Summary: Take definite time to intentionally seek God’s face.
Seek Gods Face
November 6, 2004
When you look at temples and churches, often you see, and have seen, historically, that they have been built on the tops of hills and even carved into the sides of mountains. Consider the two major churches in Montreal. Notre-Dame is up on the hill, from the river, and was built there, on a high point, back in the 1800s- beginning in 1824, I believe. St. Joseph’s Oratory is also on a hill, on the side of Mount Royal. You’ll often see this, at least where there are hills or mountains, that centres for worship are placed high, to the degree possible.
This is done differently today, but in the past people always thought of spiritual places needing to be up high, or in solitary places. Legends and myths often involved stories of pilgrimages and journeys to far away and difficult places for spiritual enlightenment.
One such modern myth has a scientist and a political thinker struggling to reach the top of a high mountain peak. When they finally do claw their way to the summit, they find a theologian sitting there in a lotus position. The theologian looks at them and says, ‘what took you so long?’
Why do you think that people associate deeper spiritual experience with far away places like mountaintops, islands and deserts? It springs from the idea of effort being needed to be closer to God or the gods. We can find this idea, too, throughout scripture- at least the idea that some effort is needed to be closer to God.
Deut.4.29- people were told that there would come a time when they would ‘seek’ God. To seek implies a measure of effort needed to accomplish the task. Here’s what ‘dictionary.com’ says about ‘seek’- seek v. sought, (sôt) seek·ing, seeks v. tr.
1. To try to locate or discover; search for.
2. To endeavor to obtain or reach: seek a college education.
3. To go to or toward: Water seeks its own level.
4. To inquire for; request: seek directions from a police officer.
5. To try; endeavor: seek to do good.
6. Obsolete. To explore.
In the NT, we find this idea, too, so it is not foreign to Christians.
Matt.6.33- seek first the kingdom
Col.3.1- seek the things above
Heb.11.6- God rewards those who seek Him.
Behind all this there is actually an important truth that we need to understand. Because we are human, we think differently from the way God does. We want God to come to us- to understand us and help us in our lives. Of course He does that- God is always near to us and well aware of everything that we are going through. But when it comes to having a really deep spiritual relationship with God, something else is expected. Rather than waiting for God to come to us- we must make the journey to Him. In fact, we often talk of wanting God to be with us; it’s more important, really, for us to be with Him. We have to chosen to accept Him, and what He offers to our lives, which is a tremendous motivation for us to seek to be like Him.
Psa.24.1-6- this passage speaks about going to the mountaintop to be in God’s presence. The text also tells us what that journey looks like. Is it a task of climbing over jagged rocks and swinging past crevasses to get there? Is the journey physically difficult, or is the difficulty some other kind? What does the text say? How does someone make the journey toward God? What are the characteristics the psalmist describes?
The one who may ‘ascend the hill of the Lord’ is someone who:
- Has clean hands
- Has a pure heart
- Doesn’t give himself/herself to any idol
- Is committed to integrity in life.
These four characteristics show us that the journey toward a deeper relationship with God is an inward journey. It is something that goes on inside of us. And the Bible is clear- it is a journey that absolutely must be taking place in our lives if we are to know God more deeply.
Let’s talk about each of these for a few minutes. What does it mean for someone to have ‘clean hands?’ Basically, this is a phrase that means we are committed to justice. It refers to our everyday dealings with other people- do we treat others fairly? Is it our commitment in life to do that? Do we dislike injustice- does it bother us when we see others being taken advantage of, or being mistreated?
What about a pure heart? What does that mean? It refers to what our motivations are in life. Are we selfish and self-centred? Does the world revolve around us? Is our conscience hardened so that we are not bothered by violence or cursing or other sins we see going on around us? Or does it still hurt us inside when we experience sin? A pure heart means that we understand how sinful we are- and it bothers us. We know we need, and we want, forgiveness. We get that God is holy and perfect- and we are not. We want to be cleaned up before we go in to see Him.