Once Moses had fully constructed and dedicated the temporary dwelling place of God (the Tabernacle) as Israel traversed the wilderness to the promised land, the glory and presence of God indwelled said tabernacle. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle…Whenever the cloud lifted…the people would set out on their journey following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were…The cloud…hovered over the Tabernacle during the day and at night fire glowed inside the cloud so the whole family of Israel could see it. This continued throughout all their journeys.” (Exodus 40:34 – 38, New Living Translation)
Talk about a mindboggling guiding presence of God, that was one! From this spectacular experience in Jewish history, I would have us learn some things about God’s guiding presence that are true in our own day.
One, obedience to God is a prerequisite for his guiding presence. Moses constructed the Tabernacle according to the specifications God had given. In the verses immediately preceding the account of this astonishing appearance of God, no less than eight times the statement is made that Moses built the Tabernacle “just as the Lord had commanded him.” This is no accident; obedience and presence go together. Without our obedience, God’s guiding presence is not going to occur. Rest assured that our obedience does not obligate God to guide; it is just that he chooses to honor obedience with his presence.
Second, God’s presence is essential to Christian living. In the days ahead, Israel experienced times of failure and discipline, but the guiding presence of God finally led them into the promised land. We, too, are going to have our ups and downs. There will be days we feel as if we are going in reverse instead of forward, but if we follow God’s lead, he will get us home. And he will enable us to be a blessing to others along the way.
Third, God’s presence affirms that we are his child. This experience is quite a contrast to Israel’s encounter with God a few months earlier. At Mt. Sinai, they had angered God by building and worshipping a golden calf. He was ready to wipe them off the face of the earth. Thanks to Moses’ intercession, God reinstated his covenant with Israel as his chosen people. And by his presence leading them day in and day out, they followed with the assurance that they were his restored people.
The greatest evidence that we are a child of God is something John Wesley termed “the witness of the Spirit.” It is an inner assurance from God that we are his child as we walk with him. It is not an emotion or a “hope so.” It is a “know so” placed by God within that we belong to him. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God…his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are (his) children.” (ch. 8:14-16, New Living Translation)
A friend of my paternal granddad once stated in church, “I wouldn’t give a plug nickel for an angel to come from heaven, sit beside me and tell me that I am a Christian. I know that I am. I have the witness of God’s Spirit that I am.”
That kind of confidence only comes to those who walk with (are obedient to) God.