Best of Daily Reflections: God’s Abiding Presence
Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. The cloud of the LORD hovered over the Tabernacle during the day, and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.
With these verses, we come to the end of Exodus. We have seen how God rescued his people from Egypt in order to make a covenant with them, so that they might be his holy people and he might be their God. Throughout Exodus, God’s presence figured prominently—first, in the burning bush and the call of Moses. Then the Lord proved that he was with the Israelites through the plagues and the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. God was powerfully present on Mt. Sinai as he revealed his covenant to Moses and through Moses to the Israelites and then as he gave them the law. The Lord also provided specific instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, the place where God would dwell among his people in a unique way. But when they disobeyed God’s command and built an idol to represent his presence, he threatened to remove himself from Israel altogether. Yet when Moses interceded, the Lord promised to remain with his people. The final chapter of Exodus narrates the setting up of the Tabernacle and the coming of God’s glorious presence to fill it. From that time onward, a visible cloud on the Tabernacle represented the Lord’s presence with Israel. The action of the cloud guided them in their journeys, reassuring them of God’s abiding presence.
Sometimes I wish God’s presence in my life were more visible. I wouldn’t mind a miraculous cloud or two. And I would surely appreciate specific guidance concerning which path to take when I’m faced with a difficult choice. But God has chosen a different way to be with his new covenant people, and this way is truly far more wonderful, even if it is less visible. God puts his own Spirit within us, dwelling in us and among us when we gather together as his people. The very power of God empowers us as we seek to live as his kingdom people. Though we cannot see God’s presence with our eyes, we believe it by faith and sense it as we live in daily relationship with him.
The fact that God’s presence dwells, not simply in one holy Tabernacle, but in each individual Christian, means that the presence of God is not geographically limited. Rather, God is present wherever his people are present. This means God is there wherever you find yourself: at work, at home, at the car wash, in the bleachers of the big game, and in the weekly worship gathering. God seeks to make his presence known through you and me as we serve him in the world each and every day. This is, indeed, a high calling.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you experience God’s presence in your life? What helps you to pay attention to God’s presence more carefully?
PRAYER: O Lord, how I thank you for making your presence known to Israel. Because you were with your people, they were set free from bondage in Egypt. Because you were with your people, they began a covenant relationship with you. Because you were with your people, they knew which way to go.
Thank you, Lord, for choosing to be with the Israelites even though they sinned so egregiously against you. Your forgiveness and faithfulness reassures me because I know that I also have turned my back on you.
Thank you, Lord, for your presence with me in your Spirit. Thank you for dwelling in me, empowering me, comforting me, guiding me, and including me in your family. Help me, dear Lord, to live each day with a consistent awareness of your presence. Teach me to be attentive to you, so that you might use me for your purposes.
All praise be to you, gracious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for being with me always. Amen.