In continuation with my previous blog, let’s go back to the Nation of Israel as recorded in Exodus 19. Remember when Moses went up Mount Sinai to meet with God and receive the Law? He was gone 40 days. (Exo 32; 34:28) In his absence, the people in the camp became restless, filled with worry, and even frightened. Why? They had become accustomed to being led by the Pillar and the Cloud. (Exo 13:21-22) They relied on Moses to be their intermediary (Exo 20:18-22; 33:7-11), to tell them God’s will every step of the way. (Exo 20:22) God had become accessible, not just to the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs; but, to every member of the nation. The Almighty Creator God had softened His voice, hid His glory within a cloud, and made His very infinite nature finite, to be seen, felt, and heard by His people in the desert. (Exo 20:18-22) This was majestic and mysterious stuff. Imagine being delivered out of bondage, out of the hands of the mightiest power on Earth, then being led and fed by the very Hand of God. (Exo 16:35; Exo 13:21-22) Now suddenly, God and Moses are missing. Can you relate? I can.
There are times when I have those ‘mountaintop experiences’ where the Holy Spirit feels tangibly involved in every detail of my life. Then, other times he’s distant, seemingly abandoning me on a cold winter’s day, His presence nowhere to be found. It’s during those times – the more difficult times – that I need to know and believe by faith that He will return to me. But, how do I experience God’s presence in the mountains and in the valleys – during the spiritually warm summers and spiritually cold winters of life? I think that we, in part, find the answer at the foot of Mount Sinai. There, in the Tent of Meeting, just outside of the camp of the Nation of Israel, God said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to take for Me a contribution. You are to receive the contribution for Me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.” So, Moses did. (Exo 35:4-29)
One of the best ways to enjoy your salvation here on earth and to return to God’s presence and live a life without reservation is to give. You know the wonderful feeling you get when you give? The very act of giving comes from, or leads us to, the understanding that all is God’s anyway, including us, ourselves. (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19-20) Think about how counter-intuitive this idea is.
When things are the hardest, when our resources seem to be drying up, when God seems the furthest from us, we should give! (Mark 12:44; Luke 21:3-4) We should not isolate, not hold on tighter, not guard our savings, and not become more self-sufficient and self-absorbed. Instead, God says to give thanks with an act of gratitude (Phil 4:1-20), knowing that He gave us life, the very air we breathe, our very next breath, and all of creation. (Ps 8:3; 24:1-2) He is the artist and we are His canvas, from which He intends to make a masterpiece. That is what we have to be thankful for!
Consider this: In Exodus 25, God instructed the Israelites to build a sanctuary for Him. (Exo 25; 27:19) He gave them specific, detailed instructions on how this structure would be built, where His very presence could rest. (Exo 25-27:19) The blueprints seemed extremely elaborate and, to the common man, might appear that God required grandiose surroundings in which to dwell.
But, that’s not the idea here. You see, it wasn’t merely the quality of the wood, metals, or drapes. Nor was it simply the sparkle or clarity or carats of the jewels on the breastplate of the high priest, nor the purity or rare value of the gold overlaid upon the ark. It wasn’t the brilliant architectural design with the aroma of sacrifices and frankincense to create the aura and ambiance to draw God’s presence. (Exo 28 - Exo 30) But here, with even more significance than those truths, is the wonderful revelation:
God’s people voluntarily returned to God those things that were His anyway, out of a heart of gratitude, giving to one another and to this Holiest of causes. Now that’s a place where God’s presence can rest. Although God doesn’t dwell any longer in houses of wood and stone (Acts 17:24-31); nevertheless, His presence today continues to live on in those whose hearts are generous towards Him – as we read in Jeremiah, Chapter 31, verses 31 to 33.
About Michael Stickler
Mike is an author, radio host, and a highly sought-after motivational speaker. His best-selling book, A Journey to Generosity, is widely acclaimed throughout the Christian community. He is the publisher of Generous Living Magazine and writes for the Christian Post, 'A Generous Life' column.