The countenance is more than just the face.
It is the look on the face—the expression. It is the angle of the mouth, the direction of the eye brows and most of all it is the look in the eyes. It is has been rightly said they are windows to the soul. They are like the Table of Contents for the heart.
Countenance requires proximity—nearness. We can recognize a form at a distance and a face at closer range, but the eyes can only be studied from close proximity.
Made for Better Things
Our Creator installed many desires into our hearts, desires which pull us toward Him. Even as accountability becomes our burden and we drift far from God through our sin and self-interest, there is a mechanism in us, like a radio receiver constantly monitoring signals from home. It keeps blinking its little red light, reminding us that we were made for better things.
- We were made to fellowship with God, not run from Him.
- Our design was that of a co-worker with God in the ongoing processes of creation, not that of a rebel, malcontent or a sluggard.
- We are not created to combat the Spirit but to walk in the Spirit.
- Our organs of speech were not activated so that we could gripe and complain but that we would tell the Life-Story, the Gospel.
- These magnificent machines we call our bodies are not intended lie about useless while age, unseen and unsuspected, gradually drains us dry until bitter and brittle, we are wasted.
Our bodies are intended to be vessels of honor in the House of God fit for the Master’s use, earthen vessels to be sure but brimming with treasure and power and love, redeeming each moment until Christ appears in the sky.
He wanted more.
Moses saw amazing things:
- a blazing bush that would not burn away,
- signs and wonders before Pharoah,
- a sea fleeing from his shepherd’s rod and a people delivered; the army that pursued them proving itself to be no navy at all, and
- the clouded majesty of Sinai.
But he wanted more. His internal receptor buzzed and beeped with the awareness of the proximity of God and he wanted more. He wanted to see the face of God, the glory of God. God put him on a rock and then into the rock, covered him with his hand and passed by before him. Under the rules of the Old Covenant, He did not see God’s face for even Moses was guilty before God and sin always keeps the face of God away. Still the vision of Jehovah passing before him, lit all the dials on his internal machine until the glory of it glowed through his countenance. When he descended from Sinai, Moses wore a veil over his face to hide the fading glory.
Jehovah’s Smile and His Frown
The Jewish nation was sometimes glorious in obedience to the Covenant and God smiled on them. At other times they sinned and their hearts and minds were darkened by the distance of God from them. They could not see His face and could barely make out His form. They cried out in their psalms to see His countenance again.
Jesus made a New Covenant in His blood.
Through Him our sins are gone—removed from us through repentance and faith in Christ. We can now do what Moses could not do—we can look upon the face and the countenance of God. This time the glory does not fade. This is the flame of the lamp Jesus talked about making us the light of the world, a hilltop city illuminating the night.
A beam of glory, His countenance shines in us.
Exodus 33:18-23 NIV
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
2 Corinthians 3:4-18 NKJV
And we have such trust through Christ toward God… who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. …Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech — unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Lord Jesus, I stand in awe of You. I have sensed Your frown, Your disappointment in me when I have sinned against You “by what I have done and what I have left undone.” I have also sensed Your smile, Your approval of me when my song has touched You, when my praise is the broken alabaster jar. In either case Your countenance is always loving. Your eyes see me in truth and pour Your love on me anyway. Your sweet Spirit calls me nearer inviting me to gaze into Your countenance. Set me to glowing today, Lord! Amen and amen.
Open the Eyes of My Heart
Words and Music: Michael W. Smith
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
Open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see You I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up,
Shining in the light of Your glory.
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy.
Holy, holy, holy.
We cry holy, holy, holy.
You are holy, holy, holy.
I want to see you.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved