God’s Presence


Exodus 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He longs for us to know Him as our God. He desires to live with us.

@Exodus 29
“Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.  I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.  I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  God wants relationship, plain and simple.  He wants to live with me, not just visit occasionally, or send cards and emails.  He wants to live with me – laugh at my bed head in the morning, hover over my devotional time, go to work with me, be the center of my other relationships and watch me drool in my sleep. Whether or not anyone else in the world wants to be with me or with you, we need to understand that He does!

Before Jesus came to die for our sins, there was a lengthy detailed process to follow in order for sinful man to fellowship with our magnificently Holy God.  These chapters in Exodus detail the purification, sanctification, ritual sacrifice, fragrant incense, anointing and much more that were required to secure relationship with Him.  Why all these instructions and details to follow? I’m sure there are many reasons that my mind doesn’t understand, but if God could not even look at Jesus on the cross as He bore our sin, how could He ever live with the Israelites in their sin?  Atonement for sins had to be made.  From verse 45, we understand that he wanted His people to know that He was their God.  He wasn’t just someone they happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  He wanted them to know Him through an intentional connect.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the process that God requires, but not the outcome He desires. Our Holy God is now able to live with us through our acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.  However, I believe He still desires that we know He is our God, not just someone we happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  With our busy lives and commitments, it is easy to treat Him like a casual acquaintance rather than the One who lives with us, sleeps and wakes with us, the One with whom we are intimate.

What a heartbreaking moment for God – while sharing with Moses the very details of this intimacy, those He longed to live with were dancing around and worshiping a golden calf.  What was Aaron thinking? Every time I read this account, I am amazed that Aaron, a priest of the Most High God, wasn’t immediately toast.  Moses interceded to God for Aaron and the people, and God allowed His mercy to supersede His punishment.  “So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (32:14)

Fortunately for us, we have Someone interceding for us, “Because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  Hallelujah!  Mercy allows Him to live with us and allows the intimacy with us He so desires.  When Someone wants us this much, how could we ever choose a substitute. 

Moving Forward:  My heart is full of His love for me today – His patient, merciful love.  I approach this day knowing that He is God and so thankful that I can spend the day with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 20-24

Exodus 25-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will go to great lengths to provide a place for fellowship with us

Anyone who wonders if God is into details should read Exodus 25-40.  It was no small undertaking for the Israelites to build the portable tabernacle with details from God so specific that even the colors of the thread to be used were given.  From their Egyptian spoils, the Israelites were encouraged to give to the building of the tabernacle: “Gold, silver, bronze; blue purple, purple and scarlet thread; fine linen and goat hair for cloth; tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the lamps; spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, onyx stones and other gemstones.” (25:3-7)

The quality of the items used as well as the detailed instructions given in these chapters say a great deal about how God viewed His presence and fellowship with His people. The Israelites had been on the road out of Egypt for a little over 2 months, and they were just a few weeks travel from their final destination, the Promised Land.  However, God’s presence, the Pillar of Cloud and Fire, stopped them at Mt. Sinai for God to give Moses the laws to govern the people as well as this very in-depth instruction regarding the portable tabernacle.

Logic would say, surely the pillar would have been a sufficient location for God’s presence for just a few more weeks until they arrived in Canaan.  Was there really a need for this cumbersome tabernacle of heavy woods and linens for such a short period of time?  It was as if God knew their journey would last 40 years.  And of course, He did.

God’s priority in this journey was connection with His people – some things never change! He longed for their fellowship and for the opportunity to mold them into a people who would carry the message of His great love throughout the world.  But before the great sacrifice of Jesus, how would this imperfect people commune with a Holy God? It was through building a prescribed home for Him and by following the prescribed methods of animal sacrifices.  In doing this, they would show their obedient and contrite hearts, and they would allow God to purify their lives.

Jesus’ death on the cross changed all this.  The linen curtain of Exodus 26:31-32, separating the Most Holy Place of God’s presence from the people, was torn from top to bottom at His death (Mark 15:38).  Now, imperfect me can fellowship with a Holy God through my acceptance of the sacrifice of His Son.  He can mold me into someone who can carry the message of His great love throughout my world.  Talk about a portable tabernacle!  I can carry His presence everywhere I go, as long as He is welcomed.

I think we learn from God’s detailed instructions for the tabernacle that He desires a place worthy of His dwelling.  “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.” (2 Cor. 6:16)  Unholy living and idol worship will drive out the presence of our God who so longs to dwell in us.  If we wonder why we no longer feel His presence in our lives, it’s time to find out what has replaced Him.  Idol worship comes in many different forms.

“Aaron will wear this robe whenever he ministers before the Lord, and the bells [on his garment] will tinkle as he goes in and out of the Lord’s presence.” (28:35)  What a daunting thought that bells would ring announcing His presence in my life!  Thank you, Jesus, for grace and for the personal relationship I have with you.  There may be bells, but they’re for His ears only. 

Moving Forward: I seek your Presence today, dear Lord, and may the bells be silent because I remain! 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 15-19

Exodus 21-24 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His presence protects and guides us

Much of the remaining book of Exodus consists of laws and regulations for living.  Throughout history, one of the first acts of any group or gathering is to establish guidelines that bring protection and order to the group, and this new nomadic group of Israelites was no exception.  Because of God’s special covenant with their forefather, Abraham, God took special care to establish the very best guidelines for their success.

The laws were based on common sense and respect for others.  Many of the laws are similar to our laws today but they were met with very different consequences when broken.  Death was often an immediate penalty.  An eye for an eye was the rule of the day, especially in cases of personal injury.  If this was the law today, lawyers would be out of business, television commercials would be completely different, and we would definitely keep our goring ox under control to be sure.(29)  Exodus 22 dealt with the protection of property, the proper treatment of others and finally, their responsibilities to God. Sorcerers, sexual deviants and idolaters were put to death – zero tolerance.  Regardless of how much we abhor such sins, we can be thankful today for God’s grace and His ultimate justice through Jesus Christ. 

@ Exodus 23
Hidden within the laws of justice (1-9), the Sabbath laws (10-13), the Festival laws (14-19) and the laws of consecration (25-33) was an amazing promise to the Israelites.  “See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.  Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions.  Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion.” (20-22)  What angel would have the ability to forgive or to not forgive?  Many believe this angel to be a manifestation of God, even an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.  He certainly was, at the very least, a representative of the presence of God in the same way as the pillar of cloud and fire.  This angel was sent to go before them and lead them to the Promised Land.  What a blessed people!

And what a blessed people we are!  Those who have accepted the manifestation of God’s only Son, Jesus, have this same promise of protection and guidance for their lives.  It’s easy for this amazing promise to get hidden by all the laws of man, laws of nature and laws of God that we follow each day.  This account in Exodus of God’s faithfulness to His imperfect people serves as our reminder:  In our obedience to God, His presence is with us to protect and lead us through life. “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) It just doesn’t get better than that. 

Moving Forward: So thankful that I live in this day of His grace and experience His presence to protect and guide my life as I follow closely after Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 10-14

2 Samuel 5-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Holy Spirit dwells in us

When I read the story of Uzzah and the Ark, I always think of the first Indiana Jones movie.  Indiana’s arrogant archaeologist rival opened the Ark of the Covenant and then melted into the floor because of the power it contained.  The hero was spared because he respected its power and refused to look on it.  No doubt the author and filmmakers had read some scriptures and took some liberties, but the story does give us pause to consider the unfathomable power of God. 

@ 2 Samuel 6
“…the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God…God struck him dead because of this.” (6-7)  Frightening.  Uzzah’s motivation was to be helpful, but his action was careless, as was David’s.  Had David followed God’s law in moving the Ark, on poles carried by Levites, Uzzah would never have had to make the choice he did.  It seems that both men in their enthusiasm to move the Ark to Jerusalem failed to reverence its power source.

After Uzzah’s death, David understood the power connected to the Ark and was afraid to have this power source with him in Jerusalem.  Had I been present in the procession that day when David was determining what to do with the Ark, I’d like to think I would have been waving, jumping up and down and calling out, “I’ll take it!  I won’t touch it!”  Can you imagine the very presence of God dwelling in your home?  Blessings for your entire household?

Oh!  That’s right!  His Spirit does dwell with us!  Once we are purified by the blood of Jesus, we house the very Spirit of God, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (I Corinthians 6:19)  We are not reduced to puddles on the floor in His presence because without this purification, we could never host the Holy Spirit in our homes and experience His wisdom and power in our lives.  But do we really understand the Power within us?

Sometimes I forget the magnitude of hosting the Holy Spirit in my home, and wonder how often I fail to reverence its power source.  Today it’s not a problem of reaching out to touch it as with Uzzah, but it’s more a problem of failing to touch it.  So often I face a challenge, fix this or that problem and carry its stress all by myself when the power source of all Heaven is dwelling in me. “And the Holy Spirit [dwelling in us] helps us in our weakness…pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Perhaps our lack in trusting and using this powerful Source within us is a form of disrespect as well.  Because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we may not experience a physical meltdown, but we may go through an emotional or spiritual meltdown even though this great power to overcome all challenges is available to us.  With a purified heart, we have no need to fear an Uzzah experience.  The Spirit is on our side and waiting to help us.  Go ahead, reach out and touch Him! 

Moving Forward:  Unafraid, my heart sings for more, “More Love, More Power, More of You in my life. I will worship You with all of my heart…” (J. Del Hierro)  Blessings for my entire household! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 51-53

2 Corinthians 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He comforts us so we are able to comfort others and transforms us into His Christ-like fragrance

I love this time of the year when we celebrate Easter, a glorious day!  For Jesus, the week before His crucifixion and resurrection was filled with travel, teaching, great moments in prayer and also with fragrance.  Yes, fragrance.  “While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head…‘She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial.’” (Matthew 26:7,12)

As He prepared Himself for the greatest challenge of His life, the cross, His fragrance permeated His surroundings.  No doubt this fragrance blessed and comforted those who loved Him but disgusted those who were seeking to kill Him.  Because He was victorious on the cross and defeated death through His resurrection, we, too, can be victorious in our challenges and fill our world with His fragrance. 

@ 2 Corinthians 1
Sometimes we wonder why we go through the challenges we face.  Ultimately, God is concerned not so much about why, but with what we do with our challenges.  How do we respond to them?  “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (4-5)  In light of this, I have to admit that my flesh doesn’t really desire to be all that helpful to others in this way – I’ll pass on the trouble, but thank you for offering.

On the other hand, I also know the unbelievable joy that comes from comforting someone who is passing through a difficult place where I have been.  Solving the troubles of others may or may not be our task, but encouraging them with the hope of moving past their problems through our testimony is invaluable to them.  Acknowledging the presence of the Lord through all of our own troubles offers comfort and strength found nowhere else.  While I’m hesitant to say to the Lord regarding trouble, “Bring it on,” I’m confident of the abiding comfort He will give me when I need it most. In the process, I truly desire to share the fragrance of His comfort with others.

@ 2 Corinthians 2
“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” (15) In the United States, we are excessively concerned about our personal fragrance, our smell.  I’ve visited several countries around the world where I dare say a more conscientious approach to personal hygiene would be welcomed, but Americans are extreme in this.  By the time I have finished grooming each morning, I am wearing no less than eight different scents, which more than likely contribute to my allergy problems.  However, Paul was speaking of a different kind of fragrance.

“But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.  But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.  And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (15-16). Only those who are washed by the blood of Jesus, cleansed from the stench of sin’s decay, are adequate to represent Him by wearing His fragrance. To fellow believers, we are a life-giving perfume, but to the lost we are a constant reminder of their need for cleansing.  Oh, that they would tire of the dreadful smell of doom and instead run to the cross, allowing His fragrant perfume to fill their lives.  I’m forever challenged to smell just like Him. 

Moving Forward: Through the eyes of the Spirit, I will look for those in need of comfort, sharing His comfort with them, wearing His Christ-like fragrance. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 13-16

Psalms 45-47 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Presence is a river of joy in our lives

Watching the news unfold today is not for the faint of heart.  Many parts of the world are filled with political chaos while other areas are facing catastrophic events unlike any time in history.  Individuals performing ordinary tasks on any given day have had their world turned upside down with earthquakes, floods or storms, but we can take heart in the words of Jesus, “when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24:33)

This section of Psalms begins with a prophetic account of the marriage of Christ and His bride, the Church, in Psalm 45.  The King, anointed with the oil of joy (7) at this happiest of all occasions is joined with His Bride, who has left her past life (10) for the delight of one who loves her eternally. These are the things of which movies are made, and one day, this will be our reality!  But until then… 

@ Psalm 46
Psalm 46 reminds us of the protection He offers His beloved as we wait for His return.  “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.”(1) Have we seen any trouble lately?  “So we will not fear when earthquakes come and mountains crumble into the sea.”(2) Hundreds of earthquakes around the world are reported each day, ever growing in strength.  “The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble!” (6) Have we ever seen a day like today where countries are facing national bankruptcy, with our own country on the verge of collapse?  “God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!” (6)  Today we see tsunamis leveling cities and lava destroying all in its path, filling the air with volcanic ash.  Fearsome are the days in which we live.

However, The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us.(7)  We will not fear!  Even though the events surrounding Jerusalem at the time this Psalm was written were chaotic, there was a river bringing joy to the city, “A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.” (4).  No, Jerusalem did not have a river like we would think; it was a different kind of river.  It was a river of joy from the throne of God, filling God’s people with His presence, regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.  As long as they stayed in the river, peace and joy were theirs.

We, too, have a river of joy, the very presence of God flowing through our lives to bring peace and joy in troubled times. We should not fret and wail like those who have no hope, but we should follow His advice, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (10)  I stand silent in His Presence. 

Moving Forward:  I will not fear. I will remain in the river of joy today, ever confident that “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us!” (11) We are not alone. 

Tomorrow @ Job 31-32

Psalms 42-44 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He satisfies the thirst of all those who long for Him

Once in a while we hear stories about individuals who have been lost at sea, clinging for life to a small buoy or dingy. Their greatest need is always the hope of rescue, but their most immediate need is something to drink. With the sun beating down its ferocious heat, the body quickly loses a great deal of water and through parched lips, the poor souls cry out for water. Of course, we see the irony here – surrounded as far as the eye can see with water, but unable to drink it. It’s water that won’t satisfy; it’s water that will cause greater thirst.

Animals in the wild will travel great distances to find water during a dry spell. Deer and other animals can actually smell the water in the air and will follow their noses to the source. All living things need water. While the feeling of thirst is what signals our need, the need is there long before our bodies sense it. We need a constant intake of water to keep our bodies functioning properly, and so it is with the soul.

@ Psalm 42
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before Him?” (1-2) The psalmist of Psalm 42 paints an accurate picture of how we feel when we haven’t stayed connected to the source of living water and we find ourselves in a thirsty condition. “When can I go and stand before Him?” I would say that now would be a good time to so do, better sooner than later.

“Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies? They scoff, ‘Where is this God of yours?’” (9-10) It seems that when we are at our thirstiest, the enemy comes around to taunt us with questions about the God we love and serve, but just like the psalmist, we can go to the Source who fills our thirsty souls with living water. “Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy.” (43:3-4)

Send out your light! “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) Send out your truth! “For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true.” (I John 2:27) His Word and His Spirit lead us to Him, and it is there that, “All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

There’s no need for us to be thirsty, wandering in the dark! His Word and His Spirit will lead us to Him, and it is there we can take a drink from His river of delights. Thirst no more!

Moving Forward: I don’t want to get dry today so I’m drinking first thing, getting full up, from His river of delights!

Tomorrow @ Job 29-30

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