Michael Boling – Seeking the Face (Paniym) of God

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A recurring concept and for that matter a declaration found throughout Scripture is that of seeking after God and entering His presence. One vital element of what seeking God and entering His presence that I firmly believe many often overlook is what the Hebrew word paniym means and how it relates to what seeking God and being in His presence is all about. Before we do any analysis of paniym, let’s first take a look at various passages in the Old Testament that use this term in relation to seeking God or being in His presence.

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1)

And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: (Genesis 19:27)

And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. (Exodus 16:9)

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face. (Psalm 5:8)

He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it. (Psalm 10:11)

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. (Psalm 27:8)

And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isaiah 8:17)

For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. (Jeremiah 21:10)

Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. (Micah 3:4)

The above passages represent a small sample of how paniym is used in the Old Testament as this word is used over 2100 times. So let’s define exactly what this word means when it comes to seeking the Lord and being in His presence, or for that matter, what it means for God to set His face for or against someone.

Strong’s Concordance defines the semantic range of paniym as being:

face, faces; presence, person; face (of seraphim or cherubim); face (of animals); face, surface (of ground); as adv of loc/temp; before and behind, toward, in front of, forward, formerly, from beforetime, before; in front of, before, to the front of, in the presence of, in the face of, at the face or front of, from the presence of, from before, from before the face of.

For the purposes of this study, we will be focusing on the definitions of face, presence, toward, in front of, in the presence of, in the face of, and from before.

One aspect of paniym that should be noted first is the root word from which it comes from, the Hebrew word panah. This particular word is a verb that literally means to turn toward or from or away. Right away we begin to see that paniym involves the active turning of God or humanity to or from the presence of each other. Ultimately, paniym is the active movement either toward or away from something or someone.

Keri Kent, in her book Deeper Into the Word: Old Testament: Reflections on 100 Words from the Old Testament, notes “In English, a shining face usually is an idiom for someone who is smiling or happy. In Hebrew, his expression means showing favor.”[1] Kent also notes how paniym is used in relation to the Table of Showbread that was in the Temple, commenting “this bread called the Bread of the Presence or in some versions of the Bible, the showbread, is in Hebrew lechem paniym or literally the bread of the face.”[2] Willem VanGemeren states that paniym or to seek the face of the Lord “was an expression of devotion, often attended by sacrifices or acts of loyalty.”[3]

With these definitions in place, we can begin to notice that paniym involves an active motion that is to be focused on God. When the creation is properly focused on God, the result is God’s favor being poured out on creation. Conversely, when the creation rejects God and turns their face and actions away from God, His favor is also turned away from the creation. Let’s look at some examples from the scriptures provided above as to how this process works to include the proper posture for the believer.

1. Creation turning to God with God’s favor bestowed on the creation:

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:11)

In this passage, the Psalmist declares for the reader where fullness of joy can be found. It is important to notice that complete joy, the shalom that we seek as believers is found only in the paniym or the presence of the Lord. There is no other location whereby true joy can be obtained. It cannot be obtained in the fleeting things of this world for Jesus noted these things will be destroyed by moth and rust. Lasting joy is found only in the presence of God. Derek Kidner aptly notes “The joy and pleasures are presented as wholly satisfying (this is the force of fullness, from the same root as satisfied in 17:15) and endlessly varied, for they are found in both what He is and what He gives – joys of His face (the meaning of presence) and of His right hand.”[4]

Those who earnestly seek the face of God will be rewarded with the only thing of true lasting value, the fullness of joy that comes from seeking God knowing that the reward of seeking God is not just the gift of joy, but rather the pleasure and satisfaction of being in the paniym of God.

2. Creation turning away from God with God turning His paniym away from creation:

Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. (Micah 3:4)

Turning to the Minor Prophets, admittedly a book most of us scan over if we read it at all, we see an example of God hiding His paniym from His people. To have God’s face turned away from you meant that His blessings would cease. This was in accordance with the covenant God made with His people, the system if you will of blessings for obedience and faithfulness as well as cursing with these curses impacting both prosperity and blessing in a physical sense and more importantly, their relationship with God. The prophet Micah in this passage was declaring that since Israel had rejected God, His face would be turned from them. Notice also that even though the people would cry out to God, He would not hear Him for His paniym was turned away. Since their cries were merely due to their suffering resulting from their sinful behavior rather than crying out from a posture of repentance, God turned His paniym from them. As noted by scholar F. F. Bruce notes in regards to Micah 3:4, “Those who persistently have done evil must inevitably face the consequence of irrevocable alienation from God.”[5]

3. Proper posture for the believer:

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. (Psalm 27:8)

It is important to notice the flow of statements in this passage. It begins with the acknowledgement that God had made a command to His people to “seek His paniym.” Before moving on to the remainder of this passage, let’s first examine why God would make such a command. Is God somehow lonely or somehow needs His creation in order to be complete? The response to that question would be no. This begs the question as to why God created us. While that answer is to a large degree wrapped up in the grand mystery of an eternal God, Scripture does provide some answers. God desires relationship with His creation. It is not due to some lack in God’s character or attributes. This desire is derived from His great love for His creation. We see this played out in passages such as John 15:12 where Jesus declared “This is My commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you.”

Rooted in the command to love one another is the reality that we do so because God loved us. Moreover, notice that in the beginning God communed or tabernacle with Adam and Eve. Sin marred that intimate relationship resulting in the need for redemption through the Messiah. That intimate relationship between the Creator and His creation, specifically those who are His bride, will one day be restored. All along the timeline of history, we see God acting within history to draw His people to Himself through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for the purpose relationship, eternal fellowship with God their Creator and the restoration of His creation being in His paniyn, His presence.

Now that we have established where the command to seek His paniym derives from and why it is important, we can then move to the final part of Psalm 27:8. In recognition of God’s command, the Psalmist declares quite simply yet profoundly, “my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” So was it that pounding muscle within his chest that said to the Psalmist, “seek His face”? The Hebrew word used for heart in this passage is leb which literally means the seat of your appetites, the seat of your emotions and passions. So the Psalmist is declaring that everything he is knows the importance of obeying God’s command to seek His face and in acknowledgement of that command, everything within him is focused on being obedient to that command.

Notice also what the Psalmist declares He will seek. Does he state he wants God’s blessings? Does he state he seeks God for something in return? The reason the Psalmist seeks God is simply because God declared the Psalmist was to seek God. It is a very simple command and obedience construct. Furthermore, what the Psalmist seeks is God’s paniym. Why does he seek God’s paniym? Remember back to our discussion of Psalm 16:11. It is in the paniym of God where fullness of joy can be found.

Artur Weiser notes concerning Psalm 27:8, specifically the Psalmist’s response to God’s command, “The poet certainly discerns God’s command in this word of God and is willing to act in obedience to it; but even more distinctly he can perceive the promise it contains, the invitation of the divine love as well as God’s readiness to be gracious to him, as he offers of his own free will to restore the relationship which had been broken through human guilt.”[6]

The seeking of God’s face should be a hallmark of those who are called to be His bride. This perhaps begs the question of how we should seek God’s face. Two important elements are the daily washing of our hearts and minds in the word of God through consistent purposeful Bible study and through a consistent posture of bowing before God in prayer. Seeking God’s face through His word and through prayer will result in a proper relationship with God, a proper perspective towards life, and the movement of the believer from being pĕthiy (foolish, simple, naïve) to being tamiym (mature, complete). It is only by going to that which is tamiym, namely the word of God that is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path that we also can be a bride that can overcome, endure, and run the race that is set before us.

The question lies before us each and every day. Will we do as the Psalmist did and act in obedience to God’s call for His people to seek His paniym? Is that the desire of your heart or is your treasure found somewhere other than where true shalom and fullness of joy is derived? May we strive as His bride to be a people who constantly seek His paniym. In doing so, we will be acting in obedience to God’s command and we will find ourselves rooted on the path of righteousness for His name’s sake with the result of God’s paniym being turned toward us as we turn our paniym towards Him. May we always have that proper posture in all we do for truly in the paniym of God is where life can be found.

References:

[1] Keri Kent, Deeper Into the Word: Old Testament: Reflections on 100 Words from the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Willem VanGemeren. “Commentary on Psalms” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms through Song of Songs. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 247.

[4] Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 1-72 (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1973), 103.

[5] F. F. Bruce, New International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 931.

[6] Artur Weiser, The Old Testament Library: The Psalms (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962), 252.

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Thomas Watson – How May We know Whether We Love God?

NPG D29707; Thomas Watson by John Sturt, after  Unknown artist

He who loves God desires His presence. Lovers cannot be long asunder, they soon have their fainting fits, for lack of a sight of the object of their love. A soul deeply in love with God desires the enjoyment of Him. David was ready to faint away, when he had not a sight of God. “My soul faints for God.” Psalm 84:2

He who loves God, does not love sin. “You who love the Lord—hate evil.” Psalm 97:10. The love of God—and the love of sin, can no more mix together than iron and clay. Every sin loved, strikes at the being of God. He who loves God, has an antipathy against sin. He who would part two lovers is a hateful person. God and the believing soul are two lovers; sin parts between them, therefore the soul is implacably set against sin. By this try your love to God. How can he say he loves God, who loves sin—which is God’s enemy?

He who loves God is not much in love with anything else. His love is very cool to worldly things. The love of the world eats out the heart of piety; it chokes holy affections, as earth puts out the fire. He who loves God—uses the world but chooses God. The world engages him—but God delights and satisfies him. He says as David, “God, my exceeding joy!” Psalm 43:4. “God is the cream of my joy!”

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Michael Boling – Betrothal, the Believer’s Relationship with Jesus, and Eschatology (Part 2)

Betrothal, the Believer’s Relationship with Jesus, and Eschatology (Part 2)

In part one of this series, we explored the marriage process known as betrothal, a process that would have been fully understood in the time period Scripture was written. So when God stated in Hosea 2:19 “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy” or when Jesus discussed going away to prepare a place in John 14:1-4, these were statements the hearers would have been very familiar with.

Unfortunately it seems, believers today are not as familiar with the betrothal process and more importantly, have not engaged with a great deal of diligence a study and understanding of what it means to be married to Christ, or better yet, what it means to be the bride of Christ. Most believers likely have heard of the wedding supper of the Lamb noted in Revelation 19:7-9 but the full reality of how one gets to that wedding supper seems to be literally lost in translation. If we are the bride, what does that mean, how are we to act, how are we to prepare for the wedding ceremony, when will the wedding ceremony take place? These are all valid questions to ask. It will be the aim of this post to outline the actual application of what it means to be the bride of Christ to our everyday Christian walk. We will take what we have learned about the betrothal process and with that as the background, exegete the numerous Scriptures that speak of being betrothed to God or being the bride of Christ to see exactly how this all plays out in a practical way. The discussion concerning the timing of the wedding and the wedding supper will be addressed in the final part of this series. This particular post may be divided into two parts itself due to the great amount of information Scripture has to provide on the subject. So we will see how far we get and if need be, I will break the discussion up into one, possibly two or even more posts before we get to the eschatology aspect of the bride of Christ. But wait, there’s more!

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