I had been a Christian for many years before discovering the reality and centrality of the Presence of God. I have just listened to Dr Martine Lloyd Jones speak on it in an exposition of Exodus 33 and it has left my spine tingling and heart cheering! I have transcribed it below, mainly for my records, but listen to it if you can:
“What these people suddenly came to realise was that because of their sin, and because of God’s view of sin, God was withholding his presence from them. And was telling them to go up to the land of Canaan without him. Sending an angle but he wasn’t going to come. The God who entered among them, as it were, in Egypt, the God whose presence they had felt when they were travelling in the direction of the red sea, the God who was there amongst them with Pire hireth and bal zefum, one on each side, with the hosts of Pharaoh behind and the red sea in front, the God who had come down and divided the Red sea, the God who was there amongst them, this mighty presence, this holy glorious God was no longer going to be with them. That was the thing that filled them with dismay. That was the thing that alarmed them and caused these people to morn.
When the people heard these evil tidings, and that was the evil tidings: “I will not go up in the midst of thee for thou art a stiff necked people lest I consume thee in the way”. What troubled them was not the threat of being consumed but that God had said “I’m not coming with you. You have got to go up alone. I’m sending an angle but I am not coming.” Oh but this is a tremendous thing. This is the heart of the whole matter. Men and women when they are truly awakened begin to realise that there is nothing that is so serious, as to be without the presence of God.
Do you get its full force? God was sending them to the promised land, God was saying “Go up, I promised you the land of Canaan, I’m going to give it to you, you shall go to the land flowing with milk and honey, I’ll send my angel before you to destroy these enemies, these Amorites, these Hittites, Parasites, Canaanites, Highmights and Jesusites, go on, go up to your promised land, I brought you out from the captivity in Egypt, I’m sending you on, go ahead, lead them Moses, I’ll send an angel with you.” The people said “No. If you are not coming with us we don’t want to go.” Now that’s the essence of Spiritual understanding. And that’s the thing my dear friends that you and I have got to come to. You see here were a people who suddenly awakened and came to this tremendous, profound realisation. That to be given every other blessing is of no value, if God is not with you. What’s the value of Canaan, what’s the value of milk and honey, what’s the value of having possessions if you are not with us? They saw that the realisation of the presence of God, having his fellowship and company, was infinitely more important than everything else.
Need I apply this to the church today? You can have successes over your enemies you know, without this great realisation of God your midsts. Oh yes, there are angels who can do that for us.
Destroy certain of our enemies. Take us to the land. We are in Canaan. We’ve got the milk and honey. Yes everything seems to be all right. There’s an appalling verse in Psalm 106 where we are told of the children of Israel, that God granted their requests but sent leanness into their souls. You can have an outward prosperity and affluence, the church may seem to be doing remarkably well, good finances, good figures, successes, conversions, enemies defeated and the newspapers reported it, the Christian newspapers reported, everything seems to be marvellous. But the appalling question I ask is this “is God in the mists?”. Is he really amongst us. Are we aware as we should be of his glorious presence.
That’s the thing that got these people. And what they said in effect was “Canaan’s no use to us, milk and honey are of no value, we are not interested in these enemies, we want you!” “O”, says the Psalmist “it is for thee I cry out as the heart panteth after the water brooks. So panteth my soul after thee O God”. He’s not after blessings he is after God, the living God.
“Yes” says Paul “Oh I’ve been a successful evangelist, Ive done so much, but O I am not satisfied except that I might know him and the power of his resurrection and the Fellowship of the sufferings.”
“No No” they said “we can’t go on without you. The presence of God is essential”. They came to the realisation. And as I say their realisation was that no outward prosperity and no type of success can compensate for the absence of God. What shall it profit a man though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul. Christian people I’m not asking you this morning whether you’re living a good life, I not asking you whether you’re happy, I’m not asking you whether you read your Bible and whether you pray. I’m not asking you whether you are active in church work or in some form of Christian activity but what I’m asking you is this: “do you know God? Is he with you? Is he in your life? Is he in the camp?” Or are you travelling on with God as it where somewhere in the distance? Giving strength and power by his angle and by his leader and so on. But the question is “what of you in your personal relationship and your personal dealings?”