Where God Breaks Through

Gen. 33:10.---' I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God.'

No greater tribute than this could be paid by one man to another. The strange thing is that it was paid by a religious man to a brother who was not religious. For Jacob, with all his ugly faults was a religious man; whereas Esau was a pagan---a rough, lusty man of the desert. Yet it was of this man that Jacob said, ' I have seen thy face as it had been the face of God.'

What made him feel and say this? Jacob had recently passed through the radical experience of the Jabbok, an experience that had worked in him a profound alteration of character. On that night his conscience had been awakened. God spoke to him and convinced him of the shame and wretchedness of the wrong he had committed against his brother. He had been brought to a sense of sin. He had never realized this before, and he was crushed and broken by it. Full of this new shame and the old fear, he set out to met Esau. But when Esau saw him he ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him; asked all sorts of questions about his family, his children, and his earthly fortunes and appeared not to have harbored any resentment towards his brother. The wrong had been forgiven. The love of God broke out on that rugged weather-beaten face like sunlight through a thunder cloud. And Jacob burst out, ' I have seen thy face as it had been the face of God.'

This brings to our minds the fact that God is made real to people by people. Nature can do something to reveal Him. But Nature has no heart. God can speak to us in flowers only when we know that it is He who speaks. It needs a human heart to reveal Him fully.

In the Bible God speaks as in no other book. But even there it is through men He speaks. It is through what men have felt and said and done and been. This is seen most of all in the fact that He sent Christ, a Man like ourselves. He showed us ' His glory in the face of Jesus Christ.' Only thus could He show us His very self.

It is very comforting to think what this means. God can best be known to us through a Man, One who worked as a carpenter, who went in and out of humble homes and took little children on His knee. We might almost call it the homeliness of God. In all that is best in us, He is like ourselves. That is indeed what Christ said. He told us to picture God in the light of what is best in ourselves, and we would be right.

But this means that it is by people such as us that God breaks through to others. In a sense we are the only people who can make Him real to the great indifferent multitude. If they are to see Him at all they must see Him in our lives. If they are to understand how holy and loving and forgiving God is, they must learn it by seeing those qualities in us. There have been men and women who have so lived that people have seen God in them and been led to adore and worship Him.

It is a startling thing to realize that our treatment of others may be helping or hindering their experience of God. It ought to make us very careful. It should keep us living near to Christ where the spirit of love can be learned. We are always meeting people whose hearts are ready for the healing or the comforting that can make God's love real.

It was Esau's forgiveness that God got through to Jacob. Our forgiveness of others has more power to manifest God than anything else we do. For when we forgive, love is victorious in us over the spirit of evil at its worst. In that forgiving love God's grace shines through.

Can God's forgiveness ever really get through to people unless we forgive them? It is very doubtful if it can. This is the true absolution---our forgiveness of those who have wronged us, our friendship with those who have sinned. It is not always easy. We sometimes tell ourselves we must wait till they are penitent. But God did not wait for that when He sent Jesus. Our Lord came and died on the Cross, breathing forgiveness, in order to awaken the penitent spirit. And it happened. For the dying thief heard the prayer and saw on His face the love which pain and malice could not kill. God became real to him there and then. He saw that Face as it had been the face of God.

In Christ, timothy maranatha