In a special message to commemorate our 34th Anniversary, Pastor Sonny talks about how precious the presence and power of God is in the life of a congregation, using Exodus 33:1–6 as an example.
“The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.'” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.”
— Exodus 33:1–6 (ESV)
God’s presence and power is the most important thing this church has. It is the main reason why we are still here as a church after 34 years — because God has been with us since the beginning.
Exodus 33 shows us just how precious the presence and power of God is in the life of a congregation, and just how glorious and merciful God is to His people.
Exodus is the story of a “stiff-necked” people who, after being rescued by God from slavery, still managed to grumble against God and His servant Moses while in the wilderness, and even had the audacity to make an idol while Moses was up on the mountain meeting with God.
Moses went up the mountain to make atonement — to make things right between God and sinful Israel because of the “golden calf” incident. However, God tells Moses to leave and take the people with him, and God will give them what they want — the land He promised to give Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the land flowing with milk and honey — but that He will not go with them.
Although God is omnipresent in that He is everywhere all at the same time, the presence of God discussed in Exodus 33:7–11 refers to a more intimate presence.
Back in the wilderness, the people of Israel marvelled and worshipped at the presence of God. The Israelites loved the presence of God as it assured the Israelites of their worth in the eyes of God. However, when the Israelites heard the news that God’s presence would not be with them as they moved on to the promised land, they mourned; even though God was promising to meet all of their needs in acquiring the promised land and overcoming their enemies, the lack of His presence among them brought fear, anxiety, and sadness.
As a church, there are three important things we can learn from the reaction of the Israelites:
- True and lasting peace can only come with the presence of God;
- Prosperity does not necessarily bring about security — true security can only come with the presence of God;
- God’s presence and power in our lives is worth more than anything in this world.
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Your works.”
— Psalms 73:28 (NASB)