Christian Articles Archive

Seek His Face Continually (Psalm 105:4)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (8:26)

Gerrit van Honthorst (1590-1656), 'King David Playing the Harp' (1611), 82x65cm, Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Holland.
Gerrit van Honthorst (1590-1656), 'King David Playing the Harp' (1611), 82x65cm, Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Holland.

David thoroughly enjoys the Lord. The first six verses of Psalm 105 are a great example of this.[1] He gives us 10 commands to turn our hearts to the Lord:

  1. Give thanks (vs. 1a)
  2. Call on his name (vs. 1b)
  3. Make him known (vs. 1c)
  4. Sing to him (vs. 2a, b)
  5. Tell of his acts (vs. 2c)
  6. Glory in him (vs. 3a)
  7. Rejoice (vs. 3b)
  8. Look to his strength (vs. 4a)
  9. Seek him always (vs. 4b)
  10. Remember his wonders, miracles, and judgments (vs. 5)

But the command that stands out to me this morning as I read Psalm 105 is verse 4:

"Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!" (Psalm 105:4, ESV)

The passage contains three ideas: seeking diligently, seeking God's presence, and doing so continually. Let's spend a few moments pondering these:

1. Seeking the Lord

Two nearly synonymous Hebrew words are used to express the idea of seeking in verse 4. Each has a slightly different flavor.

  • dārash, "seek with care," that is, because you care" about someone or something, "examine, inquire" about something, then "seek," often, "seek to know" something, "be intent" on seeking something (verse 4a).[2]
  • bāqash, "seek" to find, "look for" an object; "seek to," "try to," "seek to obtain," then "seek" one's presence, as here (verse 4b).[3]

In our verse they serve as synonyms. These words are often used together in parallel in passages about seeking Yahweh.

"From [the places of your exile] you will seek the LORD your God
and you will find him,
if you search after him with all your heart
and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29)

"Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob." (Psalm 24:6)

"... those who have turned back from following the LORD,
who do not seek the LORD
or inquire of him." (Zephaniah 1:6)

"Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
who do his just commands;
seek righteousness; seek humility;
perhaps you may be hidden
on the day of the anger of the LORD." (Zephaniah 2:3)

"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near...." (Isaiah 55:6)

When you seek someone, you look diligently until you find him or her. Jesus gives us three parables of seeking something lost -- the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son (Luke 15).

"What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?" (Luke 15:8)

There is an urgency, a diligence, a single determination about seeking. A refusal to give up. A willingness to leave 99 sheep and scour the hillsides until you find that one lost sheep. A single focus that drives you. We are to seek the Lord with such diligence!

2. Seeking the Lord, His Strength, and His Presence

"Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!" (Psalm 105:4, ESV)

Three objects are given in this verse:

  1. The Lord, Yahweh, the Person, our God.
  2. Yahweh's strength.[4]
  3. Yahweh's presence.

We are to seek the Lord Yahweh himself. Not for what he can do for us, but for who He IS.

And we are to seek his strength, as well. So often we rely on our own strength. My three-year-old granddaughter insists that she wants to "do it myself!" without help or assistance. And that's good, part of growing up. But often, as adults, our pride keeps us from calling on God. Like immature children, we think we know it all. Asking for help would demonstrate that we aren't self-sufficient, and so we refuse to -- that is, until we become humbled enough by circumstances that we are willing to seek Jesus' help when we need it.

Then, in Psalm 105:4, David urges us to seek God's presence. The Hebrew word is pânîym. ESV and NRSV translate it "presence," while the NIV and KJV use the more literal, "face." In Hebrew thought, the face is often a substitute for the self or the feelings of the self. So "to hide one's face" is to show aversion or disgust. "To turn away the face" is to reject. "To raise the face" is to show favor, respect, importance. For one's face to "shine" is to smile. In the Aaronic blessing, we read:

"The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26, ESV)

The expression "face to face" denotes close, personal contact. Jacob wrestled with Yahweh and saw him "face to face" (Genesis 32:30).

"The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face,
as a man speaks to his friend." (Exodus 33:11a)

So the face of God indicates his intimate presence. Frankly, I envy Moses!

We are commanded in Psalm 105:4 to "seek his face," his presence. Seek it diligently, with all our heart. David cries out:

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?" (Psalm 42:2, NRSV)

3. Seeking the Lord Continually

The third idea in Psalm 105:4 is that we are to seek the Lord, his strength, and his intimate and immediate presence continually. The Hebrew noun is tāmîd, "continuity, continuance, unceasingness," here used as an adverb, "continually."[5]

We don't just seek the intimate presence of the Lord once or occasionally, but constantly, continually, unceasingly. We seek him in our working and in our playing, in our struggles and in our joys. Our seeking his presence is an unremitting desire. We can never have enough.

How about you, my friend. Are you reaching out to him constantly? Are you satisfied with a prayer or a song, or are you unsatisfied until you sense his intimate presence as well? Are you thirsty for him, like David? (Psalm 42:2). Are you desperate for him like Paul? ("....that I may know him," Philippians 3:10). We are willing to be so superficial with God for so much of our time, of our lives.

God, change us! Fill us anew, O God, with a fresh love, a holy hunger, that we might seek your intimate presence continually, always, with all our hearts and souls, with all our mind and strength! Grant it in us, oh, God. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.



[1] Though unattributed in the book of Psalms, we know this is David's psalm because it is attributed to him in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36.

[2] Dārash, William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, based on the Lexical work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans / Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988), pp. 74-75. Copps says, dārash "is distinguished from its frequent parallel and equivalent bāqash inasmuch as it 1. means "to seek with care," 2. is often cognitive (its end is "to know"), and 3. seldom governs an infinitive. (Leonard J. Copps, dārash, in R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament ("TWOT"; Moody Press, 1980), #455).

[3] Holladay, pp. 46-47. Copps says, bāqash "basically connotes a person's earnest seeking of something or someone which exists or is thought to exist. Its intention is that its object be found or acquired. The object of this pursuit can be either specified or understood, either concrete or abstract. The specific meaning of bāqash is determined by its object in a given context. Unlike dārash, its nearest synonym, the activity of bāqash is seldom cognitive. Other words that are parallel (and hence, synonymous) are rādap, "to pursue"; shāʾal, "to ask"; pāqad, "to visit"; bāḥar, "to choose"; etc. (Leonard J. Copps, bāqash, TWOT #276).

[4] "Strength" is ʿōz, "strength, power." It is used of physical strength, as in a warrior, as well as material and structural strength, as in a strong tower. There is strength to do one's work industriously, and political and military strength of a nation (Carl Schultz, TWOT #1596b).

[5] Walter C. Kaiser, tāmîd, TWOT #1157a; Holladay, p. 391. From an unused root, mwd, with the idea of a similar Arabic root, "stretch, extend," also, "prolong, make to continue" (Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament ("BDB"; Clarendon Press: Oxford, originally published 1907, reprinted with corrections 1953), p. 556).

Copyright © 2019, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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