Va-Yakhel & Pekudei
For the week of March 21, 2009 / 25 Adar 5769
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 35:1 - 40:38; 12:1-20
Haftarah: Ezekiel 45:16-46

The Manifest Presence of God

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Shemot / Exodus 40:34,35; ESV)

An important teaching of the Scriptures is the omnipresence of God, which is another way to say that the God of Israel is everywhere. As King David wrote, "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!" (Psalm 139:7,8; ESV)

Even though God is everywhere, that doesn't mean that he makes himself known everywhere in the exact same way. This is what we see at the completion of the Mishkan (English: Tabernacle). The cloud was a visible and powerful expression or manifestation of God. The overwhelming nature of God's presence in the cloud was such that Moses could not enter the Mishkan while the cloud was there. This didn't mean that the Creator of the Universe was exclusively contained within this cloud. It is that this was a special and tangible way in which God revealed himself. This type of expression of God's presence is often called "the manifest presence of God."

Some Bible believers deny that God still manifests himself in this way today. They think that legitimate, biblical spirituality is exclusively conceptual, something of thought and faith only. While it is good to celebrate God's tangible reality among people in ancient times, they think we should be satisfied with the Bible stories alone. When we do this we may not realize that we are denying the very stories we claim to hold dear. The Bible attests that God makes his presence known in various tangible ways. To claim that his manifest presence was a reality in Bible times only is to set an arbitrary limit on what God is free to do.

Other people confuse God's manifest presence with his omnipresence. While we should acknowledge that God is everywhere, his manifest presence is special. Yet for some it seems that their awareness of God must always be highly dramatic, emotional and tangible. But since God's manifest presence is not actually evident to the extent they claim, they unknowingly belittle the very reality they seek to affirm.

Having said that, it appears that God does want to make himself known in very tangible ways far more than most of us realize. Just as the cloud filled the Mishkan, so he fills people individually and corporately today. Yeshua said, referring to both his followers of his day and all who would believe in him later, "The glory that you have given me I have given to them..." (John 17:22). The manifest presence of God that was revealed through the Messiah has been given to his people. Note that he didn't say "The glory that you have given me I will give to them", but rather, "The glory that you have given me I have given to them." Just as the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan, so the glory of the Lord has filled Yeshua's followers. Therefore the manifest presence of God is to be found in and through Yeshua's followers.

God is indeed everywhere, but he wants to makes himself known through his people in very special ways. The more we realize that his manifest presence lives in us, the more his presence will be manifested through us.

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