“Restore us, O Lord God Almighty, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:19)
One of the things I am finding challenging during this coronavirus pandemic are the masks.
I don’t mind wearing a mask. Sure it’s a bit odd and uncomfortable but it’s not that bad and it protects others so I am more than happy to do so. Neither am I concerned about others wearing masks either. After all, I wear a mask to protect others, not myself, and so when others wear masks they are acting for my protection.
Masks are necessary for the situation we find ourselves in. Yet I find masks difficult because they put up a barrier between one person and another. Facial expressions are important for communication and we don’t communicate as fully if we have half of our faces covered. We cannot see when someone laughs, smiles, looks glum or downcast. Masks put a barrier between you and me.
I look forward to the day when masks are no longer necessary in everyday interactions. In the meantime, I need to remember that while those around me wear a mask (and I do too), God does not. I need the corrective of God’s word to stop me from thinking there is a barrier between God and I as well.
Psalm 80 is a fascinating psalm, imploring God to come and be gracious, to save his people and to bless them. Three times in the psalm the request to God is summarised with these words: “make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”
Often in the Bible a picture of God’s judgment and rebuke is that he turns his face away from his people. “Do not hide your face from us!” cry God’s people again and again. The worst thing imaginable is for Almighty God, our Creator, to turn his face away from us, to hide his face from us, to cover his face from shining upon us.
You, like me, may miss the light of people’s faces shining upon you in the street, in shops and in restaurants. But God’s face is not turned away from us in Jesus Christ. His face shines upon us because of what Jesus has done for us. “Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand” says Psalm 80 verse 17, looking forward to the coming of Jesus. “Then we will not turn away from you” the psalm continues.
Because Jesus, God’s ‘right hand man’ came, and died, and rose again, God’s face is turned toward us. We may frequently turn away from him, but he never turns away from us. His face shines upon us daily. Let’s remember that when all those around us are masks, God never hides his face from us.