As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
Nowhere in the Bible does the Lord tell us to seek happiness, to seek power over our enemies, to seek riches and earthly glory. Yes, the Bible does often remind us that we may be given those things, but nowhere are we told to seek them. We are instead told to fear God and follow His commandments, to seek what HE seeks for us: righteousness and humility and obedience. And whenever I think about how we are to humble ourselves to follow God, I am reminded again and again of the apostle Paul. Born as Saul of Tarsis, he was the Pharisee of Pharisees, a lead persecutor of the followers of Jesus Christ. And yet on that road to Damascus he became an apostle of Jesus and one of the persecuted! (Acts 9:1-23) He became Paul and gave up his rising star in the community of the Pharisees in order to follow the true calling of the Lord. No happiness, no riches, no earthly power or glory. In his own words:
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Paul sought no other gain than Christ, no other life but a life that was lived like Christ, no other righteousness than that attained through faith in Christ, no other death than one like Christ’s, and no other resurrection than that known by those who know Christ. Paul understood that whatever perfection he might know was only from Christ, from the righteousness and honor He bestows on those who love Him. All other honor and riches and glory, all other life or death, pale in comparison to that which we can know through faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
David knew this, too. He knew that despite all he might suffer–all the persecution, all the trials, all the enemies and warfare–his greatest reward came from knowing the one true and living God. In Psalms 17, David pleads before God to be rescued from his enemies.
8 Keep me as the apple of Your eye;
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,
9 From the wicked who oppress me,
From my deadly enemies who surround me.
David often prays in the Psalms for the Lord to save him from his enemies, sometimes even for victory and power over them. But most often, David simply seeks the presence of the Lord, knowing that when God is present His people will prevail. Despite all that he faced in his life–scorn from his own brothers, being hunted by King Saul, the death of his friend Jonathan, betrayal by his sons, and even the consequences of his own sins–David always came back to the Lord, seeking His mercy and His love.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
David wanted nothing more than for the Lord God to purify him, to make him worthy of the blessings he had already received. And it is that seeking spirit that MADE David worthy. We all must remember how Jesus Himself put it:
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
And so, at the end of David’s prayer about protection from his enemies, the Psalmist points out the difference between his enemies and himself:
13 Arise, O LORD,
Confront him, cast him down;
Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,
14 With Your hand from men, O LORD,
From men of the world who have their portion in this life,
And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their possession for their babes.
15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
The enemies of God seek to fill their bellies here in this earth, they have their portion right here. As Jesus said, those who seek to be known by men for glory and virtue will indeed have their reward in this life, but they shall have no reward in heaven. (Matthew 6:1-20) As Jesus said, we are to store up treasures in heaven, to seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. And that was the difference between David and his enemies: David sought the things of God while his enemies were satisfied with earthly things. While others sought power and riches and glory, David sought the righteousness of God.
Our goal is to seek to be more like our Lord. As David put it, to “awake in Your likeness.” This Hebrew word that David uses here for “likeness” is the same word used in the Ten Commandments, where we are told NOT to make idols that conform to the “likeness” of anything on the earth. (Deuteronomy 5:8) We are not to be conformed to anything in this world, but to be conformed to the likeness of God in heaven.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
God’s will for those who love Him is that we should be conformed to nothing other than the image of His Son, and in so doing we should then partake of the glory of His image. Not that we could ever be God! We cannot know or attain to His power and knowledge and wisdom and honor. But through Jesus Christ, we can attain a portion His righteousness, and through Christ we can attain eternal life with Him. And in Christ, we can, in this life, come to live and to love and to forgive and to heal just as Jesus Christ did. David certainly had the right idea: seek God’s righteousness, and be satisfied with awakening in the likeness of our Father in heaven.
Holy Lord God, I am always amazed that You have chosen even sinners like me to share life with Your Son, to know Your forgiveness and mercy, to experience the joys of Your love. I cannot thank You enough for the righteousness I have attained through the blood of Jesus Your Son. Loving and Gracious Lord, let me always seek Your face in righteousness, and let me be satisfied with nothing more or less than to always awake in Your likeness. Amen.