“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Isaiah 43:1-7 NIV
I've been sitting at the feet of Jesus a lot lately. We all go through seasons, if we're being honest, and right now I'm in a season of just wanting more of His presence. This summer I was going through a dry season, a place where my relationship with the Lord was stagnant. I was reading the Word and worshipping and praying, but not giving it my all. Now I'm in this season of hunger. I just want the MORE of GOD. I hope you've been there too. I don't want this season to end.
This week at church our pastor encouraged us to read Isaiah 43 & 44. It's Wednesday and I'm still on Chapter 43. I'm a life-long student. I would still be in school if it didn't cost so much money...so I'm studying this text. That's how we learn, it's how we grow in Christ. To me, this passage is all about God's presence.
So many times we think we have to FEEL God's presence. That's the furthest thing from the truth. There are going to be times where we don't feel it. That's where FAITH comes into the picture. His presence is always there, it never leaves, that's what He's telling us here. I'm in love with verse 1 alone. “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." He REDEEMED me. I am HIS. That's enough right there for me to feel His presence.
God's word often tells us not to fear, as it does here. Look at verse 5. "Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west." He tells us not to be afraid, but He is not suggesting that difficult things don't happen to us. He's telling us that when they DO that He will be with us.
I'm a WORDS girl. I love to read, I love to write and I love to look up definitions. Weird, right? I also know that when something is repetitive, there is meaning behind it.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
WHEN not IF. It will happen. We WILL go through hard times on this side of eternity. It's a given, there's no way around it. The promise is, He will be with us if we are a follower of Christ. What a glorious promise that is!
There have been times in my life that I sense His presence so clearly. Most of those times are in my own private time with Him. Alone. Early in the morning before anyone else gets up. Just me and Him. I'll put on some praise and worship music, but instead of singing, I just listen. I listen to the words, what they mean, I listen to Him. His presence will just fill the room. Other times it's when a passage of scripture just leaps off the page and I feel like He's sitting right beside me. Of course I feel His presence fall in our corporate worship at church and I love being with my church family and feeling the presence of God.
Unfortunately there are also times when I don't feel the presence of God. These are typically times when my mind is preoccupied or I am distracted. Thank GOD for His promise in Hebrews 13:5 to never leave me or forsake me! His presence doesn't leave me. Just because I can't feel it, doesn't mean it's not there.
WHEN you go through life's trials, HIS presence will follow you. He will be with you. You might not feel it, but it's a promise. He doesn't immediately calm our storms, that's not the promise. The promise is to calm his child on the basis of His presence. We'll probably never learn to enjoy our storms in the moment, but we can learn to enjoy God's presence in the storm.
Look what David confidently expected from God in Psalm 16.
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”
Psalms 16:11 KJV
FULLNESS OF JOY. PLEASURES FOR EVERMORE. I told you I was a words girl, so here you go. The Hebrew word for joy here is simchah, which means "glee, gladness, joy, pleasure, rejoicing." Simchah comes from a word that means making merry. We can learn to enjoy God's presence even when life is not presently enjoyable. I can't explain it, but I've experienced it personally on more than one occasion. God's presence isn't just for the storms, my friend. No, no, no! His presence is to be ENJOYED. Just like David is saying here.
I want to tread lightly here, so please hear my heart. The very thing I love the most is the thing I deserve the least. My relationship with Him. I most definitely have not "arrived", but I have come to a place where I ENJOY Him and His presence. Now, not every minute I spend with Him is fun, because the bible, it speaks truth and there's a lot of it that pricks my heart and makes me change my ways, and if I'm being honest, I don't like it! So He challenges me, He changes me, I've cried endlessly with Him. I've screamed in frustration to Him. I've laughed out loud (especially when reading about talking donkeys) . I've gone to my knees in awe. I've danced before Him. I've had every emotional experience that you can have with someone with Him.
But if I had to sum up my relationship with Him in one general statement it would be this: He is the absolute JOY OF MY LIFE. I don't know of any other way to say it.
I almost didn't write the above 2 paragraphs because I would be SICK if you were to think that I was trying to sound proud of my relationship with God. I hope you are hearing my heart when I tell you that my greatest joy is a complete gift of grace and one that is offered to anyone who offers Him their whole heart. I think I know how the apostle Paul felt when he said in 2 Corinthians 11:2, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealously." My friend, I am "jealous" for you to ENJOY GOD. I want it so badly for you. I want God to be the absolute joy of your life too. I want you to enjoy God and His presence. Through the storms. Through the good days. In the morning. In the night. That is my prayer for you today. To enjoy His presence.
Listen closely. His presence is waiting for you.