Leviticus 6-9; Psalms 20-21; Acts 6

Week Number
22

Have you ever felt a joy so deep that you were overwhelmed by its intensity? Have you ever experienced a joy for which there were no words to tell of it? Perhaps you have, but did this joy continue undiminished in its intensity? Is it as strong today as when it first occurred? There is a joy like this. It is the incomprehensible joy of being in God’s presence.

The joy of being in God’s presence is a recurring theme throughout Scripture. David spoke of his joy when writing about his own relationship with God in Psalm 21:6. But as with all of us, David’s joy was not a consistent feeling—as other Psalms show. In this life we are blessed to get tiny glimpses of the joy that awaits us when we are finally in God’s presence in Heaven. But these glimpses are simply that, and even the glimpses get crowded out again and again by the pressure of life’s circumstances.

Long before David’s time, the Israelites prepared for the joy of being in God’s presence. But before that happened, there were conditions they had to meet, and meet specifically, as Leviticus 9 details. Being in God’s presence was not only a joy, it was a most remarkable gift that was not to be taken lightly. The people had to prepare for God’s presence as we would prepare ourselves and our homes for an honored guest.

But the conditions had been met, and they experienced the deep significance of God’s presence coming to them. “Next Moses and Aaron went into the Tabernacle and when they came back out, they blessed the people again, and the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to the whole community. When the people saw all this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground” (Lev. 9:23-24).

They could not contain their joy at being in God’s presence, and they shouted because of sheer exhilaration. Theirs was the kind of joy of which Jesus spoke during His Palm Sunday procession, when the religious leaders rebuked Him for allowing the people to praise Him as God. What did Jesus say about the joy of being in His presence? “He replied, ‘If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!’” (Luke 19:40). Even inanimate objects want to express the joy of being in God’s presence.

We were created by God and to be with God. Being in His presence is going to make us want to “burst into cheers!” It is so sad when people think that Heaven may be boring. They may agree that we’ll be in God’s presence, but they cannot imagine enjoying all that singing, listening to harp music, floating around on a cloud with nothing meaningful to do. That does sound terribly boring, but that is far from an accurate description of Heaven or being in God’s presence.

There is something deep within us that senses our need to be in God’s presence. Sin has temporarily separated us from the ongoing, face-to-face presence of God; but at the moment of our death, or our Lord’s return, that separation will no longer exist. And for the person who has prepared for God’s eternal presence, there will be great and astonishing joy. It will be a joy that causes us, like the Israelites, to shout from the sheer delight of it. It will be a joy that keeps bubbling up and up and up. We’ve not yet known a joy like this, at least not on a consistent basis, but we will. Now that’s something to look forward to!

(To learn more about what Scripture has to say about the realities of Heaven, I highly recommend Randy Alcorn’s small book, In Light of Eternity or his major study, simply called, Heaven.)

© 2010 Arlina Yates

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