“Those who meet God face to face are changed.”
That’s the motto of David Wenkel’s book, Shining Like the Sun, which surveys the theme of human encounters with God throughout the Bible. Wenkel capitalizes on the current trend of looking at the progressive unveiling of a theme throughout Scripture and has pulled together a unique work on an often-neglected theme.
His book begins with Adam and Even in the garden, walking with God, face-to-face as it were. But sin leads them to hide their face from him. He draws the conclusion from Gen 1-3 that the “physical aspects of the human body, which are made in the image of God, will embody and reflect states of either righteousness or sin” (21).
He supports this conclusion with several other instances throughout the Old and New Testaments. Jacob was physically changed when he wrestled with God, as was his disposition and character. Moses’ face was changed when he met with God face to face in the wilderness. God’s presence went before his people in the wilderness especially in the form of fire and cloud. His presence was a blessing to Israel and those who beheld him were changed.
In the time of the Judges, Gideon and Manoah were both changed when they encountered God. The psalms show both an individual and corporate dimension to coming into God’s presence for blessing, but they also show that God’s presence was to be provided to the nations for their blessing (see esp. Ps 67). In the exile, God’s face was hidden from his people so the prophets promised that God would once again shine his face before them.
Wenkel continues with the story of God’s presence being manifested in the face of Jesus Christ, in the community of the church, and finally in the New Heavens and New Earth. The ultimate goal of creation is the restoration of God’s presence among his people.
Along the way Wenkel touches on important theological categories such as theophanies, Christophanies, ecclesiology, Christology, and the temple. Interaction with secondary literature is actually minimal which, negatively, leaves a little to be desired academically, but positively, allows Wenkel to stay focused on the biblical history and primary texts. I would consider this work an informed primer on the topic that gives a smooth and clean sweep of this biblical-theological idea, from which you could dive more deeply into the many issues that Wenkel deals with along the way.
I would recommend this volume for those who would like to learn about the significance of God’s presence among his people and about the goal of creation. Anyone interested in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series would also enjoy this volume.
Preview or buy it here on Amazon.