Scripture: And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:14-16 ESV
Observation: Having received marching orders to press on to the Promised Land, Moses intercedes for himself and the nation to request the Lord show him his ways so that Moses might know his Lord and thus find favor in his sight (33:12-13). Yahweh graciously responds that his presence will go with Moses and give him rest. Moses then emphasizes the twofold importance of the Lord’s presence:
- an essential witness to others of his favor on his people, and
- a means of distinguishing his people from the rest of humanity.
In addition to Moses’ observations, David later provides three other blessings of seeking our Lord’s presence:
- protection from enemies (Psalm 9:3),
- joy (Psalms 16:11 and 21:6), and
- vindication from adversaries (Psalm 17:2).
And as Christ sought solitude in the presence of the Father, he found renewed strength and discernment of the Father’s will (Matthew 14:13, Mark 1:35, and Luke 4:42).
Takeaway: The church fathers of the faith often wrote about practicing the presence of God, a spiritual discipline not discussed enough in our contemporary church. Indeed, seventeenth-century monk, Brother Lawrence, wrote perhaps the best-known work on this subject by the title, “Practicing the Presence of God.” Having joined the Order of Discalced Carmelites in Paris, Lawrence spent the rest of his days in the monastic life of humble service. His responsibilities included kitchen duty, where a cacophony of pots and pans, steaming water, kindling fire, and loud voices could easily distract anyone from an awareness of the presence of God. So Lawrence learned to seek his Lord’s presence amid life’s distractions and disruptions. And like David and Christ, he found joy, peace, and protection from the guiles of our supreme enemy, Satan.
How then do we seek the presence of God? Here are a few suggestions that I find helpful:
- Be honest about our struggles to be still before God. Many of us have developed attention deficit tendencies in our age of instant information and news.
- Clear the slate (humbly confess our sins and seek forgiveness). Then rest in the assurance of the Cross.
- Read and reflect on his Word without an agenda.
- Center our prayers on our Lord’s attributes before transitioning to intercessions.
- Look for God at work around us and ongoingly give him thanks.
- Praise our Lord for the beauty of his creation. Take time to relax and admire the wonders of nature and human life.
- Co-create with him using the talents he has given us. Express our abilities in ways that recognize he is working through us.
- Serve others with the mindset that we are serving Christ.
So we’ve talked about the blessings of seeking his presence, but what’s the purpose? To prepare us for eternity where we will glorify him and enjoy him forever.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that your son, Immanuel, manifested your presence with us. Would you please help us follow his and Moses’, David’s, and Brother Lawrence’s examples of “seeking your presence” that we too might glorify you and enjoy you forever? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling