Coming Into His Presence
God gives it freely and constantly.
Still, I am wrong to abuse it, to take it for granted, to treat it as commonplace. When I do that, I abuse Him, take Him for granted and treat Him as just another “friend” on my friends list.
I was reminded that while I can sing with all my heart the words to “What a friend we have in Jesus, all my sins and griefs to bear,” He is still Almighty God.
This morning I read Exodus 19 which describes the arrival of Moses and his tribe of Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Sinai was referred to as the mountain of God, a place from which God spoke and on which God appeared. It has never ceased to amaze me the preparations that were made by God’s people to get ready hear from God.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day...Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows, not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live” (Exodus 19:10-13). Notice that no one was to even touch the person who violated the holiness of God lest they too be contaminated.
But, we argue, we are under grace, not law. Was God not a God of grace in the Old Testament? Was He not a “friend” during that time in history? God has always been a God of grace—otherwise He would have destroyed the whole evil business the moment Adam and Eve sinned. Moses is described as a “friend” of God (Exodus 33:11). Salvation through Christ was simply an extension of God’s grace, the perfection of a system designed to show a sinful people that nothing they could do could restore their relationship to a holy God.
God hasn’t changed.
Neither has the care we need to take before approaching Him.
The mountain became as holy as the God who would speak from it: “Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy’” (Exodus 19:23).
Above the entrance to the main auditorium of our church is a sign which quotes Psalm 96:9. Verse 8 of that psalm connects with what follows in verse 9: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” No much trembling goes on and perhaps not a whole lot of true worship either.
What we meet in is only a building, just like Sinai was only a mountain. But where God is becomes holy ground—just as holy as He is. Do I enter into His presence with the kind of reverence that He deserves as my God? No, I don’t. Neither does He strike me dead when I don’t. That’s grace.
But perhaps the punishment for our abuse of that grace is the sense that there is no cloud hanging over our “mountain of God.” God is everywhere, so His presence can’t be completely removed. But He can be silent and He can remove His blessing.
The Gospel record reveals very few times when Jesus was angry. One of those times occurred near the end of His earthly ministry. He entered the temple and saw that it has been turned into something that did not reflect the holiness of God or show Him any reverence. “Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be a house of prayer’ but you have made it a den of robbers’” (Luke 19:45, 46).
I don’t have the opportunity to enter many Catholic houses of worship. But every time I have been in one, even as a “tourist,” there is what some used to describe as a “holy hush,” a reverence that is sadly lacking in most evangelical houses of worship.
I am ashamed of what I do when I come into my “mountain of God.” I am ashamed of how casually I come into His presence on a personal level. Both are holy ground upon which a holy God walks and nothing to be taken lightly. It's up to me to change both of these.