most pleasing to God and a “sweet savor” offering. As the writer to the Hebrews declares, “But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice. And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment, so also, after Christ was sacrificed once to bear the sins of many, to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation” (Heb. 9:26-27). Far greater than the Old Testament offerer, Christ’s attitude was also one that was pleasing and acceptable to God (Mt. 26:42; Heb. 10:5-7).

The nose and nostrils of God, however, are also used to indicate God’s displeasure, wrath, and judgmental power (Lev. 26:31; Isa. 65:5). Indeed, it was a mere blast of God’s “nostrils” that caused the waters of the forbidding sea to pile up and provide a safe passage for the Israelites as they fled from the pursuing Egyptian forces: “By the blast of your nostrils the waters were piled up, the flowing water stood upright like a heap, and the deep waters solidified in the heart of the sea” (Ex. 15:8). 103

The Believer’s Face

“Seek His Presence (lit., Face) Continually” (Ps. 105:4)

The image of the face of God has momentous importance for the believer. Faithful believers in Old Testament times looked forward to that day when they might see God’s face—a hope that lay beyond this life (Job 19:25-27; Pss. 17:15; 49:10-15). For the New Testament believer, however, there is a more immediate realization of that hope. For Jesus told his disciples, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God--he has seen the Father” (Jn. 6:46). Because Jesus and the Father are one (Jn. 10:30), he that has seen Jesus has seen God the Father also (Jn. 12:45; 14:9). By divine revelation the apostle Paul declared that Jesus Christ is the very image of God (2 Cor. 4:4), in whose face we have “the light of the glorious knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 4:6). Grand as it is, this is but an imperfect foretaste of a glorious future (1 Cor. 13:8-12) when believers shall enjoy his presence and behold “the throne of the Lamb and … they will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3-4).

Because God is righteous (Deut. 32:4), the believer is to live a righteous and faithful life (Heb. 2:4), looking to him in order to be upright in his sight: “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are not ashamed” (Ps. 34:5). Those who look to the Lord and spend quality time in God’s Word and in prayer will find the psalmist’s words to be true. For example, Jonah was God’s prophet but he attempted to run away from God’s will for his life and wound up in the belly of a great sea creature. Although he was thus out of fellowship with God, God now had his attention. And so Jonah turned to God in anguished prayer. In doing so his prayer was framed by many phrases drawn from the Psalms. As a result God heard his prayer, delivered him from his dire circumstances, and reinstated him to his prophetic office. Unfortunately, although Jonah went on dutifully to deliver God’s message in Nineveh, he remained unhappy with any ministry to the Assyrians, however successful it proved to be.

Despite Jonah’s somewhat tenuous example, it remains true that time spent in God’s Word can enable its reader to understand his person and purposes. He can therefore be prepared for those dangerous periods on life’s journey. Actually, such is a continuous quest that is to be entered into on a daily basis. The psalmist’s experience needs to be that of every believer: “I find delight in your statutes; I will not forget your instructions” (Ps. 119:16; cf. 2 Tim. 2:15). Indeed, the believer who spends quality time in God’s Word will be aware of his presence and through Christ grow increasingly like him (2 Cor. 3:12-18). Unlike those who lived under the old covenant, whose “minds were closed” so that even now “whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds” (2 Cor. 3:14-15), believers who have been taken into union with Christ through the New Covenant “with unveiled faces [are] reflecting the glory of the Lord [and] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).104 “So far from losing its intensity or luster, the glory experienced under the new covenant progressively increases until the Christian finally acquires a ‘glorious body’ like that of the risen Christ (Phil. 3:21).”105

Time spent in prayer is also essential for the faithful believer (cf. Dan. 9:3). King David expressed it so well: “Seek the LORD and the strength he gives! Seek his presence (lit., face) continually” (1 Chr. 16:11; cf. Ps 105:4). One should not pray just in difficult times (Pss. 34:4; 69:17). Rather, it remains always true that “the prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness” (Jas. 5:16). Prayer is often the key to the perplexities of life: “Many say, ‘Who can show us anything good?’ Smile upon us (lit., make the light of your face rest upon us) LORD” (Ps. 4:6). David’s prayer is reflected elsewhere in the sixty-seventh psalm: “May God show us his favor and bless us! May he smile upon us! (Selah) Then those living on earth will know what you are like; all nations will know how you deliver your people” (Ps.67:1-2).

In another setting David expresses his heart’s desire for God and his longing for fellowship with his Lord. Thus he prays,

Hear me, O LORD, when I cry out!

Have mercy on me and answer me!

My heart tells me to pray to you (lit., seek his face),

and I do pray to you, O LORD (lit., your face, LORD, I will seek).

Do not reject me (lit., hide your face from me)!

Do not push your servant away in anger!

You are my deliverer!

Do not forsake or abandon me,

O God who vindicates me. (Ps. 27:7-9)

Here as in several places in the Scriptures we have an example of the well-known call- answer motif. Taken together calling and answering become woven into a standard motif to express close fellowship and intimate communion, especially in times of great distress (Pss. 17:6-12; 81:6-7; 102:1-2; 138:8). God’s availability to the believer is not just for seasons of difficulty. The great Creator and Controller of this world invites you and me to receive instruction and guidance from Him for our daily lives. “I say to you, ‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you do not know about” (Jer. 33:2-3). And not only for this life, but the call-answer motif assures God’s servant that at death his communion with God will go right on in all fullness of fellowship (Job 14:14-15; cf. Ps. 73:23-26).

The combination of prayer and the Word of God thus commends itself for godly living and communion with the Lord. What must be avoided is prayer that is made on the basis of one’s own selfish interest rather than in accordance with the mind of the Lord.106 The hymn writer expresses it well: “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; abide in him always, and feed on his Word.”107

As believers live out their lives in God’s presence (before his face), they must, as does he, be careful not to show partiality or favoritism. This standard was true for Old Testament believers (Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:17; 10:16-19). It is not less true for today’s believers, whether in the socio-economic world (Eph. 6:9) or in the church. There will always be those who love to have special prominence (3 Jn. 9) but the Bible reminds us that such ought not to be the case: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism” (Jas. 2:1).

Remembering that God shows no partiality, Peter challenges the believer to live in reverential fear before him (1 Pet. 1:17). Indeed, as did Jesus (Lk. 9:51), believers must “set their faces” resolutely determined to fulfill God’s appointed task for them. And such can prove to be a joyous task. To be sure, “To behold the face of God is in itself impossible to mortals without dying. But when God reveals Himself in love, then He makes His countenance bearable to the creature. And to enjoy this vision of God softened by love is the highest honour God in His mercy can confer on a man; it is the blessedness itself that is reserved for the upright.”108

Meanwhile, each believer needs to keep reminding himself that because of God’s daily blessings, his life is to be one that is satisfying and pleasing to God, as well as a testimony to the world. Paul speaks of us as being in Christ’s “triumphal procession” (2 Cor. 2:14). “For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing—to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former, a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16). Not only in sharing the knowledge of Christ but the Christian has the privilege of helping to support those whose special mission is to take the Gospel to all quarters of the earth (Phil. 4:18). Above all, the believer’s life is to be an exemplary one. Properly applied, Job’s declaration should be ours: “While my spirit is still in me, and the breath from God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness and my tongue will whisper no deceit” (Job 27:3-4). May we make the prayer of the hymn writer ours:

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Fill me with life anew,

That I may love what Thou dost love,

And do what Thou wouldst do.

… … … … … … … … .

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Till I am wholly Thine,

Till all this earthly part of me,

Glows with Thy fire divine.109

Wrapping It Up

“The Upright Will Experience His Favor (lit., See His Face”, Ps. 11:7)

Face, nose, nostrils—what can they tell us concerning God and our relation to him? What possible importance can images such as these have upon the realities of everyday living before “the face of God?” Quite a good deal! Let us remind ourselves first of all of some of the information we have gathered from our study of God’s face.

We noted previously that texts in which God is said to have a face referred primarily to his personal presence. Whether in passages dealing with a personal theophany or in his providential activities, God’s majesty and power can be felt in each instance. God’s actions were seen to be both positive, consisting principally of comfort and assurance to his people, or negative. The latter cases involve broken fellowship due to man’s sin. Under those circumstances God is said to “hide his face” from his people or bring his judgment. Whether against his own people or the unbelieving world, such situations demonstrate that mankind is to learn that God is no absentee person. Quite the contrary, he is present and sees all that comes to pass in this world, and at times must intervene in accordance with his own holy and just purposes.

We also noted that in some texts God is represented as having a nose. Particularly important were passages that spoke of God’s pleasure concerning the proper sacrifices made to him. Such were said to be “a soothing aroma to the Lord” (Lev. 2:2). This was supremely true of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice for all mankind (Eph. 5:2; Heb. 9:26-27). The “nose” or “nostrils” of God were also seen at times to indicate God’s displeasure or judgmental power. Such were in evidence at the time of Israel’s passing through the sea (Ex. 15:8). Whether face or nose, these texts assure us of God’s mighty power. Moreover, they stand as reminders that all people live in the presence of the omnipotent God of the universe.

We noted as well that the image of the “face” of God is especially meaningful for believers. It is believers who are sensitive to the fact of God’s presence. That means that because they know that God is a righteous God, they will seek to live upright and faithful lives before him. God’s “face” also reminds believers that God is available in their everyday lives, whether in his self-revelation in the Scriptures or in their daily communion with him in prayer. Further, as united to Christ whose sacrifice was a “pleasing aroma” to God the Father, believers can live lives that are satisfying and acceptable to God—all the while looking forward eagerly to that glorious day when they shall enjoy his blessed presence for all eternity. Augustus M. Toplady expressed it so well:

Lord! It is not life to live,

If Thy presence Thou deny;

Lord! If Thou Thy presence give,

‘Tis no longer death—to die.

Source and Giver of repose,

Singly from Thy smile it flows;

Peace and happiness are Thine,--

Mine they are, if Thou art mine.110

Toplady’s reference to God’s smile reminds us of some of the things a face may do. William Cowper also speaks of God’s face in his well-known hymn: “God Moves in a Mysterious Way. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” Particularly noteworthy in the Bible are three psalmic texts that speak of God laughing. In each case they deal with God’s judicial activity. Thus although the wicked nations and people defy him, and cast insults with their mouths at him, “You, O LORD, laugh in disgust at them; you taunt all the nations” (Ps. 59:8). God can laugh at their wicked insolence and attempts to defy him, for he is in control of the course of earth’s history. They will surely be judged and one day submit to the One whom he has installed as king over all:

The One enthroned in heaven laughs in disgust;

the Lord taunts them.

Then he angrily speaks to them

and terrifies them in his rage, saying,

“I myself have installed my king

on Zion, my holy hill” (Ps. 2:4-6).

And even now their day of reckoning draws ever near: “The Lord laughs in disgust at them (i.e., the wicked), for he knows their day is coming” (Ps. 37:13). What a comfort it is to know that God stands against the wicked but is on the side of the believer (Pss. 27:1-3, 13; 56:9-11).

Indeed, “God is our strong refuge, he is truly our helper in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Moreover, even in time of trouble, “You prepare a feast before me in the plain sight of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5). Truly, all our living is in the very presence of God and calls for worshipful lives. Worship should not be reserved for Sundays, but should be a part of our everyday experience. Such is our privilege and high calling, and our eternal blessedness, for David speaks of our “absolute joy in your presence (lit., face, Ps. 16:11).

The promise of the blessed presence of God is not simply reserved for this life, however. For as David declares elsewhere, “And as for me, because I am innocent, I will see your face; when I awake, you will reveal yourself to me” (Ps. 17:15). David’s present hope as a righteous one was to live in the presence of a righteous God even after death. As Willem VanGemeren suggests, “It seems that the psalmist by inspiration is looking for a greater experience with God that can only be a part of the postresurrection world.”111 Certainly David was confident of fellowship with God after death, for he declares, “So my heart rejoices and I am happy (lit., my tongue rejoices); my life is safe. You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit. You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence (lit., face); you always give me sure delight” (at your right hand, MT) (Ps. 16:9-11).112

All believers can have that same assurance that David proclaimed (2 Cor. 5:1-9). Some may even be present when the Lord Jesus returns (1 Jn. 3:2-3). May that hope of seeing Christ be lived out by all Christians in righteousness so that they may sing with joyous anticipation the familiar words of the hymn writer, “Face to Face with Christ, My Savior, … Face to face in all his glory, I shall see him by and by.”113


72 The words of this familiar hymn were penned by Carrie Breck and set to music by Grant Tuller. For details, see Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1965), 85-88.

73 John Keats, “When I Have Fears,” cited in Barlett’s Familiar Quotations, 16th ed, eds. John Barlett and Justin Kaplan (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992), 417.

74 Stuart Briscoe, The One Year Book of Devotions for Men (Wheaton: Tyndale, 2000), 201.

75 Interestingly, the Canaanite god Baal is called the “Lord of the Surface of the Earth”; see P. Kyle McCarter, “An Amulet from Arslan Tash,” in The Context of Scripture, eds., William W. Hallo, and K. Lawson Younger, Jr., vol. 2, (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 222-23. For the text itself, see H. Donner and W. Röllig, Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften , vol. 1 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1966), 6, #27, lines 14-15.

76 In a similar vein it is probably Utnaphishtim, the Sumerian flood hero and wise man, who observes, “The dragon-fly [leaves] (its) shell that its face might (but) glance at the face of the sun.” See James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 92.

77 The author of The Admonitions of Ipuwer complains, “Lo, the face is pale, the bowman ready, crime is everywhere, there is no man of yesterday.” See Miriam Lichtheim, “The Admonitions of Ipuwer,” in Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol 1. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 151. To be noted also is the Egyptian phrase h£r nb (every face), which commonly means “everyone.”

78 V. P. Hamilton, “Pa„ni„m. Face,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (eds., R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody, 1980), 727.

79 For the idiom to “set the face” as signifying determination, see the next note.

80 One may note the same idiom in an Old Babylonian letter in which a man writes, “When you have set your face to go to Sippar, …”; see F. R. Kraus, Briefe Aus Dem British Museum (Altbabylonische Briefe, Heft II (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1964), 112, #175, lines 5-6. Scott Layton (“Biblical Hebrew ‘To Set the Face,’ In Light of Akkadian and Ugaritic,” Ugarit-Forschungen 17 [1985]: 169) points out that the use of the phrase “to set the face” is so abundantly attested in Akkadian that “an independent treatment would be required to do justice to that phrase.” Layton’s incisive study (pp. 169-81) presents a wide-ranging examination of the phrase, in which he suggests several categories of Old Testament usage including motion towards, looking upon someone/something favorably or unfavorably, and determination. See also the helpful review by A. Leo Oppenheim, “Idiomatic Akkadian,” Journal of the American Society 61 (1941): 256-58.

81 One may also detect a sense of determination here. This same emphasis occurs frequently in the Code of Hammurapi. For example, paragraph 141 reads: “If a married lady who is dwelling in a man’s house sets her face to go out (of doors) and persists in behaving herself foolishly wasting her house (and) belittling her husband, they shall convict her” (etc.). This idiom occurs frequently in other cases involving personal determination as well; see paragraphs 144, 145, 148, 168, 172, and 177. For details, see G. R. Driver and John C. Miles, The Babylonian Laws, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960).

82 It is interesting to note that the ancient law codifier Hammurapi calls himself, “The enlightened prince who enlightens the face of Tishpak.” Driver and Miles, The Babylonian Laws, vol. 2, 12-13.

83 Donald A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed., Frank E. Gaebelein, et al., vol. 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 175.

84 See E. Ray Clendenen, Malachi in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004), 459-60. See also Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Malachi: God’s Unchanging Love (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 108-09.

85 Several Old Testament prophecies may be viewed as fulfilled but not exhausted in their New Testament setting. We follow R. T. France (Jesus and the Old Testament [London: Tyndale, 1971], 162) in calling this type of prophetic fulfillment “fulfillment without consummation.” It should be noted, however, that France (p. 155) treats the prophecy relative to John the Baptist somewhat differently.

86 Richard D. Patterson and Hermann J. Austel, “1, 2 Kings,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed., Frank E. Gaebelein, et al., vol 4 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 186.

87 See 2 Kings 4:1-7:20; cf. 13:14-21.

88 Eugene Merrill, Deuteronomy, in The New American Commentary Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 328. See also, Donald A. Leggett, The Levirate and Goel Institutions in the Old Testament (Cherry Hill, N. J.: Mack Publishing Company, 1974).

89 Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 301.

90 Job does appear to describe a real situation later, however, for he complains, “They detest me and keep their distance; they do not hesitate to spit in my face” (Job 30:10).

91 Carl Armerding, “Nahum,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. F rank E. Gaebelein; et al., vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 481.

92 See H. Simian-Yofre, “Pānîm,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, eds., G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, Heinz-Josef Fabry, Vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 594. The list cited above does not exhaust all of the author’s examples.

93 The same thought is conveyed in other ancient cultures. For example, the Egyptian “in the face of” (m h£r) can mean “in the sight of” (or “before”). Thus the man who was contemplating suicide laments, “ Death is before me today like a man’s longing to see his home when he has spent many years in captivity.” See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, vol 1, 168. To be noted also is the Egyptian [r]diÃm h£r n, “give [a command] to the face of,” indicating an order given to an individual. See further Robert O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian (Oxford: University Press, 1962), 174.

94 For Hosea’s use of the events in the life of Jacob, see Richard D. Patterson, “The Old Testament Use of An Archetype: The Trickster,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42 (1999): 389-92.

95 Victor P. Hamilton, “Pānâ,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, eds., R. Laird Harris, Gleason J. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody, 1980), 727.

96 See Leon Wood, Distressing Days of the Judges (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 207.

97 William Dyrness, Themes in Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1979), 42.

98 Michael E. Travers, Encountering God in the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2003), 260. For the image of God’s “back,” see Exodus 33:23.

99 For details concerning the Greek term involved, see James B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 78-79.

100 Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds, “Nose, Nostrils,” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 1998), 597.

101 John N. Oswalt (The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39, in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986], 663) suggests that this is a “vast come-down” for this arrogant Assyrian ruler who assumes that he has accomplished everything according to his own power.

102 Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman, III, “Nose, Nostrils,” 597.

103 For a consideration of this significant event in Israel’s history, see Richard D. Patterson, “Victory at Sea: Prose and Poetry in Exodus 14-15.” Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (2004): 42-54.

104 Charles Hodge (An Exposition of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.], 72) remarks, “So long as the people were turned from the Lord, the veil was on their heart; they could not understand the Scriptures; as soon as they turn to the Lord, the veil is removed, and all is bright and intelligible.”

105 Millard J. Harris, “2 Corinthians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, et al., vol. 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 338.

106 See further, Stuart Briscoe, The One Year Book of Devotions for Men (Wheaton: Tyndale, 2000), 252.

107 W. D. Longstaff, “Take Time to Be Holy.”

108 Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on The Psalms, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 191.

109 Edwin Hatch, “Breathe On Me, Breath of God.”

110 A. M. Toplady, “Lord! It is not Life to Life,” in Masterpieces of Religious Verse, ed., James D. Morrison (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948), 74.

111 Willem VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein et al., vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 167.

112 At Pentecost the apostle Peter pointed out that David’s hope for immortality lay in the Greater David, the resurrected Christ.

113 Carrie E. Breck, “Face to Face with Christ, My Savior.”

Related Topics: Theology Proper (God)