Question: "What does it mean to seek God's face?"
Answer: Many times in Scripture, God’s people are encouraged to seek the face of God. A familiar verse declares, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). If we can’t see God’s face, how do we seek God’s face?
The Hebrew word for “face” in the Old Testament is often translated “presence.” When we seek the face of God, we are seeking His presence. The call to seek God’s face was issued to His people because they had abandoned Him and needed to return to Him.
A person’s face reveals much about his or her character and personality. We see the inward emotions of a person expressed outwardly on the face. We recognize a person by looking at his or her face. In a sense, one’s face represents the whole person. For the writers of the Bible, the human face could represent the entire person.
In Psalm 105:4, God’s faithful ones were called to “seek his face always.” Even if we have not abandoned God, there are times when we neglect to pursue Him. God’s face, His holy character, is often obscured by our human condition and fleshly desires. That is why the Lord urges us to seek His face continually. The Lord desires to be our constant companion in every experience of life. He wants us to know Him through and through. If we draw close to Him, God will draw close to us: “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world” (James 4:8, NLT).
When we approach God in prayer, we are seeking His face: “Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob” (Psalm 24:3–6).
The true nature of worship is to seek God’s face. The Christian walk is a life devoted to seeking God’s presence and favor. The Lord wants us to humbly and trustingly seek His face in our prayers and in our times in His Word. It requires intimacy to look intently into someone’s face. Pursuing God’s face is equivalent to developing an intimate relationship with Him: “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!” (Psalm 63:1–3, NLT).
Having God’s face smile on us is an expression of His blessing, love, and favor: “May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25, NLT; see also Psalm 80:3, 7, 19). When we draw close to God, we are blessed with His shining favor. We do not pursue Him only to give Him a list of wants and needs because we know God is already aware of what we need (Matthew 6:7–8, 32–33). We trust that He will take care of us.
Seeking God’s face means desiring to know His character and wanting Him—His presence—more than any other thing He can give us.