A friend and I were discussing the manifest presence of God. She had been reading and hearing messages, and she wondered what I thought. At that time, I was not prepared to answer, but her question has had me mulling over this for several weeks.
In Exodus, God presented Himself to Moses in the burning bush and later to the nation of Israel as the Shekinah glory of the Lord hovered over the community appearing as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God hid him in the cleft of the rock and the Lord’s goodness passed before him.
When Elijah asked for a sign from the Lord, it was not given in the earthquake or fire, but in God’s whisper.
In the gospels, Jesus Himself is the manifest presence of God. He performed many extraordinary signs. In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples, “I will disclose myself to you.” Jesus then promises a helper, the Holy Spirit who will come make his home in us. From my understanding, it is not whether we will experience the manifest presence of God, but will we perceive it?
In Hebrews we are to boldly approach God’s throne where we receive mercy and grace in our time of need. Every instance of God’s grace in my life is His manifest presence.
Yes, the manifest presence of God can be dramatic, such as a voice bellowing from the clouds. However, I think few believers experience God in that way, but each of us is gifted with experiencing the manifest presence in the sublime. Is it less spectacular that while reading His word, He whispers? When the sun rises and sets, His voice goes out into all the earth. Hebrews describes the mature believer as one who has been trained to discern good from evil. Spiritual maturity also enables us to discern God’s presence and voice in the beauty of creation and in the mundane of daily life. Moreover, every believer, filled with the Holy Spirit manifests the presence of God. God chooses us, fragile, imperfect jars of clay to showcase Himself.
And where is God in our darkest times? Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. The more we dwell on this truth, the more we fine tune our senses to experience His presence. When we attune our ears to listen, we will hear.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning.