God created mankind as an expression of the fullness of His love to establish a close and intimate relationship with us. Despite the disobedience by the first two humans, God did not abandon them but came at the appointed time (cool of the day), at the appointed place in the Garden. The All-knowing God called out to Adam and Eve seeking an explanation for not being at the desired place. The dialogue between God and man continued thereafter through the Prophets and finally His Son became man to reveal God to us and help us reconnect the broken relationship. Our sins were heaped up on the Messiah to provide forgiveness for our sins through His shed blood on the cross to enable us to come into the Holy presence of God. This relationship has been taken forward by God to another intimate level through blessing us with the indwelling Holy Spirit thus enabling us to be in His Divine presence.
Why be in His Divine presence – Since God the Holy Spirit is in us, we are already in the presence of God, then why should we try further to be in His presence? Moses was called up by God on to Mount Sinai and a cloud covered it for the glory of God rested on the mountain. Moses was in the cloud for six days and from the midst of the cloud, God called to Moses on the seventh day and he went into the midst only ten to be God’s presence (Exodus 24:15-18). Though Moses was in the cloud covered by God’s glory, he was called into His presence on the seventh day for only then was he ready to move. God desired to allow Moses enough time to prepare his body, soul and spirit to enter into the Divine presence of God.
While the Israelites camped in the wilderness, Moses would set up the Tent of Meeting outside the camp at a distance and went into the tent to be God’s presence (Exodus 33:7-11). The Tabernacle was set up in the midst of the camp, but why was Moses required to establish the Tent of Meeting outside the camp? The Shekinah glory of God rested over the Israelites camp in the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night assuring them of the presence of God with them, as it was in the Garden of Eden. The Tent of Meeting was placed about a thousand yards away from the camp to impress upon the people about their separation from God who was always present with them (Joshua 3:4). Since Moses was chosen by God at the Burning Bush site, he could enter into God’s presence and Moses would meet God many times a day as required.
All Jews in the camp were well aware of the sanctity of these meetings that Moses had, all people would stand at the entrance to their tents, worshipping God, while Moses would walk up to the Tent, till he entered. God commanded that He will honor all those who honored Him as Lord God and He remained with His people though separated by the distance (1 Samuel 2:30). Joshua, Moses’ assistant would remain at the Tent even after Moses left to prevent anyone else from entering and to meditate upon the blessing of God’s presence. It was this presence that trained and prepared Joshua for the onerous responsibility of leading Israel after Moses, as his successor.
Preparation for entering God’s presence – The Omnipresent God was with the Israelites and is present with everyone on the earth. But are we aware of His mighty presence, His love, His power and are we in any way affected by that? Once we become aware of His presence we must get transformed into His likeness, doing His will and rejoicing therein in worshipping Him. God instructed Moses to warn Aaron not to enter the Holy of Holies part of the Tabernacle at all times lest he die by entering God’s holy presence without due preparation (Leviticus 16:2). The Old Testament ceremonies were the preparatory process of the High Priest to enter God’s presence and we also must prepare our body, soul and spirit in like manner. To enter God’s holy presence our preparation must include some basic essential steps.
First, acknowledge His presence – Jacob while fleeing from his broth Esau to go to Laban’s house went to sleep in Bethel and in a dream saw a ladder connecting the earth with heaven. God was on the top of the ladder while the angels ascended and descended from it. Jacob exclaimed after waking up, “God is here and I was not aware” (Genesis 28:16). Worship is a way to become aware of God’s presence and Lord Jesus has commanded us to worship in ‘the spirit and truth’ (John 4:24).
Two, purification process of recognizing our negative thoughts and emotions and turning our mind towards holy things of God.
Three, sacrificial offerings of confessing and repenting of our sinful thoughts, intentionally or unintentionally committed sins and seeking forgiveness of God. “I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me” was King David’s cry to the merciful God to seek forgiveness and then acknowledged that “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51;3 and 17).
Four, blood offering through giving over of our sins and negative thoughts at the cross of Calvary by surrendering of self before God. Fasting is undertaken to remove distractions that hinder our process of surrendering before God and thus bring the body and soul into subjection.
Five, reading, meditating upon and putting on His Word in our lives to remove the negativity and darkness while replacing these with the ‘light of His Word’. The half truths and lies of Satan are removed and in this God given holiness we offer our move for God as a sweet incense at His altar.
Six, seeking the Holy Spirit manifestation from within to teach, reveal and remind the commands and promises of God from the Scripture to lead us into His presence. The craving for God must be like a thirsty person seeking water in the desert crying out, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my flesh lings for You in a dry and thirsty land” (Psalm 63:1). This is a desperate search as if the life depends on this like water for a thirsty person in a hot desert land. In any case life does depend on this for “separation from God is death”. Since He is within us we should “welcome His presence with praise and thanksgiving” for His manifested presence (Psalm 100:2-5).
Seven, wait, pray and listen and this is the most difficult part since quietness of the heart is a tough task indeed. Lord Jesus commanded the followers to go into the closet and close the door before praying to God, thus delinking from all desires, own strength and weaknesses – idols of self – to be fully dependent on God alone (Matthew 6:6). The disciples were ‘all together in one place (the upper room), in one accord and in prayer’ and the Holy Spirit descended from heaven (Acts 2:1). We enter into God’s presence when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice but this is realized fully only through worship at the altar of our hearts, thus connecting with God’s heart (Romans 12:1-2).
Hebrew word ‘qorban’ is translated as sacrifice while in actuality this word means, ‘to become closely involved in a relationship or giving up something for another’. The Savior Lord did this for us to have a close relationship with us and allowing us the same relationship with God the Father. Getting ready to be in God’s presence is obedience but His adoration is in worship.
Importance of thanksgiving before God – God desires an attitude of gratitude in us and the Psalmist aptly called out, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name” (Psalm 100:4). Thanksgiving is the act of acknowledging what God has already done in our lives in the past to get encouraged in faith and hope for His mercies for the future. Israelites were commanded to “Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation” (Joel 1:3). Apostle Paul clarifies that thanksgiving glorifies God for He has created all things for our sake (2 Corinthians 4:15). In his epistle to Timothy he reveals the sinful nature and fallen state that will prevail in mankind when along with other sins, men will not only be disobedient and arrogant but also ungrateful (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
Thanksgiving brings us into God’s presence for it brings Him glory and gives us the joy of acknowledging God as our Shepherd who takes us under His protection and care. Through this we not only recognize His sovereignty over us but also His goodness and faithfulness towards us – His chosen people, to be able to rely upon His promises in prayer. Thanksgiving is an important aspect of worship and in our battle with the devil it equips us with power to prevail over him through faith, using faith itself as a weapon. In addition it reflects our humility and dependence on God for everything for on our own we can do nothing. We can seek more from God if we acknowledge the past blessings and gifts from Him and this way we enter into His Divine presence.
What should we expect in God’s presence? – Prophet Elijah appeared from nowhere in the narrative and declares to King Ahab about Himself “I stand in the presence of God of Israel”. What an awesome introduction! And then he declares in God’s authority – there will be no rain or dew on the land till he says. God ensured his protection and care by leading him to the Cherith brook where ‘the ravens fed him (1 Kings 17:1-4). In God’s presence we are filled with his glorious power and authority and we operate in that and then like with Prophet Samuel “God does not let his word (and our also) fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19). Then we are free from all turmoil and in a place of abundance (Psalm 23:1-2).
We experience safety of the hearts and minds “that surpasses all understanding” through His peace in Lord Jesus and it transforms our hearts (Philippians 4:7). We tend to become like the one we worship (Psalm 135:18) and if we worship a tyrannical god we become like that. Our Father in heaven is love and His love fills our hearts to change us into His very image and likeness through the daily process of sanctification. The indwelling Holy Spirit then reveals the Son of God to help us to get changed and become like Him – humble, loving and obedient to our Father in heaven (Romans 8:29).
Many times we tend to get astray from God’s presence due to being too busy doing ‘His works’ or ministry duties, leaving little or no time to sit down for prayer and meditation. To overcome work fatigue, it is better to plan short retreat times to be alone with God by going for a short trip with your spouse, switching off mobile phones/internet connection to get rejuvenated. Sunday worship is a reflection of our whole week to thank God for His merciful guidance and empowering, thus opening our hearts to Him. The kiss of love of a child to her parent is reflected on Sunday worship where we take hold of God’s hand to seek His participation in all activities of the coming week while revealing our plans to Him.
Lord Jesus has redeemed us from the clutches of the forces of darkness and we are made ‘a royal priesthood, an holy nation to show forth His praises’ to those in darkness (1 Peter 2:9). We shall see His Divine glory face to face and get to know Him to rejoice in His presence before His throne (1 Corinthians 10:112-13). Joshua had realized what being in His presence meant and used God’s power to stop the sun and moon in their positions over the valley of Aijalon ‘until the people had avenged themselves over their enemies’ (Joshua 10:112-13). Lord Jesus declared His oneness with God the Father and we are supposed to live in such oneness with Him (John 17:22).
Lord Jesus became man to take us into the very presence of God and shed His blood on the cross to entitle us to this privilege. For us to be in the presence of God always is as important as taking the next breath for in both cases separation causes death. He has taken us into that exalted state but to remain there and not go astray is left to us. Daily renewal of this relationship with God through reading and meditating on His Word to live in the same ensures this.