I am in the middle of reading one of my favorite Biblical Scholars, N.T. Wright’s, latest books, Simple Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Have you ever been reading a book and the author makes a profound statement they didn’t even intent to make? That is what Bishop Wright did for me when he was discusses the ways in which God makes himself present to the Israelites in scripture.
Here are some examples that N.T. Wright gives of how God reveals His presence in the lives of our biblical ancestors. When God visits Moses, Moses saw a burning bush. When God came to Abraham, Abraham saw three men whom he invited for a meal. When God guided Moses and the Israelites through the dessert, they saw a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When God revealed His glory to Isaiah, Isaiah tell us that God was high and lifted up, surrounded by angels, with the hem of his robe filling the Temple.1 When Hagar saw God, she saw an angel and then declared: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seenthe One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13 NIV).
When I read these examples of God’s presence in the lives of people in the Bible, I thought: “I surely don’t experience the power, grace, and glory of God in the same way that they did. There is no fire, angels or men for dinner. Has God changed the way He is present with His people? Or have we changed the way we are present with our God?”
I will be the first to take responsibility for my watered down opinion and experience of what I have believed to be the presence of God. Although I will never discount the moments I have experienced God in nature, amazing worship, His Spirit-filled scripture, or by hearing the encouraging words of an anointed friend or mentor (all of these hold incredible value to me as a Christ-follower), I have lacked the ability to ask for more of God’s glorious presence like we see repeated in the word of God and then to be an expression of that presence to others.
Look at Jesus as an example. God came to His people in person as Jesus. When Jesus was present for others, there was always a crowd and a celebration. Matthew 4:23 gives us the reason. People flocked to Jesus and celebrated because wherever he went, he “proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, healing every disease and every illness among the people.”
Jesus understood and experienced the true presence and power of the His Father in His own life and gave that to others. People’s lives were changed forever. Jesus has offered the same to us, we have only to ask, believe, and open ourselves up to all the ways that God wants to be present in our lives. Imagine how the world could change!
1Wright, N.T. (2011) Simple Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Harper One: NY, NY.