Shredded by the Face of God

face-of-god-asida-cheng
Face of God
by Asida Cheng

A verse that is sometimes (perhaps often) quoted in Christian books and services is 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This is undoubtedly a great verse.  It’s an invitation to humble ourselves and pursue the very depths of God, knowing that reorienting ourselves toward God will once again put us in a place where we are able to receive his forgiveness and healing.

But…

2 Chronicles 7:14 is only one side of the coin.  The other side is God’s words to Moses in Exodus 33:20 when Moses beseeches God to show Moses his glory.  God amazingly grants Moses’ petition and says he will cause his glory to pass by (actually, he says his “goodness” will pass by – isn’t that interesting, Moses calls it God’s glory, God calls it his goodness), but he will hide Moses in the cleft of the rock so that Moses can see only God’s back.  Why?  Because, says God:

“You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

So on the one hand we have God’s invitation to seek his face.  On the other hand, God says, “Oh, and by the way, you can’t see my face and live.”

In other words, “Seek my face, but it’s going to kill you.”

However, isn’t that what life together in Christ is about?  The call to die to self – to crucify our pride, independence, and control – while at same time seeking to know God more and more, even as we are fully known.  We cannot enter the depths of Joy without being stripped raw. As Stanley Jaki writes,

“It takes true mystics to know that one might die of joy as one experiences God.”

I want to be one of those mystics.  But I also want to remember to not give the invitation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 without the warning of Exodus 33:20.  Death is involved in this pursuit.  Even so, it’s a good death, because it’s my death.  Therefore, let us accept God’s invitation to enter into the depths of his Being, understanding what this means.

You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Psalm 27:8-9a

I want to see the glory / goodness / face of God.  I want to know him, even as I am fully known.  I want to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, as he gazes at me with both love and holiness, knowing that I am being shredded to death by Joy.

Please, God, make it so.

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