The Angel of
"My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." (Ex.33.14).
These lovely words, so full of encouragement and promise, were spoken to Moses whilst he was bringing the children of God through the "terrible wilderness" of temptation and trial, to the Promised Land. They also, surely, apply to all who today are seeking the "secret place" of the Lord's overshadowing wings in this present "wilderness" of doubt and confusion which is bringing us to the crossing of Jordan, and the Land of Canaan.
How well Moses understood the promise is clear to see by the fact that he looked to the Lord continually on every occasion of strife, difficulty or doubt. That the Lord's Presence was known to be with him was likewise clear by the Lord's response to his appeals in the sight of the people. In the words with which Moses answered the Lord, there is a wonderful view of the at-one-ness of Moses with God. Ponder carefully these revealing words in these days of darkness and doubt. "Wherein shall it be known that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the earth." (v.16).
It is by the Lord's Presence with us, then, that we know that we have found grace in his sight. Jesus made the same promise to his disciples, saying to them "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world" (or age). John, in his epistles, shows how we know that the Presence of God is with us; "And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." (1 John 3.24). If we have the Holy Spirit as our Guide and Comforter, we are safely led through all doubt and confusion and conflicting voices, by the indwelling Spirit of Jesus Christ, and we are enabled to discern the true mouthpieces of God, those who speak by his Spirit, and those who do not: "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God".
Another gracious promise is given to those who are guided by the Spirit of God, for John says: "the anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you". How difficult some find this promise to accept and to make their own, and to rely upon the guidance of the Spirit which abides in us. Yet He is faithful who promised that "he will guide you into all truth" and also that "he will shew you things to come". (John 16.13). "Where Thou art Guide, no ill can come." As we come to realise more and more the Presence of the Indwelling Spirit, we become more and more sure of guidance. We learn to trust the still small voice of the Spirit; like Elijah on Mount Horeb, we feel we must "wrap our face in our mantle"—a sign of deep humility, for our Mantle is the Robe of Christ's righteousness, by which alone we can stand before the Lord, and in which alone we are "accepted in the Beloved". "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3. 5). Again John says "Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit" (1 John 4.13.)
What a wondrous gift is this. His "free gift" to all, bringing with it all that we need for enlightenment, and spiritual progress; the Spirit of help and support, of strength in times of weakness, of upholding power, of protection from the clamouring voices without which distract from the pathway, of encouragement, comfort and cheer when cast down by faults and failures. With Elijah, when he cast himself under the juniper tree we feel inclined to say "Lord it is enough, I can go no further, I have failed utterly, and cannot go on". Then the Angel of the Presence ‑ the still voice of the Spirit ‑ comes to bring refreshment and strength, and food for the journey, until, as Elijah did, we can go in the strength of that food to Horeb ‑ the Mount of God.
All this, and much more, is ours in the gift of the Holy Spirit, until we come to rejoice in the Indwelling Presence and say, morning, noon and night "Praise be to thee for thine unspeakable gift".
Here, then, in this "free gift" of the Holy Spirit, is the fulfilment of the promise made to Moses, "Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which 1 have prepared". The Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, is the Indwelling Spirit of which Paul says:—"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" (1 Cor.3.16). Pray, therefore, that the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit may be imparted and increase more and more. John, in his wonderful vision, sees the Spirit of God dwelling in the hearts of all men, transforming their lives, and gradually winning the world to Christ until—
"All nations shall adore him, His praise all people sing"
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev. 21.3).
Until we have found the Kingdom of God within our own hearts, being "born again of water and of the Spirit", we cannot be effectual in bringing the Kingdom of God into the lives of others. The salt will have lost its savour if we have not the Holy Spirit indwelling, changing, moulding, and conforming to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Above all things will the Holy Spirit teach us to 'love one another'. "If we love one another God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us" (1 John 4. 12).
As, therefore, we are taught by the Holy Spirit to covet the best gifts, so shall we be taught to develop and increase them. Charity, Paul describes as "the bond of perfectness", saying "Above all, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness" (Col.3.14). The fruits of the Spirit, he says are "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith". May we, therefore, seek to realise the Presence of the Indwelling Spirit of God ever more and more, and thus come to trust his sure guidance, to develop his sevenfold gifts, and to claim the promises of God to those who dwell in him, and who have learnt to "Make our hearts thy dwelling-place And worthier thee" As we learn to trust in the Angel of the Presence, we shall indeed find that "He will give you rest".
As through the
wilderness the people went,