Even though the Bible says no one can see God and live, it also records instances where God’s people saw Him. One of those is in the story of Jacob who wrestled with God and afterwards declared, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32:30)
God even tells us to seek His face. In a verse normally used to encourage prayer, He says, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
As I read these and other verses that tell of people who saw the Lord, I wonder what that means. Today, this is often explained as a vision or a glimpse of God that is not physical where He makes Himself known to the heart. Most Christians can say they have had that experience of God, but it doesn’t seem to be the same as the powerful experience of Jacob. He said that he saw God face to face, and it was such a dramatic encounter that he also realized he should have died, but he lived.
I have often said that God can be seen in creation (Romans 1:18-20), and that He can be seen in His people. The creation part has been easy for me, but I’ve not really had the experience of “seeing” God in His people, at least not in the mind-blowing way that Jacob saw God . . . until lately.
In a series of events too many to describe, a Christian has treated me in ways that can only be explained as Jesus is doing this. I’ve been surprised and deeply affected by words and actions that built me up at times when only God could have known what I needed to experience. Sometimes these words/actions and my response to them entirely confused me. How could that person know? But God nudged me often and said, “It is not that person; it is me.”
Sometimes I feel as if I am such a slow learner. However, in thinking about this strange experience, the Lord reminded me that I should be seeking Him in His people all the time, and with all of them, not this one person in whom He is so obviously present and using to bless me.
The verses are these from 2 Corinthians 5:16–17: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Christians are the people of God, made new by His life living in them. Despite the layers we build to protect others from seeing our faults and failures, and despite the fleshy mistakes and sins we commit, Jesus is there – there for those who will “regard” them that way. The word means “perceive” which is not a large leap from the idea of seeking. In other words, look for Jesus in others, and He will be seen.
It is much easier to see people “according to the flesh” – either the way they act apart from Jesus, or from the way I am apart from Jesus. However, God put it on my heart to look for Him in others and I did that yesterday. I am still in awe at the results.
Seeing Him does bring death, but it is death to self and self interests. I felt set free from me as I looked for the Lord. Seeing Him brings life too, the life of Christ flowing out from those in whom I seek Him, but also the life of Christ flowing out from my life.
I still don’t know how Jacob saw the Lord. Was it with his eyes? Or his heart? Whatever it was, that appearing of God changed Jacob’s life. He was never the same. May that be true also for my life.