My Presence – Exodus 33:14-15

“And [the LORD] said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’
And [Moses] said to him, ‘If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.’”

Exodus 33:14-15

This morning I am dwelling on the presence of the Lord. As He calls us into difficult, even seemingly impossible, situations. As we face fears, questions, and self-doubt. As we walk forward into unfamiliar territory. As we encounter pain and loss. And as we realize dreams and experience joys beyond anything we could have imagined. If we are His, His presence is with us each moment. Filling us with Himself and desiring for us to recognize that His all we ever need, that Jesus is truly enough.

Our ever-present help and light.
Our joy, our salvation, and our hope.
Our refuge.
Our rest.

As you go forward into this day, into the coming weeks and months and years – however daunting they may appear in what you are facing – know that the Lord of heaven, He who made the stars and calls them each by name, is with you (Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 40:26). Your name is known to Him as well (Isaiah 43:1; John 10:3,14). It is engraved on His hands, which were pierced for you (Isaiah 49:16; 53:5).

Each time you question where your life and decisions have led, look to the One walking beside you. You are not alone. He may not answer all of your “whys,” but He will give you what you need: He will show you who He is, and rest assured, He will not fail you.

O Lord, my heavenly Father and overflowing fountain of grace and life, be present with me today. Surrounding me all day long and dwelling between my shoulders (Deuteronomy 33:12). Going before me and acting as my rear guard (Isaiah 52:12). Acting as I wait for You (Isaiah 64:4). And Lord, as You promise to go with me, I ask as Moses did: “Please, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). For it is in beholding Your glory that I am transformed, that I am strengthened, and that I am filled with the fullness of joy in Your presence.

“The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety.
The High God surrounds him all day long,
and dwells between his shoulders.”
Deuteronomy 33:12

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Faithful Pursuit – 2 Chronicles 36:14-15

“All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the LORD that He had made holy in Jerusalem.
The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers,
because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.”

2 Chronicles 36:14-15

Reading this passage this morning, verse 15 wove its way into my heart. See the faithfulness of God, captured in these words. Persistently sending messengers to warn His people of the consequences for their rejection of His Law and to implore them to turn back to Him, desiring to pour out compassion and forgiveness upon their repentant return. Wanting to bless His people and the land He had chosen to make His dwelling place.

My mind is drawn to the words spoken through the prophet Hosea, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?…My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:8). This is His heart, broken over hardened and continual rebellion. Tender, compassionate, strong, and powerful love. Our God is just – He will not allow sin to go unchecked and wickedness unpaid for – but He has provided a way for mercy and abundant grace to pour over us. Payment for sin at a very high cost. The death of the One in whom all things hold together, who upholds the very universe by the word of His power (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). Jesus willingly humbled Himself to the point of an agonizing, shameful, and lonely death. So that we could know this love of God. Wrath turned to grace for us, for all who trust in Christ and turn from their prideful sin.

The Lord is pursuing you. And His pursuit never ends. Whatever your story, wherever you are in your relationship with Him, this God of all hope delights for you to draw near to Him; He will draw near to you. He loves us not because we prove ourselves worthy, clean ourselves up enough, or have a history that meets a mark of expectation. No, He loved us first.

Ephesians 5:25-27 paints in beautiful detail the love of Christ for us: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” When Christ gave His life for the church (meaning all who would trust in Him), it was so that we would be made holy and without blemish. It wasn’t that any of us were already that way. And it wasn’t that we would need to prove that we were capable of it.

That’s what He does.

Jesus loved us, so He gave Himself up for us, so that He can purify us wholly. It’s a lifelong process, and while there is work on our part to choose to follow and humble ourselves and endeavor to live a life worthy of our calling and in accordance with His Word – it isn’t done in our own strength. His Spirit is continually hard at work within each one of His own, remaking our character so that we can shine like Jesus and love this broken world. And when we ultimately stand before the throne of our holy God, pure and blameless and beautiful, it will not be a result of our hard work, but the result of our God’s faithfulness to bring His promises to pass. “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Know today, our God is one of compassion. He sees you; He sees your pain, your fears, your failures, your hopes, your dreams, your joys, your circumstances. And He is not unfeeling, inactive, or doubtful of you. Draw near to Him and allow Him to speak truth into your soul, bolstering your faith and encouraging your heart. If you find yourself trapped in sin, know that if you will come humbly to the throne of grace, you will not hear rejection or condemnation; rather, you will hear these words: “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:4b).

Shaky Foundations – Job 11:14, 18

“If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and let not injustice dwell in your tents….
And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
you will look around and take your rest in security.”

Job 11:14, 18

At first glance, these words of Job’s friend might seem wise. But I sense danger in them. The danger of making my righteousness the basis of my hope, the foundation of my security.

What a shaky, uncertain foundation that would be.

And how contrary to the gospel.

Because while, yes, we must put away our iniquities, that is not my hope. We are commanded to pursue righteousness, but that is not my security.

Christ is.

My hope is found in His righteousness, not mine. My security rests in His promise to never let me go and to continue His purifying work in me to ultimately and joyfully present me before His throne, blameless (Jude 1:24).

If my security and hope rest in my own righteousness, or in my repentance, I will lose them each time I fail. Despair will enter in, along with the question of whether God will forgive me this time – or if I pushed Him too far. But making Christ the foundation means that hope remains. I am still secure, because I know that my God is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9), and He will redeem even my wrongs to bring Him glory and shine light into a dark world. It does not free me from responsibility, but it does free me from fear. Because His love is steadfast and His salvation is forever. For Jesus “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23). Notice – our confidence comes not from our perfection, our feeling sorry enough, or our not pushing God too far. Our confidence comes from the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. He opened the way for us to enter confidently into God’s holy presence and draw near in full assurance of faith and with unwavering hope.

Rest assured today, if you have placed your faith in what Christ has done, you have an anchor for your soul that will not fail. You can hold fast to hope and take your rest in security, because you have fled for refuge in the One who will never remove His saving hand. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

“So when God desired to show more convincingly…the unchangeable character of His purpose,
He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie,
we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.”

Hebrews 6:17-20a

When God Feels No Longer Safe – Job 9:16-18

“If I summoned [God] and he answered me,
I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
For he crushes me with a tempest
and multiplies my wounds without cause;
he will not let me get my breath,
but fills me with bitterness.”

Job 9:16-18

This cry resonates with sad familiarity in my heart…It was not long ago that these words could have been my own. Because while my mind knew verses of God’s compassion, my heart just didn’t believe it true for me.

How sorrowful I became when I realized this. When I saw fully how much I doubted His compassion. All those thoughts that I didn’t even know were there came pouring out of my heart. Because how could He really care, and yet let things play out the way that they did?

Thus began the struggle. The struggle of deciding whether or not to trust Him again. Do I let Him close…and does He deserve that closeness? I was hurt. And I was angry. And His compassion just didn’t seem evident.

That’s what happens when our circumstances overwhelm our heart…when waves crash, and in response to the pain, we shut down and shut Him out. The One who is supposed to be our refuge in the storm. The One who had been my refuge in the past. I retreat when I’m in pain, withdrawing to a safe place, and God was no longer welcome there. Because, in my view, He was no longer safe.

Oh believer, if your heart connects with this, I pray you will know that you are loved. Because you are. Without reserve, without hesitation, and without question. I don’t know why things happen the way they do, but God grieves with you. He is not unfeeling. He hurts with you. He “rides through the heavens to your help” (Deuteronomy 33:26). His compassion toward you is strong and unending. He will uphold you in steadfast love. Please, oh please let Him. He is listening to you. He is drawing near to answer in faithfulness, to show you the good Father that He is.

Allowing God near isn’t an exercise in logic. Our hearts don’t work that way. He understands that – He understands your questions, your fears, your anger, your pain. So tell Him all of that. Rail at Him if you must. I did. That’s where the conversation begins. And I pray that then, however slowly, you will begin to lower your walls. Those walls you built to keep Him out.

What I found is that He is wonderfully gentle and compassionate in His love toward us, and He will not force Himself through. He is waiting, patiently, for you to let Him in. So He can begin to heal those hurts. So that you won’t feel so alone. And so you can see good come from all that pain. He won’t waste it. And He is not distant from you. He is as close as a breath, ready to pour out peace, comfort, and strength for your days.

“As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:13-14

“a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench”

Isaiah 42:3a

“But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.’
‘Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’”

Isaiah 49:14-16a

Pain and Purpose – Job 8:5-6

“If you will seek God,
and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore your rightful habitation.”

Job 8:5-6

“And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

John 9:2-3

Oh how these words of Job’s friend connect with us – with how we want things to be. That “surely” God won’t let bad things happen to good people. So when we see it happen, our conclusion is that if we’re good enough, if we pray enough, He’ll fix it – or else He must not really be a good God at all.

But what if it goes deeper than that? What if real truth is found not in what we see and what makes sense to us at the moment, but rather in Jesus’ words in John 9, that “bad” things – difficulty, sickness, loss of dreams or loved ones – are not necessarily the result of sin, but rather are designed to display God’s glory and power and love and goodness in and to us?

My heart is drawn to Psalm 73. The writer is perplexed and discouraged by the prosperity of the wicked. At one point he cries out, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean” (v. 13).

But seeking to understand, he comes to God’s sanctuary. And receives a bigger picture.

What happens here, in this mortal life, is not the end. This is temporary. And it is all impacted by the brokenness caused by sin’s presence here. And yes, maybe God will display glory and power by miraculous, unexplainable healing. Maybe He will save from the fire as He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all those generations ago. Maybe He will cause our dreams to fall into place beautifully and give us that for which our hearts long. Maybe He will, and we must have faith that He is able.

Or maybe – just maybe – He will show His power through our weakness, sustaining us and filling us with Himself, allowing us to come to know through experience that He is enough. Maybe He will display glory by making our lives abundant and our hearts fill with wonder at His nearness and love as we continue to walk through difficulty – and maybe that is not less. Maybe His purposes in the hardship are greater than any dreams we had for ourselves, and maybe our lives will be more full than they would have been had He let us settle for the things for which we asked.

Your path, whatever it looks like, is filled with the beautiful purposes of our good God. And please know, I do not say that lightly. I don’t come from a perspective of everything having gone according to my plans. There are dreams left unfulfilled, scars from deep hurts, and painful things that I still don’t understand. But what I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, is that my God knows those who are His. He sees you. He is continually with you. He will withhold no truly good thing from you (Psalm 84:11-12). And while those good things might look different from what we thought we wanted, in the words of John Piper, “God will give you all you need to live the life fully pleasing to Him, and fully and deeply and eternally satisfying to yourself.”

“Thus says the LORD:
‘The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness…
I have loved you with an everlasting love,
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.’”

Jeremiah 31:2-3

“‘For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.’
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”

Isaiah 54:10

“Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked….
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence….
But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin….
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:1-3, 13, 16-18, 21-26

At Full Price – 1 Chronicles 21:22-24

“And David said to Ornan, ‘Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD—give it to me at its full price—that the plague may be averted from the people.’ Then Ornan said to David, ‘Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all.’ But King David said to Ornan, ‘No, but I will buy them for the full price.
I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’”

1 Chronicles 21:22-24

I love seeing the hearts of these men in this passage. Ornan, readily offering all for service to the Lord at no cost to David. His words, “I give it all,” strike my heart – he withholds nothing and asks for nothing in return. Perhaps it was the culturally appropriate response to the king’s request, but the heartfelt detail of what he offered for use, “oxen for burnt offerings…threshing sledges for the wood…wheat for a grain offering,” point to a deeper reverence for God within his statement.

And David…Scripture reveals the flaws in this man whom God said was a man after His own heart. The truth of God’s declaration, I believe, is seen in part in the sincere repentance David exhibits when he realizes his sin. David’s insistence here to purchase the property at its full price, and specifically his emphasis that he will not “offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing,” bring to mind words written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship: God’s grace to us “is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us…it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.”

David saw what we often fail to recognize: God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness are not to be taken lightly. Those with truly repentant hearts do not shrug, duck the head, voice a quick apology, and then go on with no further thought. No – repentant hearts mourn the breaking of relationship. They allow the Spirit of God to reveal the depth and danger of sin, not to make them wallow in shame or despair, but to rid them of sin’s destructive cost and free them to live joyful, abundant lives. Repentance brings healing and wholeness. It reconnects us with this magnificent God who did not consider His own Son too dear a price. And it opens our eyes to the wonder of that Son’s love, that Jesus did not consider His own life too dear, but determined to go to the cross and willingly offered Himself.

Oh, let our hearts rejoice at this costly grace, and recognize that giving our all to this One who gave His all to save us is not losing; it is gaining everything worth having, everything that will quench our thirsty souls.

Cheap grace – claimed without repentance, without commitment, without time and energy devoted to seeking God and loving Him with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength – it is empty. It doesn’t fill us, doesn’t heal us, doesn’t enliven our hearts, embolden our faith, or enlighten our eyes.

It doesn’t save.

It is costly grace that saves us. Grace that demanded much of God, and grace that inspires a beautiful, surrendered response like David’s.

Lord God, may I not seek a cheap, easy way out of conviction. Fill my heart with wonder that You have taken my iniquity away and clothed me with pure garments (Zechariah 3:4), that You have saved me through the shed blood of Jesus and will never break that covenant. Open my eyes to see the depths of what You have saved me from. Not just consequences avoided, but the depth of sin’s evil itself. Effects seen in life’s pain and difficulties, in sickness and death, in nature’s thorns, harsh weather, and unforgiving landscapes. Sin did that. Sin brought brokenness into Your perfect creation. Break my heart with how I have broken Yours. And mend it together in Your beautiful way, shining light into all dark places and making me whole. May I be radiant in joyful freedom, for You set me free from sin’s bondage. And in that freedom, may my life reflect Your heart, pursuing You always and pouring out my life in love toward others.

Enough – Job 6:11-12

“What is my strength, that I should wait?…
Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze?”

Job 6:11-12

“I love you, O LORD, my strength.”
Psalm 18:1

Hearing Job’s despair, reflecting on all he had lost – his property, his servants, his health, his children – I was drawn to this cry in chapter 6. This was a man who had lost everything. A man whose very integrity, which held fast even amidst these losses, was then called into question by his closest friends.

A man at the end of himself. Crying out that he hasn’t the strength for this. And truly, who would?

Yet as I read his words, a quiet whisper in my heart breathed Psalm 18:1, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.”

Oh, how comforting to realize that my strength doesn’t have to be enough.

In sickness, in loss, in confusion, when circumstances overwhelm or life just falls apart – I don’t have to be enough.

Because my God is.

God my Savior, my strength, my hope, my very breath – He is enough. When I don’t know how to do life anymore, how to even keep walking a painful, darkened path, there is One who is my foundation, who puts breath in my lungs, covers me as a shield to silence the enemy, and carries me if I cannot walk further. This One is my light when all else fails. When darkness closes in. If I will study His Word, letting it seep into my heart and root itself deeply as truth, and fix my eyes on who He declares Himself to be, light begins to pierce through.

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” Because I am not alone here. Dear reader, you are not alone here. It will still be hard. It will still hurt. But you will not be alone, even in the darkest hours of the night. Jesus is enough for you. He died to restore you to Himself, and to restore all of your hurts to beautiful abundance. Let Him be your hope, your strength, your light. You will need no other, and your soul will find rest and true belonging – a home where you are beloved and upheld forevermore.

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26