Spirit & Truth # 230
“The Face of God”
By Rev. Greg Smith
What does God look like? On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo depicted God as a Caucasian grandfather with long gray beard. Is this what God really looks like? Three times in Psalm 80, the psalmist prays, “Cause your face to shine, and we shall be saved.” Yes, we want to see God’s face.
In the Old Testament, God appeared in many forms, called theophanies. A theophany is a tangible manifestation of God’s presence, like the burning bush (Exodus 3); pillar of fire and cloud (Exodus 13-14); and the fourth man in the fire (Daniel 3). God walked with Adam in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8), and spoke with Moses as a man speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11). But God’s brief tangible visits could never truly let people see his heart of hearts. It would take something greater than that. The psalmist says that when God’s face shines, we are saved. This can only be the face of Christ, for even Jesus’ name means, “God Saves.”
In John 14:9 (NIV), Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Hebrews 3:3 (NKJV) says that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” To see Jesus is to see God Himself.
This past March, the History Channel showed a documentary entitled “The Real Face of Jesus,” in which graphic artist Ray Downing used images from the Shroud of Turin to digitally create a three-dimensional picture of the man who was buried in the cloth. Whether this man was Jesus or not, I leave up to you. But even if it were Jesus’ burial cloth and we could know what our Lord looked like by means of such technological recreation, we still would have only an image and not Jesus Himself. It would not be an accurate way of getting to know who God truly is. To know the living Jesus is to know God Himself.
A handful of people have told me that in times of prayer, they have seen Jesus’ face—yet God doesn’t reveal His face clearly. The apostle Paul says, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (1 Corinthians 13:12 NKJV).” One day, when we get to heaven, we will see God face to face. But until then, there is only one way that we can clearly see the face of God each day.
Genesis 1:27 (NKJV) says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Far from the heretical doctrine that says human beings are God, this verse tells us that we are made in God’s image. This means that when God looks at us, He sees a bit of Himself; when you love one another, you are loving God as well (Matthew 25:40). When others see you, do they see Jesus in you? Does your face shine with God’s presence? If you seek God’s heart more than anything else, then people may see in your face “the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6 NIV).”