EXPERIENCING the ‘INTIMATE’ PRESENCE of GOD: "So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights." (Exodus 24:13, 16-18)
When Moses first encountered God while tending the sheep of Jethro his father-in-law in Horeb the mountain of God, he saw God in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. He was surprised that though the bush burned with fire, it was not consumed (Exodus 3:1-3). This was the first indication to Moses that His presence would not consume anyone or anything, but the lighted fire was to attract people to experience a fresh encounter with God.
As the children of Israel travelled through the wilderness, God went before them by night in a pillar of fire to give them light (Exodus 13:21-22). When they arrived at Mount Sinai (or, Mount Horeb) God revealed His glory by descending on the mountain in the midst of a fire, and the whole mountain was completely engulfed in smoke (Exodus 19:16-20). The purpose for the children of Israel to leave Egypt was to serve and worship God on Mount Sinai, which was a sign God gave when He commissioned Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:12).
There are degrees of nearness to God. The majority of the children of Israel remained at a distance because of their fear of the Lord. Moses, Joshua, Nadab, Abihu, Aaron, and seventy of the elders went up the mountain to meet God (Exodus 24:1, 9-10). Then Moses and Joshua went further, and finally Moses went into the glory cloud alone (v. 18). Like the burning bush, the fire of God’s presence did not consume Moses, but when he emerged from the mountain after spending forty days and nights his face shone the glory of God (see Exodus 34:29-35). This was done so that the people of Israel would fear and worship God.
In the New Testament, the church was established when 120 disciples of Jesus went up to the upper room to spend ten days experiencing the intimate presence of God. On the day of Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit filled each and every person with His power and presence. It is interesting to note that the outward sign was “divided tongues as of fire that sat upon each one of the disciples” (Acts 2:1-4). The disciples were not consumed due to this encounter, but their effective witness to others in Jerusalem resulted in about three thousand people accepting the gospel and getting baptized (v. 41).
J. Oswald Sanders has wisely commented, “We are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be.” God invites us to draw near (James 4:8), but often we are unwilling to do what is necessary to meet Him. Today let us experience the intimate presence of God like Moses and the 120 disciples of Jesus by waiting in His presence through prayer, fasting and worship! God will empower us to be an effective witness to attract many people into the kingdom of God (Acts 1:8). Otherwise, remember that our God will be to us a “consuming fire” of judgment in the coming future!
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire." (Heb 12:28-29)