Exodus 13:21-22 “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”
Here we are told that God’s Presence was with the Israelites throughout their journey in the wilderness. God’s abiding Presence which hovered over the Tabernacle took the form of a pillar of cloud that guided them by day, and a pillar of fire that gave them light as they travelled by night. This daily supernatural occurrence was the norm for God’s people. One cannot overstate what it meant to have God himself as the people’s Divine escort throughout their journey.
In essence the people were living in two worlds; the natural realm of the five senses and the supernatural realm of the spirit. By living in both worlds they would be guided by both principle instructions of the Law as well as the supernatural intervention of the presence of God. The material reality of God’s presence was in fact their daily experience. God was demonstrating to His people that He is present everywhere, never far away, and easily accessible. Imagine seeing the physical manifestation of God’s Presence every time you stepped outside your home. How would that reality change the way you live? You will find that physical manifestations of God’s Presence and power did little to change the way His people lived during their journey.
The Presence and the Principles
Exodus 19:4-6 “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
The above passage is an exchange between God and Moses prior to the giving of the Ten Commandments. The people have been supernaturally delivered from slavery, protected, guided, and provided for in the wilderness by God Himself. They have seen His Presence and His power on their behalf in Egypt and in the wilderness, now come the Principles of God’s Kingdom given for them to live by. Just as each person was required by Pharaoh to comply with the principles of his kingdom, so to would each person be required by God to comply with the principles of His Kingdom. To walk with God faithful obedience to Him is non-negotiable.
We read in Exodus 25:8 “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.” Here you’ll notice that God has always desired to live in the midst of His people. As with any relationship God’s Presence is front and center, but He is a God of order. Everything must be done according to the pattern He had shown Moses. It’s been said that order is the first law of heaven, and I can believe that because God is not the author of confusion.
The people of Israel were now free people that God was forming into a great nation. Like any nation they too must have laws to be governed by or there would be chaos. Unlike the other nations Israel would have God’s Presence with them wherever they went; Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (See also Gen.28:15,Josh.1:5,1Chr.28:20, Heb.13:5).
Living in The Presence of God
John 15:10-11 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Here we see the secret of God’s abiding Presence, notice how Jesus begins with “if you keep my commandments.” Following God’s written instructions will always lead to an awareness of His abiding Presence. The requirement to comply with the written principles of God’s Kingdom is still in effect.
One of the huge mistakes that adherents to the modern hyper-grace teaching make is not understanding what grace is for. Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 tells the Church: “Working together with him (God), then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
In Chapter five Paul reminded the Church that God had saved them and made them new creations in Christ Jesus. He then reminds them of the responsibilities that come with their salvation. Grace is not given to avoid the law or escape our responsibilities to comply with God’s Kingdom principles. Grace was given to empower us to keep the laws that are still in effect. Cooperation with God’s written instructions enables us to maintain our intimate fellowship with Him 24/7 while living out the purpose for which He redeemed us.
Building on Solid Ground
Finally, God’s global strategy of world redemption has as its centerpiece the Church making disciples of the nations. Just as the nation of Israel was the original prototype demonstrating to the world how a nation is governed by God’s Kingdom Principles thus having His Presence with them continually, so today the Church is a Holy nation, the city on a hill providing light to a dark and wondering world that God is calling back to Himself. 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
From the beginning God has always desired to dwell with the people He’s created. He has always called people since the fall of Adam to come and cooperate with Him and be an example of how He has originally intended humanity to live together on the earth. The bible narrative speaks to nothing else but God restoring lost and wayward humanity to a right relationship with Him to steward the earth together. Yes you are chosen for a purpose, redeemed as God’s treasured possession. We’ve been liberated from the slavery that sin brings into the lives of all who live in it. Yes, the Church is a holy nation proclaiming the message of redemption and mentoring the nations; enabling them to emerge from the darkness to live and to work together with God in His marvelous light. Ours is a Great Commission indeed; Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – John S. Picarello