Reading Time: 7 minutes
And he made darkness a pavilion round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. (2 Sam 22:12, Lighthouse Bible).
I never started out knowing true love. It was one of those things that seemed eternally elusive to me. At first I thought maybe I was just imagining all of the panicked storms of my life. But about a year later, Jesus raised me up so that I knew how real those storms were. Jesus raised me up so that I could harness the power of the severest storms. I have felt and experienced God’s presence more this year than ever before. I have gone through the severest storms and trials of my life. When my late wife died in my arms just one year ago I was left with a foul cauldron of of volatile responses. My life became hopeless, and fearful to the point where I could not function in my basic activities of daily living. Anger, hate, unbelief, poison-penned questions about “why,” “love,” “hope,” and yet, a very small elment of “faith,” because, as I reasoned, “faith is the evidence of things not seen.” All of my terrors, all of my questions, all of my brick walls and dead ends, everything was roiling over in one big pot, boiling over in white rage; and immobilizing me in almost every area of my life. And yet, I have found true love with others. I experience God’s presence, and share His presence, when I continue with that love that my late wife and I had. When I “gather up the fragments that nothing be lost,” (John 6:12) and continue that love to new realms of peace, in new loving relationships. I live a new life of power. (2 Cor 5:17). For “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior]…” (Rom 1;16, AMP). In God’s presence, we experience the life of power, in the joy of His presence. (Psalms 46:1)
Jesus, in His life on earth, had walked in the light of God’s presence. When in conflict with people who were inspired by the very spirit of Satan, He could say, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.” (John 8:29). And, as God’s children, it is our privilege ever to look up, keeping the eye of faith fixed on Christ. As we constantly keep Him in view, the sunshine of His presence floods the chambers of the mind. The light of Christ in the soul-temple brings peace. The soul is stayed on God. All perplexities and anxieties are committed to Jesus. As we continue to behold Him, His image becomes engraved on the heart, and is revealed in the daily life. And people will see God’s presence in us. Because God’s presence is peace:
For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder, And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.(Isa 9:6 AMP)Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.] (John 14:27 AMP)
Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.” (Psalms 23:4, AMP). God’s presence brings us comfort and guidance even in the “shadow of death.”
Those who have the mind of Christ will “walk even as he walked.” They will live out the law of God, will feed upon Christ, be partakers of the divine nature, and stand as living sentinels for truth. In integrity of heart they will voice the cry, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18). God gives light to those who love light. He imparts truth to those who search for truth as for something of most precious value in order that they may impart light and peace to those who are in the valley and the shadow of death.
Psalms 23 is all about God’s personal presence. It contains affirmations of God’s presence in every verse. Yet it contains just 160 words in six verses. The 23rd Psalm affirms God’s personal presence with believers today. Every verse in the 23rd Psalm contains at least one assurance of God’s personal presence. As we discovered in last week’s email article, God’s presence is all we really need. God’s presence is better than light. God’s presence is safer than a known way. God’s presence can be in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected ways, at the most unexpected times. For example, I have wondered why Psalms 23 is mostly just read at funerals. Because Psalms 23 anticipates the good news of Jesus, who is known in Scripture, and in the personal experience of Christians of all ages, as “Immanual,” or “God with us.” (Mat 1:23). It’s hard to miss how psalms 23 is especially for the living:
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; I will fear no evil, FOR THOU ART WITH ME. Your rod and your staff comfort me.”
This verse and many others tell us directly of God’s personal presence during the very darkest times that people will ever go through. Psalms 23:4 assures us of God’s presence and God’s comfort. The understanding of this reality is the core strength of “the everlasting gospel” as spoken of in Rev 14;6-12.
Therefore, strengthen your tired arms and your weak knees, and straighten the paths of your life, so that your lameness may not become worse, but instead may be healed. (Heb 12:12-13, ISV)
This is God’s word of encouragement for us now to lift up the hands of faith, and confirm the knees of prayer. Often my faith grows tired, languid, and relaxed, and my prayers lose their force and effectiveness, like ropes of sand. The figure used here in this scripture is a very striking one. The idea seems to reflect how I sometimes become discouraged and so scared or worried, that any little obstacle depresses and frightens me, and then I am tempted to walk around it, and not face it: to take the easier way. The known way. God promises to lead us by ways we have not known before. (Isa 42:16, Heb 3:10, 11)
Perhaps it is some physical trouble that God is ready to heal, but the exertion is hard, or it is easier to secure some human help, or walk around or away from my trials in some other way.
There are many methods of walking around emergencies instead of going straight through them. How often I will come up against something that appalls me, and then I want to evade the issue with the excuse:
“I am not quite ready for that now.”
Some sacrifice is to be made, some obedience demanded, some Jericho to be taken, some soul that I have not the courage to claim and carry through, some prayer that is desperately needed, or perhaps some physical trouble that is only half healed and all I want to do is to walk around it. God says, “Lift up the hands that hang down.” March straight through the flood, and lo, the waters will divide, the Red Sea will open, the Jordan will part, and the Lord will lead me, and those I have set in my path of daily living, right through to victory in Christ.
I must practice His presence. And not let my feet “be turned out of the way,” but let my body “be healed,” my faith strengthened. I have to keep moving. Keep doing what I know is right. We must go right ahead and leave no Jericho behind us unconquered and no place where Satan can say that he was too much for us! This is a profitable lesson and an intensely practical one. How often have we been in that place. Perhaps you are there today? We must simply pay as little attention to discouragement as possible. One over-looked means of God’s presence is through The Holy Spirit:
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of people we were among you for your sake.” (1 Thes 1:5)The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. 2 Sam 23:2
I had a few conversations in recent weeks with someone who is terminally ill. They have been scared for weeks, and kept telling me how they don’t feel God hears them when they pray and that they don’t know how to see God’s presence in their current and dire circumstances. I didn’t do anything special. No programs or steps or lists. I simply told this person some of the story about my late wife and I and how God was involved every step of the way. (1 John 1:1-3). I got a note from my friend the other day that said in part:
“I’ve come a long ways in my belief in God since talking to you. You have helped me a lot with prayer and being able to really feel God’s presence when I pray. I am sorry for the loss of your wife. That is the toughest thing to go through. Feeling Gods presence is such a blessing. It gives so much energy and strength. What would we do without Him. I’m happy to hear He lives inside of you.”
Truly, God’s presence is felt through God’s comfort.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah! He is our merciful Father and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our suffering, so that we may be able to comfort others in all their suffering, as we ourselves are being comforted by God. For as the Messiah’s sufferings overflow into us, so also our comfort overflows through the Messiah. (2 Cor 1:3-5)
Friends, do not choose darkness. Come out of the cold, dark caverns of unbelief into the upper chamber, where you may bask in the sunshine of God’s love, and enjoy peace and rest in the presence of Jesus. The Saviour said: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [John 8:12.]
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me: for they were too strong for me. They came upon me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD held me up.
He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
(2 Sam 20:18-20, Lighthouse Bible)
And he made darkness a pavilion round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies (2 Sam 22:12, Lighthouse Bible)
God’s presence is all we really need. God’s presence is better than light. God’s presence is safer than a known way. God’s presence is peace.
The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isa 32:17)
Hope happens when there is love. God is love. (1 John 4:8, 1 Cor 13:8). God’s presence is hope. Hope has a name. “Immanual, “God With Us” (Mat 1:23)