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2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV):

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

What is the meaning of the expression "seek my face"? How can someone know if they already "found God's face" or if they still have to keep on seeking in order to "find it"?

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    Some recite prayers as a work, to earn reward. But some seek the features of God - is he angry ? Is he composed ? What does he feel ? What is the expression upon his features ? This is a matter of experience in one's own prayers, thus a comment, not an official answer. Having a real relationship with God involves knowing what his disposition is to oneself. Which is revealed by his 'face'. – Nigel J Dec 13 '20 at 21:25
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    @NigelJ Interesting, that makes a lot of sense. In other words, seeking God's face would be a metaphorical way of saying "becoming aware of God's personal impression about one's current condition". This would require some sort of two-way communication between God and the individual by which those impressions are communicated. – Spirit Realm Investigator Dec 13 '20 at 22:11
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    Yes, indeed. That is my own personal experience. It can be seen in the psalms, frequently. Often a second voice appears in the narrative, which I take to be the Holy Spirit responding and making His Own Presence known and felt to the prayerful penitent. – Nigel J Dec 13 '20 at 22:33

11 Answers 11

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The act of "seeking the face of God" is a Hebrew idiom whose meaning can be readily deduced from the frequent ways it was used in the OT.

CONCLUSION

All the data below can be summarized as follows. Note, "seeking God's face" and "seeking the LORD" are used almost interchangeably.

  • Seeking God's face is to be humble and reflect God's character
  • Seeking God's face is to ask Him for help in times of trouble
  • Seeking God's face is to remember and rehearse His greatness, goodness, and glory, etc.

Biblical Data

  • 1 Chron 16:10-12 - Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Seek out the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonders He has done, His marvels, and the judgments He has pronounced
  • 2 Chron 7:14 - if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
  • 2 Chron 20:3 - Jehoshaphat was alarmed and set his face to seek the LORD. And he proclaimed a fast throughout Judah.
  • Job 33:26 - He prays to God and finds favor; he sees God’s face and shouts for joy, and God restores His righteousness to that man.
  • Ps 24:4-6 - He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, O God of Jacob.
  • Ps 27:7-9 - Hear, O LORD, my voice when I call; be merciful and answer me. My heart said, “Seek His face.” Your face, O LORD, I will seek. Hide not Your face from me, nor turn away Your servant in anger. You have been my helper; do not leave me or forsake me, O God of my salvation.
  • Ps 105:3-5 - Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Seek out the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonders He has done, His marvels, and the judgments He has pronounced
  • Dan 9:3 - So I turned my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and petition, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
  • Hos 5:15 - Then I will return to My place until they admit their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”
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Solomon says in 2 Chronicles 7:14

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

To seek God's face is to turn from wicked ways, to look to his presence, strength, and precepts.

Before Solomon, David says in 1 Chronicles 16:11

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

People with a pure heart follow the Lord and not idols. They seek the Lord.

Psalm 24:3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
5They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
6Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

To seek God's face is to seek him.

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  • 1) Quote: "To seek God's face is to turn from wicked ways, to look to his presence, strength, and precepts.", this begs the question: what does it mean to "look to his presence"? 2) Quote: "To seek God's face is to seek him", this begs the question: what does it mean to "seek him"? – Spirit Realm Investigator Dec 13 '20 at 21:01
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In Exodus, it is written that “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11). But in the same passage (Ex 33:20), God tells Moses, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Though Moses could speak to God with the level of intimacy of a friend, he had to be shielded from seeing the actual face of God (Ex 33:22-23).

Since no living person can see the face of God, the phrase “seek my face” calls for a less literal understanding. As others have noted, one interpretation is that seeking the face of God means to seek God's presence.

In my opinion, to seek the face of God implies a spiritual longing for God himself, as distinct from seeking some abstract notion, theory or understanding of God. This “seeking” is thus an action of the heart and the soul, not of the mind or the senses:

  • “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek. (Ps 27:8)

  • My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? (Ps 42:2)

  • From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. (Dt 4:29)

We have this assurance that we will "find" God, but the timing and manner is not made clear. Though it is a mystery, I imagine it to be something like Elijah’s experience at Mount Horeb, that is, in the way that Elijah instinctively “knew,” or was given the grace to know, God’s presence in the silence. Note that Elijah shielded his own face before going out to meet God:

  • He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind… but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (1 Ki 19:11-13)

Like Elijah, perhaps we too will have endured a long journey and be at the point of giving up before we reach the meeting place of God (1 Ki 19:4-9).

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'Seeking God’s face' means to approach him in prayer, confess your wrong, and beg for forgiveness

Confession brings relief:

Psalm 32:3-5 (NASB)

3 When I kept silent about my sin, my [a]body wasted away Through my [b]groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My [c]vitality failed as with the dry heat of summer. Selah 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And I did not hide my guilt; I said, “I will confess my wrongdoings to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

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We see David seeking the face of God in Psalm 32.

For a while he 'roars' but the roaring is internal. At length he purposes to confess his sins unto God. Prior to that, there was a roaring within him, a crying out in frustration, in want, in spiritual penury, in the loneliness that results from being far from God.

When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. [Psalm 32:3 KJV]

But as soon as he purposes to make confession, even before the words leave his mouth, he knows that God has heard him. He is aware of a lifted burden (nasa). His sins are 'uplifted' from him. This is something that is felt, it is not theoretical. His crying, roaring need is being met from heaven, in real experience.

I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. [Psalm 32:5 KJV].

This is the difference between formal prayers and heartfelt seeking of the face of God : the seeking of God for his own sake - to really know him . . .

. . . . to see his face.

To know that one is right with God. To have an awareness that God is pleased with oneself, not rewarding dead, religious, ritualistic works, but God is pleased with one's attitude to him, with one's seeking him to have a real relationship with him, within one's own spirit.

Then, and only then, is another voice seen in the narrative of Psalm 32.

'Be not as the horse or mule which must be held in with bit and with bridle.'

Another voice speaks. 'I will teach thee in the way that thou shalt go.' David, now forgiven, now with the face of God shining upon him, will be guided by an Holy Spirit who will teach him and show him another way.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. [Psalm 32:8 KJV].

This is to 'humble oneself' and to (genuinely) 'pray' to God and to 'seek his face'.

It is a real relationship. It is the spiritual knowledge of God, who is Spirit. It is to meet with him - face to face.

And this is not peculiar to David, not especially for the King only : it is for all who would seek the Lord :

For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. [Psalm 32:6 KJV].

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2 Chronicles 7:14 uses the word, פָּנִים (paniym) which is plural (but always as singular). As the ONE TRUE God--'elohiym--is ONE, but with more than one face--more than one operational capacity, He is a loving God while at the same time a Righteous God as well as a jealous God. He is now the Father, as well as the Son, as well as the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said in John 14:9:

.... he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

This verse is effectively saying, if they will seek my faces (plural), all of them.

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3And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;
4Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. 5Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.
These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Exodus 19:3-6 (KJV)

The LORD's desire for the children of Israel was that they be a "kingdom of priests", serving Him among all the nations of the world.

To facilitate this, the LORD appointed Aaron and his offspring as chief Priests, and the offspring of the tribe of Levi as priests to assist the chief Priest in all the duties of the Tabernacle. These men were drafted into the priesthood, i.e. their life's occupation was chosen for them by the LORD.

However, since the LORD's intent was for the nation of Israel to be a "kingdom of priests", He also instituted a means by which each and every citizen who wished to do so, might also separate themselves to the LORD's service. The details in regard to this are recorded in chapter 6 of the book of Numbers, with the following words concluding the chapter:

22And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying, 23Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,

  • 24The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
  • 25The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
  • 26The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
27And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
Numbers 6:22-27 (KJV)

Of course, this blessing was for all of the children of Israel, but it's pretty clear that the LORD's expectation was that many of His children would so love Him that they would want to pledge Him service, on par with the priesthood, from time to time. Without such willingness, the LORD's intent for Israel to be a "kingdom of priests" among the nations would be doomed to failure.

According to the Biblehub timeline, the words concerning the Nazarite vow, and the blessing with which Aaron was instructed to bless the children of Israel, occurred around 1445 BC. Some 40 years later, the following prophecy of the LORD is recorded concerning Israel:

16And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. 17Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? 18And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
Deuteronomy 31:16-18 (KJV)

In the day Israel would forsake the LORD, evidenced by their breaking His Covenant and whoring about after other gods, He would forsake His people and hide his face from them, the consequence being: "they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them."

In that day, the LORD:

  • would cease to bless and keep His people
  • would no longer make his face shine upon them, and be gracious to them
  • would refrain from lifting up his countenance upon them to give them peace.

Until... they come to the realisation, "Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?"

Seeking God's face is firstly, a recognition within one's heart that God has turned his face away - that 'evil' can only ever be the state of being of a man who is driven by his own inclinations. Secondly, that 'good' is the state of being of a man whose earnest desire it is for God:

  • to restore His blessing and hand of protection
  • to again shine His face upon him, and be gracious to him once more
  • to lift up His countenance upon him anew, so that His peace might be his.

One who seeks God's face wants the light of His face to shine upon him. In the words of Jesus:

20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
John 3:20-21 (KJV)

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Face פָּנֶה in Hebrew also means presence. The Jewish Publication Society translates it favor.

when My people, who bear My name, humble themselves, pray, and seek My favor and turn from their evil ways, I will hear in My heavenly abode and forgive their sins and heal their land. (2 Chon. 7:14, JPS)

This is a common Hebrew idiom.

The Jew seeks God's favor by trying to keep the Torah. The Christian finds God's favor through Jesus Christ.

  153See my affliction and rescue me, 
     for I have not neglected Your teaching. 
  154Champion my cause and redeem me; 
     preserve me according to Your promise. 
  155Deliverance is far from the wicked, 
     for they have not turned to Your laws. (Psalm 119:153–155, JPS)

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Ro 3:21–25, ESV)

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. (John 14:8–11, ESV)

The question the Jews ask about this verse is what does נִֽקְרָא־שְׁמִ֣י (called by my name) mean.

See https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/114078/which-of-hashems-name-is-the-name-upon-whom-israel-is-called

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  • I'm a bit confused. Are you saying we should interpret it as presence or favor? Or are you saying presence and favor are synonymous? – Spirit Realm Investigator Dec 13 '20 at 22:56
  • . . . . and how does one know that one is favoured (with invisible and spiritual blesings) ? – Nigel J Dec 13 '20 at 23:00
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What does it mean to “seek God's face”

– 2 Chronicles 7:14?

Death... to the old earthly life.

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.’

– Exodus 33:18-20

Followed by a new life in Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!

– 2 Corinthians 5

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To seek God's Face does not merely restrict the worship of idols. Infact, it also conveys the message that, if you give more importance to anything-let it be money, fame, or people- it is the violation of the first commandment. You should never give more priority to anything else other than God even in your thoughts. Seeking his face not only means worshipping him in Church but also in your privacy and in your thoughts.

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To seek God’s face probably means to seek holiness, because Hebrew 12:14 says:

Pursue .... holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (NKJV).

The word “pursue” is a synonym of the word “seek”.

Support are to be found in the synthesis of the below two Bible verses:

You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.(Ex 33:20, BSB)

And

I die daily (1 Cor 15:31, KJV)

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