The Cloud of Glory
THE CLOUD OF GLORY
PREACHER – ANTONIO COPPOLA
Re:Volve, 15 April 2012
Reading – 1 Kings 8: 6-11
New series – ‘Seek His Presence’, new season – sensing God move in a new and fresh way. Heart of this (us as leadership) – us as a church together to intentionally seek out and experience more of the presence of God here on a Sunday evening, and for ourselves in our own lives.
God is here, his presence is in this place – that is his promise to us in his Word – we don’t need to doubt that. Jesus said in Mt 28 that he will be with us always, right to the end of this age (v.20). But there are times when we sense the Spirit more than other times. It’s as if God is nearer and we can feel him, experience his power and grace tangibly. Then there are times when, although he is here, we may not necessarily sense his presence. How often have you had the experience where it seems like everyone else is encountering God, except you? Or you come out of a time of worship having powerfully experienced God, yet the person next to you is left cold by it?
Tonight – and intention for the next few weeks in the run up to Pentecost – is that we learn to become more sensitive to God’s presence here, soften our hearts towards him, and experience him in greater ways than we have been. Yes affirm what he has done recent past – testimonies of healing, breakthrough and transformation in lives here, tangible presence here and prophecy – awesome! I think these are just glimpses – I believe that God still wants to do more – deeper and greater things here and in our lives, overflow into families, friends, community…. There is always more in the kingdom…
Clarify something before get into this – let’s hold in healthy tension God’s sovereignty and our free will in terms of experiencing his presence. Explain –
God’s sovereignty – he is here because he is God, and he will do what he wants. He has poured out his grace on us, there is nothing more that we can do, except receive his blessing and his presence. Not anything of our own doing, God sovereignly pours out his presence because he is God.
Our free will – while God is sovereign, he has given us free will. While he has chosen us, we are free to resist his presence and even harden our hearts to him. While his grace and favour are already over us, as our inheritance his sons, through what Jesus did on the cross, there is still a role for us to play in terms of how much of him we are willing to experience. God honours those who hungry and thirsty for him. Jer 29: 13, those who seek me will find me…
1 Kings 8: 10-11
“And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD.”
Awesome! What’s happening here? King Solomon has just built the new temple in Jerusalem, which is to be the focal point of worship for all of Israel. This is the opening day – the priests bring in the Ark of the Covenant – the box containing the Ten Commandments that the Israelites had carried around the desert before they entered the Promised Land. The carry it into the Most Holy Place, the area of the Temple that only the priests could enter. Then they come out into the main Temple area, where all the worshippers are and boom, the glory of the Lord manifests in the place – a cloud fills the Temple – and as a result of the thickness and power of God’s presence there, the priests fall over, unable to minister, on the floor, flattened by the presence of God! Come on!!!
What’s up with this cloud? Why does God manifest himself as a cloud here? If you know your Bible, you’ll know that it’s not the only place where this happens. Israelites coming out of Egypt – God manifests his presence to lead them as a cloud during the day and fire at night. Later on in Scripture, Ezekiel has prophetic visions of God’s presence like a cloud, leaving and returning to the Temple (e.g. 10: 3-4).
The Hebrew word for cloud in all these cases is actually a thunder cloud (picture). This is no little puffy white pansy cloud – it’s huge, black, menacing, flashing with lightening, surging with power, rumbling with deafening noise, about to let loose rain and hail. Similar picture of what Moses and the Israelites witnessed on Mt Sinai when God manifested himself. I would imagine a similar sight when Jesus comes back to earth. Many times in the Bible where it describes him returning on the clouds. Somehow I don’t think they’re going to be little white puffy clouds…
So God manifesting his glory through mighty big black thunderstorm clouds tells us a lot about God’s presence & glory –
- Presence of God is literally powerful – electric – shocks, shaking & sparks when filled with Holy Spirit
- Presence of God gives us personal revelation of God’s awe, might – priests fell down, we can tremble, collapse in his presence – healthy fear of God. ‘Glory’ here in Hebrew means ‘weight’ or ‘heaviness’ – glory literally weighs us down with God’s presence. Ever felt weight on hands?
- Presence of God brings rain – thunder clouds always bring rain – so does the glory – refreshing of the Spirit on our hearts. Rain of God melts and softens our hard and dry hearts, brings renewal and new life to us, living waters of Christ that start to well up within us. I am sustained by this living water. I can feel when I have let the busy-ness of life over take me, and not spent enough quality time just soaking in God’s presence and drinking from the well – I feel thirsty and dry, start doing things in my own strength – I need to drink from living waters every day to sustain and grow God’s life in me.
At the same time, it is possible to harden ourselves to God’s presence and glory. Glory can manifest right here, which it does, some of us in awe, others would not even be slightly affected. I have heard once or twice – ‘there is no Holy Spirit at the evening service’. Wow, what a harsh judgement to make. Very dangerous to say stuff like that – calling into question God himself. Meantime, many of us right here are having incredible and life-changing encounters with God. Isn’t the problem more to do with the state of our own hearts, rather than God himself?
Jesus is the glory of God (Heb 1:3). Where Jesus is, his glory manifests. Where the presence of God is, Jesus is there too. When Jesus walked this earth, God’s glory came with him – the kingdom came when he ministered – people got healed, demons were bound, blind eyes opened, lost were found, sinners were forgiven, those in bondage and pain were released into freedom and healing.
I find it interesting that there were two opposite and extreme reactions to Jesus revealing God’s glory. Either people flocked to him and selflessly followed him (Gospels talk about many crowds that came to him when he was doing his ministry) – they recognised the glory in him. Or people loathed and hated him – most notably the Pharisees and religious leaders – they could not recognise God’s glory, it offended them.
Many examples of this in the Gospels, one in particular, John 9 – Jesus heals a blind guy on the Sabbath – pause – wow – blind eyes opened, how awesome! Not so for the Pharisees – it was an offence because he did it on the Sabbath, naughty, naughty. Do we see how they totally missed the point – God’s glory was manifested right in front of them, and their hearts were too hardened to recognise or perceive him? Sad!
It can be the same with us though – God can be doing a mighty work in front of us and we can totally miss it because we have hardened our hearts. I’m certain that most of us don’t intend this and that we genuinely want to experience and encounter more of God, right? I want to look at three things in our heart attitude that can help us experience more of God and his glory…
Hard hearts think – ‘I’m okay as I am, I don’t need any more of God’. Personified the Pharisees – they had God sorted in their minds, didn’t see the need for Jesus.
A kingdom-focused heart is always hungry and thirsty for more. There is a desperation in us for God, his Word, his Spirit and everything about the kingdom. Mt 5: 6 – “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Approach God and worship with this hunger – he can only satisfy those who have an appetite. If we’re full, we won’t get to taste anything new.
When I talk about brokenness, I don’t mean that we need to be people who constantly dwell on our pain and live in victim mode. Having a heart attitude of brokenness for me means that instead of being full of ourselves – our pride and our desire to be in control, we realise our need and dependence for God. We surrender and submit to God. We come to God with the attitude of, ‘Lord I need you, I cannot do this on my own!’
Isaiah 66: 2 says that God looks at, “he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Expectancy & Faith
Jesus’ greatest rebukes in the Gospels were directed at his disciples’ lack of faith. God is wanting to do so much more than we realise here… We can limit God by our own lack of expectation and faith for him to move. It’s easy to get into a comfort zone and rut with God and not expect new things and become apathetic.
Let’s come to church and let’s approach God in our worship to him with expectation that he is going to move in power. The Kingdom is at hand, it’s God’s will to want to break heaven through in this place now, he wants to speak to us, he wants to heal people, he wants the captives set free, he wants to rain down his Spirit here with power, he wants the lost to come to him – and he wants me to step out and risk in his name. Intentionally seek his presence – how do you sense and host the presence of God personally? Hands, mouth, peace, tingling – seek him! Don’t be apathetic!!! Step out in faith here – prophesy, Scripture, tongues, release gifts of the Spirit, not just guys up in the front – we have the freedom to go for it!
Let’s not hold back when it comes to God’s presence – I would rather us be a church that gets messy than a church which is predictable, dry and in which nothing really happens!
His cloud is here – his glory is in this place because Jesus is here. Open heaven here tonight. Let’s drink up what God is pouring down tonight – more of his glory, his rain, his power in this place. I don’t want to miss out on what God is doing – hard heart. Don’t want to be lifeless, powerless and dead – that’s what we are and become when we thwart God’s presence. Open, thirsty, soft, hungry, expectant hearts – will experience more of what God is already doing…