Countenance is the word that has been on my heart this week. Of course, the countenance is the face. There are so many references from the Bible we could focus on, I mean this word is literally all through the Bible and there is so much significant depth behind each reference. There are tons of references both to the face or countenance of God, and to the face or countenance of man. I'm just going to focus on the references to the countenance of God in this post. The countenance of man could be a completely different post.
I'm not even sure which passage started me on this word study, but one that nearly everyone knows and has so much depth behind it is the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26:
"The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
and give you peace."
We've discussed this at length in our Friday night fellowship & bible study we do with some friends from the passage in Leviticus 26, where God is describing the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience. He says that He will look on His people favorably in their obedience, but will set His face against them in their disobedience. He warns in Deuteronomy 31:17 that when His people rebel, He will turn His face away. King Hezekiah begs the people in 2 Chronicles 30:9 to "return to the Lord. . . for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him." His face turned toward or away from the people meant so much, as the faces of the kings in those days could grant blessing or curse, death or life. There are many petitions in the Bible for the blessing of His face upon us: "Make Your face shine upon Your servant!" is an earnest plea from Psalm 31:16 and Psalm 119:135. Equally earnest is the petition for Him not to turn His face away: "Do not hide Your face from me!"- Psalm 27:9 and Psalm 102:2. Old Testament kings of Israel would request God to turn His face toward His people and turn His face away from their enemies. Again we see that His face shining upon His people meant blessing. His face turning away always meant curse.
Interestingly, His countenance is always associated with light. Psalm 4:6 is a beautiful prayer for the light of His countenance to be upon us. His countenance in Matthew 28:3 is described as being "like lightning" and in Revelation 1:16 as "like the sun shining in its strength." The request is always for His face to shine upon us. "Restore us, O God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!" -Psalm 80:7; "God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us!" -Psalm 67:1. When Moses left the presence of God, where he had spoken to Him face to face, his countenance was so bright he had to wear a veil so the people could look at him. Yet the challenge from 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 for us is that we, having a greater ministry of the Spirit, will have a brighter and brighter countenance as we behold Him more and more. We either become darker or brighter depending on what we are beholding. Psalm 34:5 says that as we look at Him we are radiant.
"Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." -Psalm 42:5
"Seek His face forevermore!" is the command of Psalm 105:4 and 1 Chronicles 16:11. Also, "When you said, 'Seek My face", my heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek!'" -Psalm 27:8 I was discussing this with the kids this morning, about what "seeking His face" would look like in our lives, and we decided that when we seek someone's face, we want to be with them. It's not enough to correspond via email or text or letters; we really want to spend time with them face to face. Just being with them, talking, being in communion. Seeking His face looks like just wanting to be in His presence, where there is fullness of joy. There is satisfaction in seeing His face. "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face."- 1 Corinthians 13:12. Oh what joy, to see Him fully! So the question comes, do we see His face now, or then? That is the question. I believe that He wouldn't command us to seek His face while on earth if we couldn't see it, at least "through a mirror, dimly". But just like now we see the stars and the heavens pretty well on a clear night, but the Hubble sees things far beyond that we can't even comprehend, I believe His beauty and power and righteousness will completely overwhelm us. But we are still supposed to gaze at the stars for now and behold the level of beauty and power that we can handle in our earthly bodies. Seeking His face now is the only way we can get through this life without falling apart. And then will come the day when we will see Him fully and all will be complete. Oh happy day!
"They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there; they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light." -Revelation 22:4-5
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
Song of Solomon is one of my favorite books. In 5:15, the Beloved (Jesus) is described as having a "countenance like Lebanon". The bride is described in 4:11 as having the "fragrance of Lebanon." Only from having been in His presence, beholding His face and being near, would our garments have the fragrance of Lebanon.