What is the presence of God? Is it His power, His glory or even His blessings? The word "presence" in the Bible, when referring to the presence of God, is "panim" (Old Testament - Hebrew and "prosopon" (New Testament - Greek). This word simply means "face" which implies a close and personal encounter or relationship with the very person of God. But this doesn't explain how the presence of God works in our lives. The Bible has given us a great example to explain this question. The explain comes in the form of the Ark of the Covenant.
Exodus 37:1-9King James Version (KJV)
1 And Bezaleel made the ark of (acacia/)shittim wood: two cubits and a half was the length of it, and a cubit and a half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half the height of it:
2 And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about.
3 And he cast for it four rings of gold, to be set by the four corners of it; even two rings upon the one side of it, and two rings upon the other side of it.
4 And he made staves of shittim wood, and overlaid them with gold.
5 And he put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, to bear the ark.
6 And he made the mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half was the length thereof, and one cubit and a half the breadth thereof.
7 And he made two cherubims of gold, beaten out of one piece made he them, on the two ends of the mercy seat;
8 One cherub on the end on this side, and another cherub on the other end on that side: out of the mercy seat made he the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
9 And the cherubims spread out their wings on high, and covered with their wings over the mercy seat, with their faces one to another; even to the mercy seatward were the faces of the cherubims.
Acacia / Shittim Tree
The Acacia Tree is known to grow, spout flowers and bear fruit despite the soil or weather. It has the potential of even restoring the fertilization of the soil that it is planted in. This element represents God's restoration and resurrection power. He is able to bring back to life the dead things in our lives. It speaks of His ability to feed and shelter us through any situation. Finally, it represents God's enduring nature through the heart or through the cold He changes not.
This element represents the glory and the royalty of God. Even though we would like to just look at Him as a friend who sticks closer than a brother or a s a forgiving and loving father. We ought not forget that is the King of kings and He is HOLY. Like perfectly refined gold there is no trace of dirt, corruption or filth in Him
Hebrews 9:4 King James Version (KJV)
Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
So the ark had three items, each of them speaks to God's relationship with man (or the kind of relationship God would like to have with man). Each item spiritual charged with God's presence and love for man, despite man constant failures and even rejection of God.
1. The Ten Commandments
First of this items is the Ten Commandments which was a copy of the original Ten Commandments which was written by God. This original copy was broken the day it was given by Moses when he saw that the people of God were in the middle of breaking every one of those laws. They made a golden idol and began to worship it, once idolatry was introduced to the camp all other sins spun out of control among them. All of this happened during Moses' forty days absence on Mt. Sinai. Long story short, God made Moses rewrite the Ten Commandments himself. Basically the Ten Commandments represents the marital document or contract between God and His people. It speaks to the fact that God's word is suppose to be engraved on our hearts. It goes beyond just "the dos and don'ts" with God. It speaks to reviving that piece of God that was infusion into Man when we blew the breath of Life into him and later on went dormant in Man when Adam fell into sin.
Let me stick a pin here to discuss a serious issue we have in the body of Christ and that is the "lighting-rod effect". I know it sidetracks us from our subtopic, but trust me it will make sense later. Ok, so here we go (a history lesson within a history lesson), Prior to the moment that the Ten Commandments were written, God told Moses that He would like to talk to His people as He talks to Moses. So the people got ready according to the precepts that God had prescribed. The people then came to the foot of Mt. Sinai and the Presence of God come upon the mountain and He (God Almighty) begins to talk to the people. His voice was little thunder and His very presence frighten the people. So they urgently called out to Moses to tell God that they are fine with Moses beginning their mediator or God's mouthpiece to His people (Ex. 19:9-25 and Ex. 20:1-21).
So from this point on Moses wasn't just a mouthpiece for God, he became a lighting-rod for God's presence among His people. So without Moses' being present and presumed dead, all forms of madness and sinful acts exploded among the people. Now we can read this and think, "Wow, these people were horrible!" But were they really that different from us today? Let's look at an example here, lets assume that a "Mega Preacher / Prophet" is coming to our church and when takes the mic he says, "The presence of God is here and God is ready to do a miracle in your life". Now naturally our response would be to scream, shout, weep, etc (I am talking to you, Evangelicals and Pentecostals - joking). But most importantly we get boost of FAITH and with that faith the atmosphere is charged with the "Presence of God".
The issue is not that God's Presence isn't with us in our other services, it is our lack of faith or expectations that God's Presence is among us to communicate to us and to affect the kind of change that only He can do. Again, the same lighting-rod that Moses was in his day, we have created a lot miniature lighting-rods to channel the Presence of God into our lives in the form of men of God. Don't get me wrong they play an important role, but make no mistake about it they were not designed to be a mediator between you and God. That role belongs to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and He is suppose to live in our hearts.
The reason why it is easier to follow "lighting-rods" (people who draw us into God's Presence) is because they are anointed to do just that - draw us into God's Presence. The problem here is that we get carried away with it and we secretly believe that we can't touch God or have a dynamic interaction with Him without them. This is because it is easier to interact with Man that you can see and touch then a God that is invisible to the naked eye. Here we lose sight of God original plan, which is that God wants to have a special relationship with all of us and wants to talk to all of us for Himself. Therefore the only way to achieve this is for an intimate relationship between us (man and God) to be forged. This is what God had in mind when He brought the His people to Mt. Sinai. We also see this same plan in action as He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross.
2. Golden Jar of Manna
Honestly speaking if we saw the golden jar of manna today, we would throw away the manna and run off with the golden jar. This is because we wouldn't know what to make of the manna and we would say what the Israelites said when they first saw it - "What is it?" While the children of God spent 40 years in the desert, the Lord provided them with bread from heaven everyday until they reached the promised land (Exodus 16). However, we who are aware of the scriptures know that this manna was a shadow of Jesus Christ and how He is the bread from Heaven (John 6:51-58). The manna represents God's divine favor to provide and bless us. His provision may not always come in the form that we would like it to be, however it is always what we need and it always comes when we need it.
3. The Rod of Aaron
The Bible says in the book of Number 17:1-10 that there was another rebellion among the Israelites as to who should be the leader. So God instructed Moses to collect the rod of every leader of the 12 tribes of Israel and to place them in front of the ark of the covenant. On the next day the rod of Aaron had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. This speaks of God's ability to lead and protect us. It also speaks God's willingness to restore us as well as His promise of the resurrection once we allow God to lead us.
How do we handle the Presence of God???
In order to answer this question let us have a look at a story about the ark:
1 Sam. 4:1-11 The Ark is captured by the Philistines
1 Sam. 5:1-12 The Ark among the Philistines and their idols
1 Sam. 6:1-15 The Return of the Ark to Israel
2 Sam. 6:1-17 King David brings the Ark to Jerusalem
To summarize this story, The people of Israel were in rebellion against God and God was not happy with them or their leaders. In this time they were also at war with the Philistines and they were not showing signs of victory over them. So they brought out the Ark, because in the past every time they brought it out they would always win. Expect this one time... The Lord did not move on their behalf despite the presence of the Ark. The result of this defeat was the capturing of the Ark by the Philistines. Once they returned home they placed it among their idols. Long story short, the Presence of God would not tolerate the presence of idols and worship of idols. God made it clear to them that holding the Ark was terrible idea and that they should send it back to the Israel.
So in deciding to send it back the they placed the Ark on a cart and attached the carte to two animals and the animals walked straight back to the camp of the Israelites. After that episode, years have passed by and King David is on the throne of Israel and he wants the Ark to be Jerusalem. In transporting the Ark, they decide to transport it how they last saw it, on a cart that is pulled by two animals. This resulted in the Ark shake and one of the priests try to stabilize the Ark with his hands, this action caused the man to lose his life. By touching the Ark, the Bible says that he dead instantly. This brought great fear over Israel and King David. Soon after David tries a second time to move the Ark. This time they move the Ark according to the instructions that were given to Moses, God had commanded that the Ark ought to be transported on the shoulders of 4 priests. David eventually bring the Ark to Jerusalem and their is a great celebration over this action.
1. This story teaches us that God is not weapon or a tool that we bring out whenever we need Him to solve a problem. How often do we find ourselves praying only when we are in trouble or when we cannot handle a situation on our own. How quickly we forget about God when everything seems fine. God is not a means to an end. In our christian context, we can find ourselves living like the World and fulfilling the lust/desires of the flesh. Then when trouble hits us, we quote scriptures, we sow a seed/offering, we pray, we bargain with God, etc. Doing everything and anything to get God to do something for us. This is simply a mockery before the Lord.
2. The people of God allowed the unbeliever to influence them as to how to handle the presence of God. Its interesting how Hollywood and those who don't have a relationship with God have so much influence over how we relate to God and by extension how we honor His Presence. It is also interesting to note that we are believing more and more that we want to look and sound like the World (even within our churches at time). We also have the same taste in movies, tv show and music. They are telling us that it is OK as long as you are a good person. God won't punish you because God is a Good God. This is leading to an abuse to the presence of God in our churches and in our lives.
We are called to be carriers of the presence of God. Christianity is more than just being nice person and doing good to one's fellow human-being. It is also about living a righteous life and having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God could not judge the Philistines for putting the Ark on a cart, because they had no access to the knowledge as to how to handle it nor did they even have a relationship with God. The Israelites on the other hand had both; Just like us, Christian, have access that same knowledge and relationship today. I have come to believe that the struggle of the common Christian lays not in Sin, but in how we relate to God. Because it is through our relationship with God that we are empowered to live a life that is not of the Flesh, but of the Spirit. If the enemy tries to get you to fall or even to backslide, the first thing that he will take aim at is your personal relationship with God (aka your devotional life). Your survival depends on your ability to feed off of His Presence, and if your starved of his Presence then it is a matter of time before you fall.
What does the Ministry of Moses teaches about the Presence of God?
Through Moses we learn that we ought to FEAR the Lord. That we should show reverence to the Presence of God. Also that we (His People) must walk in HOLINESS before Him.
What does the Ministry of David teaches about the Presence of God?
Through David we learn that we were made to have intimacy with God. That we ought to be like children before His feet. Also that we should dance and shout praise unto the Lord with hearts filled with JOY.
What does the Ministry of Jesus teaches about the Presence of God?
Through ministry of Jesus Christ, both of these ideas come together in harmony. For it is through Jesus that we learn that before we can intimacy with God we must first have the Fear of the Lord in our hearts. That is is only made possible because Jesus came to fulfill the Law by adding Grace. Amen!