I behold the face of my beloved. I seriously doubt you would find it aesthetically pleasing, but you haven’t spent a lifetime in her love, so I can forgive you for that. But I’m willing to bet you would understand how I can gaze on her face and in my mind trace every detail with rapture.
One of my favorite songs offers the following lyrics:
In mirrors I have seen Your face
Your voice can reach me anywhere
And I begin to turn away
And You just turn me back again
And I belong
Yes, I belong
To You, oh Lord my God
(Mylon LeFevre, “I Belong” from Crack the Sky 1987)
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NKJV)
When you come face-to-face with God, you see yourself as He does, reflected back in His eyes. Both the terror of disappointing Him in our sin and the mercy of His love welcoming us home will you see in His face. Paul says there will be some moment in our future where we experience this in some ultimate sense beyond literal, but that we experience it in some measure even now. When you turn inside yourself, you’ll find God waiting there all along. He wants this for us.
But it takes some doing to get our attention because we are born so deeply distracted. We come into life with a body yelling and screaming for resources to build according to that pattern in our DNA. At some point, we become aware that the world is not a mere extension of those demands, but that it has its own will. That’s when we discover our will, too. A critical element of human consciousness is what behavioral science calls “individuation” — an awareness of ego and boundaries. If we are fortunate, this eventually results in some intellectual development, but working from our resources alone, that’s where it ends.
It is not enough. We may believe our senses and reason provide sufficient answers; our intellect assumes it is sufficient for all that matters. It is not. The intellect did not make the world, so it cannot discern the full essence of things. It requires input from the One who did make the things we encounter in our world. It requires revelation.
God granted that revelation. He did so on His own terms, based on His expertise in how things actually work. But that’s not all; as time wore on He continued that conversation of revelation with humanity. He responds. And the initial encounter for humans tends to be in terms of His Law Covenants. It’s “law” in the sense of personal demands regarding the entire realm He owns. His character is the ultimate Law, but we must transition from our moral blindness to His face, such that we are able to bear the terror of His face and receive the mercy. We were designed for that, but something happened to destroy that natural communion.
The destruction of our natural state in communion with Him was in asserting the conscious reason as master over the moral will. In my writing, I use the image of the heart as the higher moral faculty, and that the intellect must learn to obey the heart. The Fall includes breaking that linkage, though it is far more than that. The point is that we were created with a full awareness of the Creator’s moral character as the essence of how to live, but we lost that direct awareness and must gain it back. And it’s not easy nor simple. The first step is an awareness of His Law Covenants.
The Law Covenants in the Bible manifest His moral character in a limited fashion, providing examples and hints of what life would look like if we understood His character. He built and provided a cultural package for receiving and preserving the understanding of His Law as a part of the Law itself. The message is granted in terms of a particular set of assumptions about reality, assumptions long lost and actively hidden from us today. It’s not enough to translate the words of the Law Covenants, but to embrace the assumptions that go with them.
Assuming we can get folks to grasp that need, we discover a wide variation in the human talents necessary to do this quickly. In other words, most folks need some help because they are slow at absorbing the whole thing. Those who can run are obliged to come back and guide those who crawl. Some of us quickly discover that the verbal expression of Laws are not actually the Law itself, because the Law is the character of the Person. Words indicate the path; you are supposed to come face to face with God as close as you can and explore every feature of His Face. And do it often, rather like lovers who can’t get enough of each other.
That intense loving relationship is the essence of the Laws.
Our witness to the world is living the implications of the Law Covenants. They give shape and structure that makes the face of God distinct and recognizable. We can’t make people see His face, but we can certainly walk in His Law Covenants in the sense, not of intellectual abstraction, but in the sense of abstraction on a higher level of the heart and moral conviction.