An Idiom for God’s Personal Presence

February 2, 2009

“Face” – An idiomatic Way to Talk of “Presence”

Before we look at some references on this word “face,” let me say this about the uses I make of a concordance study.  I think we all need to look up these verses and get a biblical word-picture in mind as we study these various words.  We need to understand them in their ancient and Hebrew context if possible and then apply that understanding to our 21st C American culture.

The word ‘face’ is used in a variety of ways (much as we do in English when, for example saying someone lost face when they were embarrassed or denied a position or place which they sought.)  But this word in the Hebrew Bible also has the idea of ‘presence’ as we might say, “It’s good to see your face.”  In fact the following references are from Strong’s Concordance under the word ‘presence.’  Look at these verses and translate ‘face’ in place of ‘presence.’

Gen. 3:8; 4:16
Ex. 33:14, 15
Lev. 22:3
2 Kings 24:20
1 Chron. 16:27, 33
2 Chron. 20:9; 34:4
Psalm 9:3;   16:11;   17:2;   23:5;   31:20;   51:11;   68:2, 8;   95:2;   97:5, two times;   100:2;    114:7, two times;   139:7;   140:13;  
Isa. 63:9;   64:1-3
Jer. 4:26;   5:22;   23:39;   52:3
Ezek. 38:20
Jonah 1:3, 10
Nahum 1:5
Zeph. 1:7

Again, these verses emphasize the ‘personalness’ and nearness of our God, combining and strengthening the other studies of God’s Name, the Angel and the many metaphors and anthropomorphisms we find in Scripture. 
In philosophy and much popular thinking, the concept of the Almighty is depersonalized as we might find in movies like ‘the Force’ in Star Wars, etc. 
Science, by in large, does not want to consider personal intelligent design because it is getting too close to what Richard Dawkins dreads, “allowing a divine foot in the door.”  But Scripture is quite clear here and we cannot afford to back down even an inch from this great truth!  And, of course, the New Testament everywhere assumes this grand truth of Who our God is.

We Christians often take the personalness of God for granted, but we cannot give even an inch as we share our faith in God.  God is He, NOT ‘it’ – even with a capital ‘It’!  I am not here getting into the gender debate, but rather emphasizing the personal rather than the impersonal.

The next post will focus on a Biblical story that uses this idiom in a rather unique story.

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