Do you long for your church to be defined not by the style of music or the powerful preaching or the incredible programs or the cool café in the lobby, but by the presence of Almighty God? What would it take to set the right conditions for such a Divine intersection of our lives with his presence? Certainly, God’s sovereignty is a critical factor—he will show up where he chooses, in the way he chooses, when he wants to. But perhaps a key phrase that appears no less than 18 times in Exodus 39-40 is the secret: “And they did as the Lord had commanded.”
Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 40:35-35
Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.
After all of the detailed construction of the tabernacle was complete—from the structure itself, to the garments of the priest, to the pots and pans used in ritual worship, the glory of the Lord fill the house.
Feast on that phrase for a moment: “And the glory of the Lord filled the house!”
That is the hope and prayer I have for every corporate gathering in the church where I serve—that every time we come into God’s house to worship him, call upon his name, and hear from his Word, that the glory of his presence would fill his house in an undeniable way.
I bet you long for that, too! Whatever church you belong to, wherever you worship, no matter what the style that defines your spiritual community, my sense is that you and others you gather with desperately long for the manifest presence of Almighty God as you come together. If you are like me, deep down, you don’t want the excellent music, or the great preaching or the beautiful architecture of your building to be what attracts people, you want it to be the glorious presence of God himself. After all, that is what we need most: to encounter the living God.
What would it take on our part to set the right conditions for such a Divine intersection of our lives with his presence? Certainly, God’s sovereignty is at play in this matter—he will show up where he chooses, in the way he chooses, when he wants to. And he does: he reveals his presence in gatherings under trees in Africa, in boardroom Bible studies in Hong Kong, in underground house churches in China, in prayer sessions in dormitories on college campuses. But I want that in my church the next time we gather!
But perhaps a key phrase that appears no less than ten times in Exodus 39 and another eight times in Exodus 40 is the secret: “And they did as the Lord had commanded.” I have a feeling that our slip-shod, overly-casual, low-expectations, anything goes, cheap grace approach to the presence of God these days keeps us from experiencing those deeper dimensions with God that we long for.
Perhaps it is time that we rethink how we plan our worship services. In all honesty, don’t we give more thought to how the people will respond to the music and the message than how God will respond? Of course, worship blesses us, since we were created to worship God and to fully enjoy him forever. But worship is first and foremost for God. He designed it and gave careful instructions for how his people were to approach his glorious presence in worship down to the smallest details. Graham Kendrick offered this insight, “Worship is first and foremost for His benefit, not ours, though it is marvelous to discover that in giving Him pleasure, we ourselves enter into what can become our richest and most wholesome experience in life.”
What if we began to list “for the glory of God alone” at the top of our weekly worship planner?
May doing “everything the Lord has commanded” become our first and highest priority! And may the glory of the Lord fill your house of worship this next Lord’s Day!