The Glory of God's Presence, 27 June 2021

The Glory of God’s Presence
Series—Exodus: Journey to Freedom
Exodus 40

Series Big Idea:
The book of Exodus describes God’s gracious liberation of the Jews from slavery to freedom.

Big Idea: We are blessed to be invited into God’s presence.

What’s the most incredible experience you’ve ever had in your life? For some it might be their first time seeing Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World or the green grass at a Mud Hens game. A visit to the Grand Canyon or skydiving would be amazing. There might’ve been a defining moment such as a graduation or new job. Maybe it was the birth of a baby or your wedding day. Last Sunday we looked at what may have been the prophet Isaiah’s most incredible experience.

Isaiah 6:1    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah 6:4    At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:5    “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isaiah was wrecked by the glory of God’s presence…and aware of his own sin and inadequacy. We said God is holy, and remarkably He calls us to be holy, too, something made possible not by our goodness by His amazing grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Hallelujah!

Today as we conclude our month-long series on Exodus, we’re exploring God’s presence. We saw in Exodus 3 Moses saw a burning bush and was told to take off his sandals for he was standing on holy ground. Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. The experiences of both Isaiah and Moses teach us that…

God’s presence is truly awesome!


Where is God?

In a word…everywhere! God is omnipresent. Psalm 139 asks,

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

God appears in the first verse of the Bible.

Genesis 1:1   In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

We understand the earth, but the heavens are not as clear. The original Hebrew word,
shamayim, refers to the sky, air, and indicates something lofty. The scriptures describe God in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve until The Fall, the disobedience which brought sin into the world and with it the death of our intimacy with God. He speaks to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and later Moses who led the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land. That journey we call the Exodus, also the name of our book of study in June. It was during those forty years of wandering in the wilderness that…

God’s presence was usually confined to the Tabernacle.

God is everywhere, but His manifest presence was especially present in the Tabernacle. Exodus 40 gives a detailed account of the Tabernacle. It was known as the tent of meeting and required more than a little setup!

Then the LORD said to Moses: 2 “Set up the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, on the first day of the first month. 3 Place the ark of the covenant law in it and shield the ark with the curtain. 4 Bring in the table and set out what belongs on it. Then bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. (Exodus 40:1-4)

The next verses were filled with detailed instructions for setting up the tabernacle.

“Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 13 Then dress Aaron in the sacred garments, anoint him and consecrate him so he may serve me as priest. 14 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics. 15 Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.” 16 Moses did everything just as the LORD commanded him. (Exodus 40:12-16)

Then we’re told additional details about Moses setting up the tabernacle, preparing the special place for God’s presence. If you owned a house and learned the Mayor or Governor or President were coming over, would you take a moment to clean, to prepare? Of course! In this case, God told Moses how to prepare a special house, a special place for His glory.

Then he put up the curtain at the entrance to the tabernacle. 29 He set the altar of burnt offering near the entrance to the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and offered on it burnt offerings and grain offerings, as the LORD commanded him. (Exodus 40:28-29)

He placed the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it for washing,
31 and Moses and Aaron and his sons used it to wash their hands and feet. 32 They washed whenever they entered the tent of meeting or approached the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. (Exodus 40:30-32)

Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work. (Exodus 40:33)

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
35 Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:34-35)

I can’t imagine the incredible experience of God’s glory. Wow! The tabernacle was portable and the people moved it as God guided.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels. (Exodus 40:36-38)

The writer of Hebrews gives us some details about the tabernacle.

A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. (Hebrews 9:2-4)

A few verses later we’re told,

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. (Hebrews 9:7)

Eventually Joshua led the people into the Promised Land in what we now call Israel. Generations later,

God’s presence was moved to the Temple.

King David assembled the materials and his son, Solomon, led the construction of the Temple

Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. (1 Kings 6:21)

At the dedication of both the tabernacle and the temple, God’s glory appeared in a powerful way, demonstrating His presence.

Last month we talked a bit about the
temple, the center of Jewish life, one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was a most impressive structure with a variety of designated areas, including the Most Holy Place.

Despite its grandeur and beauty, it was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans just as Jesus had predicted. While that was a devastating time for the Jews, the impact for the first Christians was somewhat less because the Temple was no longer the sole location of God’s presence. You might say that years earlier on Good Friday, God left the building! It occurred as Jesus breathed his last breath. Matthew tells us…

Matthew 27:50    And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Matthew 27:51    At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

That’s an incredible experience I’d love to witness…even if it would scare the stuffing out of me! I’ve been through some mild earthquakes, but I’ve never seen rocks split. I’ve certainly never seen tombs open and zombies roam a city, if you can say that!!! This was literally the walking dead, raised to life in the midst of Jesus’ death. But perhaps the most important aspect of this scene was the curtain of the temple torn in two from top to bottom.

God’s presence was unleashed on Good Friday…and Pentecost

Jesus said,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Acts 2 tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit who dwells inside every follower of Jesus. In fact, Paul told the church in Colossi,

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

God lives inside each believer. Where is God? In us! We are the temples of God.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

This is why we need to pay attention to our bodies, our physical health, and our sexuality. If you are a follower of Jesus, your body is not your own. It belongs to the LORD. Although it’s a radical thing to say in our culture, you are not permitted to do whatever you want with your body. You were made by God. You were made for God. You were made for God’s glory.

I can understand God showing up in the Garden to hang out with His creations Adam and Eve before they rebelled and sinned.

I can understand a holy God dwelling in a sacred part of the tabernacle and later the temple.

I can somewhat understand the sacrifice of Jesus granting us access to the Most Holy Place and making possible a relationship with Almighty God.

I find it nearly impossible to understand God dwelling inside of me, living in me, making my body His temple. This, of course, does not me that I am a God, but rather that God chooses to make His home in my heart…if I make room for Him.

So What?

I want to close with two quick thoughts. First,

God’s presence doesn’t mean we will not suffer, but we are never alone.

Where is God when it hurts? Where was God when you were suffering? He was with you.

Romans 8:37    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”

I know that raises the question, “If God was with me, why didn’t He stop the pain?” I can only say when we hurt, God hurts. He grants us free will, including the ability to hurt one another. He has a habit of redeeming pain and using it for our good, but beyond that I don’t have any quick, easy answers…but I trust God. Your story’s not over. Perhaps soon you’ll understand. I have many stories of understanding weeks, months, and even years later the purpose for pain in my life. I found this paragraph at

Our lives are like a quilt. If you look at the back side of a quilt, all you see is a mess of knots and loose ends hanging out all over. It is very unattractive, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the work. Yet when you turn the quilt over, you see how the maker has craftily woven together each strand to form a beautiful creation, much like the life of a believer (Isaiah 64:8). We live with a limited understanding of the things of God, yet a day is coming when we will know and understand all things (Job 37:5; Isaiah 40:28; Ecclesiastes 11:5; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Where is God when it hurts? The message to take with you in hard times is that when you cannot see His hand, trust His heart, and know for certain that He has not forsaken you. When you seem to have no strength of your own, that is when you can most fully rest in His presence and know that His strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). –

Be comforted to know God is with you. He has not left you. He has not abandoned you. And nobody knows pain like Jesus. If you doubt me, watch
The Passion of the Christ again…or for the first time.

And finally,

Someday we will experience God’s presence in unimaginable ways.

1Corinthians 2:6    We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived” —
the things God has prepared for those who love him—

1Corinthians 2:10    these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

One day we will see God face to face.
One day there will be no more suffering or pain or tears.
One day we will experience the full glory of God’s presence…forever!

In the meantime, let’s enjoy every moment when heaven kisses earth, where God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven…the place where God dwells.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

God is Holy, 20 June 2021

God is Holy
Series—Exodus: Journey to Freedom

Series Big Idea:
The book of Exodus describes God’s gracious liberation of the Jews from slavery to freedom.

Big Idea: God is holy and deserving of our worship…and holiness.

The Bible is filled with amazing stories. They are so remarkable, they’re often referenced by non-Christians such as David and Goliath or even Noah and the ark. One of the most vivid occurs in the third chapter of Exodus, the book we’re studying this month.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” (Exodus 3:1-3)

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

Holy ground. What is holy ground? How does a piece of wilderness become holy? What does it even mean when we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy?”

The original Hebrew word here for holy in Exodus 3 is
qodesh. It’s used over 400 times and means to be clean, ceremonially or morally. The idea is to appoint, bide, consecrate, dedicate, purify, distinct, set apart.

Growing up, we had everyday dishes and the special ones. Most nights I would see beige Pfaltzgraff plates and common silverware (that probably weren’t even silver!). But when company came over for a special dinner, the white china was used with the fancy silverware from the special silverware box! You might say it was holy, set apart, special.

I probably doubt I have to convince you that God is holy. He’s God! Of course He’s special, purified, set apart. He never sins. He never forget. He never sleeps. He never fails. His love is unlimited. His power is never-ending. His presence is everywhere.

We’re told in 1 Samuel…

“There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. (1 Samuel 2:2)

There are two things I hope to communicate today. First,
we need to expand our vision of God.

He is not your homeboy! He’s not your buddy. He’s God! He’s the Creator of the universe. We don’t worship an idol or a statue or a dead person or the sun and moon or the greatest idol…ourselves. No, we worship the holy God, the One unlike any other, the Rock. I’m reminded of the old Broadway Musical, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God!

He is God. You’re not. If we could just understand that simple truth, life would be radically different…and better. We say, “Jesus take the wheel” and then become a backseat driver! We love power. We crave control. We want it our way.

That’s an option! God has given us free will, the ability to make choices. How’s that working out for you? We see all around us evidence that making gods of ourselves is a catastrophe. COVID or not, depression and anxiety have skyrocketed as our churches have emptied. Homelessness and poverty are rampant in what may be the world’s most wealthy country. Incarcerations and injustice are off the charts. Violence in our land makes most nations look peaceful. We’ve rejected God and I don’t believe He’s punishing us so much as we’re simply suffering the consequences of that rejection.

The prophet Isaiah spoke of those who ignore God and do life on their own arrogant terms before saying,

But the LORD Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts. (Isaiah 5:16)

I don’t know about you, but I need God! I need His wisdom. I need His love. I need His power. I need His grace. I need His joy and mercy and peace and kindness and…

Some of you don’t need God…until you do! I’m urging you, surrender to God! Daddy knows best! He can be trusted. Listen to these words from Psalm 99…

Psalms 99:1    The LORD reigns,
let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
let the earth shake.
2 Great is the LORD in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
3 Let them praise your great and awesome name—
he is holy.
4 The King is mighty, he loves justice—
you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
what is just and right.
5 Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy.
6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD
and he answered them.
7 He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.
8 LORD our God,
you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
though you punished their misdeeds.
9 Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy.

This is not news to most of you, but we need to be reminded of Who it is that we are talking about, talking to, talking with, worshipping. We don’t sing on Sundays because we’re some glee club!
A holy God deserves a response.

Last week the president met with Queen Elizabeth. He didn’t show up wearing flip flops and a graphic tee! Even though he is the leader of our nation, he recognized he was in the presence of royalty. He dressed, spoke, and behaved accordingly.

I’m not suggesting that God demands a dress code, but He is worthy of our respect, our attention, our worship. Our English word
worship comes from the (Anglo Saxon) word worth-ship (or Old English woerthship), to ascribe worth to something. God deserves our praise, our allegiance, our time, our talents, our treasures, and our devotion.

Do you worship God? I don’t mean do you attend a weekly worship gathering on Sunday morning. I mean does your life reflect God is worthy of your whole self? Although the numbers seem to be declining, most people in our country would say they believe in God, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. The Bible says even demons believe in God (James 2:19)! They used to work for Him! A holy God is worthy of our worship, 24/7/365.

I think most people are simply too busy for God, obsessed with acceptance, significance, and security from everyplace except the true source, our Holy God. They’ll run to God when they’re in crisis, but otherwise they want to be in control and feel they don’t need God. Even in crisis, they treat God as a cosmic Santa Clause. Tragically, so many turn away from God when they don’t get their way, when trials come, when life gets hard…as if God owes us anything.

I don’t want what I deserve from God! My sin, rebellion, selfishness, and pride make me intolerable to a holy God. I deserve eternal punishment for my unholy behavior.

But that’s where Jesus comes in! Jesus did live a perfect life and died in our place. That’s love. That’s grace. That’s something we could never deserve. It’s also why we love and worship Jesus. God could’ve been satisfied with watching us die in our sins, but out of His love and mercy He sent Jesus to show us what it means to be human, to die, and to rise from the dead.

We need to expand our vision of God. We need to get Him out of the box, restore the mystery, and be captivated by our Good, Good Father. One of the ways we can do that is simply to read and study the Bible. I must confess I often get to comfortable and complacent with God. I get disappointed when He doesn’t do what I want, when I want. Then I feel justified in ignoring Him…or worse.

God created us in His image…and we’ve returned the favor!

The last book of the Bible offers some brilliant images that the best CGI in Hollywood could never begin to adequately capture. One of my favorite verses says,

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“ ‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8)

There is so much to that verse I can hardly imagine! What I know is God is awesome—Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Supernatural creatures declare this day and night and never stop! You think our songs are repetitious!!!

That’s not the first time this refrain is mentioned in the Bible. Isaiah the prophet tells this story…

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3)

That’s quite a sight, right? Isaiah saw it. But that’s not all.

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:4)

This was a multi-sensory extravaganza! Not even Disney World can create experiences like this! Here’s how Isaiah responded…

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

The Hebrew word here in Isaiah for holy is slightly different than the first word I mentioned,
qodesh. That meant distinct or set apart. The word in this verse, used 118 times, is qadosh. It means sacred, morally separate, pure, or unstained. God’s perfection sets him apart. That’s why Isaiah said he was ruined. It wasn’t just that God was set apart, He is perfectly pure.

That’s a proper response. In the presence of a holy God, we are all ruined. We are all unclean. We’re unworthy to even speak to the Almighty, much less have a relationship with Him.

Again, that’s where Jesus comes in. He’s the path to the Father. His sacrifice grants us access. Hallelujah! We don’t worship a book. We’re not about religion. We’re not here for guilt and shame. We’re all about a Person…Jesus!

So What?

God is holy, yet He calls us to be holy. God told Moses,

“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)

We’ve already said we’re not perfect, so how can we be holy? Just as we need to expand our vision of God,
we need to examine our vision of ourselves.

We’re not perfect.
We don’t have all of the answers.
We have limited knowledge, even with Google!
We have not only weak bodies susceptible to viruses, we have weak minds.

We need God.
We need Jesus.
We are called to be holy, to be set apart, to be different…but also pure.

It’s no secret that Christianity is on the decline in the western world—though it’s growing in the developing world. The problem is not that the world is being the world, but rather that the Church is not being the Church. More precisely, the Church is being too much like the world. We’re not different. We’re not set apart. We’re not offering an alternative lifestyle to the broken, greedy, narcissistic, individualistic, consumeristic culture in which we live. If we live like everyone else and pretend to be holy for an hour on Sunday, we might as well just skip the Sunday charade and eat, drink and be merry…and suffer the consequences.

Family, we are called by God to be holy, to be set apart, to be pure. You and I were created by God to be masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10), special, sacred…not the everyday stuff, but the good stuff! His seeking holiness in us is not because He simply has rules He wants us to follow. It’s because all sin ends in destruction and pain.

I know there are some strange laws in our land, but God’s laws are all for our good and His glory. He is the definition of love and, therefore, has our best interest at heart. He’s calling us to a higher standard then the mediocrity of the world. That means we are to put away our idols, our pride, our selfishness, sexual immorality, prejudice, hatred, and greed. He doesn’t want us to live like everyone else because He knows what’s best for us. Like a good Father, He doesn’t want us to ruin our lives…yet He gives us the freedom to make—and hopefully learn from—our mistakes.

In a world that says truth is whatever you feel, God calls us to something objective, to something greater, to something real…holiness. Righteousness. A life devoted to His glory, not our own.

God is holy. He is set apart. He is pure. He is sacred. Any He invites us to follow Him, to do life with Him, to worship Him, to love Him and others well, and to experience what it truly means to be human…to be holy.

God declared the wilderness in which Moses was standing holy ground. This is holy ground, too, for the LORD is here and where He is is holy.

We close today with a song that declares God’s holiness, but remember worship is more than a song. It’s a lifestyle that reflect God’s holiness to Him and the watching world…not for our glory, but His. Worship and obedience are the natural response to a Holy God who invites us to be His sons and daughters.

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library