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"People of The Presence"
by Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
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Preached 2/17/2008

"People of The Presence"

Text: Exodus:33:15-16. "And he (Moses) said unto Him (the LORD), If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. 16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? is it not in that Thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth."

Introduction: Greeting cards are one way we have available to us to communicate just how much someone means to us. Recently I read a greeting card that reads: "Weeks of extensive research have confirmed what I suspected all along, that I cannot live without you. You're the peanut butter to my jelly. The prize to my cereal box. I think about you in the morning. I think about you at night. I think about you when the therapist says, ‘Okay, right now don't think about anything.' And I will never, ever, ever take you off my Friends and Family plan."

Is there a special someone you can't live without? What about God and His presence? One of the greatest promises recorded in the Bible, is the promise of God's continued presence. Our focus name for God this month is Jehovah Shammah, God is there! What comforting knowledge it is to have, that God Himself is ever present with us. It doesn't matter what the situation, God is there. It doesn't matter what enemies are rising up against us, God is there. It doesn't matter who hates us, God is still there.

Moses was a man of the Presence. Moses and his people knew about the presence of God, and the difference He made in their lives. The Lord God had spoken to Moses as he stood before the burning bush. He heard God's voice and experienced His glory on the mountain top while receiving the law. Moses often conferred with the Lord God of Israel in the Tabernacle. In verse 11 of this chapter, it says that Moses spoke to God as it were "face to face." On one occasion, the face of Moses actually glowed, radiated, with the glory of God, as he had been a long time in God's presence. Israel was blessed with the presence of God. The cloudy pillar by day and pillar of fire by night, evidenced the presence of God in the midst of His nation, His people.

In this chapter, Moses and Israel were facing the prospect of forfeiting God's presence! The people had sinned against God, and God suggested that Moses and Israel go on into Canaan without His presence. Notice verses 1-3 of our text chapter. "And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it: 2 And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: 3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way." God offers to send Moses and the children of Israel on to Canaan with His blessing, ...but not His presence.

Upon hearing this news, Israel was greatly moved. Verse 4 reads, "And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments (that is their jewels and jewelry)." So many times, we fail to fully appreciate something until it is threatened. Obviously Israel did not want to forfeit God's presence.

Moses proceeds to do something about it. The Tabernacle was the place where God often met and conferred with Moses. The Tabernacle was God's place, the place of His presence. Moses erects the Tabernacle outside the camp, away from the distractions and the scene of their recent depravity. Moses entered the Tabernacle, and as he did, the cloud of God's presence descended upon that place! Moses was about to intercede with God for the people. Verse 7 informs us that everyone who sought the Lord, followed Moses and gathered around the Tabernacle. They pitched their tents, and then stood in the door of their tents, waiting in anticipation. Verse 10 reads, "And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door." These people did more than get themselves presentable and go to God's place, the place of the presence, they each stood at the door of their tents and worshiped, while Moses interceded for them!

As Moses begins, he says right up front, "God, if You are not going into Canaan with me, we're not going either." Verse 15 reads, "And he said unto Him, If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." Moses then reasons with God that both he and his people were people of the presence. Moses gives two reasons for not forfeiting the presence of God.

First, it was God's presence that distinguished them as His people.

Verse 16a says, "For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? is it not in that Thou goest with us?" The presence of the Lord in that cloudy pillar by day and pillar of fire by night was testimony that they were His very own people, His very own possession. No other nation had a cloud in their midst! No other nation had a night light like these people! Wherever they traveled, God was right there, leading, guiding, providing. The children of Israel were in a covenant relationship with God, based on God's grace. With His presence, they were somebody. Minus His presence, they were nobody! With His presence, they could do anything! Minus His presence, they could do nothing!

Second, it was God's presence that distinguished them from other people.

Verse 16b continues, " shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth." It was the presence of the Lord God that made them different from all other nations. God's presence made them a peculiar people, separated from all others. The religions of the other lands and of Canaan, were pantheistic or polytheistic. Israel was monotheistic. They knew and served the one true God. The Canaanite gods were dead, made of wood, stone or metals. Israel knew and served a living God, a God who was spirit. The gods of the heathen enslaved the people in sin. The love and Law of the Lord God, elevated and liberated the people from their sin.

In I Peter 2:9-10 Peter reminds us, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." We who are saved by the grace of God had best remember that we are nothing without Him, and we can do nothing without Him. We desperately need His presence in our lives! God alone is worthy of our worship, our praise, our all!

It is interesting to note that the word "worshiped" appears in verse 10 of this chapter. It says, "And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshiped, every man in his tent door." On the verge of losing the presence of the Lord, Israel worshiped. Why worship? Worship is about God's presence. It's as if they worshiped for fear of losing God's presence! Perhaps they thought that their worship would entreat the Lord and change His mind. Guess what? It did! In verse 14, God spoke to Moses and said, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." As Moses stood at the door of the Tabernacle entreating God to go with them, be with them, God could not help but sense the worship going on around the outside of the Tabernacle. God was bombarded with praise and petitions of the people, and it was persuasive!

What is worship to you? How important is worship to you? Worship has been defined as "...getting into God's presence and letting His radiance touch and change your life." From our text, we could well define worship as "....celebrating the presence of God." You see, the real issue of worship is not so much a form, a place, a particular style or type of music, it is God's presence and preeminence. God is looking today for a people who desire to be in His presence.

What can we learn about God's presence and worship from this passage? Here are four lessons we would do good learn, as we seek to be a people of the presence.

Four Presence Lessons

Lesson one: Your passion for God, secures His presence.

Without doubt, this is a passionate passage of Scripture. In the previous chapter, Moses descended from the top of Mt. Sinai to discover the immorality and idolatry of the people. While Moses was away, the people pressed Aaron into making them an idol to worship. Moses dealt severely with the people for their sin. Many died at the hand of God. Moses then interceded for his people. In Exodus 32:31-33 we find Moses actually offering his own life for his people. Moses in effect tells God, "God kill me and forgive them!" With passion, Israel sinned against God. With passion, Moses pled to God for his people, even to the point of sacrificing his own life! Now with passion both Moses and Israel seek the continued presence of the Lord God. With passion they worshiped!

Before we will ever worship God, we must possess a passion for the presence. Passion is a strong feeling, intense emotion that compels to action. Usually when we think of passion, sad to say we do not associate it with the things of God. People have passion these days for things like sex, food, entertainment, sports, and chocolate, but certainly not for God! What has happened to our passion to be with God and our desire for the things of God? Even good faithful church people become uneasy when someone in their midst gets on fire and has a passion for the Lord. A football fan will wait in line for hours to purchase a ticket, pay big money, brave the worst of weather, and patiently watch a lousy game loving every minute of it, while the average church member must be all but bribed to attend just one service out of the week! Then, they want to put the pastor and the whole worship service on a stop watch! Many Christians view the worship service with dread. It's something that they must endure, not enjoy! Then we wonder why we are losing a whole generation of worshipers. Somehow we have lost our focus on the presence. We need a passion for the Presence.

A passion for the presence will be evidenced by a willingness to confess and forsake sin. Israel had to put their sin away before they could reclaim the presence of the Lord. Psalm 101:7 says, "He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight." I John 1:5-6 tells us, "This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth."

Many times we do not worship, we do not connect with God and feel His presence, because we will not acknowledge and confess our sin. Perhaps, we need to reverse the order of our service. Instead of ending with the altar call, we should begin with it! If we would deal with our sin at the beginning, confess our need of Him at the beginning, we might have a true worship experience! We might actually connect with the presence of God!

A passion for the presence will be evidenced by seeking God's face. In our text, the children of Israel put away their party mentality, and went to the place where God's presence was found. They made a considerable effort to get there, and then stood in anticipation! These were serious worshipers!

The Lord has promised over and over in His Word, that if we will seek His face, He will be found! In Exodus 33:18, Moses asked a special favor of the Lord. "And he said, I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory." Moses had a desire, a passion, to see more and know more of God! The Lord honored his request because He longs for us to seek Him and worship Him.

Do you long to feel God's presence? Do you thirst to hear His voice? Will you be disappointed to leave here and your heart not be stirred, moved, and changed?

We must as God's people, put a passion for God's presence back into our lives, and into our worship. Instead of daring worship leaders to draw us into worship, we must enter with a desire to worship. We must burn with a passion to be a people of the presence.

Lesson two: Your priorities will determine God's presence in your life.

Worship does not just happen. Somehow we think that we can stumble into church with no preparation to worship, full of ourselves, full of the world, and feel close to God by just being here. If we worship the Lord on any given day, it will be because we have made it a priority. The presence of the Lord comes to those who make Him their top priority.

Israel manifested their priorities when they put off their ornaments. Notice verse 4. "And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments." Earlier they pooled their ornaments to make an idol, then they worshiped a golden calf. Now they put those things aside, worshiping the Creator above His creation.

So often we put stuff before God. We worship gold, not God. On the Lord's Day churches go empty, while the ballparks and stadiums across this nation are teaming with millions. Worship is often sacrificed for the demands of a job! We need to get our priorities straight!

Moses manifested his priorities when he refused God's blessings, minus His presence. God promised a land flowing with milk and honey. He promised to provide an angelic escort service to defeat all the inhabitants of the land that would come against them, but Moses said, "I will not go without you, Lord." More than the goods, Moses wanted God. More than the land, Moses wanted the Lord.

How often do you settle for God's blessings minus His presence? How often do we seek the Lord's hands and not His face? How often do you settle for a form of worship, without ever experiencing God? God's presence comes to those who make it a priority.

Lesson three: Your pursuit of God's presence is a personal journey.

Another verse in our text really struck me as it relates to worship is verse 8. "And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the tabernacle, that all the people rose up, and stood every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the tabernacle." The whole nation stood at attention and focused on the Lord and their leader, but it all came down to "...every man at his tent door." Worship takes place in the domain of each individual heart.

God's presence is built upon a personal relationship. Israel was in a covenant relationship with the Lord. They knew the Lord God and were taught how to worship Him. As Moses entered the Tabernacle, all Israel came to attention.

In John 4, Jesus spoke to the woman at the well about "true worshipers." One thing we learn in that chapter is this, not everyone who worships is a "true worshiper." Once she confessed Jesus Christ to be the Messiah, she became a "true worshiper." Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

Before we can truly experience the presence of God in our lives and in our worship, we must acknowledge His Son Jesus Christ!

God's presence is built upon a personal responsibility. Just because you are saved doesn't mean you always worship. Just as we have a work ethic, we as God's people must develop a personal worship ethic! No one can be saved for you, and no one can worship for you. Moses alone asked, "Lord, show me Thy glory." It was in his heart to seek the Lord. Moses had a great experience with God, because he personally pursued it. God put Moses in the cleft of the rock and passed by him. What did Moses see? No one knows because it was Moses alone who sought this divine privilege.

One cop out people use to excuse themselves from church is to say that churches are full of hypocrites. To that crowd I want to say, "Well, bless God, come on anyway! One more won't hurt!" Even if that were true, and it's not, you could still worship the Lord if your heart was right! Most of the time the thing that determines how good the singing is; how good the sermon is; is the condition and preparation of your own heart.

Lesson four: God's presence in your life has transforming power!

When I say powerful, I am not talking about smoke, thunder, and fire. Worship is not show time! The power of worship is transforming and life changing.

The influence of your worship can reach into Heaven. Before their worship, God was not inclined to go with them into Canaan. After they worshiped, God said in verse 14, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." Wow! Their worship made a difference in Heaven. What went on was noticed in Heaven.

Call a political convention, and a party will come. Call for a ball game, and a crowd will come. Call for the Olympic Games, and the world will come. Call for a worship service, and God Himself will come. Jesus promised, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

The influence of your worship can be seen on earth. Things had changed on the earth also. After these people connected with God, they were different. Worship had purified their lives and restored their focus. Their eyes and hearts were off of idols and on the Lord. They were now ready to march on toward Canaan.

Today there is a great need for people of the presence and churches of the presence. Why? When a people connect with God, there is persuasive, life changing power. The greatest compliment a people, a church, can receive, is for someone, even an unbeliever, to come in their midst and say, "God is here. God's presence is in this place and with these people."

What about the presence of God in your life?

Do you feel God's presence in your life today? Have you forfeited His presence? Don't leave today without connecting with the presence of God.

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