The presence of God in the life of a believer is invaluable. Our Christian walk is designed such that His presence is with us at all times and we must never lose it. This is not so much His passive presence but His tangible presence for lack of a better word. As Christians, we know that God is everywhere. David confirms that in Psalm 139: 7-8; “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” David was basically saying that God’s presence stretches between heaven and hell and that covers everywhere. However, God’s presence is not manifest or tangible everywhere and to everyone at all times. This tangible presence of God is what we must desire to maintain as it is impossible to lose the passive presence of God. That is an immutable element of God and one of the six unique attributes that makes Him God – His omnipresence.
17 “Israel has been defeated by the Philistines,” the messenger replied. “The people have been slaughtered, and your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also killed. And the Ark of God has been captured.” 18 When the messenger mentioned what had happened to the Ark of God, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He broke his neck and died, for he was old and overweight. He had been Israel’s judge for forty years. – 1 Samuel 4:17-18 (NKJV)
In Bible days, particularly the Old Testament, the ark of covenant signified the presence of God to the Children of Israel among other things. It represented the presence of God in the midst of the people and was kept in a specially designated area and access was granted only to a few with particular privileges. Nevertheless, the people knew that God was in the camp and this brought great comfort as they journeyed through the wilderness and eventually when the temple was built.
This was also a time in the history of Israel when the priesthood had been gravely violated by the sitting High Priest Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Eli’s sons had run amok and he refused to correct their errors hence God was not pleased. We also know that people always suffer for the sins of their leaders which led to the anomalous event which forms the foundation of my discussion. These were uniquely dark days and the Bible records that the Word of the Lord was scarce and there was no revelation or vision from God. It is indeed a grave danger when a nation that had a theocratic form of government at the time was unable to hear from God.
Ultimately and as a fall out from the state of the nation, the Israelites were defeated twice and the ark of God was captured in battle against the Philistines. The ark of God being captured is an extremely unlikely event, perhaps utterly impossible under normal circumstances. It is important to mention that God hadn’t lost His power, rather the children of Israel had violated His principles regarding the ark and thereby lost it to the enemy. To prove that the ark hadn’t lost its ‘power’, when it was placed in the house of Dagon, a god of the Philistines, the image of Dagon fell flat before the ark of God and broke apart. Such is the power of His presence. No other god can glory in His presence and He created them all.
One of the great tragedies in life is having God’s tangible presence and losing it. Upon hearing the news of the arks capture, Eli the failing High priest fell down and died. He still had enough sense to know that this spelt doom for Israel. Oddly, he was able to accept the death of his two sons but couldn’t tolerate the loss of the ark from the midst of the people. Of similar priority was Phinehas’ wife who had just lost a husband and her labor was induced as a result of the stress from the tragedy that had befallen her and the nation of Israel. As we know, children were named based on the major events surrounding their birth as we see with Benjamin and Jabez among many others. She had just lost her husband and the ark of covenant had been seized by the enemy. One would think the event of greater significance to her was the imminent hardship of widowhood and single parenting, yet she named the child Ichabod saying, “the glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.” The bigger tragedy for her was the departure of God’s presence from Israel. God’s presence must not be lost. We must do all within our power to maintain His presence.
Likewise, David after he sinned against God by committing adultery and murdering Uriah the Hittite was faced with a similar situation. His cry in Psalm 51:11 was primarily for God’s presence not to depart from Him. Cast me not away from your presence o Lord and take not your Holy Spirit from me. He understood that all was dispensable but not the presence of God. Recall when David’s qualifications to serve before the king were being told Saul in 1 Kings 16:18, one of his documented strengths was that the Lord was with him. David couldn’t afford to lose God’s presence. In reality, he had seen how the departure of God’s presence made Saul his former boss and predecessor very vulnerable.
Moses, the great man of God also understood this principle as well. He refused to go further on the journey without God’s presence. He practically insisted on God’s presence and would not settle for anything less. If your presence does not go, I will not go. Again, like David and Israel, he had enjoyed God’s presence in times past. God had promised him in Exodus 3 when he was commissioned for the job that He would go with Him. His presence will always accompany Moses and He had kept His word.
The presence of God is not something that we can do without. The ark of God today is the Holy Spirit in us. He does not dwell in temples made with man’s hands as your body is now the temple of the Lord. His presence is in us and we must nurture and keep this presence by engaging in constant worship, abstaining from sin, and meditating on His word. You and I are extremely vulnerable without His presence. I suggest you spend time this seeking His face and I pray that His presence morphs from being an abstract concept to becoming a tangible reality to you. Shalom.