In the book of Exodus, we read that God has such trust in Moses that He speaks with him “face to face.” Yet, Moses, thirsting for something more, asks God, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” This presents a problem as God’s glory is so great that no earthly man can see His face and live. In Exodus 33, God hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and allows him to see all His glory after God has past.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine seeing God. What picture comes to mind? Do you see a “Michelangelo” version of God with His hand stretched toward Adam? Do you imagine Him sitting on a throne surrounded by worshipers? Still, others may prefer to think of God as an invisible Spirit moving throughout Creation.
Changing the Profile Picture
As believers, we each have a mental portrait of God. These images were formed over a lifetime of experience and thought. How would we feel if we were suddenly asked to change the way we perceived God? If our thoughts of God have always been fearful, how long might it take us to let our biases go and change viewpoints?
This isn’t a hypothetical exercise; this is the fundamental collision of the Old and New Testament perspectives of God. The people of Israel feared God to the point that when they came to Mount Sinai they begged not to be brought into His presence, (Exodus 20:18-19). Throughout the prophets, God is metaphorically known as a warrior, a jealous husband, a shepherd, a potter and sometimes, an enemy. “Father” is hardly the image or role by which the Jews knew Him.
Jesus Reveals the Father
Suddenly, as Jesus ministers throughout Galilee, He speaks of His “Heavenly Father.” He challenges everyone with whom He shares to re-imagine how they understand God. It’s difficult for us to appreciate the profound shift in mindset Jesus is proposing. Yet in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sits with the people on a hillside and teaches,
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NASB).
It’s a question of worth; we are not God’s pets. Clearly, as our Heavenly Father, God values us as His children. Suppose you have lived all your life knowing God only as the Creator, King, and Holy One. It’s not that this perception is incorrect; it’s just painfully incomplete. In the words of Jesus, we hear that God cares for us to the point that He is willing to be called our Father.
Seeing the Father
Jesus doesn’t just tell us about the Father, we read as He shows us. He heals and delivers; He raises the dead. Jesus embraces the sinful and the outcasts. In his final hours with His disciples, Jesus says to Philip,
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14:9-11 NASB).
Any thought of God as our Heavenly Father is superficial without a revelation of Christ Jesus. Just like Moses’ face to face conversations with God, there remains a lack and longing for a glimpse of God’s glory. But just as Moses was permitted to see God as He had passed by, the Word of God became flesh in Jesus, allowing us to not only know God as our Father but to behold His glory. In other words, we never actually see the Father until we behold His glory in Jesus Christ.
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
Thanks for reading. This is a newer shorter format this week. It’s about half the length I’ve been writing. Please leave a comment and let me know if the format ministers to you and if you would like me to continue with a shorter, “quick to read” style.