Passion For His Presence

……the upright shall dwell in Your Presence. ( Ps. 140.13)

Oh how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence, from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. (Ps. 31: 19-20)

Is it possible to actually live our earthly lives in the uninterrupted presence of God? Is it reasonable for us to seek to behold God’s face consistently even as we walk among the sons of men? Absolutely! The Word of God promises that such a place exists and is attainable in this life, here and now. God has prepared a place where the knowledge of His goodness constantly flows to those who fear and trust Him even as they fulfil their days in the presence of the sons of men. He has laid up for them a secret, hidden place in the Spirit where the Lord Himself actively ‘keeps’ them, revealing to them ever deepening levels of His glorious presence. This isn’t a place of immunity but a place of community. It is not a place free from the suffering, tribulation or persecution that those who belong to Christ face daily in this world. It is instead a place where we have entered in and partake of the uninterrupted communion that the Father, Son and Spirit constantly enjoy together. It is a place where the knowledge of Christ’s love remains tangible and consistent, regardless of the physical or mental discomfort of mind and body (see Romans 8:35-39). It is a place of abiding where we ‘go out no more’ (Rev. 3:12).

The question really is not whether or not we may dwell in such a place while still dwelling physically on this earth. The question is how much do we really desire to. Are we convinced that God wants us to live each hour of each day in His presence, and if so, are we truly seeking to do so with everything in us? Are we as hungry for His fellowship as He is for ours? Do we passionately pursue His presence with relentless abandon and determined resolve?

After Whose Image?

In the beginning mankind dwelt in the presence of God. Male and female were created in the image and likeness of the tri-une God (Gen. 1:26), having been formed from the dust of the earth (body) into a living being (soul), with the life-giving breath of God (spirit) energising and testifying to man’s unique place in creation (Gen. 2:7). Before the Fall, every fibre of man’s being – physical, emotional and spiritual – enjoyed the conscious knowledge and friendship of God in all His attributes. Man’s fellowship with God was unbroken and constant. But immediately after sin entered in, mankind’s response was to hide from God’s presence.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen. 3:8).

The Hebrew word ‘peniym’ is the word used here for ‘presence’. It means ‘the face.’ Interestingly, the word here translated ‘cool’ (as in cool of the day) is ‘ruwach’ (breath) – the same Hebrew word used in scripture for the Holy Spirit, who in Hebrew is the Ruwach ha Kodesh. The presence of God is carried in the very air or breath of Heaven. Until the fall, Adam and Eve would meet and commune with God face to face with the active participation of the Holy Spirit. It was the entrance of sin into the human soul that initially caused mankind to hide from the holy presence of God, and still does.

After the fall, Adam and Eve, having become locked into sin, were driven from the garden where they had so freely communed with God (Gen. 3:22-24). It is commonly believed that God’s sole motive in driving mankind from the Garden of Eden was punishment. However, the Bible does not say that. As we have seen, man had already become spiritually separated from God’s presence by sin, which caused Adam and Eve to hide themselves from Him in shame, even while they were still in the Garden. The Bible is clear that mankind was driven from the Garden so that he would not again eat of the tree of life and therefore live forever in his now fallen, unredeemed state (Gen. 3:22).

Though man had been driven out of the Garden, it seems Adam and Eve remained living in close proximity to their original home where they had enjoyed such rich fellowship with the Lord. It was the first shedding of human blood by another human, however, that brought about an even greater distancing between man and God’s presence, evidenced by Cain’s distraught response after the murder of his brother Abel:

‘Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face……’ Then in verse 16 we read: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord……..” ( Genesis 4:14-16)

In Genesis 4:26 we read that in the days of Enosh, Adam’s grandson, “men began to call on the Name of the Lord….” In the garden it was the Lord God who had searched out man, calling ‘Where are you?’ (Gen. 3:9), but now it was mankind missing the presence of the Lord! The word Adam, incidentally, means “man”, not as gender, but as mankind or humanity. It also means “to show blood in the face”. Enosh also means man, or human being, but a human being who is frail, feeble, melancholy, desperate, wicked, incurable, sick and woeful. It seems the further man retreated from the presence of God the weaker and more desperate the human race became.

Genesis chapter five is a record of the lineage of Adam from creation to the days of Noah. We know that Adam and Eve were originally created in the image of God, but between Genesis 5:1 and 5:3 a sobering and tragic event is recorded: ‘This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them mankind in the day they were created. And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.’

By the time of the birth of Adam’s third son man no longer reflected the spiritual image of God His creator, but the fleshly image of his sin-infected forebear. For the scriptures state that Seth was born in the image and likeness of his father, Adam. This is the major reason why humanism is such a futile belief system. The belief that the “goodness” of man will eventually gain the upper hand and save the human race is extremely misguided and demonically inspired. Every human being born on the face of the earth bears the flawed image of our father Adam until the Blood of Christ is appropriated by faith to redeem us from our earthly ancestry. This is why Jesus stated ‘there is none good but One’ and Paul taught ‘in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing.’ Even with every intention to do good that all of mankind throughout all the ages can muster, man cannot redeem himself by any means whatsoever, because the entire race now bears the image of fallen Adam. Only when we truly grasp this truth can we begin to comprehend the true depth of our spiritual state and desperate need for God’s saving grace. We have become like Enosh, frail, feeble, desperately wicked, and above all, incurably sick.

Show Me Your Glory

Within the hearts of many born-again believers there often remains an unspoken question that has its origins back in the expulsion from the Garden, and lingers still in the shadows of human memory. Can I really behold God’s glory and enter His presence? Can I really know Him and be unconditionally loved by Him? Can I really look on the face of God and live?

Well, what does it mean to seek God’s face anyway? Moses was a man who asked such a question. Scripture records him as having been more meek than any man on earth, yet he boldly asked to be shown more of God. We can learn quite a lot from Moses conversation with God in Exodus 33.

Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You, and that I may find grace in Your sight. And he said, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. (Ex. 33:13-14).

Moses asked to be shown God’s way, that is, His character and attributes. In response God promised to send His presence. If we want to know who God is, what He’s like and how He does things, we must seek His presence. It’s in His presence we find out about God – not from books about Him, sermons about Him or other people’s experiences with Him. All these can be helpful but are supplementary. Moses had little access to these, yet God chose to reveal Himself to Moses because he asked to know Him more closely.

Seizing the moment, Moses then responds:

If Your presence does not go not with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth. (Ex. 33:15-16).

Moses understood that the only thing separating Israel from all the other nations on earth was the presence of God, and he certainly wasn’t prepared to leave home without it.

So the Lord said to Moses, ‘ I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.’ And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.’ Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me, and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.’ (Ex. 33:17-23).

When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said He would show Him His goodness but not His Face. To behold God’s glory in fullness is to behold His face, but even Moses, who had found grace in God’s sight, was not able to look at the face of God and live. Moses was a descendent of Adam, and was therefore still separated spiritually from God by sin in the flesh. That which is ruled by the sin nature cannot look into the face of pure Holiness and survive.

But wasn’t Moses the one who spoke with God ‘face to face’ you may be asking. Yes, Exodus 33:11, indicates that God and Moses spoke face to face, ‘as a man speaks with his friend. This is a descriptive phrase used to explain the closeness they enjoyed in conversation. The emphasis is placed on the act of speaking, which is why some Bible translations say ‘mouth to mouth’ rather than ‘face to face’. Furthermore, Numbers 12:8 states Moses only saw God’s ‘form’. However, when Moses asked to see God’s glory the Hebrew word used is the same as that used in Exodus 3:3 when Moses turned aside ‘to see’ why the burning bush was not consumed. It has the deeper meaning of gazing, discerning or inspecting closely. Moses was protected by God from gazing into His face and beholding the fullness of His glory.

Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him…..And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out, and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him.” (Ex. 34:29, 30, 33-35)

When Moses would enter into the manifest Presence of the Lord the glory of the Lord would remain visibly on his face so that it shone with supernatural light. Though the witness of God’s accompanying presence went with Israel day and night in the cloud and the fire, (Ex. 13:21), Israel only saw the Lord’s own glory second hand, reflected on the face of Moses. Even then it was more than they could bear, causing Moses to veil his face because of their terror. Even with a mediator such as Moses the descendants of Adam remained separated from the presence of God, unable to seek His face.

Moulded In His Image (Again!)

Now, let’s return to our question: Does God want us to see His glory? Can we behold Him and live?

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I AM, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world ( John 17:24).

Just hours before His physical death Jesus asked the Father to grant that His disciples might be with Him where He already WAS in the present moment. He didn’t ask for them to be shown the place He would be going. He asked for them to be with Him in the place where He was already dwelling with His Father. His fervent prayer in those last hours was that His followers would now know the same reality – the reality of dwelling in His presence, beholding His glory, not as some future hope but as an hour by hour experience of communion made possible through the fellowship of the Spirit. What was about to happen that Jesus could confidently utter such a prayer to His Father, who always listened to Him?

But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had not glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels, for if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech, unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, ARE being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord ( 2 Cor. 3:7-18).

The glorious truth is that even as Jesus prayed, the ministry of condemnation, the law, was passing away. The ministry of righteousness through Christ alone was about to be unveiled. And while the first had its own glory, the glory of the second far exceeds it. Because of the Cross, the very face of God awaits our hungry gaze. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”( 2 Cor. 4:6). With open, childlike faces, we may run boldly into the very presence of our Father. And more than that, for the scripture says we ARE, even now, being transformed into the same image as Him who we gaze upon. Right now, if we can receive it, through the operation of the Spirit we are passing from the old dispensation of glory into the fullness of the new one. Right now we may dwell with Him where He IS, beholding His face and being moulded into the same image, even as the first Adam was moulded from clay.

The Heavenly Race

And so it is written, The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the Heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly Man ( 1 Cor. 15:45-49).

How desperately we need a revelation of Christ the Heavenly Man. How badly we need to understand once for all whose image we bear! Though we have borne the fallen image of the first man, Adam, yet now we bear the image of the last Adam, Jesus Christ. That fallen race of the man of dust is dead to us and us to it. The only remaining evidence that we once belonged to another race is our physical bodies which are returning to dust. But we are no longer of that first man. The second Man has come and it is His image we now bear. And as IS the Heavenly Man, so also ARE those who are heavenly! Stop seeing yourself as belonging to the race of Adam, a race condemned to death. Start seeing yourself as the new creation the Bible says you are, belonging to a new race – the race of heavenly creatures after the image of the original Heavenly Man. This is the reality for all true followers of Jesus Christ, here and now in this earthly life and in the life to come. Jesus said “the glory which You gave me, I have given them……”(John 17:22)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation (Gal. 6:15)

That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Eph: 4:22)

We Beheld His Glory

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were EYEWITNESSES OF HIS MAJESTY. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’. And we heard this voice which came from Heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountai (2 Peter 1:16-18)

When John and Peter wrote these words each of them was recalling a specific event that is recorded in the gospels. Many years later the memory remained stark of that night when Jesus had led them, along with James, to the mountaintop where they beheld Him in His heavenly glory. (Mark 9:1-9; Matt. 17:1-9). Not comprehending what he was witnessing, Peter boldly suggested that three tabernacles should be erected – one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But before the words were out of his mouth the Father’s Voice spoke audibly: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ The Bible makes a point of recording all three disciples fell on their faces at the sound of that Voice (Matt. 17:6)

Why was Peter’s quite natural suggestion rejected so abruptly? After all, he was a Jewish man versed in the Old Testament scriptures simply trying to make some sense of what he was witnessing at that awesome moment. The problem was that Peter was trying to understand spiritual things from a natural viewpoint (1 Cor. 2:14; Romans 8:7-8). He was wanting to mix the old glory with the new. But God would not allow His Son’s glory to be shared by that which was passing away. So too do we need to understand that when we were born of the Spirit we literally became newly created beings in a newly created race. We are now no more related to the fleshly race of Adam than we would be related (hypothetically) to a race of Martians. May the Lord give us ears to hear.

Living on Earth, Dwelling on the Mountaintop

And He said to them, You are from beneath; I am from above: you are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23)

We can imagine what it must have been like for Peter, James and John coming down from that high mountain, being instructed by Jesus not to speak of the things they had seen and heard till after His resurrection. Their hearts would have been pounding with a combination of awe, anticipation and wonder. Could any of us have lived through such an experience and not be changed? When we too are led to the mountaintop by the Spirit, beholding His glory, soaking in His Presence, we don’t want to leave. I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I don’t want to come down.

But did you ever think about Jesus in that situation? He too had to come down from the mountain. Do you think He wanted to come down from that mountain? What was at the bottom of the mountain for Him? The world with it’s chaos, deception, lust and confusion, and ultimately the Cross. He knew that, yet He left the glory on that mountain to descend into the world again. What compelled Him? Many will say His love for us, and this is true, but there was something even more compelling that motivated Jesus and it was obedience to His Father. Hebrews says Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8). Coming down was part of that learning. When you’ve been in the manifest Presence of the Father, when you’ve been in the Presence of the Excellent Glory, it’s suffering to come back from that place. The world represents tribulation. The world represents warfare between flesh and spirit. So how could He do it?

The answer lies in the fact that Jesus always beheld His Father’s face. He always saw His Father before Him. He always dwelt in His Presence. That’s how He was able to come down from the mountain. That’s how He endured the world. David prophesied of Him: ‘I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken’ (Acts 2:25).

We who follow Jesus are not any different in that respect. I can physically continue to live in this world in only one of two ways. I can compromise more and more with the world, succumbing to its influence and its atmosphere until I am reduced to a nominal, lukewarm powerless Christianity that looks, sounds and smells like the world. Or I can live in this world physically while I abide continually in the presence of the Lord by the Spirit.

Though I take physical shelter in an earthly home, my place of abode is before My Father’s face. Though my body is perishing, yet my inner man is being renewed daily, for I am not of Adam, I am of Christ. Though my fragile frame is returning to dust yet my spirit is soaring in the Heavens like an eagle, while my face beholds my Father and I dwell in the presence and glory of Christ. Even as my mind must attend to the things of daily life, my citizenship is in Heaven where I continually seek the face of my God and set Him before me. I actively choose that and I actively pursue that. I cannot dwell in two places at once, and I refuse to dwell anywhere else but in the presence of my God. This is not ‘pie in the sky’ – it is called walking in the Spirit. It is the place in which Jesus walked while on this earth, and it is the place He calls us into.

The scripture tells us the glory of God shines out of the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). We can choose to set the Lord always before us, to be with Him where He IS – in the Spirit. I am not encouraging anyone to physically separate themselves from the world. The church is to shine as lights as the world gets darker. It is the Spirit that calls us into the presence of God and separates us from the world, not isolationism.

The Bride must awaken to the truth of her calling to fellowship with God. It is imperative to the advancement of the Kingdom that we stop believing the lie that we are captives of a fleshly fallen nature. The true church must become free of the lie that she can love the world and remain spiritually alive. Friendship with God is enmity with the world. It is crucial we cease trying to live in the presence of the world and choose to pursue the presence of the Lord at whatever cost. It is not optional, it is a matter of life and death. And yes, it is possible, even here, even now, if we will stop seeking the face of the world and set the Lord always before us. The question is not ‘Are we able?’, the question is ‘Are we willing?’. The question is not ‘Are we worthy?’, the question is, ‘Is He worth it?’

Lord grant us a passion for Your Presence that will not be quenched until we are dwelling each hour lovingly gazing on Your Face, fellowshipping freely with You in the Spirit, walking even on this dusty planet as the sons of God among sons of men.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. Ps. 27:4

Cheryl McGrath
Great South Land Ministries, Australia


 

Copyright 2006 Cheryl McGrath, Great South Land Ministries, Australia. This article may be copied or reproduced freely providing copyright notice and contact details remain intact.