May 16, 2012

When God Hid His Face

When I pour my Spirit upon the house of Israel, I won’t hide my face from them again. This is what the LORD God says.

Babies love playing Peek-a-boo. If you hide your face behind a towel, a newspaper, or your sweater and then burst out with a smile saying, "Peek-a-boo," just about any baby of a certain age will smile or laugh. You can play this game endlessly, or so it seems, until a baby hits a certain age. (Developmental psychologists explain that Peek-a-boo works with children who have not yet developed a sense of object permanence. This may explain why you and I would find Peek-a-boo less entertaining.)

When God hides his face, however, he's not playing a game. In the closing verses of Ezekiel 39, God uses language that is not found elsewhere in the book. He reveals that "Because [the house of Israel] rebelled against me, I hid my face from them" (39:23). Similarly, "I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions and hid my face from them" (39:24). When God hides his face from his people, he is breaking off communication. He is putting his relationship with them on hold. He is removing his blessing and protection. Like I said, this is not a game.

Yet, through Ezekiel, God promises that the time will come when he will no longer hide his face from his people. This will happen, the Lord says, "When I pour my Spirit upon the house of Israel" (39:29). When people are filled with the Spirit of God, they do not act in ways that cause God to turn his head. Rather, they live in deep, consistent relationship with God, whom they worship with their lips, their actions, and their hearts.

What God once promised to do for his people, he has done for us through Christ. God has poured out his Spirit upon us, filling us with his very presence and power. Moreover, through Christ, God has accepted us in spite of our sin. He has embraced us and drawn us into relationship with him. Even when we sin, God does not turn away from us. Rather, his Spirit stirs in our hearts, convicting us of sin and calling us to turn again to the Lord. When we do, we "see" his face turned toward us, a face of compassion and love, the face of Jesus our Lord and Savior.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How does the fact that God's face is turned toward you make you feel? What helps you to delight in God, like a baby delighting in a parent playing Peek-a-boo?

PRAYER: Gracious God, it would be a terrifying thought to imagine that you had turned your face away from me. Even though there are times I wish I could hide my sin from you, I could not bear the idea that you had broken off relationship with me.

Thank you, dear God, for turning your face to me. Thank you for looking upon me with mercy and love. Thank you for being present in my life even when I try to hide from you.

Help me, Lord, to live each moment with a sense of your presence. May I delight in you and honor you in everything I do. Amen.

A Special Offer from Mark: Laity Lodge has given me permission to extend a special offer to folks who receive the Daily Reflections. In a few recent reflections, I invited you to join me at a Laity Lodge retreat in which I will be teaching, along with Jackie Roese, a popular Bible expositor. The musician for this retreat will be Sara Groves, one of the finest singer-songwriters in our time. We'll be focusing on the theme of community and how we can develop deeper and more authentic relationships with each other. I can now offer you a 25% discount on this retreat, which begins on Thursday, June 28, and ends on Sunday, July 1. In order to receive this discount, visit the Laity Lodge online schedule and register for the "Get Found" retreat. When you enter your payment information, use the "Mark 25" promo code. You'll get 25% off the normal price for the retreat. (Note: If you already registered for this retreat at the full price and are a Daily Reflections reader, you can still get the discount by contacting the Laity Lodge registrar at annjack@laitylodge.org.)

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