Last week we started to look at how can we cultivate worship in the day-to-day reality of our lives. We looked at Psalm 105, and especially verse 4 which says ‘Seek his face always’. This week I’d like us to explore what it means to seek his face.
First, and probably easiest to communicate, is what this verse doesn’t say. It does not say seek after his hands. That would be communicating worship as some kind of deal or spiritual negotiation, whereby we give God what he wants and in return, from his hands, we get what we want. That’s not what this verse says. It says we seek after the Lord for his face. This is a beautifully constructed way of saying we seek after God because he is enough for us! Psalm 27:4 says this:
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
Here we see the psalmist expressing the same idea, but he loads the front of this verse with the phrase ‘one thing‘. In a world filled with many things, many voice and many demands upon us, the psalmist shows us that personal worship flows from a place of recognising the unique nature of God, and that then turns into an insatiable desire to know and gaze on and long for him.
The full image
Seeking God’s face is also about choosing to do everything possible to look upon the full image of God, and not just some flattened out, one dimensional cartoon cut-out of God. AW Tozer once said,
‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.’
This provocative quotation highlights two really important aspects for us to grapple with, when considering what it means to seek the face of the Lord.
First, thinking is a vital aspect of personal worship. The mind is no less spiritual than the emotions. The mind is not separate from the heart (at least in biblical language). The mind plays a vital role in our worship. What and how we think about God has massive implications for us as we seek the face of God.
Second, all too often what comes into our minds is far less than the breadth and depth of the character and nature of God. To truly seek the face of the Lord in worship requires our minds to reach, stretch and strain to know more and more of the character and nature of God. My observation is that “God is love” is the dominant motif this generation reaches for. Now, whilst this is clearly true, God is also full of wisdom and righteousness; he is sovereign, holy, faithful, all-knowing, all-powerful; he is both merciful and wrathful. When we seek the face of the Lord, how comfortable are we reaching for and thinking about these other characteristics? Let me put this another way. Last year at WordPlus we were talking around a similar issue and I asked the question, Should we sing songs about the wrath of God? You could sense the discomfort in the room! Yet, the reality is that there must be ways to express in worship God’s righteous wrath towards sin, in a way that brings glory and honour to his name, because it’s completely consistent with who he is. If we feel uncomfortable with this, perhaps we need to ask ourselves whether we are actually seeking God’s face, or rather, an image of God more to our own liking.
Living in the grace of God
To seek the face of the Lord speaks of vulnerability and intimacy. Someone once said the eyes are gateway to the soul. I’m not sure I totally agree with this, yet looking into someone’s eyes requires a degree of vulnerability. This is one of the reasons why we often look down when walking down the street, rather than into people’s faces. Seeking the face of the Lord in worship is also about allowing him to look back into your own life and to know you. This will never truly happen if you are not living daily in the grace of God. The grace of God speaks of a divine exchange that took place, whereby your sinfulness was exchanged for Christ’s righteousness. Too often we live as if we are still robed in our old rags. Yet we are totally changed – forever different! We stand purified by the grace of God. Our identity is completely transformed. In light of this, vulnerability is not something to be scared of, but something to be enjoyed. Drawing close to God is not something to be avoided but enjoyed and cherished!
A lifestyle of worship
Here are some things to characterise a life seeking God’s face:
- Think – read, study, cherish
- Feel – meditate on the greatness and goodness of God
- Write – prayers, songs, words to and about God
- Shape – your life, days, seasons around worship
- Old and new – allow the beauty and richness of some of the old hymns and poems to saturate your heart and, at the same time, allow the freshness of new songs to thrill you.
- Spontaneity and structure – give space for the spontaneous but at the same time create rhythms and habits that will point you towards him.
So, let me encourage you this week to take time to ‘seek his face always‘. As you do so, take time to think, feel, ponder, write, rejoice, celebrate, and allow everything in you to flow towards enjoying and delighting in God for who he is!