Posts tagged ‘Presence’

God Is With Us

File:Johann Wenzel Peter - Adam and Eve in the earthly paradise.jpg
Credit: “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Johann Wenzel Peter (c. 1815) / Wikimedia

God has a funny way of defying the expectations people put on His presence.

When God appears to the first two humans, Adam and Eve, we find Him searching for them by “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). But this paradisical picture soon turns ugly when He finds out they have fallen into sin by eating fruit from His forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In punishment, God casts the couple out of the cool and lush Garden of Eden with a warning to Adam that now “by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food” (Genesis 3:19). The refreshing cool of the garden is shut off to humans and exchanged for a sweltering sweat. And it feels like God has barred humanity from His presence.

But He hasn’t.

In Genesis 18, we meet a man named Abraham who is “near the great trees of Mamre…sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day” (Genesis 18:1). Because “the cool of the day” of the Garden of Eden has gone, Abraham tries to shade himself by some trees and with his tent in “the heat of the day.” But in the middle of this sweaty scene, we read:

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. (Genesis 18:1)

It turns out that God shows up not only in the cool of the day, but in the heat of the day – not only in a garden, but in a desert.

Too often, we harbor unexamined assumptions about how God’s presence has manifested itself in our lives:

“I got new job because God was with me.”
“I didn’t get the virus because God was with me.”
“I won the award because God was with me.”
“My life has turned out well because God was with me.”

All these statements may well be true. But their inverses are most certainly not:

“I didn’t get the new job because God wasn’t with me.”
“I did get the virus because God doesn’t care for me.”
“I didn’t win the award because God is against me.”
“My life has turned out tragically because God has forsaken me.”

God is with us in the garden and in the desert – in the cool of the day and in the heat of the day.

God’s presence with us even when life makes us sweat should come as no surprise to us. The word “sweat” is found twice in the Bible – once when Adam is cursed in a garden and once when Jesus is struggling in a garden:

Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

Jesus knows what it’s like to sweat. And He’s promised to be with us when we sweat, too. Our circumstances – even when they are difficult and tempt us to become despondent – are not barometers of His presence. He is present with us because He has promised to be. Period.

January 31, 2022 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Meeting With God

Jacob's Ladder, Bible, Line Art, Landscape, Biblical
Credit: maxpixel.net

There is an interesting line in Galatians about how Moses received God’s law:

The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. (Galatians 3:19)

When God gave the law to Moses, He mediated it through angels.

Angels regularly serve as mediators between God and people. When God has a message to deliver to a young maiden named Mary about how she will bear God’s Son, He delivers it through an angel. When God wants to notify her husband-to-be that the son in his fiancé is miraculously conceived, He sends an angel to deliver the news. When God wants to take the apostle John on a tour of heaven, He does so using an angel.

In Genesis 28, Jacob is at a low point in his life. He has become a fugitive from his home and family because he stole the family inheritance that rightly belonged to his older brother, who, when he found out, vowed to make Jacob pay with his life.

One night, while Jacob is camping out in the middle of nowhere, he has a dream:

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12)

As theologian Richard Bauckham points out, the stairway Jacob sees is probably climbing the side of a ziggurat, which was a tower commonly built in ancient Mesopotamia that was meant to “touch heaven,” as it were, so that the peoples of that day could ascend it and meet with their gods.

But Jacob’s dream comes with a twist. As in so many other dreams and visions, there are these angels, who one assumes are there to mediate Jacob’s meeting with God as he climbs the stairway on the ziggurat. But this dream is different:

There beside him stood the LORD, and He said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” (Genesis 28:13)

In Jacob’s dream, God is not at the top of the ziggurat, waiting for angels to mediate his meeting with Jacob. Instead, He has come to the bottom of the ziggurat – to where Jacob is – to stand “beside him” and to meet with him directly.

When Jacob realizes what has happened, he declares:

“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16-17)

It turns out that Jacob is only partially correct in his analysis of what has happened. Jacob believes the Lord was “in this place” – the place where Jacob happened to be sleeping that night. He perceives his meeting with God as a chance encounter. He just happened to stumble across the place where God was.

But this is not what God tells Jacob when He speaks to him in his dream. He does not tell him that He dwells in a place, but instead that He desires to dwell with His people:

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” (Genesis 28:15)

God has not bound Himself to a map, but to mortals. This is why when God wanted to demonstrate His presence most fully, He came to mortals in a mortal who brought immortality by His resurrection.

God is with us. We don’t need to climb a ziggurat or wait for an angel to meet with Him. For we have met God directly in His Son. What Jacob got a glimpse of, we have received the fullness of.

August 30, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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