“THE PRESENCE OF GOD” By Pastor YAU
Text: Exodus 33:12-17 October 13, 2013.
1) Need a guide to the Ruby Falls: The Ruby Falls is part of the Lookout Mountain attraction in Chattanooga, TN. It is one of the national treasure in the US. The waterfalls is 145 feet tall in a cave that is 1,120 feet under-ground. Anyone who wants to enter the cave to see the falls must have an official guide, follow the designated route to go in and come out safely. This is a rule all visitors must obey to enter the cave to see the beautiful waterfalls deep inside a mountain.
2) Need God in the journey of life: Many people take their journey of life in their own hands, on their own way. They will seek guidance from the wisdom of man. But Christians were offered the presence of God in our everyday life and the assurance of his leadership each step of the journey. The Bible is full of stories of the patriarchs, giants of faith and the faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ live their life with the presence of God. In our life experience, often times we don't see clear sign of the presence of God. Job, in the darkest days of his life lamented: “If I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.” (Job 23:8-9) Where is God when we need him the most?
THE HINDRANCES OF SEEING GOD'S PRESENCE: We don't see God.
1) When we don't trust God enough: Most of us claim we trust God in all part of life in general terms. But when it comes to our own life, things that are very personal, we don't really trust God. We don't trust God really has our best interest, really knows our situation and what we need or want. Some times we don't even trust of God really is capable of giving us the best deal for our life as we want it. God can't work when we don't trust him.
2) When we don't want to lose freedom: All the way from the day of Eve when she was tempted to be like god, many of us still want to be god for our own life. We don't want God to control our life or gives order so we need to follow, particularly when we don't like what we see. Many still have the fear that God wants to take over their life and subjects them to follow him. They are afraid if God is getting too close, they will lose their freedom of control their life to achieve their goals.
3) When we don't want to obey God: Disobedience has been the serious problem of all Christians. Many times in our life, our problem is not lacking the knowledge of God and his will on our life, but lacking the willingness to do what God wants us to do. Disobedience was the cardinal sin of the Israelis in the old time and it still is the cardinal sin of this generation. We don't obey.
4) When we aren't qualified to see God: This has to do with our life and attitude. If we willfully live in sin and won't repent, we can't see God leading our life. God simply can't put himself in the midst of sin to walk alongside of our sinful life. Sin and God just don't mixed. Anyone who wants to live in sin cannot see God in all his decisions and actions.
5) Finally, when we want other gods: Just as the Israelis made a golden calf as their other god they believed it will lead them back to slavery in Egypt, some of us made other objects as our gods that capture our loyalty, trust and sacrifices. There are many this kind of gods: desire of the fresh, power and wealth, fame, power and success, political ideology, cult figures, popular culture, just to list a few. Many people live their life following these secular gods, thinking these will lead them to happiness better than the Lord our God. This happens even in some Christian people. They claim to be followers of the Lord, but they follow other gods than the Lord. They don't want to see God and his presence in their life.
THE BLESSINGS OF GOD'S PRESENCE: (Exodus 33:12-17)
1) The assurance of God's plan: “Moses said to the Lord: You have told me: Lead this people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said: I know you by name and you have found favor with me.” (Ex 33:12) Just as a child needs his father to go with him to a strange place, Moses needed God to go with him to the Promised Land. God's presence assures the call he gives us both in our life and in our personal life and our ministry for him. God never gives a call without his guiding hands to assure us he is there with us. How often we feel lost in fear in the unknown future or a new assignment, but God's presence assures us that it is him who leads us this way. When the Israelis did not see Moses while he was in the presence of God to receive the law, they were scared and made an idol as their god.
2) The assurance of God's way: “If you are please with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” (33:13) How do we know the way of life we travel is God's way? What else could we ask more than his presence with us in the way we travel, live, serve and do all things for him? His constant presence in our daily walk brings us the security in our heart and on our mind that we are following his lead. God won't gives us a call without mapping out all the ways from beginning to the end. Although we can't see what the future may hold, but God knows each and every step of the way and his presence gives us that assurance.
3) The assurance of God's peace: “The Lord replied: My presence will go with you and I will give you peace.” (33:14) “Peace” or “rest” is so important in living and serving the Lord. Too often we are restless without peace in our heart as we try to live without knowing he is with us each and everyday. Peace is so important so God promised Moses his peace as Jesus promised us: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. The peace I give is not as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) We are not talking about peace or war in the world on the outside. We are talking about the assurance of God' peace in our life on the inside so we have that confidence of his presence in us. David had that peace when he faced imminent danger of his life, he said: “The Lord is on my side, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)
4) The assurance of God's grace: “For how shall it be known that I and your people have found grace in your sight? Is it not in that you go with us? So shall we be separated, I and your people, from all the people on the face of the earth?” (33:16, Scofield) The Hebrew word may be translated as grace, favor or well pleased. Moses didn't ask for a smooth ride, an easy journey. He asked God to show the whole world that Israel is his people and had found grace or favor with God by having God go with them. Grace and favor may not mean all things go well, no trouble, not setback. But it means even in all situations of life, God and his grace are with his people, you and me. What else could you ask God more than his grace and presence?
5) The assurance of God's answer: “And the Lord said to Moses: I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you.” (33:17) Moses had found grace and favor with the Lord and the Lord promised his presence to go with them. Although God was greatly disturbed by the rebellious acts of Israel for their making of an idol as god, and decided not to go with them, (33:3) he changed his mind and assured Moses of his presence the rest of their journey. This is not about if God is flip flopping, but it is about God is a merciful God. When we repent of our sins, seek his face, plead his mercy, God will change his heart to forgive us, lead us and bless us. Yes, God is just and righteous, but God is also love and merciful. When we return to him, seek his face, he will forgive and come back to lead our life. In Isaiah 55:7, God told his people: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Today, God will say the same to us.
APPLICTION OF TRUTH:
1) The journey to the Promised Land: If you are familiar with the history of Exodus, you know the journey to the Promised Land from the land of slavery is never a smooth run. Even though the whole idea of the trip was mapped out by God, it had so many detours, setback, unintended turns and defeats all made the journey difficult. Many of the problems were caused by the failure of the Israeli people, their lack of faith in the almighty God. Other factors that took them through many battles caused by their enemies in the land. Through out the whole process, we see two important sustenance: The will of God will never fail and the presence of God brought them to final victory. No one may stop God from accomplish his purpose regardless of human weakness or any other factor. When God sets his heart on something, he will always bring it through no matter what. We can always trust God that his will be done.
2) Our journey through this life: Throughout the 2,000 years of Christian history, countless faithful followers of the Lord left us beautiful testimonies on the power and mercy of God in their life. Regardless of human defects and failures, God always carried them through the mountains and the valleys with his love and presence. Often times it is through the storms we see more the love and power of God in our life than in sunny days. Besides the eternal life after this life, our faith in God brings his presence and company with us as we travel through this life. Set your heart on God who will never leave you nor forsake you no matter what situation you are in or how dreadful it may look, God will always come out victorious to the end.