So, a couple days “late” again this week, but no worries, we press on. This week we are in Part IV: Session 7: God’s Presence on Earth. As always, follow along in the study here: Multiply.
One of the things we lost at the beginning at the fall was the full presence of God on earth. This was a devastating loss. Can you imagine anything worse than being separated from God? Thankfully, God, Himself, wanted to restore His presence here on earth. The covenants He made with His people showed that He wanted to be present. The laws He made showed His people how to behave in His presence. The sacrifices He established allowed His people to remove the sin that separated His people from His presence. In order to reestablish His presence with the Israelites, God introduced the tabernacle, basically a tent, in which God’s presence would “dwell” on earth. To fully understand what this meant, let’s take another look at the beginning.
God’s Presence in the Garden
As God designed it, humanity was meant to live constantly in the presence of God. There was no sin to separate Man from God. Everyone lived in peace and there was no need for death or sacrifice. Adam and Eve enjoyed full communion with their Creator.
And then, they rebelled. Because of this they separated themselves emotionally by sinning and hiding, then God furthered the gap by throwing them out of the garden. Ever since, there has been a constant struggle to restore God’s presence to humanity.
Discussion Question #1: Why is the presence of God so important for humanity?
Since the Fall, even though God’s presence is literally everywhere, actual one on one encounters with God are few and far between in the Old Testament. The tabernacle was important in the fact that it was a solution to what was broken in the garden. God’s full presence was still not able to be on earth, but at least He could dwell with His people again in a sense.
Last week, we discussed the sacrificial system set up by God. The sacrifices that were to take place were to take place at the tabernacle. In the center of the tabernacle in the “Most Holy” place, sat a box, the ark of the covenant. On top of this ark were two golden cherubim who faced a “mercy seat”, it was on top this seat that the presence of God rested. The establishment of this “tent” was very important, “the stunning truth was that God once again blessed His people with the greatest gift He could give: Himself“(213).
Discussion Question #2: Read Exodus 25:8–9 and 17–22. What is so significant about the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant?
God’s Blessing without God’s Presence
Just after God had promised the gift of His presence, Israel almost lost that gift. Moses was just coming down from the mountain (Can you imagine the elation of being in God’s presence for 40 days, just you and God?), the stone tablets of the law still fresh in his hands, and the sight that met his eyes was shocking. Here were the Israelites worshipping a golden calf of their own making.
God’s response to Israel was a two-fold blow. First, many men died that day as a direct result of their blatant sin. Second, even though God promised again that Israel would receive the land He was leading them to, He told them that He would not go with them. He would send an angel to lead them instead (Exodus 33).
After God had just outlined highly-detailed instructions for the tabernacle that would allow Him to dwell within the presence of His people, now He has said that He will not dwell with them. There is an interesting concept He. God is still promising to bless them, but He will not be dwelling with them. If you think about it, it seems like an easier deal. Keep on sinning and just accept God’s blessing and go on their way. Isn’t that what many people want today? To have all the blessings of God without any of the effort involved in maintaining a relationship?
Discussion Question #3: Read Exodus 33:1–6. What makes this such a devastating pronouncement for the Israelites?
Discussion Question #4: Consider God’s presence in your own life. How would you respond to the prospect of God’s blessing apart from God’s presence? Forget about how you “ought” to answer this, try to answer honestly.
Moses’s response to God points out what is really at stake here.
“Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?'” (Ex. 33:15-16 NASB).
Moses knew that there was no hope for Israel if God, Himself, did not go with them. How could they be the “people of God” with no God?
Discussion Question #5: Read Exodus 33:7–23. What stands out to you about Moses’s response?
Discussion Question #6: As you think of the experiences Moses and Israel had with God, how might it affect the way you interact with God?
God was swayed and did go with His people, they carried the tabernacle from place to place and God dwelt among them. After Israel occupied the land promised to them, eventually, David became king. David decided that he wanted to build a permanent house for God. God allowed the idea, but since David was a man of war, God would not allow him to be the one the build it. Therefore, David’s son, Solomon was chosen to actually build the temple. Just as with the tabernacle, God’s presence would fill the temple, however, the temple was permanent, so the dwelling place of God’s presence was also permanent. God was reestablishing His reign on earth.
Discussion Question #7: Read 1 Kings 8:1–13 and 27–30. What does this passage reveal about God’s glory and the significance of God’s dwelling among His people?
An Important Warning
“As soon as God’s glory descended and filled the temple, God warned Solomon that His presence would dwell among them only as long as they remained faithful to His covenant and obeyed His Law. In other words, God was dwelling in the midst of His people, but only as long as their lives acknowledged His presence. As soon as they began to take God and His presence for granted, as soon as they turned their backs on God and His commands, then He would leave them to their sin. Instead of the blessing that comes with God’s presence, Israel would experience the judgment that comes with rejecting God” (219).
Discussion Question #8: Read 1 Kings 9:1–9. What does God’s warning to Solomon teach us about what it means for God’s presence to dwell in the midst of His people?
Unfortunately, God’s warning becomes reality and in the book of Ezekiel, God’s people are in exile as punishment for rejecting God. They are in exile from their home and from God’s presence. Because of this, the tabernacle and the temple could not be a permanent solution to restoring God’s presence, but God had another plan from the beginning…
God Became Flesh
“Once again, Jesus solves the problems raised by the events in the Old Testament“(220). The book of John introduces the Word (Jesus) as God and then he makes this profound statement: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NASB). God’s presence on earth once again!
The world for “dwelt” actually mean “tabernacled” or “set up tent”. Jesus was the living representation of the tabernacle. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of what it means to dwell in the presence of God and allow Him to dwell in us. As long as we are joined to Jesus, we can never lose the presence of God again.
“In fact, Paul said that we are “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). He said that we are joined together as the church and we grow “into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). In Jesus we are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (v. 22)“(221). Through the Holy Spirit, sent by God, God’s presence actually rests in us. No longer in a tent, no longer in a building, but firmly and eternally in our hearts. Let that soak in a bit. It’s truly an amazing (and sometimes terrifying) gift! God, the Creator of the Universe, dwells in us. Astounding…
Discussion Question #9: How does what you have studied thus far help you understand the significance of God becoming man in Jesus and of the church being identified as a dwelling place for God?
God’s Presence Will Fill the Earth
Revelation paints a picture of God’s presence filling the whole earth (Rev. 21-22). Through the Holy Spirit, God currently dwells within His church. But when Jesus returns, the whole world will be filled with God’s presence. Once again humanity will be able to enjoy what Adam and Eve enjoyed in the garden.
Discussion Question #10: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to help you understand the significance of His presence on earth, and to help you live together with the other Christians in your life in a way that reflects His presence and glory in your midst.
Thank you, once again, for joining me this week. I hope that you have been encouraged today and will continue to seek God in all that you do. God bless!