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Divine Presence in the Midst of Uncertainties

By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

We have entered 2021 with lot of reflections and expectations, hoping and praying that there will be some way out from the present pandemic the world is fighting. However, there are some others who think that the present perilous situation will not disappear in the near future. Whatever may be the state of the world around us, a child of God can find comfort and strength in the manifold promises found in the word of God.
       God’s unfailing presence with the people of God is such a reassuring reality. In the midst of all the unprecedented and uncertain developments around us we can hold on to the promise of our Lord Jesus to His disciples, "lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age". Matthew 28:20b
       Nevertheless, it is possible that due to overfamiliarity with such spiritual terminologies we may not fully comprehend the meaning and implication of God’s abiding presence with us. Let us consider six things about this promise Christ made along with the Great Commission.

1. It’s not just a casual promise.

The Lord Jesus did not make this promise to capture their attention or to inspire them for a moment as the way certain politicians make great promises but never fulfill them. He really meant what He said. Remember, our God is always faithful in all His words; we can fully depend upon them.
       So, when we as followers of Christ speak of God’s abiding presence with His people, it is not just a wishful thinking, a hope or a desire based on some spiritual ceremonies. Many religious people think that after certain rituals and offerings, such as putting some coins at a sacred place, God is with them! We know there is no reality in such assumptions. But God’s presence with us as promised in the scripture is very much real that we can experience personally, in fact we ought to.

2. It’s an all-inclusive promise.

It’s a promise that we can consider as containing all the other promises of the Bible. Just imagine a business man telling his son to go to the town for certain work. Even after his detailed explanation of the work and the locations, the boy may still be confused and concerned about various things. But once the man promises to go along with the boy, all his questions and doubts would be settled.
       Similarly, when the Lord Jesus promised ‘I am with you always even to the end of the age’, this should settle all the other issues, all the questions on any aspect of our life.

3. It’s God’s own initiative.

More than man, its God's own interest that His people enjoy and experience His unfailing presence.  From Genesis to Revelation, we can notice plenty of occasions when the Lord graciously reminds and reinforces His abiding presence with them to guide and protect them. And His people did experience it as a truth. Especially, when they were at a crossroad or in any form of crisis, the Lord came close to them to strengthen them with His presence. cf. Gene 26:3; 28:15 When the LORD was leading the people of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, we see Him repeatedly assuring Moses and Joshua that He will be with them, so they do not need to fear or worry. Exo 33:4; Joshua 1:5, 9.
        Even in His commandment to Moses for the construction of a tabernacle as His dwelling place among them, we see the Lord’s concern for their safety and well-being. Exodus 25:8. It was a symbolic expression of God’s presence in the midst of His people. During the days of Israel’s backsliding and consequent chastening’s also, the Lord did not hesitate to remind them occasionally that He was with them. cf. Judges 6:12; Isaiah 43: 2, 4; Hag 1:13 etc.
        What an encouragement it must be to mortal beings that the Almighty God finds it a pleasure to be with His people! What a gracious, loving and caring God we have.

4. It’s unique in the New Testament.

Saints under the New Covenant experience God’s presence with them in a much more personal and closer manner than what the Old Testament saints did. Not only the incarnation of Christ that epitomized this wonderful promise, but also the indwelling Christ in the saints, the hope of glory, makes this unique. Matthew 1:23; Colossians 1:27. From the very moment of conversion, the Holy Spirit indwells a believer to equip and empower him for Christian service. Eph 1:13, 14; 1Cor 12:7
       The apostles literally experienced the very presence of the Almighty as they moved along with the Lord Jesus Christ. John 14: 9.  Even when referring to the birth of Christ, Mathew the gospel writer found the fulfillment of God’s word to Isaiah.  “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matt 1: 22, 23 cf. Isaiah 7: 14. John wrote emphatically, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. Nobody could change their conviction because it was real, individual and intimate. Act 4:20; 1John 1: 1, 2. Just as the Lord Jesus frequently guaranteed the disciples of His continued presence, they experienced it even after His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Matt 18:20; Act 1:2; Mark 16:20; Act 18:9, 10 etc.  Even today, by faith we can experience His presence spiritually.

5. It’s a transforming truth.

Conviction of God’s presence always revolutionized the life of God’s people. We can notice this from the beginning of the Bible. The strength and success of His people were always attributed to God’s unfailing presence with them. Even other people noticed the dramatic changes in the life of God's people that they could easily testify that God is with them. Cf. Gen 21:22; 39:2
       The moment God’s people recognized the fact that their Lord is with them in a very special way to provide and protect them, it made them strong and courageous. This understanding took away all their fears, doubts, questions, etc. And they were ready to face any situation even the enemies, knowing well that the One who is with them is mightier than the one who is with the foes. cf. 2Chro 32:7, 8; Psa 23:4; Act 18: 9, 10; 23:11; 27: 23, 24 etc
        Apostle Paul’s final words from the Roman prison is heart touching, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also, I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 2Timothy 4: 16, 17. 
       What a comfort it is to the heart of His servant: even when all others forget and forsake, his Master is very much close to him. And He does whatever is needed for his sustenance and safety. It was this confidence that supports and empowers every child of God to confront any circumstances in life boldly and courageously.

6. Its enjoyment is conditional. Judges 6:12, 13a

The Lord’s gracious promise of His unfailing love can be enjoyed only by those who really fulfill certain conditions. Of course, God’s providential presence is with everyone at any time, for our God is omnipresent. As we have seen already, He is more than happy to be close to His people at any time anywhere and be their help and stay. But to experience Him personally and practically, one needs to follow the conditions that God’s word presents.
        Notice this passage, “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us?” Judges 6: 12, 13
Gideon could not believe that God was with him because of the adverse situation prevailing in Israel then. What was the reason?
        The book of Judges as well as many other Old Testament passages teach that Israelites often rebelled against God, went after the idols of their neighbors and subsequently were chastened by the hand of God. They could not always appreciate God’s presence and help, for they failed to maintain the basic requirements. Notice some of those prerequisites:

  1. A sincere and strong desire. Exodus 33:15
  2. A practical holy life. Isaiah 59:12; Heb 12:14 cf. Gen 39: 9, 2
  3. Obedience to God’s word. John 14: 18 – 23 cf. Gen 26:3; Hagg 1:12, 13 etc
  4. Maintaining separation. 2Cor 6: 14 – 18 cf. Judges 16:20

Whether Old Testament or New Testament, God does not change, nor His standard. He will never compromise with evil and rebellion. While it’s God’s grace and mercy that He wants to be with frail human beings to teach and guide them, He expects them to honor and obey Him honestly. Any violation grieves the heart of God and quenches the Holy Spirit who dwells in our heart.
        Let us humbly and reverentially respond to the gracious Lord who is with us as He has promised. Let our life in and out be appropriate to this consciousness. Thus, let's experience all the benefits and blessings associated with the divine presence, even as the world is in chaos and confusion. Above all, let's anticipate that wonderful day when we shall be with the Lord forever in all its perfection. Cf. Psa 73: 23, 24; John 17:24; 1Thess 4:17; Reve 21:3





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