Profile PictureMUSTARD SEED DISCIPLESHIP by McKay Caston

The Smile of God vs the Scowl of God: Which is It and Why?

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from our new course, Repentance and Renewal: How Moral Honesty Unlocks the Door to Spiritual Vitality.

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“Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.”

— Psalm 51:9

We can look the Father in the eyes without fear or shame because his eyes have looked upon the blood of Jesus.

Southwest Airlines has a brilliant marketing department. In 1998, they debuted a line of television ads that focused on folks caught in an awkward blunder. The ads were so popular the spots ran for ten years. In 2016, they finally were brought back. Thank you, Southwest!

One of the early commercials featured a houseguest snooping through her host’s bathroom medicine cabinet only to have the shelves collapse with a huge crash. Another shows a touring pop musician call out to the crowd after a raucous sing-along, “Thank you, Detroit! We love you!” The crowd goes silent. The problem. Detroit was last night.

A third shows an undercover agent during a live TV interview detailing how he broke up a notorious crime ring. To protect his identity, the agent’s voice and face are obscured—until an intern enters the room with coffee for the crew and turns on the lights, unmasking the agent. In the moment when each is busted the narrator asks the iconic question: “Wanna get away?”


I wonder if David felt that way when Nathan aimed the spotlight of guilt on the King with four simple words, “You are the man.” But this was real life. Not a commercial. And it wasn’t funny. It never is when you are the one who wants to get away.

This may be the emotional foundation of David’s prayer, “Hide your face from my sins.” Turn away. Please, don’t look.

If you have ever slipped and fallen down in public, you know the feeling. Lying on the ground with the crowd turning to look upon your humiliation. It may not feel so bad if everyone were not staring and judging.

The king knew he couldn’t get away. Jonah the prophet had learned this lesson, too. Regardless of how far we run, we can’t hide from the presence of the Lord. He sees it all.


Being told about an offense is one thing but to see it take place is another. With smartphones in every hand, practically every public act of our lives is at risk of being captured on video. What if my life somehow were recorded? Every detail, unedited, and uploaded to YouTube for playback with the URL emailed to all my contacts. Nothing cut. Everything exposed.

You better believe I would want to get away. Far, far away. Never to be seen again.

This is the kind of shame David is feeling. Once described as a man after God’s own heart, he has been exposed as a far worse sinner than anyone could have imagined. The video of his life has been recorded. Not in video but text. Right there on the page, as if it were in living color.

The exposure of his scandal was a nightmare come true. He couldn’t deny it. But how could the Lord ever accept him again? His were not petty crimes. How could David ever hope to look into the face of the Lord without feeling the humiliating disgrace of his sinful acts?


My transgressions may not be recorded in the annals of history like David’s, but they are just as real. Though mine may differ in kind, my offenses are no less scandalous before heaven. How can I ever hope to look into the face of the Father without feeling the humiliating disgrace of my sinful acts?

Hebrews 9:13-14 provides a starting point by describing how the blood of Jesus fulfills the symbolism of the Old Testament sacrifices with which David would have been familiar.

13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

We can look the Father in the eyes without fear or shame because his eyes have looked upon the blood. In view of the cross, God turns his face away from me with my sin and looks upon Jesus as my sin-bearer, who endures my guilt and shame, “making peace through his blood.”1

Because of the blood, our consciences are clean, allowing us to experience true peace with God, who will never replay the record of our sins. The tape of my crimes was incinerated upon the cross. In the words of Psalm 103:10-13 (CEB),

10 He doesn’t deal with us according to our sin or repay us according to our wrongdoing, 11 because as high as heaven is above the earth, that’s how large God’s faithful love is for those who honor him. 12 As far as east is from west—that’s how far God has removed our sin from us. 13 Like a parent feels compassion for their children—that’s how the Lord feels compassion for those who honor him.

Did you know that David wrote that Psalm, too? In a moment of restored gospel sanity, he knew that the Lord would turn his face from his sins. Not because of his sacrifice, but because he knew the sacrifices of the Old Testament foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus. Though forgiveness is not what he deserved, it is the way God treated David and treats us when we are able to say, “I am the man” or “I am the woman” who needs the blood of Christ to cover my crimes.


That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I know. This is why we must fight for faith to trust the promises of God in the gospel. The flesh lies and the serpent deceives. But the Spirit of Truth cries out from within, as Paul writes in Romans 8:15-16,

15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Now, as the children of God we are under the blessing of the Father, who blesses us with the grace and kindness of Aaron’s priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26,

24 May the Lord bless you and keep you; 25 may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Don’t miss the inexhaustible grace of this gospel blessing: May his face shine upon you.

Because of Jesus, this is the Father’s expression. Not a scowl but a smile. Seriously, the Father smiles upon you with as much affection as he does Jesus.

This may be the first time you have contemplated yourself as the object of divine delight. If so, I have a simple, practical application for you. Honor the sacrifice of Jesus by basking in the loving gaze of the Father. Savor his smile and rest in his grace. He is not looking at your sins. He is looking at a forgiven child he has declared beautiful.


1 Colossians 1:20

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