Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James version of the Bible
By far my favourite radio programme was known as the ‘Lone Ranger’. Several episodes were featured every week. The storyline goes that the Lone Ranger (formerly known as John Reid) was a one-time Texas Ranger, the sole survivor of a group of Rangers killed in ambush. He wore a mask to conceal his identity as he travelled throughout the West, with a native American by the name of Tonto, fighting for law and order. Some of the comic-book pictures also showed desperadoes often wearing bandanas covering the lower part of their faces.
Throughout my life I have seen masks worn infrequently, primarily by medical or dental personnel in their respective offices or at a hospital. However, during 2020 and the start of 2021 readers, like me, have had the universal experience of wearing a mask within some physical settings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the scriptures, there is not a mention of a mask. However, there are some biblical references to ‘veils’ as well as a few to ‘face coverings’. For example, Rebekah is said to have put on a veil just before she met Isaac for the first time, Gen. 24. 65. Also, Exodus records that Moses covered his face with a veil after he had met with God, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at what was passing away, 34. 33-35 - namely, the reflected glory of God.
In the history of mankind, those condemned to die frequently had their faces covered as they were dragged away from the judge’s seat. That was the case with Haman, ‘As the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face’, Esther 7. 8. He was then hung on the gallows which he had erected to hang Mordecai.
In the Messianic Psalm 69, verse 7 states, ‘Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; shame has covered my face’. Our Lord would have experienced some humiliation due to His body being nailed to the cross in a naked state. Having one’s body fully exposed to others is shameful, Isa. 47. 3. Isaiah also states, ‘I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting’, 50. 6, corroborating Psalm 69. Apart from the shame of having His beard ripped from His face, the spittle of evil men was added to the sweat and blood from His face. There is nothing that is more degrading and demonstrates more disrespect to a person than to spit on his face. Yet I believe that most, if not all, of the sense of shame came from a different source and that was because His Father ‘laid on Him the iniquity of us all’, Isa. 53. 6. He felt the burden of human guilt. It was only because God the Father so loved us that He was willing to deliver up His Son to such awful private as well as public suffering and reproach, John 3. 16; Rom. 8. 32.
Our Lord took upon Himself the reproach of mankind, which is also represented as a covering. Jeremiah states, ‘We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God’, Jer. 3. 25.
Proceeding to Psalm 69 verse 17, we read, ‘And do not hide Your face from Your servant, for I am in trouble; hear me speedily’. To ‘hide one’s face’ is to refuse to look or gaze on someone who has offended us or caused us great displeasure. A good servant desires and delights in the light of his master’s countenance, and so God the Son with His Father. Our Lord could not bear to lose the presence of His God. Psalm 69 verses 18 and 19 continue, ‘Draw near to my soul, and redeem it; deliver me because of my enemies. You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonour; my adversaries are all before You’. If ever a man needs the comforting presence of God, to have the sense of seeing His face, it is when he is in distress.
In conclusion, let us return to Isaiah chapter 50 verse 7 which reads, ‘For the Lord God will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed’. Flint is a tough stone once used by native Americans for the making of arrowheads. It is harder than steel. Therefore, to set one’s face like a flint means to harden oneself with firmness and resolution. The Lord, the Son, was totally convinced that God the Father would look again upon His face, grant Him help, and restore His reputation. And He was not disappointed.
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