To see God is an incredible privilege, but it’s also an ongoing revelation as we walk in surrender and humility with Him. Jesus came to reveal the Father, and promised that the pure in heart would see Him.
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16)
We can learn a lot from the life of Jacob, who started off as a somewhat arrogant and dishonest younger brother and ended up a great patriarch. In fact, God permitted that He be named with the name of Jacob – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is no small honour, but there was a long journey of spiritual growth before the young, self-centred, and greedy man found real faith and intimacy with God. Part of this journey was in learning to see God, and I’ve often caught myself wondering why He should manifest Himself so powerfully to such a rogue. This, of course, is pride, for Jacob is no different to you or I. If anything, he was possibly more honest in his dishonesty. He didn’t pretend to be anything else. But God, as He does with all of us, had plans for Jacob.
The necessity to see God.
When we talk of ‘seeing’ God is spiritual rather than literal sight. The Bible tells us that none can look upon Him and live. Yet the very fabric of our faith demands that we hear, know, and see God. We cannot have faith in something we do not see in the spirit. Faith is the substance of things unseen. It is the something in us that sees in the spirit what we cannot see in the material or tangible sense and on which we can stand and believe. God, in His grace, reveals Himself to us in non-destructive ‘bits’ that together create a spiritual picture of who and what He is. Without this, we could have no intimacy with God, relationship with Him, or any faith in Him. To see God is absolutely necessary to our faith. We simply cannot believe without it.
That God Himself considers it a necessity is proven beyond doubt in Christ, who is the image of the ‘unseen’ God. The Bible tells us that when we see Jesus, we see God. It’s a truth seldom taught and part of the great blessing of salvation. Through Christ, we are able to see God and live in the full revelation of who and what He is. We are able to see His character and nature and understand the magnitude of all He has done, is doing, and will do for us. Our God knew the absolute necessity that we see Him and sent His Son to make that possible. In Jesus we see His great love, mercy, grace, compassion, power… Everything Jesus said and did is the visible manifestation of God to empower us to believe and continue in faith.
To see God requires desire.
I have no doubt that somewhere in Jacob was a desire for the higher things of God. He believed he had a destiny but, like so many of us, set out to make it happen for himself. The need within drove him to make foolish decisions based entirely on self. These choices came with a cost, exile being top of the list. Yet his destiny, his place in the purposes of God, remained because God is faithful. Today’s verse is the first example of His working in Jacob’s life to bring him to the place of humility and obedience. It’s not surprising that it brought Jacob to the place where he was able to see God. While he didn’t have the grace of Christ or the cross, he nevertheless had the certainty that God was in that place. He saw God with his spirit and knew it as truth.
For all the dramatic effect of Jacob’s dream, this was simply the beginning of his journey. He had yet to see God in relation to his own life. Or his life in relation to God, which is more relevant. This visitation no doubt stirred up the desire within him, but it was still self-focused. In all of this, the ‘me’ part of Jacob still wanted to see from a self-perspective where he retained control of his life and destiny and God remained somehow separate. It is only when he has been thwarted and humbled by his treatment at the hands of his father-in-law that the rough edges are rubbed off. Finally, it is the reality of his actions and his impending meeting with Esau that bring him to the place where he can really see God. His desire became God-focused as the sovereign source of all.
We see God when we are blind to self.
The surest impediment of our desire to see God is always self. A focus on self blinds us to God or, at the very least, distorts what we see. When our motivation is to see Him for what He can do for us, we will always be disappointed. We break the greatest commandment – to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That’s the whole of us. Self has no place. Everything we are is focused on a single desire to see God. We cannot look at God and ourselves at the same time. It’s a black-and-white one or the other. The Bible tells us in many different ways that when we seek God first, everything else is added. Trying to thrust self into the relationship will always dilute our spiritual vision because self has a ‘me-first’ attitude that defies the true revelation of God.
To be blind to self means, essentially, to give it no importance. Our dreams, desires, goals, and aspirations have no relevance. All that matters is God and His sovereignty. Of course, self isn’t that easily shaken off. This is the reason why we don’t always see God or see Him clearly. Our spiritual perception varies according to circumstances, moods, situations, and difficulties. To be blind to self requires choice and constant discipline. It’s a daily decision, not a one-off declaration. But God has also said that He will give us the desires of our hearts. We usually interpret this as being that He gives us what we desire. But it also means that He will give us the right desire if we ask for it. He will graciously respond to a prayer for desire to see Him if we choose to be blind to self.
To see God is an ongoing revelation.
The beauty of relationship with God is that we can never know the full measure of Him. He is limitless, so we will spend our entire lives in ongoing revelation of who and what He is. We see God a little more and a little clearer with each new day. Our spirits are empowered by the Spirit in us for greater discernment. We will find that we see Him in the here-and-now rather than only in hindsight. I’ve had moments where I’m prompted to say and do nothing because I can see God working before my eyes. This is His grace and the power of the Spirit working in us. At other times, it’s only after the fact that I look back and see, almost to the moment, where God stepped in. Sometimes, it’s years later that I realise His hand in a situation I never fully understood until then.
The vastness of God is so immeasurable that we could never take all of Him in. Our human capacity simply cannot do it. Thankfully, He knows this, and lovingly reveals Himself in an ongoing process of intimacy and fellowship. If we ever find ourselves in a situation where we see God the same today as we did yesterday, we need to relook our relationship with Him. Lives of surrendered worship mean that we must continually grow in our knowledge of Him and our ability to see Him in our lives. Be it the tiny details or the massive calamities, God is eternally present, whether we see it or not. He does not change. What does change is our attitude. Humility is the way to see God. Surrender is the way to see God. The more of ourselves we yield, the more we will discern Him.
How to see God.
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) Jacob had to learn this the hard way. We, by God’s grace, have Jesus to teach us. But before we get all tangled in the ramifications of ‘pure,’ it simply means ‘single-minded’ or totally focused. Pure means unmixed or undiluted. It does not mean good, righteous, or without sin. To see God, we must have a pure – unmixed or undiluted – desire in our hearts to see Him. We must determine to seek God above all else and decide to set our hearts on Him alone. He desires this and sent His Son to make it possible. As He is in all things, Jesus is the way. If we fix our focus on Him, He will grant us the desire of our hearts – to see God in every aspect of our lives.
Thank You, gracious Father, for Your great mercy and grace in Jesus. We ask that You give us the desire to see You above all else, for we know that this is something You desire in us. Help us to learn from Jacob and to make the choice to be blind to self.