Exodus 33: 14. The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
This verse came up during our morning devotional reading from the lectionary. It was the promise God made to Moses while delivering the Children of Israel from Egypt. What caught my attention in the verse was that word, presence.
Melanie and I have slowly recognized this is the heart of the blessing we have been receiving from visits to our home by Christian friends who come to help us and pray with us.
So I looked further into the meaning of the Hebrew word used here. Paniym is a word indicating the action of turning. The connotation most often drawn used the word to indicate a face that turns one way or another. The word appears in some sixty different ways, over 2000 times in the Old Testament. It first appears at the beginning of Genesis, where we’re told “darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the (face of) waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
I was interested to see that the word shows up again a few lines after God promises that his presence [face] will go with the Israelites. God tells Moses,
Exodus 33:20. “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
It seems contradictory. I am concluding that we can have God’s presence even if we cannot perceive it directly with our eyes – at least until we get to Heaven. But He is watching us closely every moment. He has turned His face towards us and He doesn’t – He can’t – take His eyes off us. He draws near to us without us knowing it right away. And He knows what we need before we can express it.
When I had the stroke, naturally one of my big questions was why? Very quickly, I realized I didn’t really care what the reason was. I just wanted to be healed. I want to recover from the severe pruning of my life.
But I have come to appreciate the signs of His Presence we sense in the meanwhile, not least in the faces of friends who faithfully visit and call on us. Faithful servants all, each one bringing fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that whenever we would gather in his name, he would be present, too.
And that Presence is a blessing to us.