“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12
What should we, as Christians know and keep in our minds as we walk and suffer for righteousness’ sake? The Apostle Peter answers this question in chapter 3 of his first epistle. He speaks to our need to walk in unity as believers. We are exhorted to peace, love, compassion and patience in the midst of suffering. As servants of Jesus Christ, we will and do have enemies in this world (Matthew 10:22, John 15:18). Peter exhorts us about how to oppose the slanders of our enemies. We aren’t to try to even the score, so to speak. We aren’t to repay evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but rather with blessing that we would inherit a blessing (v.9). This is quite contrary to the desires of our flesh when we suffer! Quite a contrary action to the expectations and behaviors of the world! As we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we are called to be a blessing that we would obtain a blessing. Think about that for a moment. Have you sought to bless, or even the score?
It’s in this context, and to further drive home the message, that Peter quotes King David’s words from Psalm 34:12-16, today’s focus verse being verses 15 and 16 of that psalm. Consider verses 10-11 of 1 Peter 3: “For, He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.”
So, we are to walk in these ways, in the pursuit of peace, knowing and being comforted what is true of our God, as stated in verse 12. Notice the anthropomorphic language here of His eyes, ears, and face, along with His respective actions with each. God’s eyes are on the righteous. His ears hear our prayers. Yet, God’s face is against those who do evil. As we consider these words, let me give a note of caution. We need to be careful not to imagine God has having eyes, ears, and a face. Remember what is true of God. He is “infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions” (WCF 2.1). So, when we consider this language of God’s eyes, ears, and face, we need to study the sense and meaning of them. Peter and David are teaching us that God is not aloof. He is paying attention. He is watching. He acts.
Scripture speaks much about the eyes, ears, and face of the Lord:
1) The eyes of the Lord- God sees all and knows all. His gaze is piercing and penetrates. It is all encompassing. His eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:13); His eyes run to and fro throughout the earth to support those who are loyal and blameless towards Him (2 Chronicles 16:9); No creature is hidden from His sight. All are naked and open to His eyes, to Whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13); God searches us and knows us (Psalm 139:1); God’s eye is described as our guide (Psalm 32:8).
2) The ears of the Lord- God hears our cries and prayers (Micah 7:7, 1 John 5:14-15).
3) The face of the Lord- Scripture teaches us several aspects of use of the word referring to God’s “face”.
There is the face that simply refers to Himself. For example we are to seek His face (Psalm 27:8), meaning we are to seek the Lord. However, we can’t see His face, in the sense that we can’t see God as He is in all of His glory. For no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20).
There is the face of blessing and approval. The face of the Lord in the Aaronic blessing speaks of the Lord’s face shining upon His people, as well as His countenance being lifted upon us, God giving us His peace (Numbers 6:24-26). In Psalm 4:6, similar language is used regarding the “light” God’s face, speaking of his glory, His approval, His kindness, His love of righteousness.
There is also God’s face of opposition and judgment towards the wicked. This is the face Peter speaks of in verse 12. God’s righteous anger, displeasure, and vengeance will pursue them (Romans 12:19). They will not escape.
As Peter went on to talk more about suffering in the Christian life, notice where he takes our focus in verse 18. He draws our attention to Jesus and His suffering for us. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,” My friends, Jesus brought us to God! He made atonement. He reconciled us to the Father. As we belong to Him, we are grateful that God’s sees all and knows all, even when we need chastening and correction. We are thankful that He hears our prayers. We thank Him for being watchful of our suffering- helping, defending and protecting us. We also praise Him for His holiness and righteous justice.
Take comfort in these words from our God! For His attention, His love, His concern, His watchfulness, His defense of His people even, and especially in the midst of suffering should give us great solace. Remember, we shouldn’t try to even the score in the midst of suffering at the hands of our enemies. Rather, we are to bless and not curse (Romans 12:14). Keep your eyes on Jesus! Praise Him. Thank Him. Go to Him. Strive to walk in obedience before Him today and every day.