May 21, 2014
“Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!” (Psalms 105:4 ESV)
Scattered throughout the Scriptures, we see the heart of a longing worshiper for the experience of God’s presence. After all, is there anything more necessary and wonderful than the presence of God? David says, “My soul thirsts for God as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63) Asaph says, “On earth I desire nothing besides you … the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalm 73) What does it look like to seek the Lord’s presence continually, both personally and corporately when we gather to worship God?
Let’s take a look at Moses with God on Mount Sinai. God had just told Moses that his presence would go with him and then Moses responds:
“And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15,16 ESV)
Moses came to realize that God’s presence distinguishes us from every other people on the face of the earth. The reality of God’s presence is super sized for those of us who are in Christ! The promised Messiah came! His name is Emmanuel, God is with us. Christ’s presence with us, propels us to walk with courage as we carry out his mission on earth, for this was his parting promise: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 ESV) As if that’s not enough, Jesus promised his disciples that they were going to be given something even better than his presence with them. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17 ESV) Five weeks later, the Holy Spirit fell on the believers at Pentecost, and from that time forth is in us forever. No wonder that the Apostles began referring to the mystery,“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27 ESV) One of the defining characteristics of believers is that God dwells in us. His presence within distinguishes us from every other people on the face of the earth! And so the presence of the Lord, manifested through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, ought to be a distinguishing characteristic of you and I in our daily lives, wherever we go and whatever we do, especially when we gather with other believers to worship him.
We need to “seek the Lord and his strength, seeking his presence continually,” not because he isn’t with us, but for the grievous fact that we are not wholeheartedly with him. Our loyalty to God is divided among the pleasures of this world, the longing of our fleshly desires and the sin which so easily entangles us. He has given us all of himself, but we fail to give him all of ourselves. While God has been true to his promise to be with us, moreso, live in us by his Spirit, we commit the horrible sin of quenching the Holy Spirit. Our proud hearts depend on our solutions to problems instead of God’s. We prefer our words over his Word. We find greater pleasure in the world than in him. Rather than walking in the Spirit (evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit) we walk according to the flesh (evedidenced by some pretty awful deeds). (see Galatians 5) Most of the references in the Old Testament to seeking the Lord have a context of the people of God who have turned away from him and are being told to turn back to him. Amos warns the wayward people of God, “Seek the Lord and live.” (Amos 5) Our primary avenue to seeking the Lord ought to be repentance.
“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6–7 ESV)
And this is where we often find ourselves, needing to repent and return to the Lord in order to receive compassion and pardon, back to a closeness we once knew, and then beyond to a greater intimacy.
As a worship leader, I feel a strong heart connection to songs that express a desperate longing for the presence of the Lord. This is the heartbeat of the worshiper, to be near to God, having all of our desires fully satisfied in him alone! But I’m reminded that any longing for the presence of the Lord and subsequent encounter should be followed by repentance and consecration, giving ourselves more fully to him. This is what it looks like to seek the presence of the Lord continually. Isaiah’s encounter with God, found in Isaiah 6, is a great example. He sees that the Lord God Almighty is Holy, Holy, Holy, falls down ruined, confesses that he has unclean lips, is forgiven and then offers himself wholly to the Lord. “Here am I; send me!” Repentance and consecration is evidence that we are truly seeking and experiencing the presence of the Lord. Anything else might be idolatry, worshiping or seeking a feeling rather than God himself.