Longing for the Presence

Elisabeth Elliot wrote that a clam glorifies God better than we do because the clam is doing what it was created to do, and we are not. I thought of that quote when I saw this picture I took of a dragonfly, basking in the sunlight--just as we were meant to rejoice in the presence of God.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote that a clam glorifies God better than we do because the clam is doing what it was created to do, and we are not. I thought of that quote when I saw this picture I took of a dragonfly, basking in the sunlight–just as we were meant to rejoice in the presence of God.

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

Moses said that. It’s recorded in Exodus 33, just after the Israelites rebelled against God by worshipping the golden calf. Despite this flagrant sin, God extends mercy. He tells them He will still send them to the “land flowing with milk and honey” with angels clearing the way ahead of them, “But I will not go with you,” He says, “because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

Moses has been experiencing the presence of God, though, in some incredible ways. God’s presence was a visible cloud by day and a fire by night. Moses went into the tent of meeting, and the Lord spoke with him there “face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Moses has gotten a taste of God in His reality, and he doesn’t want to give it up.

So he pushes back against God’s pronouncement. He says, ““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.’ 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.”

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

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  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 your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”

Moses refused to live without the presence of God in his everyday life.

That sentence has stuck in my mind for months, and I’ve wondered what it would be like to walk through my days in the presence of God.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I was reading the Amplified version of Hebrews, and I got to the section where the writer expounds on Christ’s qualifications to be our High Priest, our go-between, the one who offers the worthy sacrifice as well as being the sacrifice Himself. Christ’s petition as High Priest was heard, it says in Heb. 5:7, “because of His reverence toward God.” Then the Amplified adds this explanatory phrase: “in that He shrank from the horrors of separation from the bright presence of the Father.”

I immediately thought of Moses’ protest.

Moses experienced just a taste of God’s presence, and he couldn’t live without it. In fact, it made him want more. Further on in Exodus 33, he begs to see God’s glory, and God reminds him that while he is in his earthly, death-bound body, he can’t see all of it.

But God covers him with His hand and passes behind him and still, despite the “protection,” Moses’ face shines so much the Israelites are afraid of him.

Christ, as God Himself, and as a human in complete fellowship with God the Father, had experienced far more than Moses. He knew the fullness of God’s bright presence, and “life” without it was a “horror.” No independence (like that offered to Christ by Satan during His temptation) was worth that horror.

Yet we live with this horror every day. We chose this horror in the garden, when humanity turned away from the presence of God and sought independence from His presence. We’ve been doing the same ever since, and the longing for and joy we were meant to experience in God’s presence has been turned to fear and hiding and even loathing. You might say we were given what we asked for.

Yet, through Christ, the perfect High Priest who longed to stay in God’s presence continually—and did, we have the opportunity, like Moses, to long for God’s presence again, to even boldly ask for it! F. B. Meyer, in his book Moses, the Servant of God, wrote, “The apostle Paul expressly refers to this incident when he says that we all may, with unveiled faces, behold the glory of the Lord, and be transformed (II Cor. 3:13-18). That blessed vision, which of old was given only to the great leader of Israel, is now within reach of each individual believer. The Gospel has no fences to keep the crowd off the mount of vision; the lowliest and most unworthy of its children may pass upward where the shining glory is to be seen. ‘We all… are changed.’”

Through Christ we can long for God again. We can understand that our deepest desperation is not a need for independence or personal significance but is in actuality a desire for the living Presence of God.

And through Christ we have the opportunity to enter that Presence.

Let’s take it.

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