The Promise of God’s Presence

“And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

Why seek the presence of God?

For one, you won’t find rest anywhere else. When Jesus promised rest for the weary, the condition was, “Come to me.”[1] Those who accept find His yoke to be easy and His burden light. What about you? Would you describe your burden as light? Let’s face it, life is no cake walk. Our yokes are like nooses and our burdens weigh like an anvil on rat’s rear-end. “It’s my cross to bear,” one might reason. We feel pushed, pulled, prodded and pressured on every side. Even our hearts get crushed. We experience worry, doubt, anxiety, panic, fear, pain, helplessness and hopelessness, headaches and heartbreaks. Need I go on? On top of all this we sweat, toil and labor. Is not the cry of our souls for rest? Couldn’t we all use a break?

Does the idea of relief appeal to you, my tired friend?

Imagine for a moment how Moses must have felt as Israel’s top dog. He was called to lead

Moses Pleads for God’s Presence

between two and three million nags through a barren wilderness. Nothing ever made these grumps happy. Their freedom didn’t. Their food didn’t. Their Father didn’t. These bellyachers were constantly on edge. They spent the bulk of their days whining, complaining and criticizing. This ungrateful bunch couldn’t be satisfied for a New York minute. They were stiff-necked, stubborn, uncooperative, non-submissive and disobedient. Moses would have had an easier time leading two million arthritic mules through the Sahara!

Do you think, just maybe, that Moses grew weary at times? No doubt he felt an enormous weight of responsibility. And with each passing day his heart must have grown heavier for the people. Assuredly, the proposition of rest was appealing to Israel’s leader. I imagine it appeals to you as well. And let’s be honest, neither you nor I have to put up with a fraction of what Moses had to deal with! After everyone had bowed before the golden calf, it was evident the people had rejected Moses as their leader. Yes, he had lost control of them, which only increased his burden. What was his response to such a miserable yoke? He pitched a tent far away from distraction where he could draw near to the Lord. That’s when God told Moses:

“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

 

Rest is synonymous with peace.

It was the late John Lennon who coined the catchphrase “Give peace a chance.” Of course, this began as the anti-war anthem back when we still had troops in Vietnam. Uncle Sam finally did give peace a chance by pulling out of this controversial conflict. But did this decision translate to “inner peace” for anybody? Though I may have sighed with relief once they ended the draft, this was not the beginning of a tranquil existence for yours truly. The sad reality is that we can have utter turmoil on the inside no matter how peaceful things are on the outside. The opposite is also true. We can experience total inner peace even when all hell is breaking loose. Such was the case with Moses.

When God promised Moses rest, He wasn’t promising a change of outward circumstances.

There were no promises to rid his life of all conflict. Nor did the Lord promise to lighten Moses’ responsibilities as Israel’s leader. On the contrary, the wilderness experience was far from over. Moses’ job description would remain the same and he would continue to be surrounded by a melancholy multitude of moaners until the day he died. So what exactly did God promise this poor soul? The answer: His peace! In other words, whatever Moses walked through, no matter how confusing, complicated or chaotic, he would experience rest in God’s presence. We have been given this same promise. At our immediate disposal we have a peace that surpasses all understanding. In a restless world we can rest in Him. All that’s required is that we enter in, which Moses was more than willing to do. Moses answered the Lord:

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. ” (Exodus 33:15).

Essentially what Moses was saying was, “I’d rather be in a desolate desert with You than in a land flowing with milk and honey without You.” Do you feel the same way?

Would you still pursue the Lord if it meant forfeiting all your milk and honey?

Could you rest in material luxury knowing God is not there beside you? I couldn’t. This is by no means an attempt to make myself sound more spiritual than I actually am. I’m merely saying that the only place I’ve found true rest is in the presence of God.

The fact that there are as many miserable rich people as there are happy poor people is evidence enough that there is no connection whatsoever between one’s peace and one’s prosperity. However, should you forsake His presence for the sake of material prosperity, you forfeit His peace. This was something Moses wasn’t willing to gamble with. Above all else, he desperately longed for God’s presence. If that meant dwelling in the desert in utter poverty, he was okay with that. Nothing else mattered but nearness to God. Once a person comes to that place – he can rest!

This glimpse into Moses’ life clearly demonstrates that true rest comes from above. Not only is this confirmed throughout scripture, life and experience teaches us the same lesson. There is but one source when it comes to rest for the soul – the heavenly presence of God. As hard as we may try to seek rest elsewhere, we only end up disappointed – and restless.

The world is filled with chaos, conflict and confusion.

Jesus assured that the world would dish out continual trouble for us. Planet earth is not our resting place. Nor has it been since Adam and Eve enjoyed their little fruit snack. There is nowhere to retreat among the thorns and thistles dealt our way. However, they do show us how desperately we need God in our lives. Thorns and thistles are the tools He uses to point us into His presence. The nearer we draw to Him the more we are at rest. And the less the thorns and thistles are a bother to us.

Seek His presence.

Find true rest in Him.



[1] Matthew 11:28

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