Rev. Miersma is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
When David wrote this Psalm he was surrounded by enemies, as can be seen from verse Ps. 17:9: “From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about.” But as a child of God, he loves God and is sure that the Lord is the God of his salvation. He is confident that he represents the cause of God and of His righteousness in the midst of the world, and that the wicked oppress him because he is of the party of the living God. Therefore he beseeches the Lord to give ear to his prayer. David desires to be vindicated because he is afflicted for righteousness’ sake. This is evident from Ps. 17:13: “Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword.”
The Lord will hear this prayer!
How terrible is the lot of the wicked. “From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (Ps. 17:14). They are men of this world who have their portion in this life. They seek and crave the world. And God satisfies that craving by filling their bellies with His treasures, thus causing them to be carnally satisfied. Their abundance flows over to their children, who continue in the same carnal enjoyment. In this way their measure of iniquity is filled.
However, with the righteous it is different. “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” We have in our text an example of Hebrew parallelism, when two parts of the text complement and explain each other. “Thy face” is the same as “Thy likeness,” and “we shall be satisfied” as “beholding thy face in righteousness.”
Now we know that essentially we are not able to see God’s face, for He is spiritual and we are earthly. That will also be true when we arrive in heavenly glory. To see God would imply that we are essentially like Him. This is impossible, for He is Creator, we are creature; He is eternal, we are temporal; He is infinite, we are finite. Thus, there is between us an infinite gulf that can never be spanned.
The desire to see God and to be essentially like Him was the sin of Adam. Satan whispered in his ear, “Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” Adam, and we in him, listened and opened our hearts to this deadly poison, which brought us death and destruction. We became slaves of the devil, enemies of God and children of wrath.
From that dreadful state we have been redeemed. In principle, the desire to be like God will never arise in our hearts again. Forever God remains God. Our desire is that He be God forever. He sits on the throne, and we worship Him. He commands, and we obey. The believer loves the Lord, wants God to be God, and does not aspire to His greatness. The believer experiences life and joy exactly in proclaiming the virtues and greatness of the Lord, who called him out of darkness into His marvelous light. Therefore, to see God’s face does not mean and cannot mean that we see God essentially.
So what does the text mean? We must be reminded that God’s face is God revealed. The revelation of God is in our Lord Jesus Christ. Here on earth we see God’s face in a mirror, the mirror of God’s Word. Jesus stands, as it were, behind us, and we see Him as He is reflected in the mirror of the Scriptures. Those Scriptures speak of Him, revealing Him to us in all His wondrous love and mercy. We see Him as He entered into our flesh and blood, taking upon Himself all our sins and trespasses. We see Him as He suffered and died for us upon the cross of Calvary, and as risen again in all glory as the God of our salvation.
However, when we awake in heavenly glory we shall see the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the face of God, the eternal image of the Godhead. Christ is the revelation of all of God’s attributes. The matchless goodness of God will be seen in the new heavens and the new earth where there shall be no night, sin, or death. That goodness will radiate from Christ as merited by Him and as shining forth from Him unto the glory of the Father. He is the Sun that shall enlighten all and who Himself receives His light from the living God.
Thus, in Christ, the face of God, we see the likeness of God. This same word “likeness” appears also inGenesis 1:26, where we read, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This refers to the form, the likeness, the concrete revelation of the living God. This concrete revelation of the living God is His face, our Lord Jesus Christ.
This heavenly expectation of things was clearly understood in the old dispensation. Asaph in Psalm 73:24, 25 confesses, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Job, in all his difficulties, expresses in Job 19:25-27, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
The awakening in our text is the awakening out of the sleep of death. Then we shall see God’s face with eyes that have been made spiritual and heavenly. We shall see it in righteousness. The wicked shall see His face too, but for them that glory will be most terrible. But we shall see it in righteousness and perfection. We shall rejoice and then we shall be satisfied.
God alone satisfies. Even as a fish is at home in the water and a bird in the air, so man is really happy only when he may enjoy the fellowship of the living God. For even as the fish has been fashioned for the water, so man is fashioned for the service and fellowship of the Lord. The Lord maintains Himself and will not permit any enjoyment of life outside of Himself. Adam was happy in the garden, but this was destroyed by sin. Man, today, by nature has a pseudo-happiness consisting of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. He would enjoy the pleasures of sin and enrich himself with the treasures of this life. These are mere husks, which leave his soul empty and destitute. He will awake in hell and will never forget his misery, for he will be forsaken by God.
How different it is with the child of God. The love of God has been shed abroad in his heart. The goodness and glory of God he has learned to crave and cherish. The words of Psalm 42:1, 2 have become a reality in his life. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” The blotting out of all his guilt he experiences through the wonderful blood of the cross. The service of Jehovah is his delight.
Thus we are satisfied by beholding the God of our salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord in the Scriptures. We love that revelation and satisfy our souls with it. It speaks to us of our state and condition by nature, but also proclaims to us the love of God. That love finds its source in the eternal counsel of God. It revealed itself as so completely divine upon the cross of Calvary while we were yet sinners. It is a love that defies all human understanding, lifts us out of the miry clay of sin and death, and translates us into a glory so wonderful that it could never enter into the heart of man.
Now we see it only in principle. We behold the face of Jesus Christ only in a mirror. We also have to contend with our sin and imperfection. Our eye of faith is often dim and our longing for God’s communion so sadly lacking. Sin does not cause us to long for eternal glory, and we are attracted to the things that are below. We are therefore satisfied only in principle while in the earthly house of our tabernacle.
However, when we shall awake with His likeness we shall be perfectly satisfied. We shall see God face to face in Christ and feast ourselves as we look upon Him. Then we ourselves shall be perfect, beholding Him in righteousness. Then we shall be like Him in the measure of the creature. Eternally we shall see God in the highest revelation of Himself.
Then we shall be satisfied. Completely filled we shall be, never to weary of His likeness. Even as the love of God is inexhaustible, so will our souls be forever satisfied. Indeed, most blessed is the expectation of the church of the living God.