Presence or Presents?

The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Ex 33:1-3 ESV)

And he [Moses] said to him [The Lord], “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex 33:15-16 ESV)

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” (Ex 33:18 ESV)

The path of the Lord is a path of blessing. I believe that with my whole heart. But I believe there are times where the paths of immediate "blessing" and greater intimacy with the Lord diverge for a while. These moments come to test us to see what it is we really value: the presence or the presents. What God does for us, or who he is.

Moses was brought to such a time in Exodus 33. God gave him a choice: to go in and possess the promised inheritance immediately, but without the Lord's presence going with them, or to continue with the Lord despite the judgements and disciplines for disobedience that he would bring.

Like Moses we need to understand that it is the presence, not the presents that mark the favour of the Lord. It is possible to live a "blessed" life without God; to have financial security, a good marriage, popularity, success in your work, and yet have little or no sign of the powerful presence of God on your life. Equally it is possible to go through times in your life of deep trauma and crisis, that to everyone external looks like a sign of judgement, yet to know God's grace in such a powerful and tangible way, wrapping around you, lifting you up, flooding your soul with light and hope and faith, that the sweet intimacy with the Lord outweighs the bitterness of the circumstance and you can still say with your head held high "I am blessed!"

I thank God for all he has done for me, and all the goodness that he continues to pour out onto my life. But my worship of him is not based on how "blessed" I am, but on how awesome he is. Worship is about what we give to God, not what he has given to us. I love to hear testimonies to the goodness of God; it is right and proper to enter God's courts with thanks. But when I come to worship in the corporate setting, I come to meet with God. It is possible for testimonies to become idolatrous. When too many are brought, they take the place of God in our meeting, and instead of seeking the presence we are discussing the presents!

My hearts cry is the same as Moses'. "Lord I want to see your glory! I want to be a part of a people where your power is manifest amongst us. I thank you for all that you have done for me, and all the good things you have in store, but given a choice between your presence and your presents, I choose the presence every time!"


Kev C said...

This is good solid stuff Chris and like you, presence over presents every time. Thank you for reminding me.

Cerys Wood said...

Wonderful post Chris. It truly is awsome to be standing in His presence, joining with many and all 'giving' and 'giving' and 'giving' our worship to the Lord. Nothing else. It's wonderful, electric, awsome, a true delight for the our Lord to receive - I hope so! It feels electric and awsome here on earth! Much love to yourself and Jacqueline from myself and Tim.