A while back I published an article on the subject of “seek and ye shall find.” It was an opportunity for readers to dig into the scriptures and I didn’t really blog much about the topic, just encouraged people to study it and showed how to set up that study. I learn more when I write, so as time has gone on, I’ve shifted from showing how to study a topic to writing about it a little more. It helps “cement” the study. Today I want to continue on last weeks’ article on “God has prepared places of safety.” In that post I shared this scripture.
2 Chronicles 7:14. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
This is what one can call a sacred formula and follows the if/then framework previously blogged about. The phrase that stands out to me among our responsibilities is “seek my face.” The other items are a bit more common: take his name upon us, humble ourselves, pray, and turn from wickedness. But what does it mean to seek his face?
When I wrote the blog article seek and ye shall find, among the list of things we are to seek for (things hidden from us that must be found), is to seek the Lord. The Lord says:
11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
14. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
The Lord knows he will gather his people, and it will be when they seek for him with all their heart. Similarly:
Deuteronomy 4:29. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Unfortunately, pretty much the only way a people seek for the Lord with all their heart, is when things are so bad they know only God can save them and they cannot rely on the arm of flesh anymore. That train is on the horizon and pulling into the station right now. We are about to become participants in praying day and night for the Lord to come and deliver us. We will soon know what it means to seek him with all our heart and soul.
Well, what does it mean to seek the Lord? As I studied these scriptures, there are a few groupings that can be made of these verses.
I show this for the benefit of those that aren’t familiar with searching the scriptures. If you’re a pro at Scripture Notes and searching the scriptures, just skip to the next section.
When you start to study a topic, you’ll find various combinations of words in a verse and it’s beneficial to see where those combinations of words appear together to get a better feel for their use and meaning. Here’s a few searches I did and the number of results:
Seek and Lord – 104 verses Seek and face – 19 verses Seek and find – 23 verses Lord and face – 156 verses
This gets a little messy if you want to do a comprehensive study and have to drag and drop results of one search into another collection note. However, if you could plan this out a little, you could write this search into a single search term to capture all the verses in one view. Usually I can’t do this in the beginning. I have to look at one set of search results, notice other terms, do more searches, then wish I had waited a little to create my collection note when I could have done a comprehensive search term like this:
(Lord and face) or (seek and (face or find or lord)) – 280 verses
The parenthesis are just like in math. You do what’s inside them first and then move out. The 4 searches above could also be strung together with each in parenthesis and an ‘or’ statement between them, but you can also group similar items which is the part after the first ‘or’ in that search. Seek appears in 3 searches so you search for seek, ‘and’ the 3 other terms with an ‘or’ between them.
Now when you scan the list of results you might notice, there’s a lot of phrases that include “face of the earth”. I tried making the search remove those exact phrases with this minus and quotes around the phrase and this search reduced the result set to 158 results.
(Lord and face) or (seek and (face or find or lord)) -"face of the earth"
That’s 102 verses removed. So then I tried a search for:
"Face of the earth"
That resulted in 88 verses although there are other variations like “face of all the earth” etc…
Clearly there was a difference to account for so I started comparing the 280 set to the 158 till I found an error. :) I’ve got my dev team working on it to make the search engine more accurate. At this point it’s a little too complex and time consuming to refine the search any further, so it was easier to just get going on the list and remove irrelevant verses that don’t apply as they arise.
I share that just to help others understand how you can take a few related phrases or words that go together and string them into a single search to give you a better range of results for something you want to study. With a little planning up front, it’s easier to create a comprehensive collection note instead of have to drag and drop multiple search results into one note. There’s a bulk drag feature coming which will alleviate this pain point, but it’s not available yet.
We are commanded to seek the face of the Lord.
1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.
Psalms 27:8. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.
Psalms 105:4. Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
The stated reason in scripture is:
D&C 101:38. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.
Why in patience? Because until we obtain a view of the face of God, we are in a state of anxiety. He is the “second comforter” (study “Jesus Christ, Second Comforter” in the Topical Guide). The fall of Adam and Eve brought separation from God while the atonement of Jesus Christ brings reconciliation and redemption, or in other words peace and salvation. Only when our calling and election is “made sure” and we have the “assurance” of it from the voice of the Lord, will our anxiety cease and a fullness of peace begin.
There are a number of verses that deal with our orientation to the Lord.
Daniel 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
When we turn away from the Lord due to sin, the word repent means to turn back. Where? To face the Lord.
Numbers 6:25. The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
In the dedicatory prayer on the Salt Lake City temple, President Wilford Woodruff made two interesting statements regarding this.
“O God of Israel, turn Thy face, we pray Thee, in loving kindness toward Thy stricken people of the House of Judah. Oh, deliver them from those that oppress them.”
Then this interesting concept.
“Heavenly Father, when Thy people shall not have the opportunity of entering this holy house to offer their supplications unto Thee, and they are oppressed and in trouble, surrounded by difficulties or assailed by temptation and shall turn their faces towards this Thy holy house and ask Thee for deliverance, for help, for Thy power to be extended in their behalf, we beseech Thee, to look down from Thy holy habitation in mercy and tender compassion upon them, and listen to their cries.”
It’s never a bad idea to orient ourselves toward the temple while we pray, if not physically, in our hearts. The Holy of Holies is the seat of God in his house.
Then there are verses that deal with the Lord’s orientation toward us.
When David sinned, he mourned the loss of the Lord in these words:
Psalms 13:1. How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
To idolators that turn from the Lord and cause Israel to stumble, the Lord says:
Ezekiel 14:8. And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
When David fled from King Saul who in a jealous rage was trying to kill him, David pled that he would stop and not risk incurring the wrath of the Lord turning his face upon him in anger.
1 Samuel 26:20. Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.
Some years prior to the Assyrian invasion, Hosea warned Israel of their pending destruction and wrote these words of the Lord.
Hosea 5:15. I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.
Here Isaiah mentions the Lord hiding his face from the house of Jacob, while he will seek the Lord.
Isaiah 8:17. And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
National repentance, which is individual repentance in the hearts of the people, brings a return of the Lord’s blessings.
2 Chronicles 30:9. For if ye turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.
There are repercussions to individual and national sin.
When the Lord looks upon someone in wrath, there is always an act of love and mercy to be found. His goal is always redemption. Those who choose him receive covenant blessings. Those who reject him and turn to wickedness get destroyed to prevent future generations from being condemned to hell. This is when the Lord “sets his face.”
When the Lord turns away, it is a sign of shame on individuals that should know better.
When the Lord looks upon a righteous people, mercy and blessings follow.
There are 15 verses in scripture that use the phrase “face to face” to describe an encounter with the Lord. There are many other references to this second comforter experience but this is the descriptive language of the event and the exciting culmination when we seek the face of the Lord.
Genesis 32:30. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.
Exodus 33:11. And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend…
Deuteronomy 34:10. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,
Ether 12: 39. And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;
Abraham 3:11. Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made;
D&C 50:11. Let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face.
This last verse in the Doctrine and Covenants is an invitation. The Lord wants us to encounter him in a real way.
But wait… Is this literal? The Bible says:
John 1:18. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Well there’s a great contradiction there between what Jacob and Moses very plainly wrote about in the Bible, not to mention Isaiah, Stephen who declared he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ while he was being stoned (Acts 7:55-56), and the encounter of Israel and the elders in Exodus 19 and elsewhere. How do we resolve the conflict? Modern revelation helps us understand.
D&C 67:11. “For no man has seen God at any time in the flesh, except quickened by the Spirit of God.”
We also have the Joseph Smith Translation which for John 1:18 reads:
“And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.”
In the other similar Biblical reference that no man has seen God, Joseph Smith translated 1 John 1:12, “No man hath seen God at any time, except them who believe…”
Obviously many people have seen God and were witnesses of the resurrected Christ. To think Christ only appeared to the 12 after his resurrection and never appeared to anyone else is illogical. Why would he only appear to 12 individuals in the entire span of world history?
But now the Biblical conflict makes sense. The Father introduces the Son as his Only Begotten to announce the redemptive way back into the Father’s presence. No one can have that experience unless they believe and are quickened by the Spirit to protect them from the encounter.
Moses sought to have Israel brought into the presence of God but they were fearful. They rejected God and the higher law and the Lord gave them a preparatory law.
As recorded in Doctrine & Covenants 84:
- For without this (priesthood ordinances) no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
- Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
- But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
In a future day, the Lord will again repeat the event of Sinai in the wilderness. But instead of the people rejecting God’s offer to bring them into his presence, this future people will accept the gift and welcome their God. The gathering of Israel taking place now along with the miraculous events to come, will bring about this offer.
- As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:
- And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.
- And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.
- Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God.
- And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
- And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
This is one of the promises to Israel President Nelson asked us to list in his last conference address entitled, “Let God Prevail.”
The bottom line is this. We are commanded to seek the face of the Lord. Clearly he wants us to encounter him and is doing everything allowed within his power to facilitate this meeting happening. It’s his work and glory to bring to pass these redemptive encounters. It’s up to us to seek them with all our heart and soul.
(Featured Image by Nikki Zalewski @ 123rf.com)
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