It’s a powerful privilege to house the indwelling presence of God. The purpose of His presence with His people has never changed. He desires to go before and lead the way, but we must be willing to surrender all and follow.
So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: “Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.” (Numbers 10:35)
We have an amazingly simple but powerful lesson to learn from today’s verse. Though the Ark of the Covenant is strictly Old Testament, it has tremendous relevance for believers under the new covenant. This is because it speaks of the presence of God and the profound impact it has in our lives. The Ark housed His presence and always preceded the Israelites. In this way, He continued to lead them as He did with the pillars of fire and cloud. Because the Ark went ahead, it was always visible, a reminder that He was always with them. In today’s verse, Moses captures a significant characteristic of the presence of God going out before His people. It is that of protection, a recognition that the battles they faced truly did belong to the Lord and He was more than able to do what was required to bring victory.
The nature of the presence of God.
It’s easy to overlook Old Testament events and principles as having no relevance to the new covenant. All the things He desired back then are still His desire today. The only difference is that without the blood of the cross, His presence had to be contained externally in the Ark rather than internally as it is for believers in our new dispensation of grace. But the principles of His presence remain in place. He desires to be with His people, to go out before them as guide, protector, and provider. The purposes of the presence of God in our lives have not nor ever will change. It’s so much more than the warm and fuzzy feel-good assurance that He is with us always. His purpose is always practical. He wants to teach, guide, protect, and lead us to victory. This is why His presence is so important.
Through His death and resurrection, Jesus made a way for the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit. He is no longer separate and contained in something tangible but external. In simple terms, each believer is now an Ark of the Covenant – a dwelling place of God among His people. God with us has become God in us. His desire is that He be allowed to work in and through us to accomplish His purposes. He still goes before us in the sense that we are surrendered to Him. We follow Him daily, trusting in His grace to bring us through to victory in every situation. For God, His presence isn’t a vague and separate event. It’s a hands-on and personal, intimate relationship. He has no desire to lead us from afar but rather to be a practical part of our daily lives and struggles.
The practical outworking of the presence of God.
It’s remarkable that the great I AM should choose to indwell His creation and sacrifice His own Son in order to make it possible. But the presence of God in us has powerful results which many believers have yet to understand or enjoy to the full. To grasp the magnitude of the practical outworking of His presence, we need only look at the cross and all Jesus accomplished. It’s a take-home truth that Jesus was the full manifestation of God on earth. His death and resurrection accomplished everything God desires for His people – all provision for all things in all circumstances. There is no restraint or limitation of what is now freely available to every believer through the power of the Spirit in us. We simply need to look to the faithful indwelling presence of God to receive whatever we need.
The outworking of the presence of God is also transformatory. He works in us constantly to transform us into the likeness of His precious Son, changing our hearts and renewing our minds. It’s a slow, intimate process which transforms from the inside out. More than that, it’s constant and faithful because His presence is with us all the time. He doesn’t come and go or put things on hold while He goes off to do other things. What a wonderful comfort and assurance in our moments of weakness and human frailty. In us is the power to overcome self and to achieve what we cannot in our own strength or ability. As arks we have little to recommend us, yet He still indwells us and works in and through us beyond our imaginings. Whatever our need, we have a sure and certain practical help in His presence in us.
Living with the presence of God.
There is profound wisdom in the Ark going before the people. That way, the presence of God was always visible. It kept them moving forward rather than turning back. The good news is that nothing has changed. We can still follow because His presence still goes before us. But, if we are to truly live in the power of the presence of God, we need to adopt the same attitude Moses displays in today’s verse. He recognised that His presence was so much more than simply meeting needs. It was a defensive and an offensive weapon, one every Christian needs. Moses knew that nothing could stand against the presence of God leading His people. What’s important here is not that His presence makes us ‘invincible’ but that when we follow, God will work on our behalf. His power is made perfect in our weakness, but we need to acknowledge it.
A lot of the time, we want to enjoy the leading and protection of God without actually surrendering to His sovereignty. We want Him to do the dirty work while we sit back and reap the rewards. But the indwelling presence of God is based on the principle of relationship. It requires our active participation, not in doing it ourselves but in yielding all. Surrender to God cannot be selective, though He will continue to work with what we have given Him. He won’t withdraw His presence because He has promised not to. But it will be limited by what we allow. When we limit Him to only parts of our life, we limit what God will do. There are one or two things that our mighty God cannot do. The chief of these is to ignore our free will. To do so would be to deny Himself.
Follow the presence of God.
The relationship God has ordained is that He leads and we follow. When we fill our hearts with Him and fix our eyes on Him, we give over all that we are to His perfect will. Only when we acknowledge the full power and sovereignty of God will we enjoy full manifestation of the presence of God. The Holy Spirit will continually prompt us and reveal His presence to us, but how we respond determines the outworking. So many battles could be shortened or even avoided if we would only learn to yield and follow instead of relying on self. When we come to the place, as Moses did, of declaring His power and sovereignty in our lives, we will experience our victory. If our prayer is daily that of Moses, we’ll find God moving in miraculous ways as He goes before us, leading us in love and faithfulness.
Lord God, thank You for the awesome privilege of housing Your indwelling presence. Lead us to yield and surrender to Your sovereign power and purposes. Guide us by Your Spirit and teach us to follow in all things. Thank You for the assurance that You are in us eternally, a living, vibrant truth against which the world and the enemy, and even self, cannot prevail.