I have been reading A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God recently, and it has completely changed my perception of concepts like the presence of God, His Shekinah glory, drawing near to Him, and other overlooked phrases.
When Israel built the tabernacle, they witnessed in part the real, tangible, trembling glory of God. Only the high priest, however, could come into the innermost part of the tabernacle to witness the glory unmasked. In fact Moses asked God to show him His glory, but God could not show His face because no man could see his face and live.
Now that God has ripped apart the Veil, the separation between man and God, we ourselves can enter into a clearer, more intimate experience of this real, tangible, spiritual glory. How much more powerful is this glory now that the veil has been removed? It is a pity that most Christians do not get beyond the seemingly metaphorical words like “glory”, “relationship”, “face to face”, and others. We seem stuck on the “elementary teaches,” as Hebrews puts it, of salvation, grace, baptism, and church foot washing.
Do not be content with reading God’s Word without the desperation of listening to His voice and seeking a glimpse of His face daily. This is not some tingly feeling, but a mind-blowing revelation. The Christian men who have made the most impact on history are the ones who have daily sought God’s face. In fact, the very definition of faith involves looking at God.
Tozer makes an incredibly profound statement in the chapter “The Gaze of the Soul.” When God sent serpents to attack the Israelites, they cried for His mercy. He then commanded Moses to fashion a bronze serpent on a pole, and when the penitent individual gazed at the serpent, he did not die from the venom of the serpents. Notice that the looking was an act of faith—obedience to God’s instruction.
This equivalence of looking and believing (faith) carries on to the New Testament, when the writer of Hebrews says “Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith.” The writer is urging us to put our faith in Christ incessantly—the very act of gazing at His face helps us set our priorities on Him and leads to obedience. Later, the writer asserts that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” When we look toward God with our spiritual eyes, we are putting our faith in Him at the same time. When we lose sight of God is when we forget Him, as Israel did, and many perished while showered with earthly blessings.
Today, America suffers from lack of spiritual eyes that literally see God, so it transfers its faith to earthy pleasures it can see and hear. It’s too bad those things don’t last, and provide no credible basis in which to require faith. The church in part is to blame because we have watered down the Scriptures that elaborate on this awe-inspiring phenomena of a one-on-one communion with God, where we see and feel and taste His presence. It is not something we can instantly see with a prayer. We must beg God to purify us so we can see and hear Him without the self-formed veil that is our flesh. After all, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” And, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…”
One more thought that chilled me. In Hebrews again the writer explains that Abraham, a frequent model of faith, did not receive what was promised. Rather, he saw it and welcomed it from a distance. The second part used to puzzle me until I realized that the act of seeing these promises was the textbook definition of faith. It was as if the promise was already there in front of him. He had such assurance of the things hoped for that he saw, gazed upon, beheld it.
Today, instead of simply browsing through your Bible, beg God to remove the veil (the fleshly desires) from you, weed out the impurities, and give you a pure heart both to see Him and hear from Him in the most amazing, real way. Not only will He give you new insights into the Scriptures you study, but His face—shining like the sun—and voice—merely a whisper—will become clearer and clearer as you let Him cleanse you.
I have just now started on this new journey in the faith myself, so I can’t say I see Him or recognize His voice very well right now. I have begged Him to crucify specific problems I know are not pleasing to Him, I daily put the flesh to death and instead exercise the fruit of the Spirit, and I am spending time not just asking requests of God, but dwelling on Scripture, asking Him to show Himself to me, asking Him to wash off my impurities. We really can “draw to the throne for grace and mercy in time of need.” It’s not just flowery words. It’s truth. And it really excites me that there is more to Christianity than church, Bible study, and the tithe. There is no other religion that can promise real, perpetual experience in the presence of God Himself.
Draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you. As you get closer, you will find the impurities will melt away in the heat of his nearing Glory.
That is what I call awesome.