Pursuing the Glory of God in our Midstby Mamdouh Riad on March 28, 2017
Pursuing the Glory of God in our Midst
by Mamdouh Riad
IntroductionThe Scriptures teach us that the glory of God is revealed to us in many ways. Among them, first and foremost, it is revealed to us in the face of Jesus Christ:“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).
It is also manifested in His creation:“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). It is manifested in His power, as Jesus said to Martha:“Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40), referring to resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. Yet another aspect is that the glory of God at times refers to the Lord Himself. Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on the throne in Isaiah 6 and John describes that as the glory of God:“These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him”
It is that latter aspect of the glory of God, His manifest presence, that we refer to in this article, when we talk about pursuing His glory in our midst. And we are not referring to pursuing a supernatural cloud or manifestation of His glory. That was simply the way God chose to make His people aware of His presence at that time. That was the way He made them aware that He was with them.
God reveals His Heart
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Lord revealed Himself through His Word and through His dealings with His people. One of the things the Lord has revealed to us is His desire to dwell with His people, to manifest His presence (His glory) corporately among them. This was in God’s heart from the very beginning, as far back as when He commanded Moses to build the tabernacle:“And Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).
"And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God
"And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people"
(1 Kings 6:13);
"And he said unto me, 'Son of man, the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever" (Ezekiel 43:7);
"Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I will come and I will dwell in your midst says the LORD. Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall be My people. And I will dwell in your midst" (Zechariah 2:10).
These verses express what the Lord desires for His people in this age, with the full realization of that to take place in the age to come,“…Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21:3).
Consider this: What does it mean for an omnipresent God to dwell among His people? God is present everywhere. He fills heaven and earth. So what do these verses mean about Him dwelling among His people? It means manifesting His presence among them, making them acutely aware that He is among them!
Moses realized that it was the very presence of God among the Israelites that distinguished them as His people: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth”
A.W. Tozer articulated the concept of the manifest presence of God well in his classic The Pursuit of God:
"If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, cannot even conceive of a place where He is not, why then has not that Presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world? The patriarch Jacob, "in the waste howling wilderness," gave the answer to that question. He saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not." Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours. Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew. The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence."
In Matthew 28:20 Jesus told the disciples:”Behold, I am with you always.”, yet in John 14:21 He says: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Whether by manifesting His presence in a supernatural form as we saw in the Old Testament tabernacle and the temple, or through His deeds among Israel when His glory was upon them, His presence was manifest and self-evident, and they were acutely aware of it.
Lessons from Israel’s journey
In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul talks about some of God’s dealings with Israel; then declares to us that: “All these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). In other words, Paul is admonishing us to heed some lessons from Israel’s journey in the Old Testament.
As we look at such a journey, we see that when they walked in obedience to the Lord, the glory of God was upon them as He manifested His presence. Not only were they acutely aware of it, but even unbelievers around them recognized that God was in their midst, as He promised them He would do if they walked in His commandments: “Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD... 12 The LORD will open the heavens…” (Deut. 28: 10,12).
In the New Testament, Jesus said that when the people of God are the salt of the earth and the light of the world as He called them to be, unbelievers would:“See your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
This theme runs throughout the Scriptures: Rahab, a heathen, told Joshua and Caleb: “For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt… 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted… for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2: 10, 11).
The same thing happened in Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal:” Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice… 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -He is God! (1 Kings 18: 37-39).
Because of the presence of God in Daniel’s life, King Nebuchadnezzar, a heathen, told him: “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings” (Dan. 2:47). Also, King Darius, another heathen, said: “For He is the living God… He delivers and rescues And He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions” (Dan. 6:26, 27).
So it was in the New Testament, when the glory of God was present among the early church in the book of Acts, the Lord manifested His presence with signs and wonders, and the fear of Lord fell upon all:
“Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles… And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:43,47).
“So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things”
And while in the Old Testament God manifested His presence or dwelt in the tabernacle and the temple, in the New Testament it is the Church, the corporate body of Christ, that is His temple where He manifests His presence. This is why unity is a critical ingredient for us to experience His glory corporately, and why division hurts the cause of Christ.
“For you (plural) are the temple of the living God, as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk among them..” (2 Cor 6:16).
"Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool, what kind of a house you (plural) will build for Me, or where is the place of My rest?" (Acts 7:49).
The picture of the glory of God desencing upon the Old Testament temple parallels that of the New Testament one, the Church:
"Indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord....that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God" (2 Chron 5:13,14)
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord, in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:1,2).
To the extent we are united or divided, we either have or lack the spiritual authority that comes from the manifest presence of God in our midst. Jesus said: "A house divided against itself cannot stand" (Matthew 12:25).
"It was this (the sense of Someone there) that filled with abiding wonder the first members of the Church of Christ. The solemn delight which those early disciples knew sprang straight from the conviction that there is One in the midst of them. They knew that the Majesty in the heavens were confronting them on earth: They were in the very Presence of God. And the power of that conviction to arrest attention and hold it for a lifetime, to elevate, to transform, to fill with uncontrollable moral happiness, to send men singing to prison and to death, has been one of the wonders in history and a marvel of the world.”
Israel without His manifest presence
In contrast to the times when Israel walked with God and experienced His glory among them, when they departed from Him in sin and compromise, the glory of God lifted off of them. He no longer manifested His presence among them, and they lost their acute awareness of Him. Their enemies overcame them and, rather than recognizing that God was in their midst, they mocked Israel, saying, “Where is your God?” Hence, we find that the cry for revival among Israel in the Old Testament throughout the psalms and the prophets is coupled by the repeated phrase/prayer, Why should the nations (unbelievers) say where is your God? :“Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:17).
The Lord had warned them in His word that this would happen if they did not walk in His commandments: “The sky over your head will be bronze… 25 The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies…” (Deut 28:23,25).
Similarly, Jesus said in the New Testament, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13)
In Psalm 139:7, David speaks of the omnipresence of God, saying, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” Yet in Psalm 51:11, because his sin cost him his acute awareness God’s presence, he cries out,“Do not cast me away from Your presence.”
In the same way, when Israel sinned, they lost the manifest presence of God among them, and the Lord told them through Jeremiah:“I will cast you out of My presence…” (Jeremiah 23:39).God told Ezekiel:“Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to make me depart from my sanctuary?” (Ezekiel 8:5).
What does it mean for an omnipresent God to depart from His sanctuary? It means He will no longer manifest His presence among them. In Revelation 3, we see Jesus standing outside the Church of Laodicea, knocking at the door to come in:"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in..." (Rev 3:20). We can live our lives walking in God's way which would prepare us to be a resting place for His manifest presence, or we can live in compromise causing Him not to find rest among us and not to manifest His presence.
When Israel did not walk in God's ways, the Lord no longer manifested His presence among them. He subsequently delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who destroyed the temple of the Lord and took them as slaves in Babylon:
“By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harp upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song… How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).Repentance and His manifest presence
Then the Lord, out of His great mercy and faithfulness, kept a faithful remnant for Himself. He raised up Daniel from among Israel in captivity, gave him understanding of the times, and stirred him to stand in the gap in repentance on behalf of his people. His prayer in Daniel 9 summarizes God’s dealings with Israel at that time:
“ And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly! 16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (Daniel 9:15-19).
So we see that when the glory of God is upon His people, God is known in the land, and revival is the fruit of His manifest presence. Conversely, when the glory of God departs from His people, they experience times of spiritual drought, lack of fruit, and darkness in the land.
Corporate Prayer and Revival
The relationship between corporate prayer and revival is a vast subject that was extensively studied and written about. Matthew Henry wrote: "Whenever God is about to do something truly great, He first sets His people a praying."
An excellent classic resource on this subject, from someone who has seen revival in his lifetime and understood very well it's relation to corporate prayer, is Jonathan Edward's classic, A Humble Attempt.
Examples from history
“At that time God's work in the conversion of souls was carried on amongst us in so wonderful a manner, that, so far as I can judge, it appears to have been at the rate at least of four persons in a day; or near thirty in a week, take one with another, for five or six weeks together.”
“Several persons have had so great a sense of the glory of God, and excellency of Christ, that nature and life seemed almost to sink under it; and in all probability, if God had showed them a little more of Himself, it would have dissolved their frame. I have seen some, and conversed with them in such frames, who have certainly been perfectly sober, and very remote from anything like enthusiastic wildness.”
“While God was so remarkably present amongst us by His Spirit, there was no book so delightful as the Bible, also, there was no time so prized as the Lord's day, and no place in this world so desired as God's house.”
“This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town: the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: There were remarkable tokens of God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought to them; parents rejoicing over their children as newborn, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The doings of God were then seen in His sanctuary,God's day was a delight, and Our public assemblies were beautiful: the congregation was alive in God's service, every one earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of God. The assembly in general was, from time to time, in tears while the word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors.”“A loose careless person could scarcely be found in the whole neighborhood; and if there was any one that seemed to remain senseless or unconcerned, it would be spoken of as a strange thing.”
A fresh stirring from God
In contrast, if we examine our condition today, it is not too difficult to see that we live in a very different spiritual climate. The Church has compromised and become more worldly than in past times of refreshing. The enemy has come in and sown division. We seem to have lost that self-evident manifest presence of God that the Church had experienced in times of revival. While we are very grateful to see God still faithfully working among us and people coming to Christ here and there, we don’t always bear much fruit that remains that Jesus called us to in John 15:16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” We live beneath our spiritual inheritance.The Lord is not feared and the church is mocked by the world. In essence, the world is saying to us “Where is your God?” similar to the condition of Israel during their Babylonian captivity.
However, the Lord is stirring His Church to return to Him. He is gathering His remnant and raising up many across the world to pursue unity, repentance/consecration, and united prayer, to prepare ourselves as a resting place, a holy temple, and once again experience the glory of God among us. Many share the witness of the Holy Spirit that the Lord will release us from this state of spiritual Babylonian captivity and that His glory will come upon us once again as we respond and obey His stirring.
The word of God speaks of the glory of God upon the Church, the bride of Christ:
"‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:9).
Jesus said:“He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).
“That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish”
“Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife… 11 having the glory of God…”(Revelation 21:9,11).
We must first begin by recognizing our need for revival. As we see in the biblical pattern, it begins in the Church, and then a harvest ensues..
As we pursue unity, repentance/consecration, and united intercessory prayer, we prepare ourselves to be a resting place for the manifest presence of God, for the glory of God in our midst, and the subsequent outbreak of revival in our land.This is our spiritual inheritance.