Let me ask a question, before we get started: If you have company coming to your house, what do you do to prepare? I was raised that it didn’t matter whether company was coming for dinner, for just a few hours, or three or four days; there was always a process of preparation. We were never allowed to keep the house sloppy. Every week we had to sweep the carpet, dust the furniture, clean the bathroom, etc. But when company came over, we took it to another level. We didn’t want the messiness to distract from the interaction and conversation and we want to honor their presence.
Two weeks ago, we began a teaching on ark of the covenant – the ark of God. In 1981, Harrison Ford stared in a movie called “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Ford played an anthropologist searching for these religious relics. In the movie, Jones and his antagonist characters find the ark and against Jones’ warning, they remove the lid – the mercy seat. Jones’ warns his partner to keep their eyes closed. Immediately upon removing the mercy seat, Hollywood depicts these men as dying a horrific death as fire shoots from the ark taking no prisoners.
What is it about this box – the ark – that contains such unimaginable power that the moment it is mishandled it brings about instant death?
It is a representation of God, and therefore a representation of perfect righteousness. God dwelt above the mercy seat as proven by a pillar of fire by night, and a cloud by day. It was God’s tangible way of saying to His people, “I’m in the house; tread lightly.” See, the bible clearly shows that unrighteous man cannot approach righteous God. When it was time to go into the tabernacle and into the presence of God, His presence was so holy that people were forced to stand far from it. He required that the ark was veiled, even during transportation, so that no eye could see it. It is clear that there is a criteria – a requirement – you must necessarily meet if you want to be in God’s presence.
In the new covenant, presence of God still moves as the ark once did. And we are the royal priesthood ordained by God to carry His presence to all four corners of the world. While the just live by faith and not by feelings, I believe that when God shows up you are going to know. But many show up to church and expect to feel the presence of God in their midst. And when those people leave disappointed that they felt nothing, they turn to blame the preacher, or the worship team, or some other service provided by the church that wasn’t entertaining enough. But when we come into God’s presence, it should not be met with an attitude of indifference or complacency or expectation to be served. A lot of times when we leave the church having not felt His presence it is God being merciful to us! Had we mishandled His presence in the old covenant as we do in the new covenant, we would be stricken down!
His presence isn’t found in the professionalism of music or the eloquence of the speaker. It is only found in the reverence and the humility and the contrition of the believer who says, “I am nothing, but I worship You because you are holy!”