The Presence of the Holy One
The most powerful sense of the Presence of God I have had recently was in a school in Guatemala, hearing elementary children sing passionately in worship to God in their daily opening devotion before school begins. I felt goose bumps and wept tears at the pure worship and the sense of God's Presence in that holy moment. I'm not sure I will ever forget it.
People often associate the Presence of God with a church building. Some of the holiest moments of my life have taken place in the worship space at a church building or camp worship center. When we sing praise to God together, when we pray together, when people make commitments to Christ in response to the invitation to Christian discipleship, I sense the Holy Spirit moving among God's people.
In the time of the Tabernacle and the Temple, God's Presence was associated with the Holy of Holies--the area of the Tabernacle/Temple behind the "veil." The Veil of the Temple was a huge curtain that separated the Holy Place (where the sacrifices were made) from the Holy of Holies (where the Ark of the Covenant was located.) God's awesome, holy Presence was behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, seated on the Ark of the Covenant on the place known as the Mercy Seat.
No one except the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and stand in the Presence to make atonement. And the High Priest could enter behind the Veil only once a year. The Veil separated Holy God from His unholy people, protecting us from being obliterated by His pure, Holy Presence.
When Jesus died on the Cross, Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Being 60 feet wide, 30 feet tall and up to four inches thick, that would be an impossibility for any human being to do. It was accomplished by the Hand of God.
Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV) says this: "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (emphasis added)
Because of Jesus' atoning death, we are made holy in God's sight. We are able to enter His Presence in safety. We can "draw near to God with a sincere heart." Essentially, the Presence of God is set loose by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. The veil is torn. We can enter God's Presence without fear, and we can experience God's Presence beyond the Holy of Holies (beyond a church building)!
When we pray, we can enter His Presence. When we experience awe at a crashing waterfall or spectacular sunset, we can enter His Presence. In the prayer room in our homes we can enter His Presence. When we hold a new-born baby in the delivery room we can enter His Presence. When we worship together in Church we can enter His Presence.
And even more powerfully, when we ask Jesus to enter our lives and forgive our sins, His Presence enters us! "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." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
As we allow the Holy Spirit to inhabit our lives, we become the Holy of Holies, and we are never separated from His Presence. He never abandons us. He is always with us!
I pray for a simple thing today: that you and I might have awareness of the reality of the Presence of the Holy One who is with us every moment. We are never alone. We can draw near to God through Jesus Christ in faith. We are safe in His Presence!