“Come close to God, and God will come close to you….” – James 4:8.
Imagine the scene that was about to unfold. Exodus 19 tells us about the largest worship gathering that ever took place. Some 6 million people have met in the desert to worship God. They are camped at the base of Mount Sinai. The massive throng strains to listen to Moses tell them how they should prepare for the first worship service of their fledgling nation’s history.
They are told to wash their clothes. They are going to meet God in three days. They need to be focused on worship. But they are warned to not draw too close to the mountain for God Himself is going to come down. “On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently.” (Exodus 19:16-18) It must have been breathtaking and scary at the same time. While it would be the understatement of all time to say people were intimidated when they saw the mountain filled with fire and as God descends. But remember that God had just delivered them out of the hands of Egypt with plagues, raging waters, and pillars of fire.
Exodus 24:15-17 adds, “Then Moses climbed up the mountain, and the cloud covered it. And the glory of the Lord settled down on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from inside the cloud. To the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, the glory of the Lord appeared at the summit like a consuming fire.”
When the trumpet blasted, the people were to come to the mountain and meet God. In fear and trembling the people approach the mountain and take their stand. The closer the people came to the mountain, the more clearly they saw the vast distance that separated them from God. There is nothing casual about the arrival of God. They are not fit to meet God. They are not worthy to dwell on His hill. Nor are we. Who has the right to live in the presence of God? Only a person who is perfectly holy has a right to live in the presence of God. And that leaves everyone out.
Fortunately, Christ lived on our behalf. Every moment of righteousness, every good choice, every rightly spoken word, every godly decision, every righteous encounter that was lived by Christ was lived for you and for me. He was achieving the righteousness that we could not achieve on our own. So even with our weakness, setbacks, sin and struggles we can experience the presence of God. We have the presence of God within us by virtue of His indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:23; 15:4), and that indwelling presence comes only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
- What do you think it would be like to be in God’s presence?
- It isn’t a matter of achieving God’s presence, but surrendering to God’s presence that is already within the Christian: Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?