The Story So Far
As we saw in my last post, God is purposeful. He works in this world to accomplish his objectives, one of the most significant being the presence of God restored to sinners and the world. We saw how this goal characterizes the last few chapters of the Bible (Rev. 21-22), Eden and the purposes of Adam, the curses of the fall, and God’s covenant promises.
The question that still remains, though, relates to how this beautiful objective will be accomplished in our dark and broken world. Clearly, Adam wasn’t the answer. Neither was Cain, nor any who followed him. The Old Testament is full of examples of humans who ultimately failed to fully and perfectly fulfill God’s purposes . . . for humanity and for the world.
Present to Redeem
But strangely, this is where the story gets good. As Harvey Dent tells us in The Dark Knight, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.” And against the dark, dark backdrop of Adam’s sin shines the glory of God’s redemptive presence. As humanity proved incapable of fulfilling God’s purposes from the very beginning, God, in his grace, became present to do what man was unable to do.
As humanity proved incapable of fulfilling God’s purposes from the very beginning, God, in his grace, became present to do what man was unable to do.
Remarkably, the presence of God is not only a future objective awaiting fulfillment, it is also the way God will accomplish all that he has set out to accomplish. So, just as the water of the rivers flow to fill the waters of the ocean, God’s presence brings us into God’s presence. In other words, God becomes redemptively present to bring his perfect, unlimited presence to the entire world.
Our first point—God’s objective to bring his people into his presence eternally—therefore, drives our second point—God is present to redeem. So while the presence of God is an end of redemption, it is simultaneously the means by which the Lord accomplishes this goal. The presence of God, then, is both future-oriented and instrumental: the Lord becomes present in redemption to direct his people to the final experience of his presence described in Revelation 21-22.
God’s Redemptive Presence on Every Page
As you can imagine, the redemptive presence of God floods the pages of Scripture. It ties together the major plot points found in salvation history. As we see at the beginning, God walks with Adam in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). He stoops low to care for Adam, speak with him, and simply relate to him. He draws near to judge and discipline the first man as well. Likewise, God is present with Abraham and his offspring. He reveals himself to Moses and the people of Israel. God becomes manifest to deliver his people from exile, to display his glory atop Sinai, and direct them by his presence in fire and cloud to the Land of Promise. In the Old Testament, God is present to orchestrate Israel’s history, bringing the nation to its pinnacle under David and Solomon’s reign, institute the temple, and then cast his wayward nation into the depths of the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles.
And what is the answer to Israel’s despair in the dispersion? It is the hope of Christ, the true Immanuel, the ultimate expression of “God with us.” And now, in the time between Christ’s first and second comings, the presence of God comes in the Spirit to indwell and prepare his people for that treasure David sings of in Psalm 16: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (vs. 11).
Even in such a brief description as this, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the Lord is the active agent of salvation. God is present to redeem. God is present to bring us back into his presence forever.