II CHRONICLES 5:13-14: “…indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” NKJV
OBSERVATION: Have you ever wanted to see the Presence of God? As Solomon dedicated the Temple, as the priests placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, as the trumpeters and singers were as one praising and thanking the Lord, the manifest presence of God was physically seen by all. It was the cloud of God’s glory filling the Temple.
This history of Israel is replete with physical manifestations of God’s presence. As the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, the presence of God was seen as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. When Moses would meet with the Lord in the tent of meeting, the cloud of God’s presence would overshadow the tent, and all Israel would stand at the door of their tents from a distance looking on. When Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to meet with God, they witnessed thundering, the sound of a trumpet, and a thick cloud.
Why doesn’t the Lord show Himself like this today?
There are testimonies by some of these types of encounters. Yet, the vast majority have not seen a physical sign of the manifest presence of God. In all my years of pastoring, I have felt the presence of God, but I have never seen a cloud or pillar of fire. I have never heard the sounding of thundering or a mighty trumpet. And I have often wondered why. Why doesn’t the Lord manifest Himself on a regular basis today? And as I pondered this thought today I realized – He has!
There is something wonderful in the opening account of the dedication of the Temple that is easily missed. It is the following words,
- “…indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one…”
Not only were the trumpeters and singers as one, the entire nation of Israel stood before Solomon and the Temple as one. There was a united heart that was directed in worship to the Lord. And then I remembered another account in the Bible when these same conditions existed.
- “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4 NKJV
Note, they were gathered together to worship the Lord, they were all with one accord in one place, and they witnessed the manifest presence of God. There were some manifestations of God’s presence that were unique to this encounter, and some that continued. We do not read again in the Book of Acts that there was the sound of a rushing mighty wind, or that tongues of fire appeared upon the heads of those who believed. However, we do see a pattern of an outward manifestation that continued and was recognized as the sign of God’s presence.
It was the gift of praying in the spirit, the gift of speaking in tongues.
Over and over again in the book of Acts, we see that when the Apostles laid their hands upon believers to receive the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in tongues.
- “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? ”. Acts 10:44-47 NKJV
As Peter preached to the house of Cornelius, God manifested His presence in the lives of these Gentile converts. They believed the message of Christ, and even before Peter could ask them to repent and be baptized, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. What was Peter’s response?
- “Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? ”.
Peter recognized the manifest presence of God through the physical manifestation of speaking in tongues. Why is this so important? It show a dramatic shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant the children of Israel could only view the presence of God from a distance. Even though these manifestations were dramatic and earthshaking, they had little effect upon the heart of the individual and the nation. The awe soon wore away, and their hearts were unchanged.
However, in the New Covenant, believers in Jesus Christ are not called to stand at the door of their tent and watch as one person experiences the manifest presence of God. Rather, each believer is in-dwelt with the manifest presence of God. Each believer is part of the Temple of God that is made with living stones. And each stone is invited to enter into the manifest presence of God. This is not simply a theological viewpoint, it is a dynamic experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. And the wonderful confirmation of this event is the gift of praying in the Holy Spirit, or praying in tongues.
As a Pentecostal believer, I am so glad that I can daily be reminded of the manifest presence of God as I have the joy and privilege of praying in the spirit (praying in tongues). This gift is not for exhibition or abuse. It is an intimate reminder of the indwelling presence of the precious Holy Spirit in my life. It is the call to partner with the Lord in prayer as an intercessor before the throne of God. It is a call to enter into worship with words that cannot be uttered with my understanding, but can be released to heaven in my heavenly language.
There are so many Scriptures in the New Testament that deal with this truth. This outward sign of God’s manifest presence did not cease when the canon of Scripture was completed or when the apostles died. In fact, the same Peter who witnessed the Lord pour out His manifest presence upon the Gentiles proclaimed,
- “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 NKJV
The good news is that God is still calling people. As long as God is calling, He is also saving and filling people with His manifest presence. As a young Lutheran student, who believed in the gifts of the Spirit, but did not participate in them, I discovered the manifest presence in a small prayer room. As I knelt crying out to God for a friend who was gravely ill, I found I had no words to express. When I groaned before Him, the manifest presence of God fell upon me, and I began praying in a language I had never learned. My life was markedly different from that day forward.
Like the children of Israel, experiencing the manifest presence of God does not make one perfect. Yet, I now realize why the enemy does not want me to pray in the spirit. I now realize why he constantly tries to get believers to argue and fight over this gift. It is because the enemy of our souls does not want us to be daily reminded of the manifest presence in our lives. As we are reminded, we are drawn closer to God. And as we are drawn closer to God, the enemy will have to flee!
- “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:7-10 NKJV
Praying in the Spirit builds up our faith! It draws us closer to the love of God through the Holy Spirit. It keeps us focused on the Kingdom of God rather than the things of this life.
- “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21 NKJV
If you have never experienced this wonderful gift, all you have to do is ask. If a young Lutheran student can encounter the manifest presence of God in a small prayer chapel – you can too!
Lord, may I give You praise today, with my understanding, and with my spirit! May I abide in the manifest presence of God!
- “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 NKJV
- “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.” I Corinthians 14:14-15 NKJV
In Jesus Name!