Experiencing God’s Presence

MEMORY SELECTION: “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy.” —Psalm 16:11

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 4:32-40

THE experience of the children of Israel at Mount Sinai was designed by God to be such a revelation of his power and glory that the terror of being in the divine presence would be remembered from generation to generation. In Deuteronomy 4:33 Moses, in his admonitions to the people, said, “Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou halt heard, and live?” A more detailed account of this experience is given by Moses in Exodus 19:16-19: “And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.”

God called Moses up into the mount and gave him the details or terms of the Law Covenant. While Moses was with God, the awesome display of his power and glory continued. But when Moses appeared to the people, they said, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” Later we find that Moses did read the terms of the Law Covenant to the people and the people answered they would do all the words of the Lord and because of their agreement, the Law Covenant was inaugurated.—Exod. 24:3-8

The circumstances of God’s presence with Israel were to impress upon them the power and glory of the one who was supervising their affairs, thereby increasing their faith that God was able to accomplish the things he promised. Also, God’s presence assured them that the covenant they had entered into was made with God. This experience was a touchstone for the nation, but in spite of it, we know they were not faithful to its terms.

The Apostle Paul tells us that this experience of the nation of Israel was a picture or a type of the inauguration of the New Covenant. In Hebrews 12:18-21, he recounts the circumstances we have previously noted and then he indicates that the footstep followers of Jesus are approaching the reality of Mount Sion. In verses 22-24 we read: “But ye are come [approaching] unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

The apostle then reminds us that in the figure God spoke to the children of Israel under marvelous circumstances but they did not listen and were disobedient. But now God is speaking to us and we should “see that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.”—Heb. 12:25

The point the apostle is making is that Israel was disobedient and, therefore, lost the exclusive opportunity to be a nation of kings and priests. (Exod. 19:5,6) Because of their disobedience the Gospel message was directed to the Gentiles. The account is recorded in Acts 13:46. “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (See also Acts 26:16-18; Rom. 9:25,26.) It is at this present time that God is speaking and inviting Gentiles to receive the Gospel message, with the prospect of becoming a part of God’s spiritual house.—I Pet. 2:5-10

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