The Face of God

After Jacob’s all-night wrestle before God, he named the place “Peniel” (פְּנִיאֵ֑ל), or “Penuel” ( פְנוּאֵל), because, he explained, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). He had seen God in a dream twenty years earlier (Genesis 28:12-15), but this experience must have been more vivid, more real. Like his father Isaac and like his grandfather Abraham, he had actually stood in the presence of God. (See Genesis 12:7, Genesis 26:24.)

What I think is significant is what happened later that day. Still apprehensive about his reunion with his estranged brother, he approached Esau cautiously and deferentially, bowing to the earth seven times as he approached (Genesis 33:3). In contrast, “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Genesis 33:4). Filled with gratitude and love, Jacob said, “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me” (Genesis 33:10, italics added).

This is a remarkable thing to say, especially for someone who had just seen God earlier that day. Especially since Jacob’s relationship with Esau had previously been strained and challenging.

Alma asked the people of Zarahemla if they had received God’s image in their countenances. (See Alma 5:14, 19.) It’s possible that Esau had matured so much in twenty years that his face shone with the light of Christ. It’s also possible that Jacob saw more in his brother’s face because Jacob had matured in twenty years, because Jacob was more attuned to the good in his brother and more capable of acknowledging it.

Today, I will strive to see the image of God in the faces of the people around me. I will remember that we are all created in His image and that, if we look closely, we can see His face in theirs.

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