There is no question that God promises to be with us all the time. When Jesus was nearing the time for His death on the cross he promised the disciples, “I won’t leave you as orphans. I’ll send you another counselor who will be with you forever.” When He was getting ready to ascend back to the Father he promised the disciples that he had been given all authority in heaven and on earth and challenged them to make disciples wherever they went in life. He told them to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all that he had commanded, then he promised “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” Later the writer of Hebrews in the last chapter of his letter returned to a promise God made to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 31:6-8 saying, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Then he ties that with a quote from Psalms 118:6 which says, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
Think of all the times during the Old Testament when God promised a special sense in which He would be with different followers of Him in times of great trial. There is no greater illustration than God’s message to Joshua in chapter one of the book that bears his name. Over and over again God challenges him to be strong and of good courage because He would be with him all the way.” Do you remember the story of King Saul how God was with him and the Spirit of God was upon him? But he disobeyed the Lord. He became presumptuous and rushed ahead to make a sacrifice that only Samuel the priest should offer. He disobeyed God’s command to utterly destroy the Amelakites. God removed his Spirit from Saul but Saul didn’t realize it immediately. From the time God stopped being with Saul his life began to unravel. He trembled in fear when the giant Goliath challenged him and his army. He had an evil spirit that came upon him and it seemed that he had no control during that time. At one point he even tried to kill his son Jonathan during such a time.
I know God is with me every day. But here is the question that I want to consider. Is God with us at times in a special way? Is it appropriate for example for one to speak of “Coming into God’s presence” or “Being in God’s presence in a time of moving worship to Him?” It is obvious that in I Corinthians 14:24-25 as Paul describes the gathering of Christians to worship God that he saw some special sense in which God was among them. He wanted the worship to be such that an unbeliever who came into the midst of the worship time would have “the secrets of his heart disclosed; so that he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among them.” (Other translations have “In their midst”) When Paul described his appearance before Nero to be tried as a criminal all people forsook him, but the Lord stood with him and strengthened him according to 2 Timothy 4:16-17. In Revelation 1:10 John was on the Isle of Patmos on the Lord’s Day when it was time for the church to gather. But there was no church on Patmos and John was there in exile. But he said he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. God was there with him in some special sense that caused him to see and hear things that we don’t usually see and hear.
Remember some of the old songs you used to sing in worship to God. Do you remember when a revival time would come to an end with a church and the revival had really been a spiritual uplift so that people wished it wasn’t ending. Often on such occasions the meeting would be closed with the song, “God be with you till we meet again.” Another song that seems to me to be one of the most powerful songs I know is “Be with me Lord”. In my mind those are wonderful, powerful songs that touch the heart and move the soul. But if there is no special sense in which God is with us beyond the promise he would be with us all the time, then these songs are meaningless. It would be like walking down the road with your wife and asking her if she would be with you. I suspect she would answer, “I am with you. What in the world are talking about?”
I certainly believe God is with me all the time. But I just as strongly believe there are special times when God’s presence is felt and in which he is with me in some powerful way. If I go to a worship service and do not feel that I’ve been in the presence of the Lord even if we’ve done all the commanded things for that worship, I will leave feeling strongly that I’ve missed something and need time with the Lord. Think of the church in Laodicea that had become lukewarm and neither cold or hot. I’m sure they worshiped regularly. But it was so dry and stall the Lord himself couldn’t get in. He was on the outside knocking at the door trying to get in. Like David, I normally say, “I was glad when they said let us go into the house of the Lord.” But when there is no obvious sense of God’s presence in that gathering, I’m glad when it is over and I can get out of there.
Throughout the Book of Judges you read of the different judges who are called to lead the Israelites against their enemies. Over and over again it will say, “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” then it will describe how the judge acted powerfully in leading God’s people against their enemy. Sometimes it will even say, “And the Spirit came powerfully upon him.” I want to be in the battle for the Lord to the degree I need His Spirit to come upon me powerfully to be able to succeed in the Battle. On my own I’m like Jeremiah crying “I can’t do this.” “Be with me Lord, I cannot live without you.”