A little girl was drawing a picture in her classroom. The teacher asked her what she was drawing. She said, “God.” The teacher said, “Oh, no! You can never draw the picture of God. Nobody has ever seen God.” The girl said, “They will when I am done!”
Like this little girl, today, I will show you how to see God. It is a very challenging and humbling topic. Many people today do not even believe the existence of God, far from having any expectation to see God. The truth is, without expectation, things become even more hidden from their sight.
In neuroscience, there is a fascinating brain function called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It allows us to see what we expect to see and filter out what we do not. For example, a friend of mine was thinking about getting a Volkswagen Tiguan. She went for a test drive. After that, she keeps seeing Tiguan on the road.
Suddenly, there seem to be more Tiguan around us. Has the number of Tiguan suddenly grown in New Jersey that it has become so omnipresent? No, according to the RAS, we just happen to notice what our mind focuses on. We did not see them previously because we ignored their presence.
Since God is truly omnipresent, we should see him everywhere. Jesus has given us a condition to see God. He said,
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mat 5:8).
This is the sixth blessing in the Beatitudes. Some people think Jesus meant that we would see God in heaven after we die because, according to the Hebrew tradition, we are not supposed to see God. God said to Moses that,
“You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Ex 33:20).
Paul said, “God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29), so it is dangerous to be at God’s presence. However, just ten verses before this verse in Exodus, it says,
“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Ex 33:11a)
Does it sound confusing and contradictory? It says Moses was talking to God, face to face, like a friend, but ten verses later, God says that you cannot see my face and live. What is this about?
If you look at the context of the entire Bible, there is no contradiction at all because when it says people saw God face to face, it was always at a downgraded version of God. For example, Jacob saw God in the darkness of the night. Job saw God through God’s amazing creation.
Let me give you an analogy. Our eyes cannot stare at the bright shining sun at noon because the sun could damage our eyes, but we can safely enjoy the big and beautiful orange sun at dawn and dusk. Even during the day, we can wear a pair of sunglasses to protect our eyes and see in the bright sunshine. We can see a downgraded version of the sun.
In the same way, when the Bible talks about people seeing God face to face, it is usually a downgraded version of God, or in a condition that is safe for people to see.
According to Jesus, the condition to see God is through a pure heart. King David asked God to create in him a pure heart so that he can be at the presence of God. He wrote in Psalm 51:10-11,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps 51:10–11).
So, if you want to see God, ask for the blessing of a pure heart. However, be careful what you ask for because a pure heart does not come easy.
Like pure gold that must go through a crucible, a pure heart comes out of the refining fire of adversity. God says through Isaiah,
“See, I have refined you, but not like silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it.” (Is 48:10–11a).
Life is full of adversity. Sometimes, God allows adversity to refine us. I hope the current adversity of the COVID-19 does not break us but build us up to a purer heart. If we can see the tests and trials of life as a refining fire, we have a positive attitude.
Notice the last sentence, “for my own sake, for my own sake, I do it.” God purifies us for God’s own sake, so your prayer for the blessing of a pure heart is likely to be granted because God desires that you have a pure heart. It glorifies him.
Previously, I mentioned “pruning” as another analogy of purification. Jesus said,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” (Jn 15:1–2).
The Father prunes the vine so that it will bear more fruit—for God’s own sake. Being pruned or refined is a painful process. However, the good news is your heart will ultimately become pure, and you will see God in His magnificent beauty. It is worth the pain because seeing God is priceless, and it leads to Enlightenment, which is the next blessing.
Before we continue, let us review our series on the Eight Blessings so that we can put the current topic in the context. As mentioned before, these eight messages form the acrostic CAREFREE.
These eight blessings are in sequence because without Consciousness, there is no Abandonment, and without Abandonment, there is not Rebirth, and without Rebirth, there is not Edification, and so on.
We are now on the sixth blessing: Refinement. So, we have two more blessings to receive “Enlightenment” and “Endurance,” which will be discussed in the next two weeks.
Refinement is critical because it is the precursor to Enlightenment—the stage where we bear fruit.
The timing to receive each blessing is different from person to person. Some people mature quickly, and others are late bloomers. According to the experts, on average, it takes 20-30 years to get there. If you don’t get started seeking the kingdom of God when you are 20 or 30, you won’t get there before 40 or 50.
You are very blessed if you started young in Sunday School without interruption for about 30 years because the rest of your life can be the best of your life with such solid spiritual foundation.
Now let us talk about refinement. What is pure gold? 24-carat gold is pure gold. What is a pure heart? Based on our key verse in Matthew 5:8, the heart that allows you to see God is a pure heart.
l will use the stories of a couple of people who have been through the refining fire and ultimately seen God: Jacob and Job.
Jacob had reached the point of seeing God face to face. The Bible says,
“For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” (Ge 32:30b).
Jacob was on his way back to his home in Canaan after spending twenty years away serving Laban, his father-in-law, but before arriving home, he stopped and spent a night alone. He was afraid of seeing his brother, whom he had deceived two decades ago. That night, he met God and wrestle with God.
The Bible said that God could not prevail against Jacob. Interestingly, God could not win against the 97 years old Jacob. That implies that it is a downgraded version of God. Then God “struck him on his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.”
Despite the pain in the hip, Jacob held onto God and insisted that “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Then God asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” (Jacob means Swindler or Supplanter.) Then God said to him,
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Ge 32:28).
God said he was no longer a swindler, but a winner. He was given a new name, Israel, because he had won the struggle with God and with people. It implies that the person he wrestled with was both God and human. He could have very well been Jesus—God in human form.
In the previous lesson, I mentioned that “righteousness,” according to Jesus, is a relational term rather than a legal term. Righteousness is living the right relationships with God and people. According to Jesus, the ultimate purpose of life is to love God and people, nothing more and nothing less.
It is easy to love the lovely people, but it is hard to love the unlovable. In such a case, Jesus expects you to practice Forbearance, signified by forgiving and forgetting. The reason Jacob stays behind alone for the night was that he wanted to sort out his relationships—to forgive, to forget, or to reconciled.
God gave Jacob the new name—Israel—because he had reached the right relationship with God and people. The next morning, we read about his reconciliation with his alienated twin brother, Esau.
In other words, a pure heart is a heart that holds no grudges and guilts. Jacob reached this point at 97 years old. So, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet seen God face to face. You are all very young compared to Jacob.
There were a few people who reached spiritual maturity at an early age. Jacob’s son Joseph seems to have reached his enlightenment or refinement since he was only seventeen. Again, do not get caught up with numbers. Let us focus on real maturity. It does not matter you are a late bloomer or early bloomer, as long as you bloom, and you will!
The second person who had been through the refinement and seen God is Job. He said after a grueling experience of losing his wealth, family, and health,
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5).
Most people have heard about God through their parents, teachers, churches, and Sunday School classes. They inherited the “religion.” However, you cannot see God until God becomes your personal God rather than someone passed down “by the hearing of the ear.”
Both Jacob and Job developed a pure heart through a painful process of refinement. The two stories are very different—one is a journey in Genesis, but the other is an intellectual debate in the Wisdom Literature.
However, they both interpret each other and enrich the understanding of spiritual refinement.
Job’s story gives us a hint of what happened during Jacob’s wrestling with God. Jacob was preparing for his final encounter with his brother. Would he win his brother back, or would he be killed by his brother?
You know the story. Jacob was the younger of the twin. His brother Esau was a hairy and macho man. Esau represents our flesh—our outer self and Jacob represents our spirit—our inner self.
In fact, the name Esau, Edom, and Adam are closely related based on the root word that means “redness.”
John Calvin said that God created us with a “sense of divinity.” Every human being has a divine self that wants to win over the flesh. In short, Esau is our ego, and Jacob is our divinity.
Esau enjoyed gaming and fooling around with the Canaanite girls. Canaanites were idol worshipers, so Esau symbolizes someone who goes with the flow of the secular culture.
Jacob, on the other hand, had a higher purpose. He did not fool around but like to put things in order. With a divine dream, he wanted to inherit God’s covenant to his grandfather Abraham to bless the world.
Have you noticed these twin brothers inside you? Your life is never satisfied until you let your Jacob win. You will never see God face to face if you allow Esau to win because God said,
“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom 9:13).
Allegorically, you are Rebecca, the mother of the twin. It does not matter whether you are a man or a woman. Your job is to help Jacob win. In the story, Rebecca played a significant role in assisting Jacob to win.
I hope you are getting the allegorical interpretation of this story. It is fascinating, but I hope I am conveying it clearly.
In today’s context, Esau represents the “Adam” in you, and Jacob the “Christ” inside you. The word Adam means “human,” and Jesus is the divinity. You must let Jesus win and be the master of your humanity so that you are purified and able to see God.
The good news is that Jacob is predestined to win. During the pregnancy, Rebecca asked God why she was suffering so much with the twins fighting inside her.
“And the LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” (Ge 25:23).
Notice it says, “the elder shall serve the younger.” It means Esau shall serve Jacob.
Like Rebecca, we have these twins inside us struggling against each other, maybe daily. Sometimes, you feel that your flesh is winning over your divinity, but the good news is your divinity is predestined to win because “the elder shall serve the younger.” Your flesh will serve your divinity.
That is when you will see God.
Job was also confident that he would survive the refinement. He said,
“But he (God) knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:10).
You take the way that Rebecca took—to help Jacob win, and he will. You will come out as pure gold, and you will see God.
We all are Rebeccas, let us help our Jacob win and let us make our Esau serve Jacob.
May God bless you with a pure heart and be able to see God.
Coming up, we will talk about Enlightenment!