In The Presence Of God
We have explored that God is in control when and where He is invited, or rather where you are called or supposed to be. We have seen that our refuge is in God, not in our flesh, and that in praying and seeking Him with all our heart He will be found. How do you go somewhere, or find someone, you have not fully found before? God will be found in and by the Word, Jesus, and our seeking Him with all our heart. But how often are we walking in flesh, and thus missing the promises of God. God is omnipresent, so you cannot hide from or avoid God;
Psalm 139:7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
Why would a person want to flee from the presence of God? The answer can be seen in Adam and Eve;
Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
As a child will hide from a parent when they have done something wrong, fearing the consequences, your sin causes you to hide from the presence of God. While Adam and Eve said they hid because they were naked, they had already sewn fig leaves and covered themselves in verse 7. Their nakedness ran much deeper than their exposed skin. Their sin could not be hid;
Hebrews 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
When Adam and Eve sinned they had a spiritual nakedness that they were ashamed of. It is in that condition that we should flee for refuge, and run to God, and not from Him;
I John 2:1, 2 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Unfortunately our nakedness often causes us to flee from Him. While we can ignorantly believe that this running from God is only for or related to the depths of sin, it will occur to whatever level of the flesh, pride, or unbelief that we are walking in, and will leave us susceptible to the same hiding or departing from His presence. Look again at the children of Israel, who saw all the miracles and promises and power of Almighty God;
Hebrews 3:7 – 12 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
This hiding or departing from the presence of God occurred with Adam and Eve. What was the root of the sin of Adam and Eve? Genesis 3:6 begins And when the woman saw … The covetousness and lust of her sight and desire for the things she saw were the iniquity that led to the sin. We must understand what the apostle John tells us of the things of the world;
I John 2:16, 17 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
This lust, lasciviousness, and pride will separate you from God;
Isaiah 59:1, 2 BEHOLD, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
The desire for sinners to hide from the presence of God is also shown in Revelation;
Revelation 6:15 – 17 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
What will happen in the great day of His wrath, or in His presence? There are a number of scriptures that tell of the result of His presence: just a few;
Ezekiel 38:19, 20 For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.
Nahum 1:5, 6 The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.
Hebrews 12:18 – 21 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
These verses in Hebrews speak of the account in Exodus 20 where God spoke from the mountain, and the people saw the effect in the physical things. While the people showed the fear of God at that time, it did not manifest in their lives. Because of their unbelief and disobedience, God said he would not go up in their midst;
Exodus 33:2, 3 And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.
As the physical things of the earth will not abide the presence of God, nor can the flesh or sin;
I Corinthians 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
We cannot be in the glory of His presence while in our sin, or flesh. We have looked previously at the difference between consummate and consume; everything will be consumed in one way or the other; consummated into the kingdom of God, or consumed by the fire of God. These two contrasts were shown in Malachi 4:1 – 3. In Malachi 3:16 – 18 we also saw the need to be in the book of remembrance. Fear and serve God, and be delivered! We also looked at Malachi 3:1 – 6 and the need to be refined as gold. There are choices you must make, and He is mercifully waiting;
Malachi 3:6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
It is the enduring mercy of God that we are not consumed. Always remember also that Jesus paid the price for your salvation, and Jesus is the light, life, truth, and the only way to God; it was not of anything you did, or personally can do! Without following the path to the fullness of His presence, there is only destruction for you. This is shown again in the following scriptures, contrasted by the promises to those who believe and obey;
II Thessalonians 1:6 – 10 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
The promises to the saints in the above are; His recompense to the wicked; rest for the troubled; and glorifying and admiring Jesus. Let us transition from the destruction of the wicked and consider more of the promises of being in His presence;
I Chronicles 16:27 Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place.
The above verse is in the middle of a wonderful psalm of David in I Chronicles 16:8 – 36. The later verses record the earth and fields rejoicing, and in verse 33 that the trees sing out at His presence (Isaiah 61:3 says we may be called trees of righteousness; will you sing out and rejoice at His presence?). There is joy in His presence;
Psalm 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Do you want to experience that joy continually? Walk in righteousness;
Psalm 140:13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.
We are called to obedience and righteousness; remember His commandments and promises;
Deuteronomy 4:23, 24 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee. For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
The words used in both the Hebrew (6440) and Greek (4383, 1799) that are translated to English as presence also are translated as face. When a scripture reads to seek the face of God, it is often the same original text word as presence. While seeking God to let me find His presence in the way that Smith Wigglesworth mentions when he was given faith that could not be shaken, God let me know that Moses was not seeking for his presence or the call when He sought Moses with the burning bush. Neither was Saul (the apostle Paul) seeking for it when he was encountered by Jesus on the road to Damascus. Samuel did not even know the voice of God when he was first called. Not one knew, Samuel, Jesse, or David, that it was David that was called, but … the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. (I Samuel 16:13) The calling for each of these men was only by the sovereign will of God, and as a result none of them touched the glory of God manifested in their lives. The man of God should be prepared by his walk, and not by his desire. The man of God is enabled by God through faith, and will find it in righteousness, holiness, humbleness, heart, and receiving God’s calling, not by just seeking what he desires and believes his calling should be.
Let us consider for a moment the man who encountered the presence of God at the burning bush. Scripture tells us that Moses knew his calling at 40 years old;
Acts 7:22 – 25 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.
Here we begin to see the spirituality of Moses; the scripture does not say Moses would deliver them, but God would deliver them … by his hand. We can also see in these scriptures that Moses calling was not in his timing or by his means; the calling is always when and how God purposes. Abraham had been told that his seed would be afflicted four hundred years (Genesis 15:13), and that time had not yet been fulfilled. In addition, God miraculously delivered them without the uprising Moses thought necessary.
We can also read in scripture that Moses had a faith and vision and desire for the things of God, rather than sin;
Hebrews 11:24 – 26 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.
How many would leave a life of wealth and splendor to be associated with the slaves? In the flesh it is not possible, but what was working in Moses? The next verse holds a truth about Moses we often miss;
Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
Moses did not quit and leave town fearing Pharaoh. The word endured is number 2594 in the Strong’s, and means; to be strong, i.e. (figuratively) steadfast (patient). The word seeing in this verse is number 3708 in the Strong’s, and means; to stare at, i.e. to discern clearly; by extension to attend to; by Hebrew to experience; passively to appear. The man Moses knew and experienced the invisible God, and as a result was enduring and faithful in that experience. The scripture also begins with By faith; the implication, or declaration, is that he was led of God to leave Egypt.
When Moses reached Midian, we can read that it is still in his heart to deliver the oppressed; he delivered the daughters of the priest of Midian from the shepherds (Exodus 2:16 – 20). The priest of Midian told his daughters to call Moses to eat, and in verse 21 we see that Moses was … content to dwell with the man. He spent the next 40 years as guest and then son-in-law to the priest of Midian. We do not know much about Moses father-in-law, but we see in Exodus 18 of Jethro’s rejoicing over the deliverance of the children of Israel by God, his offering sacrifice to God, and his offering wise counsel. We also can understand from Numbers 12:3 that during the time Moses stayed with Jethro he became the meekest man on the earth. If you will see it, Moses was as a “stalled” calf for forty years being prepared to fulfill God’s will in God’s time. That preparation included the meekness and humbleness most of us never seek or find.
The day that Moses experienced the burning bush may have started like over 14,000 before it, but before it ended God called a prepared man to use for His purpose, at His time, and in His means;
Exodus 3:3, 4 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
Please note that Moses was called when God purposed; your calling belongs to God, why would He leave the means, place, or timing up to you? Also see the progression of Moses’ experiencing the presence of God from his faith in seeing the invisible, to the encounter at the burning bush. Moses afterwards experienced the presence of God as only Jesus (and perhaps Steven) has;
Exodus 33:13, 14 Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
Moses answered the call and it put him on the path to the presence of God Almighty. We need to be prepared and answer the call, but not allow it to misplace our seeking. It can become a high place in your walk, if you leave off seeking God Himself, or if you desire or seek a calling that is not to be yours. We should search for the calling of God, but not seek unto a specific call. Seek God and His presence; the calling is in His means, place, time, and purpose, not ours.
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
The Greek word translated here as without repentance means irrevocable. The gifts and calling are as unchanging as God is.
James and John sought to change the calling of God, as their mother sought Jesus to let them sit on His right and left hand in His kingdom. What was the answer?
Matthew 20:23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
We cannot change the calling of God; if we try we will be as Jonah, running from the presence of God. Embrace His calling and allow Him to bless you in it, and in His presence. The churches are full of people who do not understand the need to walk righteously. But there is a walk of righteousness unto holiness that is necessary for us to feel His presence.
I Peter 1:15, 16 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
If God can be felt in our worship or church service, we become satisfied, and justify ourselves by believing that we are in the presence of God. Scripture tells us He inhabits the praise of his people, and He is in our midst when we gather in His name;
Psalm 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
But there is a greater place of being in His presence. Contrast the above scriptures in Hebrews of the physical presence of God at Mount Sinai with those that follow;
Hebrews 12:22 – 24 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Able.
These scriptures speak of the place Jesus said He is preparing, and the things that will be there, most notably including Him (John 14:2, 3). If we look at other scriptures we will find that there will be no more hunger, thirst, or tears (Revelation 7:15 – 17); no death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:3, 4); no curse or night (Revelation 22:3 – 5). There will be no more of the vexation of the things of the flesh or enemy.
It is easy to think that this presence of God is future, or in heaven. But God does not want us waiting to feel His presence in church, or ultimately in heaven. God wants us, as Moses did, to experience His abiding presence now; we have the added opportunity to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), to sup with Him (Revelation 3:20), to allow Him to establish his kingdom within (Luke 17:20, 21).
Let us consider Stephen, who Acts 6:5 introduces us to as … Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Stephen was chosen with others to perform a business purpose and allow the apostles to concentrate on prayer and ministry of the word. But Stephen excelled to the point he is noted beyond the others chosen;
Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Stephen was not exceptional for who he was, but for who he served. He was a believing, obedient, yielded man who had put on the Lord Jesus. He had the kingdom within. He had the presence of God with him. Consider the account of him as he began to make his defense;
Acts 6:15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
As we have previously seen in the account of the anointing that was on Jesus commanding the attention of all, so it is with Stephen; … all … looking stedfastly on him. As with Moses, where being in the presence of God made his face shine, the presence of God was seen on the face of Stephen.
As you first read his defense in chapter 7 it appears to be historical, but look closer and you will realize it is spiritual and convicting. While they had claimed Moses in their accusation of Stephen (Acts 6:14), he reminds them that Moses prophesied of Jesus. He reminds them that their forefathers rejected both Moses and God. He reminds them of the false gods that had been taken up. He closes by telling them of their stiffnecked and uncircumcised heart and ears in resisting the Holy Ghost, that the forefathers had killed the prophets, and that they had killed Jesus. Stephen, not figuratively, but literally preached himself to death. As they were convicted and gnashed on him with their teeth, Stephen, in the presence of God and in the fulness of the Spirit, still has his face set on the presence of God. He sees into heaven, speaks additional conviction, and seals his fate (and completes his calling);
Acts 7:55 – 57 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
There are many who do not see anything accomplished in the death of Stephen. How many could he have reached if he had lived? How many could Jesus have reached if he hadn’t died? He reached out to them all, each and every one, by His death! The death of Stephen fanned the hatred and persecution of the revival fires in Jerusalem to spread revival throughout the world;
Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
The church had been basking in the joy of the daily accord in Jerusalem, and was missing the great commission, Go ye into all the world. With the persecution of Saul on the church it was established;
Acts 8:3, 4 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
We see then how Stephen’s death had a part in the spreading of the gospel to the world. In Acts 11:19 it says Now they that were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen … We can also follow how his death motivated Saul (Paul) later; how Paul was moved by his past persecution of the church; how he grew to the point of forgetting those things which are behind; and ultimately to having the mind of Christ. Have you considered that since Paul was a witness to Stephen’s steadfastness in the Spirit and presence of God unto death, Stephen may have been an additional example (besides Jesus) that brought Paul to the point where his life was not important to him (Acts 20:24)? Even the epistles that God led Paul to write, that we rely on and that are our teachers today, might be partially attributed to the presence of God that was on Stephen in that day. Can you find the desire for a greater presence of God?
It is possible through exegesis, hermeneutics, etc. for scholars to write volumes on the topic of the presence of God. But the presence of God is to be experienced, not just read about. Ask God that you may be in His presence. As you can read of and see the changes through the life of Paul, God will meet you and begin changing you. Let Him be your tutor and guide, so that you will not be hindered or led astray by the doctrine of man. The apostle Paul acknowledges this path for his life;
Galatians 1:11, 12 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The psalmist wrote of this path in the verse that was used previously to show the joy in His presence;
Psalm 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
God created your life, and created your path. Seek God and allow Him to establish you in that path. The path of God for you begins with repentance, that you may abide the consuming fire of God, and experience His presence and the refreshing;
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Find true repentance and conversion, begin a steadfast, continual walk of seeking and finding God, and the refreshing that comes from His presence will be yours! Then continue to seek Him in obedience, and climb the mountain for more of His presence.