If you invite me to your house and tell me to make myself at home, beware. I will take you up on the offer. I’ll turn down the heat (because I’m always hot), take off my shoes, raid the refrigerator, change into my gym shorts & t-shirt, and commandeer the remote control. I will make my presence known if invited. (Perhaps I just uninvited myself to your house!)
From the time of the Exodus, that which seemed to define the people of God was the fact that God was with them. His Presence was with them in a tangible, abiding way. We see this unfolding reality shortly after the miracle at the Red Sea when they set up camp at Sinai. Moses had a conversation with God, and in the dialogue, the Almighty said this:
Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8 NIV)
“Dwell” in the Hebrew carries the idea of settling down and abiding, much like Christ would do centuries later when He became flesh and “dwelled” among us (John 1:14). God was saying, in essence, to Moses that His desire was to make Himself at home and make His presence known to His people. So they built the sanctuary and God came. When He showed up, He made His Presence known in a miraculous way. A cloud covered the tent of the meeting and was visible to all.
Israel, however, was on a journey much like we are on a journey through life and the journey had to be empowered if it was going to succeed. Sinai wasn’t their destiny, Canaan was and Moses knew that if the journey to the promised land was going to succeed, the abiding Presence had to go with them. Moses had a transparent conversation with God about this very thing.
Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:12-16 NIV – emphasis mine)
The distinguishing mark of God’s people would be this: they would become people of the Presence.
Let me pause and ask you – what is your distinguishing mark? Are you known for your charisma, your intelligence, your talent, your sense of humor, your business savvy? Maybe on the negative side you’re known for your “Eeyore” complex, your brashness or your short fuse which causes all to walk on eggshells when they’re around you. How different would your life be if you decided to become a person of the Presence? Walking in the reality of God’s presence has the potential not only to change the way we approach life, but also to give us a distinguishing mark. Personally, I would rather be known as a person of the Presence than for all the positive or negative qualities I may possess.
Here’s what happened as Israel traveled onward toward Canaan.
In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels. (Exodus 40:36-38 NIV)
The abiding Presence of God not only went with them, it became the driving force of their journey, and ultimately became their defining characteristic. In all of our travels, may we seek to become People of the Presence.