Have you ever been in a church service or other “religious” gathering (small group, Bible study, prayer meeting) and heard someone say: “Wow, God was/is really present here.”? Sometimes you might agree with that statement, and other time you might look around in confusion wondering what you’ve missed.
Theologically, the truth of the matter is that God is always present, in all times and all places. We call that his “omnipresence”, omni meaning all and presence meaning, well presence. Psalm 139 reflects this attribute of God when the Psalmist writes: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” God is all places.
So why are there times when we “feel” his presence more than others if he is always everywhere? The issue lies with us, not God. Just because God is present doesn’t mean that we are in tune with his presence. Some will say that we “feel” his presence because we’ve worked ourselves into some religious ecstasy, which is bologna. I’m not an ecstatic kind of a guy, and I know when I’ve felt God’s presence.
Why bring this up? 2 Chronicles 5:14 “And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the Lord filled God’s temple.”
God showed up when the Israelites were dedicating the temple, and his presence was so tangible, the priests could not continue ministering. God stopped them dead in their tracks. There is so much we could talk about from this scene! We could talk about how human ministry pales in comparison to the ministry God provides. We could talk about God’s displayed glory and how it stops people in their tracks all through the Bible. We could talk about God’s glory period.
But I want to talk about God’s response to worship and ministry that is in tune with him. When we show up to worship or pray or study the Bible with nothing but the expectation that God will show up and minister…God can and does do wonderful things. But when we show up and grumble about how the minister is dressed (yes, people still do that) or when our thoughts are dominated by the sins of the guy across the sanctuary or how out of tune the guitar player is or how mad we are about that board meeting last week…when we show up with hearts and minds dominated by that junk, God’s presence slips by us unnoticed.
Don’t get me wrong, God can and does blast through all of that stuff from time-to-time. Like in this scene from 2 Chronicles 5, sometimes God’s glory arrives despite our hearts inclination, positive or negative. But most often, God waits for an invitation and a willing heart. That is why the sacrificial system didn’t work in Israel. They thought the whole point was the sacrifice, when in fact it was a humble and contrite heart that God was interested in.
Next time you approach the Bible to read, or come to God in prayer, or travel to a church service of some sort, spend a few minutes asking the Holy Spirit to show you what is standing in the way of your being in tune with God’s presence. Maybe unforgiveness, maybe unconfessed sin, maybe a grudge, or a hurt, or maybe an earthly concern that God is waiting for you to turn over to him. It is our responsibility to approach God in the proper way. The Holy Spirit can and will help us do that, but only if we are open to his guidance.
Then maybe you will be the one remarking about the glory of God’s presence!
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 6-7; Psalm 136