The Present Vision

Ps. 17:15.---' I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.'

The tendency of Christian believers to fix thought upon the deeper joys of the resurrection life is so prevalent that the blessedness of present realities is greatly minimized, if not altogether obscured. It is because of this fact in Christian experience that such words as, 'I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness' and similar passages, are so generally taken as referring to the future life quite apart from the present; whereas, no doubt, on reflection it will readily be seen that they bear little or no relation to the future. Such words are constantly used as referring to the awaking from the sleep of death. But the Old Testament Jew knew little or nothing of the future life; therefore his thoughts would naturally be centered upon the present realities and enjoyment of Jehovah's Presence; and a true realization of that Presence and the nearness of God is heaven upon earth to the present-day Christian believer.

All through the Psalms there is constant indication of an eager desire---a 'panting' for God; and the petition, 'Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance,' clearly indicates the desire for present experience. In the Psalm before us, the singer id drawing a contrast between 'men of the world' who 'have their portion in this life' and himself as he turns from material things to the spiritual, and he exclaims, 'As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness.' It is therefore the consciousness of God as a reality in the present, rather than the anticipation of a future experience to which he refers when he says, 'I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.' The Septuagint has it, 'I shall be satisfied when thy glory appears'---when I realize the manifestation of Thyself.

Now this manifestation, this seeing God,---so satisfying to the believing soul---is the reward of righteousness: 'I will behold thy face in righteousness.' Jesus declares in the beatitude that it is the pure in heart who see God; and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews bids us 'follow . . . holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.' Nothing can be conceived of as being more satisfying, or a greater privilege, than this beholding God. Yet it can be a present experience, and the thought of it is not to be relegated to the future life only. 'No man hath seen God at any time'---that is to say, in any material sense---but it is possible to behold the Lord because in a more real and blessed, spiritual, manner. Jesus plainly refers to this in His declaration to His disciples: 'A little while and ye shall not see me' [John 16:16]. Though the authorized Version has 'see' in both places, the Revised version has 'behold' and 'see'; and there is good reason for this, because the two Greek words used are totally different; the word used in the first instance refers to seeing with the bodily organ, and the word in the other signifies inward perception, or inward vision. The statement of Jesus therefore becomes at once intelligible; the disciples were shortly to be denied their Lord's bodily Presence; but they would have the greater and more permanent blessing of a continual inward vision of Him. The Christian believer therefore can 'see God' in a spiritual sense by a living faith. With the 'pure in heart' there is nothing to prevent the direct contact of the soul with God. and who can limit the blessedness and power of this beholding God! What purity of heart and life there must be to maintain this spiritual enjoyment. Sin separates. Only the child of God 'sees' God. God does not reveal Himself to the impenitent. The skeptic in his blindness of soul, or the impure man in the darkness of his sin, has no capacity to see God. A head illumined by knowledge, however great, is a very different thing from a heart enlightened by faith. No faith, no vision. There must be the right moral capacity; not the mere possession of faith, but the exercise of faith---a living faith; a faith which reaches out and is unsatisfied until it touches and can see.

What is it to see God? Rare souls may have the vision through a life of spiritual contemplation. We may learn this kernel of Christ's teaching. 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' Blessed are those who have preserved internal sanctity of soul; who are conscious of no secret deceit; who are the same in act as they are in desire; who conceal no thought, no tendencies of thought, from their own conscience; who are faithful and sincere witnesses, before the tribunal of their own judgments, of all that passes within their mind. Such as these shall see God in Nature and in Man himself. Responsive to the divine moods of Nature which improve and soften the heart, sharing the best thoughts of mankind, maintaining the strictest correspondence between thought and speech, speech and truth, we have intercourse with the Universal God in who we live and move and have our being.

So, then, there is a demand for the right moral condition, if we would see God; holiness, without which no man can see Him. Purity of heart, of desire, of motive---these are the essentials to our seeing God. And when that 'likeness' of god is seen, what a power it is in the believer's experience, in guarding the sanctity and preserving the purity of a holy life! The Psalmist would say, 'When I awake'---awake from sin which blinds and obscures---'and behold thy face in righteousness'---through which only pure eyes can see---'I shall be satisfied.' 'In God's light we shall see light.' To many this glorious vision has come, and they know the rapturous joy and satisfaction of it; to all it will come, if there is a desire for it. Faith never goes home with an empty basket. 'Ask and ye shall receive,' in this matter also---the 'beholding of His face in righteousness.'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha