Trading God’s Presence for His Promise

Sometimes life just gets hard. Especially when we find ourselves in the desert.

Hungry. Thirsty. Dying inside. Definitely tired.

You know what I mean. Have you ever set out toward a blessing, believing God for one of His promises, but it seemed to take forever to get there?

And the longer it takes the more doubt sets in. Weariness saps your strength. And when you and I get weary, we get desperate. We’d do anything for a quick fix, an easy way out.

What would you be willing to sacrifice to leave the desert?

Imagine that Jesus were to approach you today and offer to carry you off to heaven to bask in all its blessings  . . .

  • Eternal life without sin
  • Perfect healing and an end to sickness
  • No more sadness, sorrow or tears
  • Mansions and streets of gold
  • Surpassing love and unending joy
  • Transcending peace

But there’s a catch: He wouldn’t go with you. Would you accept it? If you could leave the pain and struggles of this life today, exchanging it for the glories of heaven, but you’d have to go without Jesus, would you go? Would the blessings be enough for you without Jesus to share it with?

I caution you not to answer too hastily. What we know to be the “right” answer doesn’t always mesh with the truth of what lies within our hearts. I know this from experience. When we invite Jesus in on the conversation, we may be surprised at what we discover about ourselves. I was.

Your honest answer to that question will reveal a lot about your heart. Do you seek Jesus, or do you just want the benefit of His promises?

God gave the Israelites a similar offer in Exodus 33. He had miraculously delivered them from their Egyptian captivity and led them to Mt. Sinai. Then while Moses met with God on the mountain, they thanked Him by building and worshiping a golden calf.

God’s response to them may surprise you.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’  I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” Exodus 33:1-3

Can you imagine? Israel had not been faithful to Him, but God always remains faithful to His word.  And He had made a promise to Abraham that He intended to keep. God would indeed bring the people into the land He promised them, and He wouldn’t send them alone. He would send an angel before them to clear the land of the enemies living on it. They could just walk right in.

God offered Israel an easy path to quick prosperity in the land of milk and honey, as well as a gift of divine power to claim it. It would end their desert hunger and thirst. It almost sounds too good to be true.

It might be. There’s a catch. God Himself wouldn’t be going.

Perhaps that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. I mean, that’s what we’re after, isn’t it? We want to experience God’s blessings and promises. I wonder how many of us would jump at that opportunity today.

Let’s see how Israel responded.

 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments.  . . . Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:4, 15-16

Dear one, any blessing we might receive from God isn’t worth anything without God Himself. Israel understood that, even with their constant rebellion and habitual lack of faith. God Himself is the reward. They wouldn’t take another step without Him.

What are you really after, dear one? Is Jesus merely the means to an end, or is He the end you’ll pursue by whatever means?

What would you be willing to do, beloved, to truly know God’s presence? Would you trade the easy path in order to know His sufficiency? Would you go to battle to experience the working of His strength? Would you forfeit a miracle and experience loss to truly know His comfort? Is His presence worth whatever encountering it may cost?

Perhaps it’s time to start believing Psalm 84:10,

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.

Jesus is everything, dear one. He wants to be everything to you.

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