Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 148, 149, 150, 114, 115
How do we recognize God’s presence around us?
A friendly ghost lives in one wing of the building where I work. She does no harm, but sometimes pulls little pranks like opening and closing doors so the person present knows she is there. On a couple occasions she appeared to people working in that part of the building into the evening (that’s how we know “she” is “she”). As Christians, we hear about the presence of God through the Holy Spirit being with us, but much like the ghost, it can be hard to identify the real presence and influence of God. Today’s passages all give us some clue to understanding how God is in our daily lives as he was with the ancient Israelites and the disciples of the early church.
The Psalms today explode with praise of God. They celebrate his role with his people and provision for them; they hold up his power over all creation; they focus on his supremacy over all false gods as those idols are the product of mankind’s hand while mankind is the product of God’s hand. The Psalms present complete joy across the verses and offer a foundation for jubilant praise. Particularly through the Psalms, the celebrants recognize the continuity of God’s care for his people.
The continuity of care shines through the Joshua passage. Since Moses has died, God now speaks directly to Joshua as he gives him the directions for moving into the promised land. Joshua then gives directions to leaders of the people. The leaders promise allegiance and follow Joshua’s orders. Each of these events mirror the way the messages from God went out to his people under Moses. God spoke to Moses. Moses spoke to the people. The people (mostly) obeyed. That continuity offers one clue to knowing when God’s presence surrounds us.
As Paul and his cohort traveled between many of the early churches, we see a consistent message coming to him about what will happen on his return to Jerusalem. The people of Tyre, the prophet at Caesarea all shared an identical message of harm coming to Paul if he returned to Jerusalem. Despite the consistency of the message, Paul presses on to deliver the message God charged him to deliver.
Mark jumps directly into Jesus’s ministry. In this early passage we see an “unclean spirit” recognize Jesus, address him, and ultimately obey him. The “Godness” of Jesus shows through in the passage because that power and greatness he possesses was instantly recognizable by the supernatural spirit and it called him by name. The demon recognized Christ’s character and acted accordingly.
From these passages we can learn that God’s presence with us has continuity, consistency, and character. The more we know God, the more we can recognize these essential traits in commands that come from him. The command will further the continuity of God’s kingdom. The command will be consistent from all sources (and with our knowledge of God). Ultimately, the command represents the character of God.
Just like those of us who work in the one wing of my building know the ghost because of the way she acts, we can know God’s presence around us because of the way that message comes to us. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s interactions with his people. The passages today help us focus on specific characteristics of those interactions so we can be more closely attuned God’s presence all around us.
Let us every day look for the continuity, consistency, and character of your presence interacting with our lives and give us the awareness to respond accordingly.