By Campus Missionary Mary Rowley
The Israelites of the Old Testament knew what it was like to be in the presence of God. They remembered the story of Mt. Sinai, where God caused the mountain and his people to tremble. They remembered the story of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The presence of God was visible, exciting, tangible. They knew what it did for them – through his presence God acted for them, cleansed them, and made them better people.
So when they were being crushed by adversity, they looked for the presence of God, but they did not find it. They felt that he had withdrawn his presence from them. They understood the power and majesty of his presence, and they wanted to see it again. “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence!” they cried (Isaiah 64:1). They described how unique and incredible his presence was: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him” (64:4).
The Israelites knew that they needed his presence because they were unclean: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (64:6). They also knew that his presence might hurt, but it would be for the better in the end. “We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (64:8). Potters shaped clay without concern for its comfort, but in the end, it was better because of what the potter did. That’s what the Israelites desired. They wanted to be shaped and to be made better.
The presence of God will do the same thing for us today. God will still act on our behalf if we wait for him. He will still cleanse us of our unrighteousness. He will still take us and form us into better people. It might not be comfortable, it might even hurt – but we will be better. When we are in adversity, we can take a page out of the Israelites’ book and look for the presence of God. It will truly do incredible things. It is a great gift.