“And Gideon understood that he was the Angel of Yahweh. And Gideon said, ‘Oh, Lord Yahweh, it seems that I have seen the Angel of Yahweh’s face to face!’ And Yahweh said to him, ‘Peace be with you! Do not fear, you will not die.’”
“So Jacob called the name of the place, ‘Peniy’el.’ For he saw God face to face and his life was delivered.”
“And He said, ‘You will not be able to see my face, for no man can see me and live.’”
All of the way back in Genesis there is an understanding that if one looks upon the face of God, he or she will die. This is a reminder of our fallen, sinful state, thus God shields himself from view by a glory-cloud or in the Tabernacle until that time when he comes in the flesh…but even there, the flesh itself is a kind of covering and his glory is only briefly revealed in the Transfiguration and Ascension, but then only to a few. It will not be until the consummation of all things that Christ’s full glory will be finally revealed to all, and it is for that event that we all wait.
Yet, in the case of Jacob, who wrestles with the Angel of Yahweh and Moses who will be protected in the cleft of the rock so that he only sees Yahweh (probably it is the Angel of Yahweh once again), there is this notion that if one looks upon the face of the Angel of Yahweh, one has looked upon the face of God. Thus, here again, we find Gideon in essentially the same predicament as Jacob had found himself — meeting the Second-Person of the Trinity face to face, yet having his life spared, for this is God’s doing and this is God’s calling upon him.
Once again, for those who are not convinced that the Angel of Yahweh is really the pre-incarnate Christ, this must be just one more testimony that demands we understand Him in this way. Here, he has accepted worship and now Gideon is concerned that (as he has seen the Angel of Yahweh’s face) that he will die. And here, God speaks to him directly, assuring him that he will live. And how is it that some are given the permission to live after having seen the face of God — fallen as we are? It is grace, friends, grace alone. God shows mercy to those to whom he will show mercy. And for those of us who are born-again of God, trusting in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, praise God for the grace he has shown to us.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.