We serve and worship an invisible God. He is a Spirit (Jn. 4:24). And no human being has ever viewed God with his eyes (Jn. 1:18). The nation of Israel struggled with this reality. For a period of 400 years (nearly twice the age of the United States of America), they lived immersed in Egyptian culture. Visible gods permeated that culture through statues of all sizes, busts, drawing, paintings, carvings, buildings and monuments, ceremonies, and processions at every turn. The visible aura of the Egyptian pantheon surrounded them. They knew nothing else.
When they followed Moses into the wilderness, they entered an entirely different environment. The wilderness – quiet, sandy, stony, dry, colorless nothingness. In this place, God intended to reveal His presence to them, a presence more real than the sensory overload of Egypt. But they struggled to recognize Him.
When Moses withdrew to Mount Sinai, they grew uneasy and resorted to worshiping a visible god, the golden calf Aaron fashioned for them. Ironically, as he fashioned this idol, God was fashioning the tablets for the Ten Commandments. In them He clearly warned against constructing any visible likeness of Himself (Exo. 20:4-6). Why? Because He wanted His people to know Him in reality, as He really was – the invisible God with a very real presence.
I would venture to suggest that our present media saturated society places us at a similar risk – the risk of missing out on the awareness of the real presence of our invisible God. We rely so heavily on noise, pictures, and moving images for expression that we may easily fail to understand the true presence of God – the presence of God known in Spirit and truth, apart from what we see and hear.
What does it mean to experience the presence of God? Being aware of His presence is like saying that you are in front of God, face to face – though you cannot see Him with your eyes. And you make choices and decisions based upon that reality. If you are a teenager or young child, you know what it means to be in the presence of your parents. There are things you will not do when your parents are standing beside you. You will be more careful and polite.
Being aware of His presence is like saying that you are in front of God, face to face – though you cannot see Him with your eyes.
The Israelites were not aware that God was present with them. If they had been aware of His presence, they would not have fashioned the golden calf. They would not engaged in such unrestrained and sensual behavior. And if Christians and churches today understood the real, invisible presence of God, we would behave differently. Instead, we tend to behave in a way that mimics the visible, surface, sensory world that surrounds us.
Do you thrive on noise and visual media? Does prolonged silence unnerve you? Is the presence of God a foreign to your experience? Is it more of an idea than a reality? Are you aware of the invisible, real, presence of God? Let me encourage you to seek His presence. “Seek the Lord, and His strength; seek His face continually (Ps. 105:4).”