Week 10 – The Presence of God

My youngest loves to ask, “why?” I asked him while lying in bed with him the other night why did he like to ask why? His response was surprising for a three-year-old. Gavin said, “Cause I like to talk to people.” His answer is more profound than we might think; even as a three-year-old child (now four), his response reminds us that even at a young age, we desire to have relationships with others.

God created people in His image; part of that is being relational creatures. From eternity past, our Triune God has existed in a perfectly harmonious relationship with each member of the Godhead. God is a relational being within Himself, and since He created us in His image, we are capable and desire to be in a relationship with one another and can commune with our Creator God.

This week’s focus is the remaining chapters of Exodus. These yet-covered chapters of Exodus reveal God’s desire to be present among His people! To explore this dumbfounding truth, we, too, must begin by asking, “Why?”

Why did God create everything?

When my oldest son was younger, he thought the lyrics of the beloved Christmas song, Go Tell It On The Mountain, went like this,

“Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ was bored.”

It’s as if God the Son had nothing better to do, so He thought I’ll just be born a human and fulfill the Father’s rescue plan for saving rebellious sinners. But we understand this is not the case (now, my son does, too). He came to offer Himself the once and for all perfect sacrifice to provide a way for fallen people to enjoy the presence of God at the moment of salvation and for all eternity (Hebrews 10:3-10; 13:14).

God created everything so that He might dwell among His creation.

God created everything so that He might dwell among His creation.
In the same way that Landyn mistakenly understood the lyrics to this beloved song, many mistakenly think that God created everything because He was bored. Others might say that God created everything because he needed to be worshiped, served, or valued by someone or something. However, Genesis 1:1 reminds us that God is supreme over and separate from His creation. The Bible tells us that God is the source of life and that He is the One who gives life to everything. While the created order and His people worship Him, He does not need our worship to make Him complete or sustain Him. 1 John 4:7 reminds us that God is love and that love comes from God. For all of eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have shared a passion for one another that is entirely pure, selfless, and perfect. The Bible shows us that God created so that this same love shared among the members of the Trinity could overflow towards and over His creation.

Quality time is one of the five love languages made famous by Gary Chapman. Quality time is the highest love language of each of our three oldest kids. To summarize, you feel most loved by spending quality time with someone. If this is how your love tank is filled, presence and not presents is most important to you. Stephanie and I share this same love language, though words of affirmation are a close second for me. If you know that your spouse, child, parent, or friend feels most loved by you when you spend quality time with them, then you love them by being with them, removing all possible distractions, and doing something or conversing with them. Our God demonstrates His love for us using all five love languages throughout the Bible!

Throughout the first three chapters of Genesis, we see the LORD present with Adam. He formed Adam from the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and God spoke to Him as we would to each other today, it seems. The LORD God was hands-on and personal with the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib too. God created people in His image so He could have fellowship with us, not out of personal necessity but because He wanted to. I think the most apparent instance that communicates how God intended to commune with people is in Genesis 3:8, where the LORD came down in the cool of the evening to spend time with Adam and Eve face to face. Though this depth of intimacy is what our God intended between Him and us, Adam and Eve’s sin disrupted this unhindered presence of God among His creation.

God’s unhindered presence was disrupted.

Because God is a holy God, completely separate from sin, our sin separates us from Him. Sin places a barrier between God and us. Moses illustrates this barrier in Genesis 3:23-24 with God banishing the original couple from the garden. At the end of Genesis 3, we have a sinless Creator and a sinful creation. The rest of Scripture shows how a holy God deals with a rebellious creation, redeeming it so that He can fully dwell with it unhindered again!

In Exodus 6:7, God reveals that He will deliver the Israelites from Egypt and has chosen them to be His people. They will play the primary role in providing the means to reconcile a sinless Creator and a sinful creation. In Exodus 19:5, the LORD lays out the conditions of the covenant He is making with them and then provides them with the ten words, better known as the ten commandments so that they know who He is more fully and how they are to relate to Him (how they are to keep His covenant stipulations). Following God giving Moses the ten words, He also provides instructions for the Tabernacle. In short, the Tabernacle would be the place that allowed God to be present among His people and maintain His holiness amid their sinfulness.

Exodus 25:8-9

Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among themYou must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you.

As Moses was experiencing God’s presence and receiving God’s revelation, the Israelites became impatient and pressured Aaron into leading them into idol worship. The record describing the judgment of those who either led the worthless worship or who wouldn’t repent of their idol worship were slaughtered by the Levites. Exodus 33:35 also lets us know that God sent a plague upon His people because they had worshiped the calf that Aaron had made. Admittedly I cringe at how the LORD disciplined His people for their idolatry, but their example reinforces the holiness of our God and how grave sin is in His eyes. I also believe that it shows us how far God will go to remove anything that will lead the people He loves away from Himself and toward destruction. If God had left this rebellion unchecked, there is no telling how many more of His covenant people might have been deceived and led away from the only God in which life and salvation are found.

Paul tells the Corinthians that Israel’s idolatry, their actions, and God’s reactions, were recorded for them to warn them not to follow in their footsteps and invite God’s discipline upon their lives. 1 Corinthians 10:11 also applies to us today as those living at the end of the age. Here we are provided with an example to avoid as we look at the generation of Israelites who quickly spiraled into idol worship even after seeing how worthless and powerless the pantheon of false Egyptian gods was against Yahweh. Some believe that the calf represented the Egyptian bull god, Apis. It is a sobering challenge and reminder to give our worship and allegiance to the only One who is worthy, the God who delivered us and Who will safely guide us home (Exodus 15:11-13)! Because of the peoples’ collective rebellion and apostasy through their idolatry, on top of the Levites slaughtering 3,000 people and God sending a plague, the LORD also decides to withdraw from His people.

Exodus 33:1-3

The Lord said to Moses, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”

Because of their rebellion, the people do not get to experience God’s presence. However, Moses gets to experience the presence of God, unlike the rest of the people (with the possible exception of Joshua, see Exodus 33:11).

Exodus 33:7-11

It was Moses’ practice to take the Tent of Meeting and set it up some distance from the camp. Everyone who wanted to make a request of the Lord would go to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp.

Whenever Moses went out to the Tent of Meeting, all the people would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents. They would all watch Moses until he disappeared inside. As he went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover at its entrance while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 When the people saw the cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents. 11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting.

Because Moses demonstrated his love for the LORD through His obedience to Him (John 15:14-15; James 2:23), he could enjoy God in a way reminiscent of how Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s presence in the Garden of Eden. It would be a mistake to point out that we cannot earn friendship with God. We cannot obey Him 100% of the time, and neither could Moses. However, by God’s grace through faith, we are made right with Him, and as a result, we are no longer His enemies but His friends (Romans 5:7-10; Ephesians 2:8-9), and His Spirit gives us the desire and ability to demonstrate our love for Him through our obedience to Him.

Like Abraham, Moses was also made right with God and became a friend of God, not through perfect obedience as Scripture plainly shows, but through his faith in God, who forgives sinners (Romans 4:1-5). Thus because of God’s grace and Moses’ faith in Yahweh, he could experience His presence unlike everyone else (again, possibly with the exception of Joshua).

Do we desire to know God at this depth? Do we want to experience His presence so thickly? If so, here is what we must do according to these verses as God’s people.

Step 1: Reserve a sacred space to meet with God.

Exodus 33:7 tells us that it was Moses’ practice, his habit, to take the Tent of Meeting and set it a distance outside the camp. Moses had a sacred place where he would fellowship with God. We must have a specific time and place to have a sacred space.

I couldn’t confirm whether Moses had a specific time outside the camp to meet with God in this temporary tent. However, we know he did so regularly; thus, his example encourages us to do the same. We need to meet with God regularly, and due to all the distractions that vie for our attention and affection, it would be wise to set a specific time each day aside for you to commune with our Savior.

We also need to have a specific place to meet with God. Moses’ place was this portable tent. Moses had to be intentional and willing to put forth an effort to have a sacred space to be with God.

Moses was a man who had countless responsibilities, and people needed him for various things as God’s appointed leader of this newly formed nation. Yet, Moses knew that for him and the people to experience God’s blessing, he had to experience Him and have His leading. He also knew he would need a meeting location to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Thus he went outside the camp to meet with the LORD. We, too, need to have a place where we meet with God to eliminate as many distractions as possible—equipped with our Bible, pen, and notebook, we ought to come with phones off and other hindrances removed so that we can hear from God.

Keeping an appointment with God in such a manner will also require effort. The text describes a tent Moses would carry, set up, and tear down whenever the people moved. While he didn’t have to set up and tear down every day, at the very least, he had to take the trip through the camp and then to the tent of meeting some distance from the encampment. Whatever the sacrifice required, what a reward Moses could enjoy by having a sacred space to meet with God. He could worship in God’s presence, while the others had to worship from afar in front of their tent. God spoke to Moses face to face as a friend speaks to a friend, again a description of the LORD communing with His people that has been absent since the fall in Genesis 3.

To have a sacred space to grow in our relationship with Christ, we will need to have the same attitude as Paul, demonstrated by Moses, to count everything else in life as garbage compared to the value of knowing Jesus our Lord, causing us to prioritize our schedules so that we can know Him more and more (Philippians 3:7-11).

Step 2: Request God to reveal more of Himself to you.

As unique as Moses’ relationship with God was, Moses still wanted more of God! To experience more of Him, to know Him more fully! One day Moses expressed his concerns that God Himself wasn’t going to go with the people, but instead, God was going to send His angel ahead of them because they were stubborn and rebellious. In Exodus 33:14, the LORD assures Moses that He will go with him, granting his request from verses 12-13. Moses, then desiring assurance of God’s presence, requested that He travel with them, to which the LORD graciously assured Moses that He would go with them and not forsake His people and Moses. Moses then makes a bold request of God!

Exodus 33:18

Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”

Moses asked Yahweh to show him His glory! Moses’ request is for God to reveal more of the sum of who He is to him. In other words, Moses says, “I have Your law, I have Your instructions for worship, I have the guarantee that You are coming with us, I have a relationship with You, but… I want more of You; I want to know You more! Show me your glory!” When we meet with the LORD in our sacred place, this should be our prayer and desire every time; to encounter our Heavenly Father and, through these encounters, have Himself reveal more of Himself to us so that we can know Him more and more (Psalm 63:1; Jeremiah 29:13-14)!

Step 3: Respond to God’s self-revelation with worship.

After God placed Moses in a rock crevice on Mount Sinai and passed by Moses, allowing him to see His glory from behind. The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,

Exodus 34:6-7

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,

“Yahweh! The Lord!

    The God of compassion and mercy!

I am slow to anger

    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.

7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.

    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.

But I do not excuse the guilty.

    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;

the entire family is affected—

    even children in the third and fourth generations.”

Moses’ response to seeing as much of God’s glory as is humanly possible was to throw himself down on the ground and worship.

Exodus 34:8

Moses immediately threw himself to the ground and worshiped.

When God reveals more of Himself to us through His Word, answered prayer, or His Spirit, we should also respond in worship. I’d argue it’s our only proper response (Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:8). I always try to conclude my time with God by allowing what He has shown me about Himself from my time in His Word to shape a prayer of worship, thanksgiving, and asking for the ability to live according to His revealed character.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3.

If we follow Moses’ example and implement these guidelines in our walk with Jesus, we will experience God’s presence while we await the day that God will once again fully dwell with His people unhindered!

God will again dwell with His creation and people without any hindrances. 

Revelation 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

I look forward to the day when the rest of God’s people and I fully enjoy His presence! The believer’s reward is God with heaven thrown in! This future reality is possible because God the Son descended in so many ways to our lowly planet.

John 1:14

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

The phrase translated as “made his home among us” in other versions is translated as “dwelt among us” or “tabernacled among us.” The second person of the Trinity pitched his tent, so to speak, or took up temporary residence by becoming human and living in ancient Palestine to reveal God to us and make the way to God possible.

John 1:18

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

John 1:10-12

He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

We are adopted into God’s family when we believe in Jesus Christ, the Word that became human. Through Jesus’ person and His Work, we can enjoy a right relationship with God and His presence in our lives by grace through faith as we look forward to the day in the new heavens and earth where God will dwell with all His people! Until that day is realized, may we follow Moses’ example and pursue God, longing for His presence in our lives to be so great that we are so overwhelmed with His goodness that we can’t help but worship in humble awe!

Want to experience God’s presence in your life now and for eternity? If so, you must have a relationship with Jesus. Click on the picture below to see how you can receive Jesus today!

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