Anthony Hodgkinson - The Presence of God

In thinking of this meeting, a hymn has been on my mind. It is hymn 300, “My Heart's Deep Need Can Ne’er Be Met” but the last words in some verses say, “Until my Lord draws near.” Then in the last verse it says, “My life a desert place would be, A wilderness so drear, Except my Lord, He whom I love, Doth every hour draw near.”  It just led me to a feeling of God’s presence. I also felt we can come to meetings and enjoy the fellowship and it could just be a formality unless I am conscious of God’s presence. Not only in a meeting but as the hymn says, “Unless every hour Thou dost draw near. Unless I am conscious of God’s presence, my life would just be a wilderness. Others could look upon the life and be impressed but without Him, it would just be a wilderness.

There is a sense in which we collectively have the presence of God and my thoughts went to Exodus 33 where Moses, in the 15th verse, said to God, “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” It also says, “Wherein shall it be known that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight, is it not that Thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” Moses felt that he couldn’t go a step further without the presence of God.

Caleb, in Joshua 14 said, “If the Lord go with me, I will be able to drive the Anakims out.” Caleb realised that, for victory, he needed God’s presence and perhaps victory is a sign of God’s presence with us and defeat is perhaps a sign that God’s presence is not with us.

A week or two ago, we visited a young man who professed in our field in recent years. He was a very religious young man and he’d moved from church to church and he had all the terms of theology you could ask for and often he found he was not satisfied in that church and then he came to Gospel meetings. He said to us, “I didn’t know what the doctrine was but I could find nothing wrong.” We are conscious that he just found the presence of God. He said, “I found the presence of God and I stopped there. I didn’t go any further.” It is wonderful when God is with His people but then individually too, we need to have the presence of God.

There was a time when David said, “Whither shall I flee from the presence of God?” He felt that God is with him and sees him, is aware of him, but then in another Psalm he says, “Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” We would like to have the presence of God, too. 

I just thought of some of the things that would bring the presence of God to us. We read in Psalm 15 verse 24 about clean hands and a pure heart. In another psalm, David said that the Lord draws near to them that are of a broken heart but I feel that the thing that brings the presence of God the most is just submitting to the will of God.

We heard about our conscience.  We may not understand the whole will of God for our lives but just for today, to submit to God and what God reveals to us is right. That brings the presence of God. David was also very conscious of being in the presence of God when he said, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.”

We know, as we were hearing, of those two going to Emmaus, their hearts burned within them when they had Jesus with them. They were distressed before they were aware of Jesus’ presence. Before Jesus came to them they were distressed about what had happened but their hearts burned within them when they had Jesus’ presence with them. Often these days, in our conversations, we often find the conversation distressing when we speak of the crime in the world and the situation around us.

My thoughts often go to Psalm 73 where a man was very distressed about the ungodly around him and only when he went into the presence of God, there he found calm and peace. He said, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee and there is nothing else on earth that I desire.” That hymn that was quoted this morning was also on my mind, “If just Thy presence Lord be mine, then undisturbed I’ll be.” I would like to be disturbed and agitated about NOT having the presence of God and not to be disturbed and agitated about anything else.

 

These were just thoughts I found helpful and may God help us to Prioritise. Deon in this past week has often used the word Prioritise. I hope we put that as our priority to have the presence of God and long for that. Ernest Robinson once said that, “If I have the presence of God then everything else falls into place.” May that be our portion in the coming days.