The Presence of God

The Presence of God

We learned last week how we are fully known by God, but also fully loved and understood by God.  God is not only omniscient, all-knowing, He is also omnipresent; everywhere all of the time.

Psalm 139:7-12

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

    Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

    if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

    your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me

    and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;

    the night will shine like the day,

    for darkness is as light to you.

Although God’s Presence is everywhere all of the time, there is a huge difference between God’s general presence and God’s intimate presence.  I know, it sounds like double-talk, but it’s truth.

We know this to be true because we’ve all been in the physical presence with someone while they weren’t present with us.  We can be standing face-to-face with someone and talking to them and yet they are looking all over the room at what’s happening around you or with their head down scrolling through their phone. 

You are physically present with them, but you’re not present together.  They are physically present, but their focus and attention are elsewhere.  This becomes outright heartbreaking when you are in a relationship with someone such as a marriage or friendship or family and you coexist in this way in the long term. 

They may be physically present, but you are disconnected and disengaged from one another.  They don’t really know you or understand you or care about what is on your heart or mind.  They just don’t get us and don’t really make a good effort toward trying to get to know us, either.  Present, but not present.

Unfortunately, this is often true when it comes to our relationship with God.  God is physically present, but we aren’t seeking after His Presence.  We know a lot about Him, but we really don’t know Him; what is on His heart and mind.

There was a huge difference at the temple in being in the outer courts, inner courts, and the holy of holies!  God’s Presence was physically present in that place.  However, just feet separated the varying degrees of intimacy in encountering His Presence in different ways.

Moses well understood this difference having spent time as an Egyptian prince, a Hebrew slave, a guest in a priest’s home, and climbing the very mountain of God, walking through the dark cloud, and meeting face-to-face with God.

Exodus 33:12-16

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

If God’s presence is everywhere all of the time, then why would Moses demand that God’s Presence go with them?  There is a big difference between God’s general presence and His intimate Presence.  Encountering God’s Presence was so important, that Moses chose to set apart a place and purpose it so that all could enter into it.

Exodus 33:7-11

7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

There is absolutely a direct correlation between worship and the intimate Presence of God.  Even before the physical temples were constructed, during the days of David, there was worship day and night before the Presence of God.  Instruments and singing and prophesy and shouting and dancing and sacrificing and proclaiming God’s word were all aspects of the worship of the Lord before His Presence in the ark of the covenant.  They are still aspects of true and proper worship today as well!

Long before Moses longed for God’s Presence to go with him and Joshua chose to remain in His Presence and David followed the Lord’s prescribed ways to approach God’s Presence, there was one who longed to remain in God’s Presence!  Cain.

Cain is known and remembered for all of the wrong that he did.  He brought the wrong offering.  He ignored God and wronged his brother.  He was the first murderer.  However, we don’t often remember his longing to remain in God’s Presence.

Genesis 4:10-17

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod (which means wandering), east of Eden.

17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.

Although God is omnipresent, Cain was the first human to experience the difference between God’s general presence and His intimate Presence.  Although his dad and mom tried to hide from God’s presence after they had sinned, Cain was the first to have God’s Presence hidden from him.

Adam and Eve were banned from Eden and sent back to the land where Adam was formed in the mud, but they still had full access to the Lord.  This included their children, Cain and Abel.  We see them both bringing offerings to the Lord and in Cain’s personal conversation with God about sin and the need to rule over sin so that it does not overtake us. 

Of course, Cain didn’t heed God’s advice and gave into sin.  As a result, Adam and Eve were left not only to mourn the loss of their son Abel, they were now also losing their son, Cain.

Cain went on to build a city for himself in his son’s name; Enoch.  His descendants were rockstars and blacksmiths and mountain men who continued murdering.  Well, the Bible says that they live in tents and raise livestock, play stringed instruments and pipes, forged all kinds of tools out of[g] bronze and iron, and did murder.

Genesis 4:25-26

25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth (which means appointed or compensated or granted), saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

At that time people first began to worship the LORD by name. (NLT)

At that time people began to pray to the LORD. (NCV)

At that [same] time men began to call on the name of the LORD [in worship through prayer, praise, and thanksgiving]. (AMP)

That’s when men and women began praying and worshiping in the name of GOD. (MSG)

Cain left God’s Presence and began building man’s kingdom in the name of men.

Seth remained in God’s Presence and began to seek God’s kingdom in the name of the Lord.

Cain’s name means acquired – I did it,

Seth’s name means granted – It was done for me.

Cain’s genealogy ends with the flood.

Seth’s genealogy includes Adam, Abraham, Jacob/Israel, David, and eternally exists through Jesus (1 Chronicles 1/Luke 3).

All of Cain’s work and descendants were destroyed in the flood.

Seth’s work and descendants were spared in the flood and will continue forever.

What we build on our own, we have to sustain with our own resources.

What we build in cooperation with God, He will sustain and resource.

Psalm 127:1-2

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,

    the builders labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,

    the guards stand watch in vain.

2 In vain you rise early

    and stay up late,

toiling for food to eat—

    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Who’s example will we follow?  Will we be like Seth or like Cain?  Will we labor and toil on our own focusing on our own selves?  Will we co-labor with God toiling with the empowerment of His Holy Spirit, focusing all that we do on glorifying Him?

Colossians 3:23-24 (NCV)

23 In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people. 24 Remember that you will receive your reward from the Lord, which he promised to his people. You are serving the Lord Christ.

It isn’t so much about what we do.  Working hard to provide for our own needs is part of the purpose for which we were created.  We were created to work even before sin entered the picture.  After Adam sinned, his work would then be hard and opposed.

It is about our attitude and motive behind what we do.  Do we give our work our everything?  Do we go above and beyond?  Do we look beyond our responsibilities and see that it is Jesus that we are serving and working for?  Do we work with the expectation that it is Jesus who will reward us for our work and bless the work of our hands? 

Do we get caught up in our everyday chores and the work that we are doing on the earth like Cain or do we look beyond it to the Lord like Seth?  Are we content with the general presence of God around us or do we hunger and thirst for a deeper encounter with the intimate Presence of God?  Are we looking around the room or at our phones when Jesus is inviting us into an encounter with Him?

When Cain was standing face-to-face with the Lord imploring that his punishment was more than he could bear, he knew what he would be missing without God’s Presence.  What Cain begged not to lose, we all too often willfully neglect.  We have access to the personal, intimate Presence of God, but how often do we take the time to intentionally seek it?

Deep, meaningful connections do not often happen accidentally.  They happen intentionally.  It’s when we setup a meeting with someone to discuss a certain topic or when we plan date nights with our spouses or hang out times with our kids that we truly connect with them. 

It is in those times that we get to know others better and gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what is on their hearts and minds.  It’s not when they are just physically present and around us, but when we are fully present and engaged with others that this takes place.  It is no different with God.

When Cain was about to lose connection with the intimate Presence of God, he revealed three things that he valued most that he would be losing.

The Presence of God provides:

1. Purpose (I will be a restless wanderer on the earth (vagabond))

God created us on purpose and for a purpose.  Adam was formed to work the grounds of the Garden of Eden.  Eve was created to be a helper.  Jeremiah was created to be a prophet to the nations.  You are no different.  God knows you fully and wants to reveal to you who you uniquely are and the purpose behind why you were created the way that you were.

God does not want us to just restlessly wander through this life, but to live our lives intentionally, purposefully, and fully.

The Presence of God provides:

2. Protection (Whoever finds me will kill me)

It is within the shelter of God’s Presence that we find safety and refuge.  It was when God’s people, the nation of Israel, were obediently following His lead that they were kept safe from the nations around them.  It is when we are following the lead of the Holy Spirit that we are kept safe; even if He leads us into the most dangerous of situations.

There are so many scriptures that we can turn to that reaffirm this truth, but we’ll turn to one written by David:

Psalm 27:2-5

2 When the wicked advance against me

    to devour me,

it is my enemies and my foes

    who will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,

    my heart will not fear;

though war break out against me,

    even then I will be confident.

4 One thing I ask from the Lord,

    this only do I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

    all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the Lord

    and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble

    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;

he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent

    and set me high upon a rock.

The Presence of God provides:

3. Preservation (Whoever finds me will kill me)

Beyond living out a purpose here and now within the safety of God, we also want to leave behind a legacy.  We want to make a positive impact on those around us that lasts beyond ourselves.  In comparison to the eternal Presence of God, our lives are very short and temporary.  The Bible likens our lives to the grass of the field; here today and gone tomorrow.

When we remain in the Presence of God, we are preserved along with the work of our hands, far beyond our earthy lives. 

1 Corinthians 3:11-16 (NCV)

11 The foundation that has already been laid is Jesus Christ, and no one can lay down any other foundation. 12 But if people build on that foundation, using gold, silver, jewels, wood, grass, or straw, 13 their work will be clearly seen, because the Day of Judgment will make it visible. That Day will appear with fire, and the fire will test everyone’s work to show what sort of work it was. 14 If the building that has been put on the foundation still stands, the builder will get a reward. 15 But if the building is burned up, the builder will suffer loss. The builder will be saved, but it will be as one who escaped from a fire. 16 Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

Our work here can gain for us an eternal reward preserving our lives and our works eternally beyond this earthly existence.  It is only in the Presence of God through the Holy Spirit within us that we can live our eternal life beginning here and now.  Living and building wisely using Kingdom jewels that will far outlast our earthly existence.

So, let’s intentionally seek after the Presence of God and remain in it like Seth experienced and Cain painfully lost.  Let’s not be content with just knowing that His general presence is near at all times, but instead coming boldly and confidently before Him.  Let’s pursue those face-to-face encounters like Joshua so that we get to know God’s heart and mind personally and not just the words written through His inspiration.

It is in God’s Presence that we will find purpose, protection, and preservation.