The Vision of the Face
Psalm 17:15
As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness.

The opening phrase of this verse is expressive of a noble singularity. "As for me." It is the utterance of moral manhood. The Psalmist has been speaking of those who have their portion in this life, and he says, "Be the animals that you are! As for me, I will seek higher things. As a being made in the image of God, I will find my satisfactions in contemplation of and assimilation to that image." "As for me" is the language of true soul nobility. And there are times when we too must dare to utter it, if we would be true to our higher nature and count for anything in the world. The men of the period when this Psalm was written had very dim and vague notions of immortality. With them a life beyond the grave was but a fitful hope or a sublime peradventure, and expressions such as this are to be interpreted of the present life and experience, and not of the heavenly state. The vision of the Divine face here anticipated is not the beatific vision after death, or that only ill a very secondary and shadowy sense, but the daily experience of the earthly life. The Psalm is poetry, couched in poetical imagery. Life to the Psalmist would be worth living just in the proportion ill which he could have the sight of God. What, then, did he mean by the Divine face? The more enlightened prophets and lawgivers of old had a profound sense of the danger of thinking of God otherwise than in His spiritual relations to men. Hence the prohibition to make any pictorial image or statuesque representation of Deity. Yet there is a very real meaning in this expression, "the face of God," and it may be a very real vision to us all. In the face, character is preeminently revealed. The face is the man. Look into the face and you read the soul. The play of all the affections is there. There are faces that are the rendezvous of all the virtues. The face of God then stands for the nature of God; and the Psalmist's anticipation of beholding that face meant the prospect of his happy realisation of the Divine gentleness, strength, and righteousness. It is men's faces that are the face of God. As His spiritual qualities are bodied forth in men's lives, so may we see Divine lineaments in the features of men. We are taught to behold "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The true glory of God is in His moral attributes, and Christ incarnated those Divine qualities in His nature. Whoso looked up into His face saw there the glory and the beauty of the Ineffable; and so many a human countenance, if not the face, is a face of God: for the radiance of a Divine love, the lustre of a Divine purity, the patience of a Divine charity, the tenderness of a Divine sympathy is there. Each of these is a lineament of Deity. The dying Bunsen, as he looked up into the eyes of his wife bending over him, said, "In thy face have I seen the Eternal." Few artists have dared to essay the Divine form and features. But I once saw in the gallery at Florence a picture which very much struck me, and the memory of it has been with me ever since. It was by Carlo Dolci, and entitled "L'Eterno Padre," — the Eternal Father. It was a bold and unconventional conception. There was no attempt to deify the figure. It was just a man's form and face, and not only that, but the face was full of human grief and misery. An aspect of ineffable sadness was in the eyes, and the whole countenance wore an expression of infinite sorrow and solicitude. And surely there must be an unutterable sorrow at the heart of the world! This vision of the face, then — when are we to see it? Tomorrow. "I shall be satisfied when I awake" — that is, tomorrow morning, every morning, this morning. Include in the Psalmist's expression the conception of the Divine nearness. To see a face, you must be near the person. Near, to faith's apprehension, is the Divine presence. Something more than vicinity is meant. Intimacy of fellowship is implied. Familiar interchange of thought and affection. There is another thought hinted by the figure of the face, namely, propitiousness. When he speaks of beholding the face of God, it is in the confidence that God is his friend and not his enemy. Oriental monarchs only showed the face to those to whom they intended to be element and gracious. The Psalmist was happy in the conviction that, humbly endeavouring to walk in the ways of righteousness, he could look even God in the face, and that His face would not be turned away....There are two elements in this satisfaction.

1. The perception of the Divine image.

2. The assimilation to that image. In contemplating that likeness we grow into it.

(J. Halsey.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

WEB: As for me, I shall see your face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with seeing your form. For the Chief Musician. By David the servant of Yahweh, who spoke to Yahweh the words of this song in the day that Yahweh delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said,

The Two Awakings
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