I believe that a major key to growing in intimacy with God is having a hunger for His presence. The Bible teaches us that God is omnipresent, which means that His presence is everywhere. But there is a difference between the omnipresence of God and the manifest presence of God.
God’s manifest presence is His presence revealed to us in a tangible way; it is His experiential presence. When I speak of experiencing the manifest presence of God I am not referring to an emotional feeling. It is something tangible and is totally apart from ourselves, though we get to enter into it.
I have heard it said that since God is everywhere we should not speak in terms such as God “showing up” in a meeting or church service. But this type of thinking fails to distinguish between these two types of God’s presence.
For example, while everyone in Jerusalem was in the omnipresence of God on the day of Pentecost, only those in the upper room came into contact with His manifest presence, which came as a rushing wind, tongues of fire, and the supernatural experience of speaking in tongues (see Acts 2:1-4). Certainly, God showed up! We should have a continual hunger and thirst for the manifest presence of God.
Moses was a man who was familiar with the manifest presence of God. While talking with the Lord about entering the Promised Land he said, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).
That is the kind of hunger that God is looking for today. Moses preferred to be in the wilderness with God than to be in the Promised Land without Him. Let’s remember this important principle as we contend for our own spiritual promised land. It is so easy to get caught up in the promises and blessings of God and lose sight of the purpose of it all; to know Him.
One of my favorite Bible passages is Mark 15:37-38 which reads, “And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” I love this passage because it clearly illustrates the unlimited access that we now have to the manifest presence of God.
The veil that was torn in the temple was a thick curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (also called the Holy of Holies). The Holy of Holies was the place where God’s actual tangible presence dwelt in the temple. Only the high priest was permitted to enter into this place, and only one time per year. As soon as Jesus died on the cross this veil was torn from top to bottom, giving us entrance into God’s immediate presence. Hebrews 10:19-22 reads:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Because of the cross every one of us can enter into the Most Holy Place of His presence at any time. Consider what a profound thought that is in light of how limited the access was under the Old Covenant.
We are exhorted to “draw near to God” with the promise that He will then draw near to us (see James 4:8). Every Christian can and should experience the manifest presence of God. Each person’s experience with God’s presence will be different but we can all experience it. Like David, begin to seek the face of God and thirst for His presence, and you will find that He truly rewards those who diligently seek Him.