How God is Present With Us

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2018 17 May

An image of a wooden post with the words Be Here Now pasted on it in magazine cut-out words.

The Bible makes it clear that God is everywhere. There isn’t one square inch of creation in which he is not present. Even though God is omnipresent, he is distinct from the world he has made, existing apart from it. What’s more, Scripture tells us that God is present in a special way with his people.

Let’s briefly trace the story of God’s presence from its beginning, when Adam and Eve had unfettered access to God, walking with him in the Garden of Eden. There was nothing separating them from him. It wasn’t long until the two were expelled from his presence, separated by their disobedience (Genesis 2:23).

Yet God refused to abandon them. Instead he set a plan in motion, reaching out to a people whom he had formed, teaching them what it means to live in the presence of a holy God.

Even before delivering his people from Egypt, God revealed himself to Moses in the form of a burning bush. Later, as he was rescuing them from the power of Pharaoh, he manifested his presence in a “pillar of cloud” and a “pillar of fire,” which led them through the wilderness (Exodus 13:21-22).

Then God manifested his presence in the tabernacle, a word that means “tent,” “place of dwelling,” or “sanctuary.” The Bible also refers to it as the “tent of meeting,” a sacred place in which God would meet with representatives of his people. The tabernacle was a mobile structure with moveable furniture designed to accompany them on their journey into the land God promised to give them. Later, King Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem. There in the innermost sanctuary, the “holy of holies,” God’s presence would dwell on earth.

A word that is used many times in the Hebrew Scriptures to indicate God dwelling among his people is šākan, which means “to live, dwell.” The post biblical word Shekinah, referring to the visible manifestation of God’s presence, is derived from this Hebrew word.

The related Greek word skēnoō can be translated “tabernacled” or “spread tent.” It appears in John 1:14, which says that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Or, “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

The New Testament also speaks of Jesus dwelling in the hearts of his people through faith (Ephesians 3:17) and of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:14).

In addition, the New Testament uses the word parousia, which means “coming presence,” to refer to Christ’s second coming, when his presence within the world will no longer be hidden but obvious to everyone. When that happens, those who belong to him will receive this promise:

“Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:3-4)