The Manifest Presence
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.(Exodus 34:5)
The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it; He is manifest only when as as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son. If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.
Always, everywhere God is present, and always He seeks to discover Himself. To each one He would reveal not only that He is, but what He is as well.
He did not have to be persuaded to discover Himself to Moses. “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord”(Exodus 34:5). He not only made a verbal proclamation of His nature but He revealed His very Self to Moses so that the skin of Moses’ face shone with supernatural light. It will be a great moment for some of us when we begin to believe that God’s promise of self-revelation is literally true: that He promised much, but promised no more than He intends to fulfill.
Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us.
When we sing, “Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,” we are not thinking of the nearness of place, but of the nearness of relationship. It is for increasing degrees of awareness that we pray, for a more perfect consciousness of the divine Presence. We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.
We often play the game peep eye with toddlers. We cover their eyes and then remove the covering so they can see us again. I’m told that when their eyes are covered, they really believe we’ve disappeared and that we appear again when their eyes are uncovered. This is the idea of having the Presence and having the Presence manifested or made known. We know that when we cover the toddler’s eyes that we’re still in the same place and haven’t disappeared. The toddler, on the other hand, believes we’ve actually gone away for we are no longer visible. We might say to the toddler that he must still believe what he cannot see. We may give assurance that we are still there; he may feel our hands or hear our voice. And yet when we vanish from his sight, to him we’re gone from his presence.
For us, we are taught to “live by faith and not by sight” and that “faith is the evidence of things not seen.” But what is faith if there is not something real that is revealed to us at some point. If faith is the “evidence of things not (yet) seen” then there must be something to be seen.
If God is as we are with the toddler, still with us then it would appear that once the covering is removed from our eyes, then we could view the manifested Presence. In every case in the Bible where God manifested His Presence, it was so. Sometimes we may be looking without seeing. There are times when I have laid down something and when I wish to pick it up again I can’t seem to find it without searching for it. This is why God invites us to seek Him and promises that if we seek we will find.
“Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord…”
Like the father playing peek-a-boo with his child, God wants us to discover Him. While it is a wonderful thing to live totally by faith and it is admirable to do so, there is a deeper level where faith becomes sight. We may be as the blind man touched by Jesus who initially only saw shadows and required more touches to see clearly, but nonetheless, the possibility of the visible manifested Presence is awaiting those who seek with all their heart. Is not that the promise of God in Jeremiah 29?
In years gone by, the saints “waited on God” and “waited before the Lord” and they tell of incredible experiences of God’s manifested Presence. Perhaps our lack of these experiences is that we rush through our gatherings, we rush from home to church only to be anxious to rush home again. We occupy our lives with so many things that we have little time to wait on God. I think for many that they never expect to really experience the Presence until they reach heaven. To experience the manifested Presence here is beyond their expectations.
Whatever it is covering our eyes so that we have yet to behold God in the fullness of manifested Presence, I pray that the Holy Spirit moves it and our eyes are uncovered so we may see God.
“Then Elisha prayed and said, “ Lord, please, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servants eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha.”
2 Kings 6:17
As we gather for worship, may we preference our gathering with prayer that we might see God and that we might experience His Presence.
“Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people]. Be miserable and grieve and weep [over your sin]. Let your [foolish] laughter be turned to mourning and your [reckless] joy to gloom. Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose].”
Dr. John Thompson