Face to Face

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Exodus 33:7-23

Children love “staring competitions” with their parents.  But the “competition” is a front.  We know what the child wants, we know what the parent wants.  Face to face.

Or think of the long-distance relationship.  Lovers who are sick of letters and phone-calls.  They want face to face.

Or the misunderstandings of work colleagues, accusations escalating, emails flying.  What do they need to resolve it all?  Face to face.

There is something incredibly powerful about being face to face.  When someone draws their face near, perhaps they want to kiss you, whisper something, tell you a secret.

It speaks of closeness, transparency, openness, friendship, love.  There is knowing and being known.  Face to face.

In Exodus chapter 33 we read about Moses going into the tent of meeting at the foot of Mount Sinai and speaking with the LORD:

“The LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”  (Exodus 33:11)

This is incredible intimacy.  The LORD Almighty… face to face… as a man speaks to His friend.  Whatever “the image of God” means, this is its consummation: man and God in face-to-face fellowship.

Moses had this privilege intermittently and only for a matter of minutes.  Even so, these encounters had a remarkable effect on him.  His own face would radiate after “face to face” with the LORD.  When he went back to the people he would veil his face because they couldn’t bear to see that reflected glory fading away.  (Exodus 34:29-35)

But all of this sets us up for an encounter later on in the same chapter.  In Exodus 33, Moses is speaking to the LORD on top of the mountain and asks to see His glory (v18).  But in verse 20 He responds, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”  And again in verse 22 He says “my face shall not be seen.”

What is going on?  Is the LORD moody?  At sea level He’s friendly but at altitude, He becomes aloof?

No, the face-to-face LORD at the foot of Sinai is the Angel of the LORD who has been leading the people.  The unseen LORD on the mountain is God Most High.  To say it another way – the Son is the visible image of the invisible God.  And it’s God the Father with whom Moses converses on top of the mountain.

What is the topic of their conversation?  Well Moses asks the unseen LORD, “Who will go with the people?” (v12).  The Father replies:

My presence shall go with thee.  (Exodus 33:14)

“Presence” is literally the word for “face.”  The Father is saying “the Face-to-Face LORD will go with you.”  He is pledging the help of His Son, His Angel, His Presence – the LORD Jesus.  When Moses hears this news he is satisfied:

If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. (v15)

Give me Jesus or give me death!  Moses wants the Father’s Face.  And He has it in the Father’s Son – the Face-to-face LORD.

Jesus reveals the unknown God.  And always has done.  In Paul’s words, He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).

And at Christmas He revealed Himself, not just to Moses, but to the world.  Jesus is God’s Face turned towards us.

Now that He has come as Man, He offers us all an experience far superior to Moses’.  For Moses, face to face was a rare privilege.  But for those who look to Jesus now, we have a future promised whose very atmosphere is “face to face.”

The Apostle Paul writes that Christians will enjoy a “face to face” future that makes our experience now like “seeing through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Every kiss you’ve ever wanted, every affirmation you’ve ever craved, every relationship you’ve ever pursued, every longing you’ve ever felt – will be fulfilled when you’re face to face with Jesus.  And He, for His part, will say to His beloved, “It is so good to see you, let me get a good look at you.”  Face to face.

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