2 Corinthians 4:6. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Is it possible to know God? To really understand him? Some would say no. But what if it’s not only possible, it’s what God wants?
God made us in order to share his love and glory with us, the love and glory of the Trinity. God did not create us in order to withhold himself from us. He made us for his presence. We see this from the very start in the Garden of Eden. The Garden was a reflection of the throne room of God, his dwelling, now made accessible to humanity. A place where God and man could walk and talk together. Both knowing and being known.
Of course our sin has driven us from this Garden paradise. But God never quits on us. He has been pursuing us ever since that fateful day. He has always wanted to live with us. The Garden, the Tabernacle, the Temple, all were home to the presence of God among the people.
Paul says that we have the knowledge of the glory of God, shone into our hearts in the face of Christ. We have seen how Paul is using Exodus 33-34 as his backdrop for this part of the letter to the Corinthians. He continues using it here.
In Exodus 33 it tells us that Moses would meet “face to face” with God.
Exodus 33:11. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
The Hebrew word for face (paniym) is also the word for presence. The words are used interchangeably in Exodus 33. It follows after the story of the nation’s sin with the Golden Calf. God is mad, and this is what he says to Moses:
Exodus 33:14. And God said, “My presence [paniym] will go with you [alone not the nation], and I will give you rest.”
God will stay with Moses but not the rest of the nation. He will start over with Moses. He will give Moses rest from the people. It looks as if God is quitting on them for good.
But then Moses argues with God for the people. It is one of the greatest pictures of Christ that we have in the Old Testament.
Exodus 33:15-16. And Moses said to God, “If your presence [paniym] will not go with me, do not bring us [the whole nation] up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
And then Moses prays this bold prayer “Lord show me your glory.” To which God responds “You cannot see my face (my paniym, my presence) and live.”
God then proceeds to pass by Moses, revealing the “back” of his glory, shielding Moses’ eyes from his face, while crying out his attributes, “The LORD, the LORD, goodness, mercy, compassion, justice.”
In Christ all of this is fulfilled.
God’s presence dwelt with humanity in the incarnated Christ, but now it dwells IN humanity in the glorified Christ who is the Spirit. God’s presence had to be veiled and shielded by God or it would kill us, but now it is a part of us. God’s holiness demanded that he remove his presence due to mankind’s sin, but now it dwells in us as the crucified Christ. His death satisfied the holiness of God so that we will never be shielded from the glory of God again. His goodness and justice are no longer a threat to our existence. We can see them and live! We can look into the face of God and survive, because Jesus looked into the face of God and was destroyed in our place.
We can enter the presence of God because the Presence of God has entered us.
“To live is Christ” is the presence of God living in us in the person of Christ. Because of Christ, the presence of God is manifested, not in a pillar of smoke, not in a burning bush, not in lightning, or earthquakes, but in a person. The glory, the goodness, the mercy, the compassion, and the justice of almighty God are revealed in the face of Christ. Not an abstract light or energy, but a man. A living, breathing, loving person. That is the glory of God. The desire of God. The plan of God. The love of God in you.
Do you believe that the presence of God is in you? If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ and his life given for you, then it is. How does knowing that the Presence of God lives in you give you confidence to live within the presence of God? How does it feel to know you can never be outside of the presence of God because it is in your heart?
Yes, I know it’s not Christmas, but trust me it fits.