Where could I go from Your Spirit? Where could I hide from Your Face? If I go up to heaven, You’re there; if I go down to the realm of the dead, You’re there, too! If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, You’re there. If I fly into the radiant sunset, You’re there waiting! Wherever I go, Your hand will guide me; Your strength will empower me. It’s impossible to disappear from You or to ask the darkness to hide me, for Your Presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night. There is no such thing as darkness with You. The night to You is as bright as the day; there’s no difference between the two. Psalm 139:7-12 (The Passion Translation)
We have already learned that there are two ways to understand God’s presence. His conscious, manifest presence is when everything in you is aware that He is in you, before you, behind you and surrounds you. His unconscious presence is when He is just as much with you but you are not aware or ‘conscious’ of His pervading presence. However, the fact that you don’t ‘feel’ Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Moreover, the fact that you may not believe He is with you doesn’t mean He’s gone away for Paul clearly declared to Timothy (and to us) that God ‘remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.’ 2 Timothy 2:13
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. Prov. 15:3
Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I do not see him? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD. Jeremiah 23:24
Never underestimate the reality of His presence in your life at ALL times.
Think of Jacob who as a young man could not have imagined that generations would repeat the phrase, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’; Jacob would could not have imagined that his name would be changed to Israel and would become the name of a nation.
And it all began at a place called Bethel where Jacob felt nothing! Remember what he said after he awoke from his dream. Surely the LORD is in this place and I did not know it! Genesis 28:16
Bethel was also the place that Jacob was commanded to return to when he’d drifted away from his earlier awareness of the LORD’s presence.
Put away the foreign gods that are among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. Let us arise and go up to Bethel and there I will make an altar to God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone. Genesis 35: 1-3
Years after his first awareness of the LORD’s presence, notice what Jacob says. God ‘answered me in the day of my distress’ and ‘has been with me wherever I have gone.’
This was after his mistreatment at the hands of Laban and after his daughter, Dinah, had been violated. His family was in trouble and Jacob was fearful after his two sons had murdered all the men of Shechem in retribution for the defilement of their sister. It was then that God spoke to him and said, ‘Go back to Bethel’. In other words, go back to where you first experienced My Presence, Jacob. Let Me refresh and renew you. Seek My Presence again for it is only there that you will find peace and direction for the future.
God demonstrated to an unworthy Jacob the greatness of His grace and mercy. There is no sin too great, no failure too final, no discouragement too hopeless. When God’s people ‘arise and go back to Bethel‘, they find a loving LORD waiting with open arms to restore, renew, heal and empower those whose hearts are after Him.
What am I saying? Bethel is symbolic of that place where you and I commune with the LORD privately, personally and passionately. It is a metaphor for our personal, set-aside time to be with Him. Like Jacob, we may not ‘feel’ anything but be assured by the Word of God, that the LORD is ALWAYS with you, listening. He delights in hearing from His children. He delights in your yearning to be with Him. He delights in answering you in the day of your distress, confusion or questioning. He has promised that if we seek Him, we WILL find Him.
Are you thinking: this is too good to be true? Is it really possible that the presence of God has been with me, even on my worst days? Even before I surrendered my life to the Lord?
Yes, it IS true! For His presence does not depend on your works, but on HIS faithfulness.
Bethel is a lasting symbol of hope. When you and I feel absolutely bereft of spirituality or any kind of goodness, when our confidence is lower than low, Bethel reminds us that our God is a God of surprises, that He never leaves us or forsakes us. Bethel is the reminder that when you think there is no hope, there IS hope for the Lord is with you like He was with Jacob even when you ‘don’t know it’.
When Jacob first prayed at Bethel, he felt nothing. He simply prayed and went to sleep! But a few hours later he was able to declare, Surely the LORD is in this place and I did not know it. Then he added, ‘How awesome is this place!’ Gen. 28: 16-17
May the conscious presence of the LORD increase in each of our lives as we choose to spend increasing time seeking Him.