March 28, 2011 - The King's Face
Jeremy D. Scott
I’m not very good at making eye contact with people.
It’s something that I’ve worked on (actually, it was a practice I challenged myself to last year during Lent). Making eye contact has various implications in different cultures. For my culture, it’s a sign of respect for the other, relationship, and a general sign of healthy communication. When we make eye contact with someone who is speaking to us, we are telling them, “I hear you” without even opening our mouths. It’s an acknowledgement of the other.
It’s said that this is in play in the second third of the high priestly prayer (Numbers 6):
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you...
The ancient picture is of a kingdom subject, perhaps a peasant or slave, who happens to gain admittance into the throne room of the king. It’s one thing for the lowly to be present before the king. But it’s a whole other thing if the king would actually turn his face toward him, to acknowledge his presence. The notion of well-being (“shining” face!) would be the absolute best situation possible: Graciousness distributed from the king to the lowly.
Some know or remember the thrill of the lead singer at a rock concert looking and pointing at them at a specific point in a song. Or perhaps you’ve been to a professional sports event and seen the joy on a child’s face who waits by the tunnel for a high five from one of the players as they leave the arena (remember “Mean Joe Greene”?). There’s something about being noticed by those in the limelight.
This is the prayer of Psalm 80 - Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved. Yet this is no rock singer or point guard, but our very creator and the one from whom all blessings flow. Inherent in the prayer is the acknowledgement that this One can save us.
We’re well into Lent now (this is the 17th day, almost halfway through!). The ashes are long gone, yet we’re hope-fully moving along with the reminder that we are in such great need of God’s restoration. The reminders of this season are not far off from the image of the king-subject relationship. A true monarchy works such that the poor peasant and indeed all the people are at the whim of the king. With all that we can “do” in today’s world, this is a good reminder this season: God is God, and we are not. So we pray:
Turn again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see;
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.