THE PRESENCE OF GOD AS PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE


INTRODUCTION

There is a desire in some circles to promote the idea of experiencing "the presence of God." It is even sometimes presented as a necessity in spiritual growth. Some have claimed this experience while alone meditating. Others claim it while singing in a a large group. It may involve a physiological phenomenon in which the person seems to have either a great tranquility or, on the other hand, adrenaline pumping.

In various gatherings of Christians, the leader tells the group that "God is in this place." What does he mean? Is God in this place in some sense that he is not in another place? And how does the leader know?

We sing "There's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and I know that it's the Spirit of the Lord." How do we know that? Nowhere in the Bible is the Spirit of God referred to as "sweet." He is, however, repeatedly referred to as "holy." Those two expressions are not usually seen as synonymous.

Experiencing "the presence of God" as a mystical experience is virtually impossible to describe. Others have written and spoken on the subject. My purpose here is to explore the Bible to see what its contribution is. Is this mandated for the Christian? Is it even genuinely possible?

Our plan here is to present the data in the Bible. Then there will be attention given to those Biblical incidents in which individuals were confronted with some form of the presence of God. Then a philosophy will be named which has encouraged this pursuit of "the presence of God." And finally a verse of Scripture will be discussed which is widely viewed as promoting this idea of "the presence of God."


THE BIBLICAL DATA

The following data are arranged first according to the key word used. The sub-headings indicate the author's categories of usage. These are published so that any interested student may peruse the listed Scriptures himself and see whether they do in fact present the presence of God as here organized.

There may be some other expressions or descriptions of "the presence of God" in the Bible which are not here indicated. These that are indicated are to be exhaustive as far as the six major terms given are concerned. These are considered indicative of all possible usages of "the presence of God."

At the end of this section there is a sample verse with each sub-heading to demonstrate the author's categorization.


"panim"

translated variously but a possible translation is "before the face of" 465 verses

DIRECT INVOLVEMENT AND GUIDANCE
Ex. 33:14; 33:15; Ps. 51:11; Jon. 1:3, 10; Zech. 7:2

DIVINE BLESSING
Num. 6:25, 26; 2 Kings 13:23; 24:20; 2 Chr. 30:9; Job 13:24; Ps. 4:6; 13:1;21:6; 27:9; 30:7; 31:16, 20; 41:12; 42:5; 44:3, 24; 51:11; 67:1; 69:17; 80:3, 7, 19; 88:14; 89:15; 102:2; 104:29; 119:135, 169, 170; 140:13; 143:7; Is. 8:17; 23:18; 48:19; 63:9; 64:7; Jer. 15:1; 23:39; 52:3; Dan. 9:13, 17; Zech. 8:21, 22

DIVINE JUDGMENT
Judg. 5:5; 1 Chr. 13:10; 2 Chr. 19:2; Neh. 4:5; Ps. 9:3, 19; 21:9;34:16; 50:3; 51:9; 68:1, 2; 76:7; 80:16; 90:8; 97:3, 5; Is. 2:10, 19, 21; 19:1; 26:17; 64:2, 3; Jer. 4:26; 18:23; Lam. 1:22; 4:16; Ezek. 38:20; Joel 2:6; Nah. 1:6; Hab. 3:5; Zeph. 1:7

OMNIPRESENCE
Ps. 139:7

PHYSICAL DISPLAY OF DIVINE POWER
Judg. 5:5; Job 36:33; Ps. 44:3; 68:8; 97:5; Is. 64:1, 2, 3; Nah. 1:5

RESPONSE TO PRAYER
Num. 10:9; Num. 14:42; 2 Sam. 21:1; 1 Kings 13:6; 1 Chr. 17:25; 2 Chr. 6:19; Ezra 8:21; Neh. 1:4, 6; Job 33:26; Ps. 17:2; 18:6;22:24; 62:8; 79:11; 88:2; 102:0; 119:58; 141:2; 142:2; Jer. 36:7; Lam. 2:19; Dan. 9:18

SCIENTIFICALLY OBSERVABLE REALITY OF ONE PERSON IN PROXIMITY TO ANOTHER
Gen. 3:8; 4:16; 19:27; Judg. 6:18; 1 Kings 22:21; 1 Chr. 16:27; 2 Chr. 18:20; Job 1:12; 2:7; 13:16; 23:15; Ps. 11:7; 16:11; 17:15; 21:6; 42:2; 56:13; 61:7; 89:14; 96:6; Is. 9:3; Zech. 3:1, 3, 4

SPIRITUAL PRAISE
1 Chr. 13:8; 16:33; Job 22:26; Ps. 68:3; 68:4; 95:2; 96:9; 98:6; 100:2; 140:13

SPIRITUAL REPRESENTATION
1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 3:14; 5:16; 1 Chr. 17:24; Is. 63:9

SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED TRANSACTION
Gen. 6:11; 10:9; 19:13; 24:40; 27:7; 33:10; 48:15; Ex. 3:7; 9:30; 23:21; 33:16; Num. 10:10, 35; 11:20; 32:27, 29, 32; Deut. 6:25; 1 Sam. 13:12; 23:18; 26:19; 2 Sam. 7:29; 2 Kings 20:3; 22:19; 1 Chr. 16:11, 30; 17:27; 22:18; 29:15; 2 Chr. 6:14; 20:3; 27:6; 31:20; 33:23; 34:27; 36:12; Ezra 9:15 O; Neh. 9:28, 32; Job 1:11; 2:5; 13:15, 16, 20; 21:31; 23:4, 15; 35:14; Ps. 19:14; 22:27, 29; 24:6; 27:8; 72:9; 86:9; 90:8; 96:13; 102:28; 105:4; 114:7; 116:9; Eccl. 5:2, 6; 3:14; 8:12, 13; Is. 37:14; 38:3; Jer. 4:1; 5:22; 17:16; 36:9; Lam. 2:19; 3:35; Dan. 9:20; 10:12; Hos. 5:5; 6:2; 7:10; Hab. 2:20; Hag. 1:12; Zech. 2:13; Mal. 2:5; Mal. 3:14, 16

SYMBOLIC MANIFESTATION
Ex. 16:9, 33; 18:12; 23:17; 28:30, 35, 38; 29:11, 23, 24, 25, 26, 42; 30:6, 8, 16, 36; 33:15; 34:23, 24; 40:23, 25; Lev. 1:3, 5, 11; 3:1, 7, 12; 4:4, 6, 7, 15, 17, 18, 24; 6:7, 14, 25; 7:30; 8:26, 27, 29; 9:2, 4, 5, 21, 24; 10:1, 2, 15, 17, 19; 12:7; 14:11, 12, 16, 18, 23, 24, 27, 29, 31; 15:14, 15, 30; 16:1, 7, 10, 12, 13, 30; 17:4, 5; 19:22; 23:11, 20, 28, 40; 24:3, 4, 6, 8; Num. 3:4; 5:16, 18, 25, 30; 6:16, 20; 7:3; 8:10, 11, 21; 14:37; 15:25, 28; 16:7, 17, 40; 17:7, 9; 18:19; 20:3, 6, 9; 26:61; 27:5, 21; 31:50, 54; 32:20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 32; Deut. 1:45; 4:10, 37; 9:18, 25; 10:8; 12:7, 12, 18; 14:23, 26; 15:20; 16:11, 16; 18:7; 19:17; 24:13; 26:4, 5, 10, 13; 27:7; 29:10, 15; 31:11; Josh. 6:6, 7, 8, 13, 26; Josh. 7:6; 18:6, 8, 10; 24:1; Judg. 11:11; 20:26; 21:2; 1 Sam. 1:12, 15, 19, 22; 2:17, 18; 5:3, 4; 6:20; 7:6; 10:19, 25; 11:15; 12:7; 15:33; 21:6, 7; 26:20; 2 Sam. 6:5, 14, 16, 17, 21; 1 Kings 3:15; 8:23, 28, 59, 62, 64, 65; 9:25; 19:11; 2 Kings 16:14; 19:14, 15; 23:3; 1 Chr. 11:3; 16:1, 4, 6, 29; 17:16; 23:13, 31; 29:22; 2 Chr. 1:6; 2:4, 6; 6:24; 7:4; 20:9, 13, 18; 29:11; 34:31; Ps. 68:7, 8; 106:23; Ezek. 41:22; 43:24; 44:3; 46:3, 9; Jonah 1:3, 10

VIEWPOINT
Num. 15:15; Ps. 143:2


"ayin"

translated variously but a possible translation is "before the eyes of" 53 verses

OMNIPRESENCE
2 Chr. 16:9; Ps. 66:7; 139:16; Jer. 32:19

RESPONSE TO PRAYER
Is. 1:15

SCIENTIFICALLY OBSERVABLE REALITY OF ONE PERSON IN PROXIMITY TO ANOTHER
Gen. 18:3; Is. 6:5; 33:17; 38:3; Amos 9:3; Jonah 2:4

SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED TRANSACTION
Gen. 33:10; Ex. 33:12, 13, 16, 17;34:9; Num. 11:11, 15; 22:34; 32:5; 1 Sam. 26:24; 2 Sam. 7:19; 1 Kings 11:38; 2 Kings 20:3; 21:15; 2 Chr. 6:20, 40; 7:15, 16; Job 14:3; 15:15; 16:9; 18:3; 24:23; 25:5; 34:21; 36:7; Ps. 5:5; 18:24; 31:22; 51:4; 72:14; Is. 1:16; 3:8; 43:4; Jer. 7:30; 18:10; 32:30; Hos. 13:14; Zech. 9:8

VIEWPOINT
Ps. 90:4; Zech. 8:6


"enopion"

translated variously but a possible translation is "in the sight of" 55 verses

OMNIPRESENCE
Heb. 4:13

PHYSICAL DISPLAY OF DIVINE POWER
Rev. 14:10

RESPONSE TO PRAYER
Acts 10:31

SCIENTIFICALLY OBSERVABLE REALITY OF ONE PERSON IN PROXIMITY TO ANOTHER
Luke 1:19; 5:18, 25; 8:47; 13:26; Rev. 1:4; 3:5; 4:5, 6, 10; 5:8; 7:9, 11, 15; 8:2, 3, 4; 9:13; 11:4, 16; 12:10; 14:3; 15:4; 20:12

SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED TRANSACTION
Luke 1:15, 17, 75; 12:6; Acts 2:25; 4:19; 7:46; 10:33; Rom. 3:20; 14:22; 1Cor. 1:29; 2 Cor. 4:2; 7:12; 8:21; Gal. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:3; 5:4, 21; 6:13; 2 Tim. 2:14; 4:1; Heb. 13:21; James 4:10; 1 Pet. 3:4; 1 John 3:22; Rev. 3:2; 16:19


"emprosthen"

translated variously but a possible translation is "in the presence of" 25 verses

SCIENTIFICALLY OBSERVABLE REALITY OF ONE PERSON IN PROXIMITY TO ANOTHER
Matt. 10:32, 33; 11:10; 25:32;27:29; Mark 9:2; Luke 5:19; 7:27; 12:8; 14:2;21:36; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Th. 2:19; 3:13; Rev. 19:10; 22:8

SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED TRANSACTION
Matt. 5:16; 6:1; 11:26; 18:14; Luke 10:21; Acts 10:4; 1 Th. 1:3; 3:9; 1 John 3:19


"katenopion"

translated variously but a possible translation is "in the actual presence of" 3 verses

SCIENTIFICALLY OBSERVABLE REALITY OF ONE PERSON IN PROXIMITY TO ANOTHER
Col. 1:22; Jude 1:24

SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED TRANSACTION
Eph. 1:4


"prosopon"

translated variously but a possible translation is "before the face of" 10 verses

DIVINE BLESSING
Acts 3:19

DIVINE JUDGMENT
Rev. 6:16

SCIENTIFICALLY OBSERVABLE REALITY OF ONE PERSON IN PROXIMITY TO ANOTHER
Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27; Acts 2:28; 2 Th. 1:9; Heb. 9:24; Rev. 20:11

SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED TRANSACTION
2 Cor. 2:10


Examples
(Quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible)

DIRECT INVOLVEMENT AND GUIDANCE-Ex. 33:14 And He said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest."

DIVINE BLESSING-Ps. 42:5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.

DIVINE JUDGMENT-Ps. 68:2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: As wax melteth before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

OMNIPRESENCE-Ps. 139:7 Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?

PHYSICAL DISPLAY OF DIVINE POWER-Nah. 1:5 Mountains quake because of Him, And the hills dissolve; Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, The world and all the inhabitants in it.

RESPONSE TO PRAYER-2 Sam. 21:1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the Lord.

SCIENTIFICALLY OBSERVABLE REALITY OF ONE PERSON IN PROXIMITY TO ANOTHER-Luke 1:19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.

SPIRITUAL PRAISE-Ps. 95:2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

SPIRITUAL REPRESENTATION-2Kings 3:14 And Elisha said, As Jehovah of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.

SPIRITUALLY INTERESTED TRANSACTION-1 Tim. 5:21 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintaina these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.

SYMBOLIC MANIFESTATION-Lev. 16:1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the Lord and died.

VIEWPOINT-Ps. 143:2 And enter not into judgment with thy servant; For in thy sight no man living is righteous.


SOME TYPICAL RESPONSES IN THE BIBLICAL RECORD OF PEOPLE CONFRONTED BY THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Gen. 17:3
And Abram fell on his face. And God talked with him, saying;
Gen. 17:17
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
Ex. 20:18-19
And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die."
Ex. 33:18-20; 34:5-8
Then Moses said, "I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!" And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion." But Hae said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!"... And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. " And Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.
Lev. 16:2
and Jehovah said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil, before the mercy-seat which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy-seat.
Judg. 13:22
So Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God."
1 Chr. 21:16
And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of Jehovah standing between earth and heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcaloth, fell upon their faces.
Dan. 10:7-9
Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.
Luke 9:33
And it came about, as these were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah"-- not realizing what he was saying.
Matt. 17:6
And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were much afraid.
Acts 9:3-5; 22:10
And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,... "And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go on into Damascus; and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.'
Rev. 1:17
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,



A CONTRIBUTING PHILOSOPHY
existentialism =
"a literary-philosophic cult of nihilism and pessimism, popularized in France after World War II, chiefly by Jean-Paul Sartre: it holds that each man exists as an individual in a purposeless universe, and that he must oppose his hostile environment through the exercise of his free will" (Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language)

Francis Schaeffer explains religious existentialism in his book, Escape from Reason. There is the lower story of our world, and there is the upper story of God, heaven, etc. The question is whether and/or how interaction is possible between the two. Traditionally it was understood that God had spoken, and the Bible is that record; furthermore faith and prayer would be the appropriate response. But the existentialists believed that was impossible. The only way to break through to the upper story was through experience. A few claimed to have had such an experience, but their experience did not serve well to give meaning and hope.

But what the philosophers discuss usually eventually infiltrates Christianity. So now, whether one is charismatic or not, experience is the key. Knowledge of God through the Scriptures is denigrated. And people search for the feeling of God's presence, hoping thereby to bridge the gap into the upper story of reality. Those who do in effect deny faith, or at least try to short-circuit it by their experience. When Thomas saw Jesus after the resurrection, he professed faith in Him. But Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who would not have some sensory experience of the presence of God. He said in John 20:29 "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."


CLAIM TO BIBLICAL SUPPORT
Matt. 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst." This verse is often quoted in support of the idea that God is in some special way present when a few have gathered in His name. When we consider the context, we discover that the meaning is defined by verse 15 of the same chapter which says: "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed." The subject is church discipline. Wherever church discipline is executed according to the divine plan, the Lord is involving Himself in the process.

All the verses containing "two or three" are as follows: Deut. 19:15; 2 Kin. 9:32; Is. 17:6; Amos 4:8; Matt. 18:16, 20; 1 Cor. 14:29; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19; Heb. 10:28. There is none that suggests what people today usually mean when they glibly quote Matt. 18:20.


CONCLUSION AND PERSPECTIVE
If there is to be an experience of the presence of God here and now, it must result in a violent collision of sinful man with holy God. At the least, such an experience will produce an overwhelming sense of sin and guilt, and it may result in physical death, or nearly so. It clearly is not some warm fuzzy, a result of the figment of someone's fertile imagination.

A study of 1 Corinthians 15 is most helpful here. The chapter points out that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. There must be a drastic change. Our present existence is described as earthy, perishable, and mortal. There must be a resurrection. At that time the believer in Christ will put on the heavenly, the imperishable, and the immortal. Only then will he be properly equipped to enjoy the presence of God without threat of death, for then we will be holy as He is.

So what is there for us now? There is the Word of God enscripturated. We take that by faith, and we wait patiently for the resurrection. Rom. 8:24-25: "For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it."

To receive taped messages on the subject of mysticism, you may send your request to arlieandruth@cox.net.

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