Day 214

The Power of His Presence

Wisdom Psalm 90:1-10
New Testament Romans 15:14-33
Old Testament 1 Chronicles 12:23-14:17

Introduction

The Duke of Wellington once remarked about Napoleon, ‘I used to say of him that his presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men.’ The presence of a strong leader has a powerful effect. How much greater is the impact of the awesome power of the presence of God!

There is a deep spiritual hunger in all of our hearts that can only be satisfied by the presence of God himself. Adam and Eve lost this sense of his presence through their sin. Thereafter, the presence of God was not known as it was before.

God is holy. We cannot take his presence for granted. It is only through the cross and resurrection of Jesus that a way into his presence and the gift of the Holy Spirit living within you is made possible. Now you can know the power of his presence.

Wisdom

Psalm 90:1-10

Psalm 90

A prayer of Moses the man of God.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
 throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
 or you brought forth the whole world,
 from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You turn people back to dust,
 saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
4 A thousand years in your sight
 are like a day that has just gone by,
 or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
 they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
 but by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger
 and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
 our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
 we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
 or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
 for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Commentary

His presence reveals our secret sins

I remember a man in our small group on Alpha saying that he could not understand the concept of ‘sin’, as he ‘led a good life and was not really aware of anything wrong in his life’. A few weeks later, on the Alpha Weekend, he encountered Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He had tears pouring down his face. He said he realised how sinful his life had been and how much he had been forgiven.

The light of God’s presence reveals the dark places in our hearts – the sins we would like to conceal even from ourselves. The psalmist says, ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling-place… You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence’ (vv.1a, 8).

The longer we spend in God’s presence the more the light shines and highlights our sin. The apostle Paul started out by describing himself as ‘the least of the apostles’ (1 Corinthians 15:9). Later on, he called himself ‘less than the least of all God's people’ (Ephesians 3:8). Finally, he described himself as ‘the worst of sinners’! (1 Timothy 1:16).

It is not that he got worse; it is simply that, through the awesome power of God’s presence, he became more and more aware of the light shining in his heart. That could seem very negative, but actually for Paul it was quite the opposite. His overwhelming feeling was gratitude and praise because no matter what he had done wrong, he knew that he was forgiven and could know relationship with God.

As Christians, we can look forward to that relationship lasting for ever. God is eternal, ‘From everlasting to everlasting you are God’ (Psalm 90:2b). Yet we know only too well the fragility of human life. The psalmist reminds us that we return to dust as mortals (v.3), we are like new grass that by the evening is dry and withered (vv.5–6), and our usual life span is seventy or eighty years (v.10).

God’s everlasting nature is part of who he is. For us, eternal life is not automatic or natural. ‘The wages of sin is death’, but the gift from the everlasting God is ‘eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the blood of Jesus, which cleanses me from all sin and unrighteousness. Thank you that through him I have access to the awesome presence of God.

New Testament

Romans 15:14-33

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. 21 Rather, as it is written:

“Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.”

22 This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you.

Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome

23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. 28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.

30 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, 32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Commentary

His presence comes through the power of the Holy Spirit

The presence of God radically changes your life and the lives of others. He gives power to both your words and your actions. He makes possible signs and miracles. This is what characterised the early church. This is what should characterise our churches today.

As Paul begins to bring his great letter to the Romans to a conclusion, he talks about his own personal calling: ‘This highly focused assignment God gave me, this priestly and gospel work of serving the spiritual needs of the non-Jewish outsiders so they can be presented as an acceptable offering to God, made whole and holy by God’s Holy Spirit’ (v.16, MSG).

Among other things, a priest is a person who goes to God on behalf of the people and goes to the people on behalf of God. In this sense, we are all now priests. You are in priestly service whenever you are taking a message from God to the world and when you go to God – interceding, praying for those outside of the church to come to know Christ. As they do so they become ‘an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit’ (v.16).

Paul’s ambition was to preach the gospel where Jesus was not known, so that he would not be building on anyone else’s foundation (vv.20–21). He did this by ‘leading the Gentiles to obey God’ (v.18). He ‘fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ’ (v.19).

His proclamation of the gospel was holistic. Like Jesus, his preaching with words was accompanied by a demonstration of the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. It involved three things:

  1. Words
    The gospel is the most powerful message in the world. Paul proclaimed the gospel: ‘by what I have said…’ (v.18).

  2. Works
    Fully proclaiming the gospel involves not only words but actions: ‘by what I have said and done’ (v.18). For example, Paul acted on behalf of the poor as we see here. He writes, ‘Take up a collection for the poor… to relieve their poverty’ (vv.26–27, MSG).

  3. Wonders
    Paul’s proclamation of the gospel involved a demonstration of the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit: ‘by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit’ (v.19).

People are more affected by what they see than by what they hear. It has been said, ‘One in the eye is worth two in the ear.’ Paul gives only one in the ear (words) and two in the eye (works and wonders).

The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost brought a great outpouring of the presence of God. God is present among his people now by the Holy Spirit. He is present in your heart. Supremely, he is present in his gathered community (for example, in Matthew 18:20).

Prayer

Lord, I pray that you would restore to your church today the awesome power of your presence among us. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon me again. May I see lives radically changed as people come to obey you by what I say and do – by the power of signs and miracles.

Old Testament

1 Chronicles 12:23-14:17

Others Join David at Hebron

23 These are the numbers of the men armed for battle who came to David at Hebron to turn Saul’s kingdom over to him, as the Lord had said:

24 from Judah, carrying shield and spear—6,800 armed for battle;

25 from Simeon, warriors ready for battle—7,100;

26 from Levi—4,600, 27 including Jehoiada, leader of the family of Aaron, with 3,700 men, 28 and Zadok, a brave young warrior, with 22 officers from his family;

29 from Benjamin, Saul’s tribe—3,000, most of whom had remained loyal to Saul’s house until then;

30 from Ephraim, brave warriors, famous in their own clans—20,800;

31 from half the tribe of Manasseh, designated by name to come and make David king—18,000;

32 from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do —200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;

33 from Zebulun, experienced soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with undivided loyalty—50,000;

34 from Naphtali—1,000 officers, together with 37,000 men carrying shields and spears;

35 from Dan, ready for battle—28,600;

36 from Asher, experienced soldiers prepared for battle—40,000;

37 and from east of the Jordan, from Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, armed with every type of weapon—120,000.

38 All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king. 39 The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them. 40 Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, olive oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.

Bringing Back the Ark

13David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send word far and wide to the rest of our people throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their towns and pasturelands, to come and join us. 3 Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul.” 4 The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.

5 So David assembled all Israel, from the Shihor River in Egypt to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim. 6 David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who is enthroned between the cherubim —the ark that is called by the Name.

7 They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. 8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

9 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. 10 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

11 Then David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.

12 David was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” 13 He did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 14 The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had.

David’s House and Family

14Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs, stonemasons and carpenters to build a palace for him. 2 And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel.

3 In Jerusalem David took more wives and became the father of more sons and daughters. 4 These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 5 Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, 6 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 7 Elishama, Beeliada and Eliphelet.

David Defeats the Philistines

8 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over all Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went out to meet them. 9 Now the Philistines had come and raided the Valley of Rephaim; 10 so David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, I will deliver them into your hands.”

11 So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, God has broken out against my enemies by my hand.” So that place was called Baal Perazim. 12 The Philistines had abandoned their gods there, and David gave orders to burn them in the fire.

13 Once more the Philistines raided the valley; 14 so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go directly after them, but circle around them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 15 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 16 So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

17 So David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him.

Commentary

His presence requires respect

Never take God’s presence for granted. The Lord is with you now, all the time, by his Spirit who lives in you.

God prepared his people for this extraordinary privilege. In the Old Testament, the ark was the symbol of God’s presence. We see in this passage just how important it was.

David consulted with his leaders. ‘He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God… let us bring the ark of our God back to us.” … The whole assembly agreed to do this… [they] went… to bring up… the ark of God the Lordthe ark that is called by the Name. They moved the ark of God… David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets’ (13:1–8).

The ark was a gold-covered chest that contained, among other items, the stone tablets of the ten commandments (see Hebrews 9:4). The ark was the most holy object in the whole system of temple-based worship. It served primarily as the symbol of the awesome presence of God, whose glory cloud was enthroned above it (1 Chronicles 13:6; see also Exodus 25:22; 1 Samuel 4:7).

On the one hand, God’s presence brought great blessing. When the ark of God was with the family of Obed-Edom for three months, ‘the Lord blessed his household and everything he had’ (1 Chronicles 13:14). On the other hand, it required great respect and anything that verged on disrespect brought judgment (vv.9–10).

David had a great respect and reverence for God and his presence. As a result, ‘The Lord blessed his household and everything he had’ (v.13). David knew that his position of leadership came from the Lord (14:2). He regularly asked for God’s guidance about what he should do (vv.10,14). ‘And God answered him’ (v.14).

As a result, ‘David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the Lord made all the nations fear him (v.17). The word ‘fear’ means great respect. Because David respected God’s presence, God honoured him and anointed him in such a way that everyone respected David.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, I can approach your throne with boldness and confidence. Thank you that through the Holy Spirit you make your presence available to me, all the time.

Pippa adds

Psalm 90:4–6

‘For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. You sweep people away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning – though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.’

I feel a bit like that occasionally!

Nicky took a funeral in Putney Vale Cemetery a couple of years ago. It is a huge cemetery, so many graves, and it is just one of thousands – millions probably – of cemeteries. It struck me again how many people have gone before us and that this life we are living is very short. Every day we have on this earth is so important. I don’t want to waste any one of thein

Verse of the Day

Romans 15:33

‘The God of peace be with you…’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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