We are always in God’s presence. We cannot flee Him. Even though we commit the most heinous acts of rebellion. He is there. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us.
Believers are always in God’s presence. But our conscious awareness of His presence may fluctuate for a number of reasons, the most important of which is the degree to which God chooses to disclose himself to us. Therefore, while I kneel before His throne I may understand that I am in His presence, yet I may not experience anything more than quiet rejoicing.
But there are times when God chooses to pull aside the veil which conceals His glory from us. Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration for Peter, James and John. They had lived daily in the presence of the Lord of glory. They had learned from Him; they had loved Him. But all the while . . . they thought they knew Him . . . then His glory was unveiled.
The Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos fell as if dead at the feet of the glorified Christ. Daniel found “no strength . . . left in” him after a similar vision. Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost.”
We run a danger in lifting these examples up as primary experience that we should pursue. We don’t believe that John went out seeking his vision. As far as we can determine, Isaiah was totally surprised by his encounter in the Temple. Only Moses set out to capture a glimpse of God’s glory. This tells me that it is God is the one who initiates encounters.
Why does the Bible show us moments of God’s glory? I believe it is to teach us reverence. I leaned a long time ago: If you have never stood before God and been afraid, you have never stood before God. I don’t ever want to lose the freedom to enter boldly and joyfully into God’s presence . . . but I also never want to lose the holy . . . reverent fear I have for the God of the Universe.
You have heard it said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” When we try to be intimate we often go about it the wrong way. We confuse intimacy with its counterfeit, familiarity. Intimacy is what we want, but familiarity is all we achieve. Intimacy is dangerous . . . a knowing and a being known deeply and profoundly.
The Galileans were familiar with Jesus. They didn’t know Him . . . they only thought they knew Him. They knew His parents. They watched Him grow up as a boy. But their familiarity with Him had blinded them to all that He really was. They saw in Him what they wanted to see . . . what they thought they saw.
There is a marvelous scene in the movie The Sixth Sense:
Cole Sear: I see dead people.
Malcolm Crowe: In your dreams?
[Cole shakes his head no]
Malcolm Crowe: While you’re awake?
Malcolm Crowe: Dead people like, in graves? In coffins?
Cole Sear: Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead.
Malcolm Crowe: How often do you see them?
Cole Sear: All the time. They’re everywhere.
Cole Sear: They see only what they want to see.
I wonder if we see only the Jesus we want to see. We might have asked the people in Nazareth if they knew Jesus…
“Oh yes, I know Jesus. Known Him since He was a kid. Joseph’s son, you know. Good carpenter. Nice kid. Bit quiet at times. Know Him? I spoke to Him practically every day of His life.
They knew so well, in fact, that He could do no mighty work among them because of their unbelief.
Intimacy always involves true knowledge. A husband and wife may be familiar with each other without ever truly knowing each other. Because intimacy involves listening and hearing. It means sharing the secrets of your heart. We live in a day that longs for intimacy; but we have settled for the casual, the familiar, but never the truly intimate.
Conversational prayer is mostly what I practice . . . but I have noticed that sometimes I can be tone deaf to awe. I too often offer a shallow, cursory prayer to the majesty and glory of God. My prayers are too me-centered and not very God-centered.
The book of Job is a heart-rending account of a man in the depths of despair who can’t believe that God is punishing . . . Job believes God would stop if He could hear his side of the story. But Job comes dangerously close to saying he is being wrongly treated by a so-called “just” God . . . and he will get God to admit it if he can.
Well, Job gets his audience with God. God, in essence, said, “Job, I have some questions to ask you first. Let me remind you of who we both are. (38:1-3; 40:1-2)
Job was humbled—oh how he was humbled—but he is at peace and in his right mind again.
“I lay my hand over my mouth.” 40:4
Several years ago an 18 year old young lady in the church I served got pregnant and was not married. She decide to give the baby up for adoption. She and the parents asked me to be present in the hospital when the newborn baby was given to the adoptive parents. I prayed with the grandparents and Wendy and blessed the baby. I stepped out into the hallway to give the family a last moment alone with the baby.
The tears flowed like rivers in that room. Such profound sadness I have never seen. As I looked in the hospital room and saw and heard the lament of the coming loss I turned my head and down the hallway I could see the adoptive family skipping down the way with anticipatory joy as if it were a hundred Christmas mornings rolled into one moment.
Unspeakable joy was on a collision course with deep sadness and loss. As the young adoptive family moved pass me and stood bedside while Wendy handed over the little boy to his new family I thought, “This is one of the most profound moments I will ever witness.” I was at a loss for words and I remember my hand coming to my mouth to hide my quivering chin.
When God spoke to Job he said, “I lay my hand over my mouth.”
It’s comforting to be reduced to size. I think of the time I went to the South Colony Lakes and was surrounded by four 14,000-foot peaks. It was good to feel small . . . good because something so great made being small uplifting. You can’t be puffed up and lifted up at the same time.
Job felt this on an infinite level. He experienced smallness in every sense: morally, intellectually, and physically in the presence of majesty. We may be hurt to see our real size for the first time, but in seeing it we will be set free from the burden of having to keep our bloated image up to size. Knowing our real place in life, we never need to feel threatened. We are free to wonder at the glory and majesty of God, drinking in drafts of living water and knowing what we are created for.
Small and speechless. Yet, Job must speak. Had we been there, I doubt that they were spoken with fluid grace . . . rather incoherently and choking.
“I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” 42:2
He had to say it. He wanted to say it. He had to praise Him. Whether he wept or choked, he had to get the words out. What else could he do at the sight of glory?
You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 42:3
He laughs at himself through his tears.
“Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” 42:4-5
Do you see the difference? He had not heard God. He had heard about God. Now all is changed. He both hears and sees. What did he see? If he were here I think it would be very difficult to explain. “It was as if . . . it was like . . .” and then shake his head.
Whatever God looked like, Job and God were right there together. He saw a whirlwind, but it was like no whirlwind you ever saw; and it made him happy to say, “Therefore, I . . . repent in dust and ashes.” His repentance was worship. The dust and ashes were as appropriate as a bridal kiss.
How did God respond to Job? In verse 7 God says, “Job has spoken what is right about Me.”
And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Vs. 10
But Job had greater riches than riches. He had gone deeper with God.
So Job died, old and full of days. Vs. 17
Sometimes I talk too much.