By Ben W. Curtis
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tracy City
Focal Passage: Exodus 39:42-43; 40:1-4, 34-38
Toddlers are completely dependent on their parents to supply all that they need. But if you want a lesson in futility, try to convince them of that. They will squirm and push away from your grip only to fall flat on their faces and cry for you to pick them back up. Every parent knows that small children are some of the most self-deceived creatures on the face of the earth! But we can also be very self-deceived when it comes to our dependence on God’s presence for every need in our lives.
Moses and the people complete the tabernacle just “as the Lord had commanded” him (Exodus 39:42). That phrase occurs 18 times in chapters 39-40, emphasizing the importance of their obedience. The tabernacle serves as a model of the universe with the Holy of Holies representing heaven on earth (Psalm 78:69; 104:1-6). What God is doing has cosmic significance. His intention has always been to bring His people back to a right relationship with Himself. So, once the final curtain is set up, He descends from the mountain and resides in the center of Israel’s camp (Exodus 40:3, 34). Though God has certainly revealed Himself to individuals, this is the first time He has chosen to dwell with His people.
God’s presence is an empowering presence. Wherever they camp, His glory is so magnificent that all Israel can see what He is doing. God has also promised to continually abide with us, working good on our behalf (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:28). Since His power is not only around us but within us, we should expect to see visible results in our own lives and in our church communities (Galatians 5:22-23). Can you think of a time when God’s power and presence seemed massive? Is He as “big” to you as He once was? If not, ask God to fill you afresh with His Holy Spirit and empower you to walk in the gifts He has given.
God’s presence is also a guiding presence. Throughout Exodus, Israel has been that toddler crying out to God and resisting His help when He provides it. Yet, the Lord never let them go. They are completely dependent on God’s decision to move them or keep them in one place (Exodus 40:36-37). God continues to guide believers who walk by the Spirit, meditate on the Word, and ask for His wisdom (Galatians 5:16; 1 Peter 2:2; James 1:5). He graciously surrounds us with wise and godly believers who help us discern His will (Proverbs 12:15; Colossians 3:16). God’s presence is simple, yet life defining.
Finally, God’s presence is a merciful presence. Israelites and toddlers are not the only people who are quickly self-deceived. There are plenty of golden calves in our lives and “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). How encouraging to know that the God who demonstrated mercy to Israel has shown His love in a more profound way to us who are believers. The greatest revelation of His glory isn’t in a cloud descending on the tabernacle, but in His Servant who was lifted up on the cross (Isaiah 63:4-10; John 12:32). He crushed His Son for our sins, while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8). God’s abiding presence guarantees hope for His children. It’s an empowering hope because His presence is powerful. It’s hope with direction because He gives us guidance. And the greatest news of all is that it’s a merciful hope because His mercy is great (II Samuel 24:14).