The Real and Firm Presence

Sunrise

Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy.

It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.  Isa 4:5-6

This is the coolest passage!  In my blogging about Isaiah, I’m skipping over the last part of Isaiah 3, and the first part of Isaiah 4, and focusing on these words, because they are just what I need to hear.

The verses talk about a time when God will establish his presence with his people as a very firm and real thing.  They harken back to the time when he led the Isrealites out of Egypt, and through the desert: “And the LORD went before them in a pillar of cloud to guide their way by day, and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night, so that they could travel by day or night.” (Exodus 13:21)

The imagry also references the tabernacle in the desert that Moses set up.  God’s presence would come down on the tabernacle in a cloud of glory.  When the cloud was over the tabernacle, the Isrealites knew they were to stay where they were.  When it lifted, this signified it was time to travel.  “So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” (Exodus 40:38)

So Isaiah 4:5-6 was prophesying about a time when God would establish his presence as the same thing that the Israelites had.  And Isaiah went on to describe this presence as a protection, refuge and hiding place.

There are all kinds of ways to look at this prophesy, but I think that one application of it has to be that today we are the Lord’s temple, and we have his presence with us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  (I Cor 3:16)

Here’s what Jesus said in John 14:26 about the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

And in this 14th chapter of John, we see the giving of the Spirit as a part of a whole narrative.  Jesus starts out by telling the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God.  Believe  also in me.”  He goes on to talk about heaven.  “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”  Then he assures them that he will not leave them as orphans, but will come to them.  He concludes with comfort, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you.”

Here are two lessons I got from comparing the presence of the Lord in the story of Moses with the presence of the Lord that we now have through the Holy Spirit:

  1. The pillars of cloud and fire, and the cloud of glory over the tabernacle, were guides.  The Spirit that is with us is meant to be a guide as well.    The clouds led the Israelites through the desert to the Promise Land.  The Spirit leads us through our life on earth to heaven.
  2.  The very visible presence of God was meant to comfort the Isrealites, so they would know they were not alone.  Jesus makes it clear that we are to be comforted.  He will not leave us alone.  He is sending us the Spirit, his peace.

May we see how much of a comfort the presence of the Lord can be!  This past week was very challenging for me.  I kept getting extremely upset.  My emotions took me hostage and carried me away.  My mind went around and around and I couldn’t stop it.

It was a true Godsend that I read Isaiah 4:5-6.  When I couldn’t sleep, I pictured God being there with me.  I thought of his goodness, love, faithfulness and mercy and how these are like unbreakable tent poles that go into the ground and form an absolutely solid and reliable foundation around me.  I imagined God’s presence like the tent on these poles — warm and safe.  I saw the things that troubled my heart were like fierce winds that could buffet the tent without affecting it in the least.*

Now this wasn’t specifically the Holy Spirit that I was picturing, but it was extremely helpful to remember that God is with me.  And we live in an age when God is with us as never before, when Jesus promised he is with us always! (Matt 28:20)

How amazed and grateful we can be that God is our safe place!  We are not at the mercy of chaos.

How peaceful we can be as we realize that God is guiding us!  He does not leave us alone, as orphans, to wander aimlessly.

He IS with us, the most real, solid, reliable thing ever.

(* I got this imagry from reading Max Lucado’s book, “anxious for nothing.“)

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