When God Comes (The Presence of God)

When God Comes
Robert Wurtz II

When Israel went out of Egypt, The house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became His sanctuary, And Israel His dominion. The sea saw it and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, The little hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you fled? O Jordan, that you turned back? O mountains, that you skipped like rams? O little hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob, Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of waters. (Psalms 114:1–8 NKJV)

The Psalmist brings into view the awesome manifestation of the presence of God and its profound effect upon everything and everyone subjected to it. God had once walked with Adam in the cool of the day, but had been largely absent from the earth until the events relayed in our passage. That is not to say that God had utterly forsaken man: He did not. His Spirit still strove with them and He provided for their needs that the people of this world might feel after Him and find Him — for He was never far from any one of them. All of this was done in an attempt to lead man to repentance. The hearts of men need to get right with their Creator. The events of Psalm 114 were so breathtaking that it would seem that everyone without exception would have been convinced and changed. 

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” 
And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:18–21 NKJV)

Moses had a heart to draw near to God. The people, on the other hand, were content to go on playing and doing what they do rather than changing their hearts towards God. It is sobering to think that God had such great plans for this group and yet they died in the wilderness. He lived in their midst in the Wilderness Tabernacle and worked desperately to teach them His ways. He gave them all kinds of measures that were intended to teach them and remind them continually of his word. Why did He do this?

That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth. For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him; Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves. (Deuteronomy 11:21–23 KJV)

Focus in on the phrase, That your days may be […] as the days of heaven upon the earth. God wanted a place where His will was done on earth as it is in heaven. That place was the land of Israel and the Law served as a sort of “tenancy agreement.” The land belonged to God in a unique sense — just like Heaven is uniquely God’s as was the Garden of Eden. Everything belongs to God, but some places are special because He set them aside to be His unique dwelling place. When Satan acted out, he was cast out of Heaven. When Adam acted out, he was cast out of the Garden of Eden. When Israel acted out, they were cast out of the land. This is the sobering pattern of it.

God In the Midst

We read in Hebrews that things are different now that we are under the New Covenant. We have not come to the Mount that might be touched and that burned with fire. We have not come to the place where Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake” but we have come to Mount Zion and the city of the Living God (Hebrews 12:18-29). In fact, what Moses experienced was a mere foretaste of the reality that we have come to now. Whereas the Psalmist stated concerning God’s presence at the time of the Exodus and wandering, The sea saw it and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, The little hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you fled? O Jordan, that you turned back? O mountains, that you skipped like rams? O little hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord… the writer to the Hebrews says that now God is not just shaking the earth but heaven as well! This clearly implies that we need to be more serious about the things of God than even Moses was when the mountain trembled. In fact, the writer concludes his remarks by saying, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28–29 NKJV) 

Although we are to come boldly before the throne of Grace on the basis of what Christ has done, we have the ongoing risk of “refusing Him that speaks from heaven” or “trampling the Son of God under foot.” We have more privilege, but with it comes more responsibility. The New Covenant is a “much more” covenant so it is right for the writer to Hebrews to remind us “how much sorer punishment shall one be worthy” of disregarding the New Covenant and its Mediator than the Old Covenant and it’s mediator Moses. 

Most Christians read the book of Acts and gloss right over the fact that three people were smitten dead on three different occasions. Two men were smitten with blindness (Saul and the man in Acts 13:11). In fact, in Acts 2:43, 5:5, 5:11, 9:31, and 19:17 the fear of God was upon the people as a result of God’s dealings. Sadly in modern times it’s almost like people don’t want to accept that such things could happen. Perhaps some want to believe in a kingdom where God doesn’t care of we lie to Him “once and a while” or steal His glory from “time to time.” How easily we forget the words of Paul who stated plainly concerning the Lord’s table, For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:29–31 NKJV) Paul knew of specific instances where people had died because they did not discern the Lord’s body. Their cavalier attitude cost them their health in some cases and their lives in others. 

We don’t see God moving today as He did in the book of Acts because by and large people do not reverence God as they did in the book of Acts. What says the scripture? Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. (Acts 9:31 KJV) They walked in the fear of God and comfort of the Holy Spirit without contradiction and were “multiplied.” To the saints in the book of Acts the love of God and the fear of God were complementary terms. They feared the Lord because His manifest presence was there. They were comforted because His manifest presence was there. They were multiplied because His manifest presence was there. They were a sanctuary of God in the true sense of the word. It wasn’t the mountains that trembled; the people did and nobody complained about it.  

God wants us to be prepared for Heaven. He is trying to teach us about it. We have never been there, but if we follow His word and readily receive the Spirit’s dealings we can get our hearts right… and thinking right. God is love, but God is also a consuming fire. He loves us, but not in such a way that He will allow sin and rebellion to go on in the churches or in heaven to come. Paul explains further, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31–32 KJV) If we would get our own lives together, God wouldn’t have to do it for us. He is trying to prepare us for heaven. We need to recognize this fact and take seriously His dealings–just as the saints in the book of Acts did. 

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