Minus the Manifest Presence of God

One of my favorite places to go, when I visit Israel, is Shiloh. It’s where the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant rested for the first 360 years of Israel’s occupation of the Promised Land.

The Ark of the Covenant has enormous historical significance.

Archaeologists and theologians alike have been looking for it and speculating on its whereabouts for millennia.

Movies have been made about it.

The reason for all this interest is that the Ark was the specific, physical spot in the tabernacle, between the outstretched wings of the cherubim, where God made His presence known and was said to dwell among His people (1 Samuel 4:4).

The Ark was where God manifested His presence.

Heaven and earth met there.

The cloud that reflected the glory of the Lord used to appear over the mercy seat, between the wings of the cherubim.

And all Israel would know God was near.

It was such a holy place that, in Old Testament worship, only the High Priest was allowed to be close, only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and even then at the risk of his life.

So, you can imagine the fear that rippled through Israel when word leaked out that the Israelite army had taken the Ark into battle, like a good luck charm, that the Philistines had defeated Israel’s army, and the Ark had been captured and taken into the temple of their gods.

God’s manifest presence was gone!

The thought of it even now sends chills through my heart.

When news of the Ark’s capture arrived in Shiloh, Eli the priest fell over and died, his daughter-in-law went into labor, and before she died she named her newborn son, Ichabod, which translated means, the “Glory of God has departed from Israel.”

For years the Ark is absent from Israel’s worship.

When it got too hot for the Philistines to handle, they sent it off on an ox cart to Beit Shemesh. But when the holiness of God got too much for the people of God in Beit Shemesh to handle, they called for the people of Kiriath Jearim to come take it off their hands.

It stayed in Kiriath Jearim for twenty years (1 Samuel 7:2), until David got ready to bring it to Jerusalem.

During all this time, Moses’ Tabernacle got moved from Shiloh to several locations APPEARING TO FUNCTION JUST FINE WITHOUT GOD’S MANIFEST PRESENCE.

Sacrifices on the altar.

Shew bread on the table.

Lamps lit in the holy place.

Incense offered on the small altar.

On the surface, and for all intents and purposes, everything in Israel’s worship continued wherever the Tabernacle was erected for all those years.

There was only one little problem.

God was not there.

David is the one who finally decides he cannot function without the manifest presence of God and sends for the Ark, carried to Jerusalem on the shoulders of the Levites (1 Chronicles 15), to a tent he pitches for the Ark, near his palace.

You would think that the minute the Ark is retrieved and placed in Jerusalem, the priests at the Tabernacle, now in nearby Gibeon, would do whatever it took to move their ministry to where God’s presence was.

But, no.

They are content to keep going through the motions of everything Moses prescribed, at the Tabernacle in Gibeon, only minus the manifest presence of God (1 Chronicles 21:29).

It wasn’t until Solomon built the Temple that the ministries of the Tabernacle were reunited with the Presence of God between the wings of the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant.

Here is the application:

How much of our life and ministry are we content to continue, disconnected from the manifest presence of God?

Just going through the motions.

Living life.

Singing songs.

Preaching or hearing sermons.

Saying prayers.

Reading Scripture.

Taking communion.

Serving others.

But, with your Tabernacle in Gibeon and God’s manifest presence in a tent in Jerusalem!”

Here is what to do to connect Gibeon with Jerusalem:

Draw near to God with expectancy that He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

• Acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to minister the realities of God’s presence and power in your lives.

• In prayer, invite the Holy Spirit to make God known to you, to reveal God’s presence to you… the presence of the Father, the presence of Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

• Read the Bible, actively inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s heart to you and your heart to Him. Then listen for His voice through Scripture with expectancy.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to engage your heart in worship, so you are not just saying words or just singing songs out of your head.

• Be watching and listening every moment of every day for God to show up in your life, to strengthen and anoint you, and deploy you into His world to establish His kingdom and will through you.