God’s Presence with Us

 

The kingdom of God is not advanced by our being the kindest person we can be, professing our faith in Jesus, and giving credit for our successes to Him. The kingdom advances as God makes His presence an indisputable reality in the lives of those who know Him.

After the plagues of Egypt and splitting The Red Sea to lead his people out of bondage, Moses found himself camped in the middle of the wilderness among the teeming masses of homeless Israel, uncertain of what lay before them, surrounded by enemies. In that situation Moses wanted one thing above all others: to gain a deeper knowledge of God and His ways. . .  so that he could find his place in what God was doing, making the kinds of decisions that would translate into the favor of God’s presence with them. Moses’ confrontation with Pharoah had indelibly demonstrated the disaster a leader brings upon his people and himself, if he gauges God incorrectly. . . making Moses all the more intent on knowing God.

“Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.”  

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”  

Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”

 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.”

Ex 33:13-18, NASU

Note the intrinsic connection between Moses’ eagerness to better know God — and God’s presence — distinguishing him and his people from all others.

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Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

Ps 124:8

How many times have I glossed over the words, “the name of the Lord” having little idea of their import? But in recent weeks I have made the thrilling discovery of how directly  God’s presence, power, and help are linked to “His name.”

Christians can be confused about this, because we think “Jesus is The Name, and that is all there is to it.” But this is like confusing the spelling of a person’s name with knowing that person intimately.  To know The Name of God means that we have come into personal, experiential contact with the person He Is, becoming familiar with His attributes, increasingly able to gauge Him rightly and find our place in what He is doing. Knowing God is never the imagining of what is unreal. It is the grip of a Person who is really there, who has made recurrent attempts to imprint us with Who He Is. 

Learning His Name is not a frivolous exercise, it means our life.  Faced with insurmountable challenges,  Moses recognized that the deepening of his knowledge of God and His ways was critical for Israel’s survival.

 

Our help is in the name of the Lord

Why does Scripture put it this way? Why is our help in the name of the Lord, instead of in the Lord, Himself?

Scripture points us to The Name, telling us that our help is in the name of the Lord, because it is the intrinsic link (we can grasp) to the presence (we can’t grasp.) Our help is ultimately in the Person of God — but how would we ever lay hold of Him — except by Him giving us His Name?

Our help is in the name of the Lord, because that name is the way we lay hold of Him.

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Scripture was written before men could grasp the number of dimensions we inhabit in God’s created universe. Scientists tell us that we don’t just live in 4 dimensions (3 spatial and 1 of time) but in at least 10 dimensions . . . dimensions, which are folded into each other, indiscernible to our senses.

Imagine the name of God opening unseen dimensions of God’s help and presence to us.

This “picture” would explain why Scripture adamantly declares that whosoever calls upon The Name of the Lord will be saved.  Literally, calling upon the Name would open that dimension from which His saving help comes.

An example from Scripture

Elisha knew how to call on the name of the Lord, and so the invisible dimension of his spiritual protection and help was opened to him.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

2 Kings:14-17

The servant did not know the name of God, like Elisha did,  so he did not have the same ability to see into that dimension.  Again and again he would prove that he did not know God, like his master. Too often we are like that servant . . . assuming we know all that we need to know about God, imagining Him the way we like, not having the same grasp of His Name as the master who has proven Who God Is many times.

It is hard for the rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven (another name for that dimension), because his wealth protects him from the struggle that would press him to prove God. We Christians in the west have little spiritual power and are not distinguished by God’s presence with us, because our lives are soft and we’ve not been pressed to prove Who God Is.

 

How do we learn His Name?

the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.

Dan 11:32, NKJV

Those who truly know the name of God see into the invisible. They see patterns taking shape that indicate God is on the move, orchestrating circumstances.  They discern what God is showing them, before it enters time and space.

As David faced Goliath, he already knew what God was doing.  The army of Israel trembled as the giant bellowed obscene threats in the name of his gods; but David remained un-fazed, announcing to everyone what was about to happen

The Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. Then said David to the Philistine, You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the ranks of Israel, Whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will smite you and cut off your head. And I will give the corpses of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

I Samuel 17: 44-46

How had David gotten to this place? Alone in the wilderness guarding his father’s sheep, David had faced real threats to his survival in personal combat with both bears and lions. He was a kid, but he had experienced harrowing circumstances in which He had to prove Who God Is, in order to survive.

This is how we come to know His Name: we are forced to prove Who He Is.

That day David visited his brothers on the battlefield, he heard Goliath’s taunts,  but he could see into the invisible, and he knew the name that linked him to The One who was his help.  He knew his God, he recognized how he had been prepared, and he saw what he was being called to do. David was not pumping up his courage, imagining what he hoped would happen. Faith is never the imagining of unreal things, but the grip of what is real. (Morgan) And so David was able to declare that the Lord was going to deliver Goliath into his hand . . .  so that all the earth would know that there is a God in Israel.

Today, each of us is facing our own bear or lion, which poses a very real threat. But it does not come to harm us; it comes to press us into proving God. Our initial anxiety forces us to identify what we believe about God. It is OK if we can’t see where our help comes, for now, because everything we are going to learn begins here . . .  in our failure to understand and our inability to see. Here is where we are going to stop pretending that we know Him and we are going to become intentional about proving Who He really Is.

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This spring, something huge jumped out at me . . . the extraordinary care with which Scripture presents the intimate details of David’s spiritual life.

Genesis details the call and faith of Abraham, with some insight into the spiritual journey of each of the patriarchs. Many chapters are devoted to Moses’ story, detailing his preparation and mission as the deliverer of Israel. But you do not find a window into his soul, like The Old Testament gives us into David’s. We know little of Abraham’s or Moses’ inner thought life, compared to the wealth of intimate insight we are given into David’s . . .

No other figure in all The Old Testament is laid so bare as David. His life is told with extravagant detail: from the moment he is called from his father’s flocks as a boy to stand before Samuel the prophet until his death, having reigned for 40 years as Israel’s greatest earthly King.  In this amazing body of detailed information, Scripture takes great care to include David’s tragic personal failures . . . using his own pen to record the inner agony and ecstasy, handed down to us in his Psalms. We hear exactly what David was feeling and thinking, what he cried out to God and how God responded and continued to work in his life.  Because we have both the history and the personal spiritual writings of David, we are able to walk with him through the magnificent and tragic events of his life observing the divine dialogue that was continuously unfolding in the details.

I asked, “Why?”

And then I saw that God had taken extraordinary care to give us this depth of insight into David, because He wanted to show us what it looks like to know God so well that His presence becomes an indisputable reality in your life.

Moral laws are broken, David is not without sin, he fails greatly as a father, he aches for God’s nearness when God seems far away, and there are moments when he cries out because of his enemy with his back against a wall and no sign of God’s relief  — but the story continues — and God patiently demonstrates the unbroken love between them, David’s reverence, his hobbled but unrelenting faith, and his confidence in his deliverer no matter how bleak the circumstances.  What begins to emerge is the repetition of the same phenomenon, again and again. In a fight to survive, David is being forced to prove Who God Is.  Out of this drama, repeated time and again, emerges a man intimately alive to Who God Is . . . who knows His Name.  From the beginning of his story to the end, despite set-backs and tragic losses, friends and foes alike discern God’s indisputable presence with David.  (I Samuel 16:18; 18:12, 28-29)

There is no question that David’s personal knowledge of God and His ways rivals every other figure in The Old Testament. . .  giving him eyes, like so many others, able to see into another dimension. As I read some of David’s psalms, I was staggered by his precision describing specific events that would unfold centuries later in the recorded life of Jesus. David experienced those events as if they are happening to him, describing the last hours of Jesus’ life with uncanny detail, even the Roman soldiers gambling for his garment at the foot of his cross. David was able to look into that dimension where he saw things to come. But more importantly, in knowing The Name of God, David saw The One who would never leave him or forsake him.

In David, God was establishing a historical kingdom that would become another kind of kingdom, a never ending kingdom — a kingdom that would overflow the boundaries of history to rule and reign not only over all of this earth, but throughout the heavens and into the last spiritual reach beyond this physical universe.  This greater kingdom was to begin in David . . . the ancestor of Jesus Christ, often called, the “son of David”, born of a virgin descendant from the house of David, born in Bethlehem, the city of David, conceived by divine intervention, bringing the person of the Godhead into human flesh, to achieve a singular victory over the enemies of God (death and despair ) to establish a reign that rules invisibly now . . . but one day, will reign visibly, forever.

In David, God initiates a kingdom that challenges the foundation of what the world believes, by making His presence indisputably real in those who know Him.

I’ve put much thought into this . . . why God chose a figure from The Old Testament, to show us what knowing God looks like. It is significant that David’s story took place prior to Jesus’ coming, prior to the revelations of Christianity.

I suspect that God did this for our sake . . . because so many Christians today know what they believe, but they do not necessarily know The One, of whom they believe.

Theology, no matter how correct, cannot take us

where only the knowledge of His Name can go.

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An altar of earth you shall make to Me . . . In every place where I record My name and cause it to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 

Ex 20:24

Not just David, but every story of faith in Scripture is a place where God has recorded His name, causing it to be remembered. Far from being terrible, a fight for survival that forces us to prove Who God Is is the best thing that can happen to us . . . because that is the place where God records His name in us. And ever after, that hallowed ground is where He comes to us and blesses us.

Beloved, easy-believing, modern day, western Christians with our sloppy assumptions and cherished notions of what Jesus certainly would never allow . . . hard times press upon us . . . but here is where we have the chance to prove Who God Is!

May the hardest place in our life become the altar, where He records His Name in us . . . where He comes to us and blesses us, making His presence an indisputable reality.in our lives, because we truly know Him.

 

 

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  1. Shella Black says:

    “Faith is never the imagining of unreal things but the grip of what is real.”. Somehow that gripped me. It is not just the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen but also, the grip of what is real. Nice!

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