When do you look at yourself in a mirror? Upon waking (albeit scary)? When shaving or fixing your hair? Applying makeup? Getting ready to go out? Are there times when you don’t want to look at yourself—when you’re sick or haven’t had enough sleep? Many of us turn away from unpleasant things, even our own faces, but others stare like those rubber-necking on a highway. Horror movies are a real turn-off for me, as are scary previews on streaming channels. I grieve that our world has turned from the love of the beautiful to an insatiable appetite for that which is ugly and frightening. God’s way is the way of beauty; sin’s way is that of foulness. When God created the perfect world, he called it all good, and he delighted to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden. But after the first couple sinned, they hid from God, not wanting him to see their guilt, nakedness, and shame. Because God is omniscient, he knew, even before them, that they would be repulsive in his sight, as is all sin. Adam and Eve were hiding from themselves, their shame, guilt, and from their punishment for disobeying God. They were hiding from the very knowledge of evil that they had sought from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Isn’t that what we do—as soon as we sin, we realize that our motivation and desires were opposed to God’s? But God knows us and calls for us to repent, the same way he called out to Adam and Eve, asking, “Where are you?” (Genesis 2:9)
God’s omniscience & patience
Much later in the history of God’s rebellious people, the prophet Jeremiah faithfully carried God’s word to his people in exile. The Lord assured him, “For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes.” (Jeremiah 16:17) We may think we have secrets, but not with God, who knows every inclination of our hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’” (Jeremiah 17:9-10) The truth and implication of God’s omniscience is especially relevant for believers. Jesus said, “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” (Luke 8:16-18) As we reflect on God’s ability to know everything in our hearts and minds, we should also cringe, knowing the less-than-pretty real-life movies he tolerates. I’m sure that is why David prayed, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.” (Psalm 51:9) David knew that God is delighted to look with favor upon those who fear him and that he can’t hide from the Lord. So, instead, he begs God not to look at him and, further, to completely erase all his sins. David wanted to live “Coram Deo,” in God’s holy presence. When we repent, we are also begging God to help us live Coram Deo, with his face turned toward us, not away.
Lord, My Sins!
Micah predicted that his people in exile would “…cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.” (Micah 3:4) God’s silence is an authentic aspect of his judgment. In Romans 1-3, Paul expounds on God’s refusal to intercede for those who reject him—which is the opposite of what David sought and what we would desire if we love Christ. Will we cry out in repentance, like David, “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities?” God is faithful to forget our sins and remember them no longer (Jeremiah 31:34). Watson writes, “Have you been penitentially humbled? The Lord will never upbraid you with your former sins. After Peter wept we never read that Christ upbraided him with his denial of him. God has cast your sins into the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19). How? Not as cork, but as lead. The Lord will never in a judicial way account for them. When he pardons, God is as a creditor that blots the debt out of his book (Isa. 43:25). Some ask the question, whether the sins of the godly shall be mentioned at the last day. The Lord said he will not remember them, and he is blotting them out.” (1) When Peter first met Jesus, he was confronted by the Lord’s miraculous provision of fish after a night of catching nothing. “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8). “We must all, like Peter, own ourselves to be sinful men, therefore Jesus Christ might justly depart from us. But we must beseech him that he would not depart; for woe unto us if the Savior depart from sinners! Rather let us entreat him to come and dwell in our hearts by faith, that he may transform and cleanse them.” (2) “These words were not spoken by a demon or an enemy of Jesus, but by Simon Peter, his own disciple; when he sees the identity of Jesus, he says, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.’ Holiness is scary, but oh, that all of us would understand the grace, mercy and compassion that is borne by that same Man of holiness who says to people whom he makes uncomfortable, ‘Fear not! Peace be with you!’” (3) David’s request for God to expunge his sins after his confession is a model for us, rather than Peter’s impulsive, ‘leave me!’ Let us rather confess and repent living “Coram Deo,” in God’s holy presence because of the love, mercy, righteousness, and atonement of Jesus Christ.
Search me, Lord!
“All of us are in danger of stopping short of full repentance. One might suppose that, having already repented a great deal, they have repented enough. This is anything but true, however, for repentance must never cease. Another might look around at others they know and think that their own repentance is so far ahead of the repentance of those other people that they can rest for a while. Yet in doing so, they add grievously to the terrible sin of pride that already besets them. Many face the incredible danger of a lazy and sluggish disposition that fully intends to repent but never really does. All are in danger of living certain sins and their pleasures so greatly that genuine repentance cannot happen.” (4) In Psalm 139, David expounds on God’s complete, infinite knowledge of his mind, heart, and ways. He draws close to his Creator to examine and guide him. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether…Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:1-4, 8) David’s is the cry of a repentant believer who has looked into a mirror and seen his failures, a real “doer” of God’s Word, as James describes. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:23-25). Lord, help us to seek your face in our ongoing repentance. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:17-18; 32:20; Joshua 7:19; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Job 14:13; 34:21-22; Psalm 10:1; 13:1; 27:8-9; Proverbs 5:21; Isaiah 6:5; 8:17; Jeremiah 16:17; 32:18-19; Ezekiel 39:29; Micah 3:4.
- Watson, Thomas, The Doctrine of Repentance, p. 98, Banner of Truth Trust, 2016 (1668)
- Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Luke 5:8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/luke-5.html
- Sproul, R. C., A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 5:8-11, Electronic Book, 2016.
- R Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 282-283, Crossway, 2002
July 8, 2021