THE PRESENCE OF GOD                                                                                                           Andy Hollifield 12-17-16

This morning as I lay awake in the bed in the darkness, I began to think about what I could write to encourage folks today. I thought about the presence of God in our day-to-day lives and what a blessing and comfort he is regardless of our circumstances. I am so thankful that I don’t have to wait till I am in church to experience the presence of God. He is always as close as a prayer. I thought about numerous times in the bible, especially when folks were in trouble, that God manifested his presence. One of the early accounts of this was in Genesis 16 when Hagar had fled from Sarai and was alone in the wilderness. God sent his angel to find her and send her back home. He sent her home with a promise pertaining to the well-being of her unborn son. Apparently if God is making promises pertaining to the unborn, he must consider them to be a person while in the womb. God also did that with the mothers of Jesus, Sampson, John the Baptist, Samuel, and probably a lot of others I have failed to mention. That particular point is free and not really part of today’s topic but it definitely makes a strong case against abortion. God again appeared to Hagar in chapter 21 after Abraham had sent her and Ishmael away. He again had an angel talk to her and gave a promise that her young son would one day become a great nation. In her darkest hours, God was always with her. In Genesis chapter 22 the tables have turned and it is now Abraham who was headed into the wilderness to a mountaintop to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord in obedience to God’s command. Again an angel called out to him from heaven and stopped him and provided a ram caught in a thicket to be the sacrifice. Another lesson in that story is that even when you are being completely obedient to the Lord, things may not go the way you think they should. I am sure that a few years earlier when Abraham had been visited by the angel of the Lord, he never imagined that he would ever be on top of a mountain to offer his long-awaited son to be a sacrifice. That is why “we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) We can’t see everything but it is all part of God’s plan for us. If he leads you to it, he will lead you through it. On over in Genesis in chapters 25-50 we read the story of Jacob and how that, even though he was a con man in modern terms, God was with him throughout the remainder of his life in the darkest of times. Everything from the flight from his brother whom he had cheated out of his birthright to his return home years later, to the apparent loss of his favorite son and later the famine that led to the reunion with his son Joseph. Even the story of Joseph from the hatred of his brothers for him, to the lie of Potiphar’s wife in Egypt that led to his long imprisonment. Then the forgetfulness of those he had interpreted dreams for all the way to the number 2 position for this young Jewish slave on the throne of Egypt. If you read his whole story, you would think “there is no way this can be the will of God”. Joseph summed up the events of his life best in Genesis 50:20 when he told his brothers; “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it for good…”.

Time would fail me to tell of the preservation of Moses as a three-month old baby to being the deliverer of Israel from bondage in Egypt even though he was wanted for murder in Egypt. Also the story of Jonah in the “belly of hell”, as he called it, swallowed by a whale after being thrown overboard from a ship during a storm while running in disobedience to the Lord. Even then, God’s presence never departed from him. The spies being preserved and hidden by Rahab, and delivering of the Israelites by Gideon’s small army. The psalmist David probably said it best in Psalms 139:7 “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence”. David had a lot of times in his life when death and or defeat seemed certain but God delivered as he put it “out of them all”. He said in the next verse “If I make my bed in hell, thou art there”. There truly is no place that you will ever be that God is not there with you. Especially in the darkest times, the light of God’s love for you shines the brightest. If you just wait for him, look around. You may not see him yet but he does see you. He knows right where you are and he hasn’t forgotten or forsaken you. He never sleeps and is always on the job. He is the “good shepherd” and he cares for his sheep. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

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