Tuesday, January 1, 2013

God's Glory and Presence

This is an account of the writer having seen God’s manifest glory.[1]

It happened on 3 December 1998.

Lying in bed, waiting for the bathroom to free up, I paged through an old Life Science Library publication I owned, entitled Mathematics.[2]  It surveys the wonderful world of arithmetic in its broadest sense, and the great minds who had labored in this field throughout the centuries.  Since this discipline is, in a sense (in my humble opinion at least), an exercise in logic, I was wondering about God's mind and whether most things in His creation could, from His perspective, be reduced to a mathematical equation, something like Einstein's E=mc2 or theory of relativity.

When I eventually got up, I wrapped a towel around my waste and left for the TV in the kitchen.   It was the first day of the Million Dollar[3] golf tournament at Sun City, near Rustenburg in South Africa, in which a select group of players competed for an obscene amount of cash.  Having been a golfer, I thought I would watch the invited players commence their rounds, whilst waiting for the bathroom to be available.

A “missionary” on “leave” from India occupied it.  His wife was away, visiting her parents in Potchefstroom.  His parents were at Sun City watching, among others, all the golfing action in person, with Tiger Woods as the star attraction.  (All of us were at the time staying with his parents in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa.)  Although both of us had been invited to attend the tournament in person, for reasons of our own, we declined the offer.  To me, Tiger Woods and all the other players plying their trade, however successfully, paled into comparison to the things of God.

When my brother-in-the-Lord eventually walked into the kitchen he handed me the “latest” edition of JOY!Magazine,[4] which he had received the night before from an aunt, suggesting that I let him have it when I am through with it.  Being on what he termed a “golf fast," he then left for the study, located directly across the passage from the entrance to the kitchen, as he usually did in the mornings, to have his "quite time.”

A few minutes later I also decided to leave.  As I turned and walked out the kitchen towards the passage leading to the bathroom, I noticed the passageway was filled with thick white smoke.  Alarm bells went off in my head!  Even though I could not smell anything burning, my immediate thought was that we were in danger as the house was on fire!

Wanting to alert my brother-in-the-Lord to our predicament, I instinctively shouted his name, saying, "The passage is full of smoke! Come and see!"  Not responding, I had no option but to step into the corridor filled with smoke.  From my thighs downward everything was obscured, leaving me unable to even see my legs or feet.  Glancing left, down the hallway, towards his parent's and the other bedrooms; I noticed the same layer of smoke throughout, covering the full length and width of the passage.  The hallway to my right was also filled with smoke.  Peculiarly, no smoke had filled the drawing- or dining room leading off it.

Sensing an emergency and the need to act quickly, I opened the door to the study to see why there was no response.

There I noticed the same static layer of smoke.  Rather than filling the whole room, as one would have expected, it only hugged one wall of the study, the one straight ahead of me, to my brother-in-the Lord’s right, who was sitting behind a desk.  The rest of the room was completely smoke free.  This struck me as odd.

Staring at me, my brother-in-the-Lord seemed totally at peace, oblivious, it seems, to it all, sensing no danger or cause for alarm.

In the corner, on the opposite side of the room, at the end of the layer of smoke, I noticed mist.  It was flowing right through the ceiling, moving in a circular motion—forming a pillar!  Dumbstruck, observing this extraordinary sight, it realized I was no longer looking at a house on fire—but staring at a living being!  I stood there transfixed, in total awe.

For reasons of His own, the Lord did not allow my brother-in-the-Lord to see any of it and, before I knew it, neither could I.   In an instant, as if into thin air, it had all completely vanished.

Trying to make sense of it, whilst attempting to describe to my brother-in-the-Lord what I had just witnessed, I suddenly recalled a similar incident, during 1995 in a Jerusalem apartment, when smoke also inexplicably filled a room.

God had blessed me by allowing me to live in Israel for almost three years.  At the time this occurred, I stayed in an apartment leased by a Syrian sister-in-the-Lord.  As far as I can recall, we were the only people residing there at the time.  Around midday one day, as I opened the door to the apartment, I was faced with a cloud of smoke filling almost the entire “entrance hall.”[5]  It looked like cigarette smoke; so much so, I was convinced that my flat mate secretly smoked (even though it was odorless and was more voluminous than ordinary exhaled cigarette smoke).

Staring at all of this, the landlady exited my bedroom.  She had been spending time there in prayer, said she.  When I asked her if she secretly smoked she assured me she did not, but her whole demeanor made me suspicious.

Thereafter I began noticing the term "smoke” throughout Scripture, both in relation to God (Ex 19.18; Is 4.5, 6.4; Jl 2.30; etc.) and Satan (Rev 9.2-3, 17; 14.11).   Not seeking God’s council, this unfortunately/predictably led me to erroneously believe or conclude that what I had seen originated from the demonic realm.

So, after all this, as I eventually headed towards the bathroom, I absentmindedly asked[6] Him, “Lord, what was that?” "My Glory and My Presence," He instantly replied.[7]  Although I accepted His answer, the magnitude of it all still remained a mystery.

In the bathroom I cursorily paged through the Joy!Magazine, making a mental note of the various articles, and the order in which I wanted to read them, when I noticed a heading entitled “Finding the Pearl of Great Price.”  Glancing down the page I then read these words: 

"The first thing that happened to me was that one night, after a revival meeting, I walked into a room after coming from the bathroom.  The whole room was filled with a cloud and at first I thought there was soap or cream in my eyes (I also thought something was wrong with my eyesight).  I wanted to go back to the bathroom but as I left the cloud was gone.  I called one of my friends that was coming down the hallway to come and see the cloud (as I did).  As I entered the room the cloud was gone (as in my case).
Just then another one of our roommates came in and I started to tell them what I saw (as I did).  As I was still talking the cloud came back and it was so thick we almost could not see through it (neither could I, but in my case it did not re-appear).  It was almost like a mist (the term I had used) and it moved like mist (exactly what I saw in the corner of the study).  We started shaking and manifesting but didn't know what we saw (I did not manifest, but neither did I know what it was).
 The next day we told our leaders what we saw, but they didn't know what it was either and just said ‘Wonderful, bless you, bless you.’
At the end of the week Bob Edwards, a well known prophet in Canada, came to give a teaching at the school.  He started to tell us about God's presence (the term the Lord used in response to my question) and how he would see it in the form of a cloud or a mist (obviously what I saw).  He also saw it in church as a mist above the people or on the stage or whatever.  Then we knew what we saw (me too, with God using this particular article to confirm what He had told me a few minutes earlier!).  Since that day I have often seen God's mist over people (regretfully I have not, but have longed, as Moses did, to again see His glory[8])."

Reading the aforementioned, I instantly knew that God has used this article to confirm what I had seen and what He had told me.  Telling me, ashamedly, instantly ought to have settled the revelation of Himself.  But for reasons of His own, He elected to confirm it via the article.  How seldom do we straight away, unreservedly and wholeheartedly, heed His voice!  Truly gracious and marvelous are the myriad ways in which He conducts His affairs, get our attention and speaks to all of us!

I have been blessed with wonderful encounters with the living God throughout the years, and have had the privilege of witnessing His hand in extraordinary ways, but the manner in which He does things never ceases to amaze me.  Needless to say, I was dumbfounded by the revelation of Himself to a mere mortal like me!

God’s glory to me was an Old Testament theological “concept” which I though I understood.  The Israelites, Moses and Ezekiel, among others, had the awesome privilege of encountering Him in His glory, but all of that I though belonged to the distant past.  Not for one second did I contemplate that we likewise could see and experience His glory today.

I have heard ministers of God talk about His glory on television and heard preachers mention it from the pulpit or in books but His manifest presence, experienced firsthand, truly astonished me.  I had seen Him, of whom all these passages of Scripture make reference, myself!  Who was I to encounter the living God thus?  In the overall scheme of things I do not matter at all! 

When Christians reference the eternal nature of Jesus they usually quote Hebrews 13.8: “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, today, and forever.  God’s revelation to Malachi is equally valid, “For I [am] the Lord, I do not change…”[9]  In the context of this posting, it means if He appeared to others in His glory in the past, He will likewise reveal Himself to some today.  He is truly not a respecter of persons.[10]

Three days after this incident Nicky van der Westhuizen came to preach at a local assembly, mainly prophetically confirming the assignments of various believers, including myself.

He shared how he received a prophetic word in which God stated that He was going to change the course or direction of his ministry, and how He did so on an extraordinary day in Cape Town.  From then on he too could see the cloud in the meetings he conducted.

Prior to this, Dave Hockey also ministered at this particular assembly.  One evening, which I unfortunately did not attend, he fell down under the glory of the Lord.  When someone called the pastor, he too fell down—and remained prostrate before the Lord the entire meeting!  Months later the pastor related to me how he saw a thick black cloud; that it was so heavy he couldn't get up from the floor.

Some of the other things Nicky van der Westhuizen shared were truly marvelous.

So even though I have read about God's glory in Scripture and in articles, and have heard about it from the "pulpit," I still didn't really relate to it all in a personal manner.  But having experienced the living God in this way, for days, weeks and months afterwards, almost in a daze, I wondered what it all meant.

Why did God come to me in such a way?  Having searched the Scriptures anew regarding God’s presence and glory, in light of this revelation, I am, for ease of reference, attaching some of my observations here.[11]  Based on these extracts, and your own study of Scripture (if you are inclined to do so, and I hope you are), you no doubt will draw your own conclusions.

Personally, I am of the opinion that we are increasingly going to experience God’s manifest Presence in the days ahead and that some of us are going to minister His purposes from or out of His glory.  This will be totally unfamiliar to most Christians and will astound many.

God’s Glory is a sovereign manifestation of Himself, as and when He pleases.  And yet, Moses saw Him in His glory after he requested seeing Him thus.  Some of us will likewise also powerfully encounter Him, on the face of the earth, as He goes about His purposes and we too interact with Him accordingly. 

May you and I be graced and blessed to experience Glory[12]—the living God in His splendor.

[1] I saw His glory in an extended open vision.  Such a vision is as real as looking at any person or object in person.  I know it was a vision only because my brother-in-the-Lord, who was in the same room at the time I encountering the Lord thus, did, for reasons only known to God, not see His glory.
[2] Unfortunately not a subject matter which is one of my strengths but which, for various reasons, intrigues me.
[3] Now known as the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
[4] Or so I thought.  It was actually the May 1988 issue.
[5] Actually, oddly, a vast open space, serving as a kitchen (with an adjoining dining room) with all the other rooms leading off it.
[6] “So I [Jesus] say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Lk 11.9-10, annotation and emphasis mine.)
[7] Via a “still small voice” (1 Ki 19.12) or what is also known as a “word of knowledge” (1 Co 12.8).  Please refer to footnote 10 for more detailed Scriptural references.
[8]And he [Moses] said, “Please, show me Your glory.” 19 Then He [God] said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” (Ex 33.18-23, annotation and emphasis mine.)
[9] Malachi 3.6
[10] Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Act 10.34)

[11] God's glory is often referred to as a cloud. (e.g. Ex 19.18)  I was also awestruck when I realized the obvious, that smoke proceeds from a ‘fire’ i.e. God's Presence. (Dt 4.24; Ex 19.18; Da 7.9) and that both a cloud and smoke are used in relation to God. (e.g. Ex 19.9, 18)  No doubt it signifies God's Presence—exactly what He had told me.
     Incidentally, the word "mist" only appears three times in Scripture (Ge 2.6; Ac 13. 11 & 2 Pe 2.17). However, the Hebrew word for cloud, ‘anan’ (Strong’s 6051), means "cloud; fog (i.e. mist); storm cloud; smoke," according to Vine's complete expository dictionary (see the attached) and it signifies a cloud mass distinct from clouds we can see with the naked eye.
     I also noticed the following.  God ('s).
·         led Israel with a cloud, i.e. His Presence. (Ex 13.21, 14.19, cf. 33.15-19),
·         reveals His glory thus (Dt 5.22; Ex 16.10),
·         came to his servants thus (Ex 19.9; Nu 11.25),
·         spoke to His servants from it (Ex 34.7),
·         spoke to all assembled thus (Dt 5.23-27),
·         dwells in thick darkness (2 Ch 6.1),
·         came to the Israelites thus when they worshipped in unity (2 Ch 5.13),
·         fills a place in this manner with His Presence (2 Ch 5.13, 7.2),
·         (does not?) allow(s) men to walk or move about in His glory (2 Ch 7.2),
·         Presence thus causes men to worship Him (2 Ch 7.3),
·         fire is associated with the cloud and smoke (Ex 24.17 See also Dt 4.24),
·         abides like this, sometimes for prolonged periods of time (Ex 24.18),
·         gave the law and other instructions from the midst of it (Ex 34),
·         glory rubbed off after Moses had been in His Presence for a prolonged period (Ex 34.29),
·         looked from it upon men (Ex 14.24),
·         acts from it (Ex 14.24),
·         intervenes from it to protect His servants (Nu 14.10; Nu 16.42; Nu 12.5),
·         ministers to and via men thus in relation to His divine plans and purposes (Nu 14.11ff; Dt 5.31),
·         came thus to Moses whenever He spoke to him (Ex 33.10),
·         showed Himself to others likewise (Ex 33.10),
·         came  "down in the pillar of cloud" and spoke from it (Nu 12.5),
·         instructs men from it  (Nu 12.4-9),
·         appears to men when they humble themselves before Him seeking His counsel (Nu 20.6ff) ,
·         settles disputes against His servants from it (Nu 12.1-9),
·         passes judgment from it  (Nu 12.10; Nu 16.11),
·         appeared “in the cloud,” “above the mercy seat” on the day of atonement (and possibly also at other times) (Le 16.2),
·         sanctified the tabernacle (and it seems Israel) by it  (Ex 29.43),
·         came down thus to deal with people who have spoken against His servants, and thus against Him.  (Nu 12.5, 16.42),
·         spread a cloud over His throne (Job 26.9),
·         is surrounded by "clouds and darkness" (Ps 97.2),
·         spoke to Peter, James and John from it in a vision  (Mt 17.5, 9),
·         appeared thus to Aaron as a result of a prophesy by Moses (Le 9.4-6,23),
·         "appeared" to the Israelites congregating at Aaron's first offering for himself and the assembled people, and "fire" fell on the offering.  (Le 9.23-24),
·         appearance thus had been prophetically foretold  (Le 9.4, 6, 23),
·         appeared at the inauguration of Joshua and spoke to Moses (Dt 31.14),
·         appeared in His glory (and acted) when the Israelites complained against his servants (Nu  12.5, 10; 14.10, 22; 16.42-44),
·         appeared when the tabernacle of meeting was finished, in that the "cloud" covered the tabernacle and God's glory filled it (Ex 40;34),
·         cloud filled the house and the glory of the Lord filled the temple, built by Solomon, after the ark of the covenant (along with all the holy furnishings that were in the tabernacle) was brought to it; prior to Solomon’s prayer of dedication (2 Ch 5.13-14),
·         leads people by means of  it   (Ex 40.36-37),
·         appears thus  (Nu 12.5),
·         fills a place thus (1 Ki 8.11; 2 Ch 5.14; 7.2),
·         Yeshua (“His salvation”) is God’s glory and must be proclaimed to the world as such  from day to day (1 Ch 16.23-24),
·         Wants us to give Him the glory due Him (1 Ch 16.28ff),
·         Name is Glory (Je 2.11; Ps 29.9),
·         Will plead His case again with Israel “face to face” before Jesus’ return (Ez 20.35ff).
     In addition it states that:
·         it the “cloud of the Lord” (Nu 10.34),
·         the Angel of God (Jesus) moved "in" it (Ex 14.19 See also Lk 21.27),
·         Jesus was taken up in a cloud (I suspect By God Himself) (Act 1.9),
·         Jesus will again “come in a cloud” (with clouds,” Rev 1.7 or “on clouds,” Mt 24.30) with great power and glory (Lk 21.27),
·         God's glory departed after the defilement of the temple and when the ark was captured, (Eze 10.4; 1 Sa 4.21 [cf. Ex 25.22; Le 16.2]),
·         God's glory will return to the temple in Jerusalem.  This is not Jesus, as the glory of God, but His glorious Presence. (Eze 43.1-7)  Oh, Hallelujah,
·         one can request to see God thus  (Ex 33.18),
·         is known as the “God of Glory” (Ps 29.3).

     The Evangelic Dictionary of Biblical Theology makes, among others, the following comments concerning the “Theopanic cloud:”
     “This sign of God’s Presence is termed variously.
·         pillar of cloud (Ex 13.21-22, plus eleven times),
·         a pillar of fire and cloud (Ex 14.24),
·         a thick cloud (Ex 19.9,16),
·         the cloud (Ex 14.24, plus thirty-three times),
·         and the cloud of the Lord (Ex 43.38; Num 10.34).”
     In addition it says. “The pillar of cloud motif - set fort in the exodus account and expanded in the prophetic announcements of the new exodus after the Babylonian exile - encompasses a rich complex of theological meanings and functions:
·         guidance/leading (of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness to Canaan, Ex 13.21; Num 14.14; Ne 9;12; Ps 78.14);
·         a signal for movement (breaking and setting up camp, Ex 40. 36-37; Num 9.17-23);
·         protection from danger (as a barrier of darkness between Israel and the Egyptians, Ex 14.19-20);
·         the sustained, immediate, personal presence of Yahweh/the Angel of the Lord (Ex 13.22; 14.19, 24; 40.38; Num 9.15-16);
·         an agency of summons (to battle, Num 10.34-35; and to worship, Ex 33.10);
·         both a concealment and manifestation of divine glory (Ex 16.10; 19.9, 16; 20.21; 24.15-18; 34.5; Deut 4.11; 5.22);
·         the place of propositional revelation (as a oracular cloud, Ex 33.9; Ps 99.7);
·         the dwelling place/throne of divinity (over the tabernacle, Num 9.18, 22; 10.11; and in particular over the mercy seat, Lev 16.2) (“i.e. the Shekinah glory or a God ‘who dwells’”);
·         the locus of cultic theopany (for the investiture of the seventy elders and Joshua, Num 11.25; Deut 31.15; for the inauguration of the tabernacle, Ex 40.34-35);
·         shade/protection from the sun or storm (Num 10.34; Ps 105.39; Isa 4.5);
·         illumination (as a pillar of fire by night, Ex 14.20; Num 9.15);
·         and an agency of legal investigation and/or executive judgment (against Israel’s enemies, Ex 14.24; and against rebels within Israel, Num 12.5, 10; 16.42);
·         The remaining twenty-two new testament occurrences of the word ‘cloud’ appear in context of theophany, and encompass six theologically crucial, eschatologically related events or visionary scenes in salvation history;
·         the pillar of cloud of exodus, viewed as a type of Christian baptism in the time of eschatological fulfillment (1 Cor 10.1-2);
·         Jesus’ transfiguration, as a foretaste of the kingdom of God, during which the Father appears and speaks in a cloud (Matt 17.5; Mark 9.7; Luke 9.34);
·         Jesus’ ascension, explained by the angels as a paradigm for His return (Acts 9.1);
·         the ‘mighty angel’ descending from heaven wrapped in a cloud, announcing (against the escathological backdrop of Dan 12.7) that time should be no longer (Rev 10.1);
·         the two resurrected witnesses ascending to heaven in a cloud, described in the context of the escathological measuring of the temple of God (Rev 11.12); and
·         Jesus’ parousia, against the backdrop of Dan 7.13, as the Son of Man coming with/on/in a cloud/the clouds/the clouds of heaven (Matt 24.30; 26.64; Mark 13.26; 14.64; Luke 12.54; 21.27; 1 Thess 4.17; Rev 1.7; 14.14-16).”

[12] Glory is one of God’s names.  Jeremiah 2.11 declares: “Has a nation changed [its] gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory.”