There is nothing more precious than the presence of God. This series explores the story of God’s presence throughout the bible and explores how we can host him well in our midst.
The bible opens with such a stunning scene. The God of the universe creates a magnificent universe full of wonder and delight. He creates a planet full of so much life and as His greatest creation He makes man. A creature unlike all the other living beings he has taken the time to make. This creature will made in His image. It will be shaped by God’s very nature and character. God made man in His image. What is even more surprising is that He pursued relationship with his creation.
Genesis 3:8 tells us that God walked in the garden of Eden alongside Adam and Eve. He spent time with them and walked as one man with another. God’s very presence was with them and He communicated and drew close to His creation. When Adam and Eve sinned and ate the fruit it says that they hid from the presence of God. They rejected the thing they were made for. To know and experience God’s presence. When Cain kills his brother it says he went out from the presence of the Lord and moved to a different land. One of the consequences of his sin was that he was hidden from God’s presence.
As we look forward to the rest of the story of the Old Testament we see the idea of God being present with his people become more distant. God establishes a people group among the nations to represent him to the world. As Moses says in Exodus 33:16 the main thing that would distinguish Israel from the rest of the nations would be God’s presence with them. It was God’s presence that would mark them and make the difference. When Moses is given the option of being led into the promised land by an angel he is wise enough to press in for God’s presence to go with them. Without His presence Moses was not going anywhere! It is following on from this recognition of the need for God’s presence that Moses gets one of the greatest encounters with God. God would have all of His goodness pass by him. Honouring the presence led to a life shaping encounter with the living God.
At Mount Sinai God offered an invitation where He would speak to all of Israel, His chosen people. The people instead chose Moses as a mediator. There was an invitation to the whole nation to experience the presence of the Lord and know His voice. Yet because of fear they chose to let someone else pursue the presence on their behalf. After 40 days in the presence of God Moses’s face literally shone brightly with God’s glory. An amazing picture of what the presence of God does to us. It is contagious and causes us to display the Lord’s glory and splendour to a world in need. Time in the presence is evangelistic in the sense that it changes us to reflect more and more of God to those around us. Moses was given the blueprints for the tabernacle in one of his encounters with the Lord. The tabernacle was an elaborate tent that would house God’s presence. This was the way in which Israel could carry the presence of God with them. It took quite specific rules and regulations to correctly steward the incredible honour of God with them. Again these laws reveal the deep truth that God’s presence is of amazing and unmeasurable value. Despite the difficulty in keeping the rituals there is still a sense in the Old Testament that what the tabernacle held was but a taste of God’s fullness. Very few people were allowed into the presence and there were severe consequences for those who did not follow God’s ordained regulations.
God’s presence was revealed to Israel in so many ways as they journeyed to the promised land. There was the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. A compass and a sign of provision and presence. In the Old Testament there are many other examples of a people learning to steward and host the very presence of God in their midst. God was with them and they built a tabernacle and later a temple to house His glory. The Old Covenant reveals the huge value of God’s presence. And yet it was not available to everyone although that had always been God’s original intent…