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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Have You Seen Jesus, My Lord?

When was the last time you saw the Lord?

Okay, unclear question. When was the last time you were really in the presence of God?

There are certain telltale signs to look for. Most likely you won't come away feeling "warm" or on some sort of spiritual high. In Scripture, every person who recognizes the presence of God has a universal response: terror. Why terror? Because every person who comes into the presence of the Holy recognizes immediately their own unholiness.

The first negative emotion in Scripture comes from Adam when he hears God in the garden and he was afraid (Gen. 3:10). Jacob had a dream about angels and responded in fear (Gen. 28:10-17). Moses found that a burning bush was actually the presence of God and was too afraid to look (Exo. 3:6). When God spoke to Israel, they were terrified (Deut. 5:4-5). Aaron and the Israelites were afraid of the mere reflection of God seen in Moses's face (Exo. 34:30). When Gideon figured out that he was actually in the midst of a conversation with the Divine, his response was the certainty that he would die (Judges 6:22). Isaiah, a prophet of God, responded to the presence of God with "Woe is me!" (Isa. 6:5). Habakkuk took God to task for not responding to Israel's sin, but when God responded, Habakkuk said, "I heard and my inward parts trembled; at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble" (Hab. 3:16). In the New Testament, a storm on the Sea of Galilee was scary to the disciples, but when Jesus demonstrated His deity by calming that storm, "they became very much afraid" (Mark 4:41). When Peter pulled up fish at Jesus's command, he didn't show up with a contract; he begged Jesus to leave (Luke 5:8). If you have spent time in the presence of God, you have been made acutely aware of your own sin. It is the biblical hallmark of a human being in the presence of God.

I particularly like Isaiah's story. I think it captures all the primary points that someone will experience in the presence of the Lord.
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory." And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven." Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isa. 6:1-8).
The time was a time of crisis. King Uzziah was a godly king, but died a leper for assuming rights with God that He didn't have (2 Chron. 26). The nation was in moral decay. And Isaiah was God's man on the scene.

The image of God is majestic. Anyone who comes into His presence cannot come away feeling it was irrelevant or boring. And the primary focus of entire scene was God in His Holiness. Some see the repetition as a pointer to the Trinity. Others point out that a repetition is a strengthener, making God's Holiness the most important characteristic He has. Whatever it is, it is important ... not Isaiah or even the seraphim. Being in the presence of God calls attention to the majesty of God.

The response is universal. Isaiah's "woe is me" isn't light. It is a curse on himself. He is undone. He is coming apart. This man, God's man on the scene, already 5 chapters into speaking for God, comes to see that he suffers from "unclean lips" and lives "among a people of unclean lips". Isaiah was quite sure it was over for him. He deserved death ... and that would be merciful. Being in the presence of God requires a cleansing of self.

The necessary action is taken. Isn't it interesting that God doesn't say, "Don't worry, Isaiah, you're not that bad," nor does He say, "You're right, you worm -- writhe in My presence"? Instead, an angel from God brings the remedy. "You're right, Isaiah, you're a man of unclean lips; I can fix that." But immediately upon the pressing of the burning coal onto Isaiah's lips (No one ever said that the remedy to sin was pain-free.), there is a call for action. "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" And Isaiah, the man whose lips were unclean but were now treated by God's treatment, cannot fail to respond. "Here am I. Send me!" Being in the presence of God requires an obedient response to serve Him.

Maybe this Sunday you felt like you were in the presence of God. Perhaps not. Did you have a feeling of warmth toward God? I see no biblical precedence that says that anyone responds this way to His presence. Did you have a real sense of your own sinfulness? Did you have a driving need to repent? Did you sense within yourself that you needed to do for God what God wants you to do? Then you were likely in the presence of God.

When was the last time you were really in the presence of God?

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