Posted by: stpowen | April 5, 2010

Looking to God for Revival (4)- Seek My Face

Looking to God for Revival (4)

2Chron 7:14.  ‘If My people, called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face…’

Psalm 27:8.  ‘When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”’

 The third matter to which God calls us is to seek His face.  But what does it mean to seek God’s face, and how on earth do we do it?  Well, the Hebrew word rendered as ‘face’ is Panim, and that word can also mean ‘presence.’  Today, in this age of web cameras, video conferencing and digital photography, you can be on the other side of the world and still see someone’s face.  Indeed, you can carry a photograph of your family around with you wherever you go and gaze at your loved ones’ faces at any time.  This is a privilege in which the men and women of the Bible did not share.  In those days, if you saw someone’s face, it meant that you were in his presence.   So to seek God’s face means to seek His person and His presence.  The Apostle Paul said, ‘I know whom I have believed’ (2Tim 1:12).  He does not say, ‘I know what I have believed.’   A Moslem or a Hindu can say that they have studied the Islamic or Hindu Scriptures and know them inside out.  Nor is it learning about the life of Christ so that we could answer questions about Him on Mastermind as people have their ‘special subjects’ on the life of Winston Curchill or Ghandi.  We have not put our trust in a dead person like Churchill or Mohammed or Karl Marx;  the One we trust in has risen from the grave and is reigning in heaven this day.  We seek God through our living Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). 

Now the immediate response of some people on being told to seek God is to say, “Well, why should we seek God?   I didn’t know He was lost!”  Of course, it is not God who is lost, but we who have wandered into our own Bypath meadows and made ourselves busy with our own little projects and concerns, and have lost our way back to the living God.  ‘We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way’ (Isaiah53:6).  Praise God for the Lord Jesus Christ who came, ‘To save that which was lost.’  

Part of the trouble is that we have today made God of such easy access that many people suppose that no seeking is necessary.  You just mumble a ‘sinner’s prayer’ or have some fellow lay his hands on you, and there you are, a card-carrying Christian.  Listen to what the word of God says:   ‘He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him’ (Heb 11:6).  But the sad fact is that today, by and large, men and women do not seek God.  It is too much like hard work.  They are satisfied with a superficial knowledge of Him;  and because they know Him superficially, they worship Him superficially and they pray to Him superficially and they teach about Him superficially, and young people, who have a fine nose for fraud, see right through them and conclude, quite rightly, that their religion is a sham, and that is why the Church in the West is where it is today- a joke and an irrelevance to the world, given over by God because they will not seek His face.

Some years ago, Mrs Marprelate and I were on holiday in the South of France.  One day, when we were exploring St.Tropez, a big black B.M.W. whizzed round the corner and sped off down the road.  Mrs M turned to me and exclaimed, “Did you see who was in the back seat?  It was Richard Branson!”  Now I don’t know (or care) whether it was Richard Branson or not.  But let us suppose that it was, and that we met him again.  Suppose that Mrs M went up to him, shook his hand and said, “Richard!  How nice to meet you again!  I did so enjoy our time together in France.”  Would he not reply, “I’m very sorry, but I don’t think I know you”?  So it will be with the Lord Jesus.   ‘……Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.”  But He will say, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you, where you are from”’ (Luke 13:26-7).  A mere glimpse of the Lord at some point in your life, or even a nodding acquaintance will do you no good.  The promise of God is, ‘You will find Him if you seek Him with all Your heart and with all your soul’ (Deut 4:29).  Without diligent seeking there will be no finding.

And yet this seeking is all of God.  Unless He works first upon our hearts there will be no seeking.  ‘When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek”’  (Psalm 27:8). The fact is that it is only the Christian who can seek God.  The non-Christian is dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:4-4); he has to be found by God.   It is the born-again believer who has the privilege of seeking God and finding Him.  It is to Christians that James says, ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’ (James 4:8).  What a wonderful promise, and what an incentive to seek the Lord!

 Perhaps someone is thinking, ‘How does one seek God’s face?’  I have nothing new to say about this.  We seek God through prayer and through His word (1).  If I wanted to know what a certain man taught about, say, nuclear physics, pre-supposing that I were intelligent to know what nuclear physics is, which I’m not, I would read his book on the subject, and ideally I would read it in his presence so that I could ask him about anything I didn’t understand.  That is how we come to know God- through His word, preached, read, meditated upon and prayed over.  God speaks to us through His word:  always through His word, everywhere in His word and, in these days, only through His word (cf. 1Cor 4:6).

We need to read the Bible through regularly, from Genesis to Revelation, to gain a comprehension of the sweep of God’s word and so as to be able to place any part in context (cf. Mark 12:24).  We need to hear the word preached by a faithful minister of God so that we may come to a proper understanding of it (Acts 8:30-31) and have it applied to our hearts (Acts 2:37).  We also need to meditate on God’s word (Psalm 1:2).  I mean by this that we should be contemplating individual verses or portions of the word, savouring them (Psalm 119:103) and letting them lead us into prayer and thanksgiving.  It is often here that we can feel God’s presence and blessing in a special way (Rom 8:16).  Bible meditation is something of a lost chord among Christians these days, but the Puritans were great fans of it and wrote extensively on the subject.  I warmly recommend it to the reader.  Psalm 119 is a great place to start, but suitable passages for meditation abound throughout the Scriptures.

Let us turn to 2Chron 34:1-3 for a moment.   We learn that King Josiah began to seek God when he was 16.  Notice that he didn’t just become interested in religion; he sought ‘the God of his father, David’– not just any god, but David’s God:  Jehovah, the LORD.  And he wanted to know God the way David knew Him.  Perhaps he had read some of the Psalms and had thought, “How can I get a relationship with God like that?”  Verse 3 tells us that he searched for four years, and when he found Him, that finding radically affected his way of life and his kingship.  No syncretistic religion, no Inter-faith Movement for him!  He had found the true and living God and nothing else would do.  I expect there were plenty of courtiers and counsellors telling him, “Oh! You don’t want to take these things too seriously!  You don’t want to become over-religious.”  You know, there are plenty of people who will help you along the road to hell; not so many to show you the way to heaven.  You cannot search too hard or too long or too earnestly for the Living God.

The story of Josiah neatly answers one question that might be asked:  when should one start to seek God?  From childhood.  It is a sad fact that there is very little today in the way of evangelistic Sunday School material for children.  Much of such material seems to make the assumption that every child reading it is already converted.  Other booklets seem to be trying to see how a child can be induced to recite some sort of ‘sinner’s prayer’ with the absolute minimum of Biblical information.  The results of such teaching are catastrophic.  Either the child makes the assumption that he is a Christian purely because his teacher has told him so, or, having made a confession of faith without ever being convicted of sin, he quickly falls away at the first temptation.  In both cases, the prospects for the child’s eventual salvation are (humanly speaking) significantly damaged.  Children must be taught to seek God from the earliest possible age.

It might then be asked, how long does this seeking of God continue?  Does one seek God and find Him, and then cease to seek?  Not at all.  The seeking and the finding continue throughout one’s life.  Let us consider the story of King Asa in 2Chron 14.  Asa started out as one of the better kings of Judah as we can see from verses 2-6.  ‘He commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment’ (v4).  He could also declare (v7), “We have sought the LORD our God:  we have sought Him, and He has given us rest on every side.”   Wouldn’t it be nice for us in Britain today to be able to say something like that?  Sadly, I think anyone venturing that opinion would be a proper target for the men in white coats.  Perhaps there was a time when Britain might reasonably have been described as a largely Christian Nation, but that’s long gone.  Nor do we have rest on every side.  We have unrest and increasing disorder as a nation and opposition, contempt and mocking on every side as Christians.  Go and ask someone in the street what they thinking of Christianity if you don’t believe me.

Now let’s continue the account of Asa’s reign in 2 Chron 15, starting with the words of Azariah in v2:  “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin.  The LORD is with you while you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, he will forsake you.”  It is not a question of seeking, finding and then ceasing to seek.  Rather, there is a promise that if we will seek the Lord sincerely, He will bless us and let us find Him (v4).  If we follow the account from v8, we see that Asa, having engaged in a work of outward reformation, called his people together to seek the Lord.  It is interesting that many folk from the Northern kingdom of Israel came to Jerusalem at that time because they could see that God was with Judah.  So it may be that if nominal Christians see true (2) evangelicals putting their house in order and coming together to seek the Lord, that they may start taking an interest in real Christianity. 

‘Then they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul……..and all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul;  and He was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around’ (2Chron 15:12, 15).  What had started as a directive from the king had become a grass-roots movement back to God.   Would it not be a wonderful thing if all the Bible-believing churches in Britain were to come together to seek the Lord’s face in a spirit of humility and fervent prayer?  I have no idea how such a thing might come about; it could only be on the basis of a shared belief in the authority, inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible.  I do know that it desperately needs to happen.

I notice from verse 13 that it was decided that anyone who would not seek the Lord was to be put to death, regardless of status.  I fancy that if this decree were put into action today within the churches of Christ, it would thin out the congregations dramatically, and probably leave some churches looking for new ministers!  I will not go so far as to commend this course of action, but it does suggest to me that those within the churches who are not interested in seeking God are surplus to requirements, being not really the Lord’s people.  Christian churches should be kept pure.

The final events of King Asa’s reign are less happy.  He ceased to seek the Lord (2Chron 16:12) and instead of relying on God when disaster threatened, he relied on his own wisdom.   We read that towards the end of his life he became diseased in his feet, which we may take as an indication that his walk with God was affected.  Older Christians are often in great danger of falling away from God as the cases of David (2Sam 11), Solomon (1Kings 11) and Uzziah (2Chron 26:16ff) prove.  Of course, anyone who is truly the Lord’s can never fall away absolutely, but nonetheless it behoves us to take care (1Cor 10:12).  We must never think that because we have found the Lord, we need no longer seek His face.  The seeking and the finding go on all through one’s life.

‘One thing I have desired of the LORD, that I will seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple’ (Psalm 27:4).

Notes.

1.  I have been helped in what follows by my recollections of a series of talks by Richard Owen Roberts given some years ago at the Heath Church, Cardiff.

2.  The word evangelical has become so vague these days as to be almost meaningless.  By using the term ‘true evangelical’ I mean those Christians who believe in the fundamentals of the faith:  the Trinity, the truth and inerrancy of all Scripture, the Divinity, Virgin Birth, atoning death and resurrection of Christ, justification by faith alone and so forth.   There can be no unity or cooperation with those who may call themselves Christians but deny these basic doctrines.   

 

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Responses

  1. Good to be reminded of these truths. Thank you. let us put them into action.

  2. My dearest desire is that God would put a spirit of repentance and prayer into His churches.

    If everyone who reads this blog will stir up his own church to seek the Lord for revival, who knows what He might do?

  3. That was a very nice read and so true, thank you for sharing! The church I attend will be going into the 12th week of revival on 032112 & I can’t hardly wait!! Praise God!

  4. This article has one of the most popular on this blog for some time now, and many people come here via search engines, so it’s obvious that many people are wondering what it means to seek the Lord’s face.
    However, I have only had two comments on the article in over two years, though dozens of people have read it. So, reader, when you have read it, please tell me: has it been helpful to you? If so, why? If not, why not? Do write and tell me.

  5. Re: “anyone who is truly the Lord’s can never fall away absolutely”

    Why not? (Baptist philosophy?)

    The Old Testament Saul started out chosen and blessed by God.
    He WAS truly the Lord’s.
    Yet, incrementally, he fell away as God’s Word indicates.

  6. Hello Roy,
    Thanks for your comment.
    The New Testament is replete with very clear statements that true believers can never fall away (eg. John 10:26-30; Eph 1:3ff). It is evident that Saul was one of those described in Hebrews 6 & 10 and in the parable of the sower. The Lord’s summary of him is found in Hosea 13:11. ‘I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath.’

  7. We are still finding our way to your explanation for “seeking God’s face”. Thank you for your explanation and all of the marvelous Bible references. Blessings!


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