Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Does God smile? 

Does He have a face, an eye, a hand? The Scripture is full of such anthropomorphisms. However, God is a spirit and cannot be seen or accurately depicted despite the fantasy artistic renderings of Him as an old grandfather-like human figure with a long, white beard.

Anthropomorphism may sound like a contagious disease! Not to worry, it is defined as the interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics. It is similar to personification, a figure of speech attributing human nature or characteristics to animals or inanimate objects or abstract ideas as for literary or artistic effect. I use it freely in my forthcoming book Fables of God's Kingdom for Grown-Ups which I've posted one by one on my blog in the recent past.

So...does God smile? Some people wrongly think that God always seems angry, is always raining on our parade, imposing negatives and rules about what we shouldn't do. On the contrary, Scripture employs the anthropomorphism of “God's face shining” (smiling) with pleasure upon us especially by the use of that term in the Old Testament. Its early first use is in the book of Numbers 6:14-26, the instruction of God for Moses to pass on to Aaron who in turn was to bless the people with those words. I quote from the Amplified version: 

“The Lord bless you, and watch guard and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you. The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you, and give you peace [tranquility of heart and life continually].”

Then it is picked up in the Psalm 4, Psalm 31, Psalm 67, and repeatedly in Psalm 80. The search for that phrase in the foregoing Psalms about “lift up the light of Thy countenance” and “make Thy face shine upon us” is an encouraging affirmation. 

How does a child or adult know that he has the approval of someone? The person “lifts up his face,” his face lights up, and he smiles! We can “make” or “cause” God's face to shine on us by responding to His love, by walking with Him, abiding in Him, being present to Him, and obeying Him. God actually takes pleasure in the human children whom He has created. We are not His slaves. It is not our productiveness or activity even on His behalf that He delights in. It is being present to Him. 

Written first by the prophet Zephaniah to Israel, the following Scripture is by implication also for God's people, for each of us who bear His name. “The Lord your God is in your midst...; He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (3:17). Here is another anthropomorphism: the Lord gets excited and loves us at the same time quietly and deeply and also with shouts of joy over us! Another version says God sings for joy over us!

A great way to start the new year and to begin each day is to “lift up our own countenance” to the Lord, smile at Him, and intentionally plan to give Him pleasure and delight, to walk in His presence joyfully under the smile of His approval and favor.

Then whatever may come during the day, during the coming year, during the rest of our lives, we may, as the Proverbs woman of virtue was said to have done, “smile at the future” (31:25). Another version expands the word future as “the latter days or time to come.” 

Especially for those of us in our chronological latter days our personal  scenario may seem dark and foreboding. And we fear that the world as we know it is also in its latter days. Nevertheless, we may look toward the future not with apprehension, dread, or fear but with a smile knowing that at the end of our life's journey we will receive the loving welcome and approving smile of our heavenly Father.

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