When it comes to dwelling in God’s presence, there are significant differences between the Old and the New Testaments, between the old and new Covenants.
In the Old Testament, God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, which was located within a court accessible only to priests. To be a member of the household of God, to be one of those who served Him directly, was an honourable position and reserved for only a few – and for them, only after they had been ritually cleaned and sanctified. Living in the inner court of the Tabernacle and the Temple, meant they lived from by eating showbread and the sacrificial offerings to God. The psalmist expressed this privilege as he wrote on Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the one whom You choose, and cause to come near You. He shall dwell in Your courts; we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.”
All Israelite believers longed to be in that exalted and chosen position; to be able to able to dwell in God’s presence. This longing and desire is demonstrated throughout His Word as the psalmist asks “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:3)
Dwelling in God’s presence; coming close to God; was seen as an honour, a privilege, something to be desired. They could share His blessings, His love, His fellowship, His protection, all that was and is, the living God. Psalm 31:19-20 expresses desires of the psalmists heart as he says “How great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You; You have worked for those who trust in You before the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secrecy of Your presence from the pride of man; You shall hide them in a shelter away from the strife of tongues.”
But it was severely restricted, as to who may enter and especially who may not enter into the inner court, from which the Holy of Holies was accessed. God had established protocols for all access and for all work and indeed for all that those priests were required to do, while serving Him in the inner court. Even the cleaning of the inner court was controlled and restricted: “And the priests went into the inner part of the house of Jehovah to clean it. And they brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of Jehovah into the court of the house of Jehovah. And the Levites took it out to the torrent Kidron” (Second Chronicles 29:16). Initially, God made all the appointments of those in the inner courts and thereafter, they became hereditary, as Exodus 29:28 says for example in regard of the Aaronic Priests, “And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’ by a statute forever from the sons of Israel.”
For born-again Christians, the situation could not be more different. The blood of Christ opened the way for all Christians, for all believers, into the very presence of God and to intimacy with Him in a deep, spiritual reality. For the believer who knows and understands the Blood of Christ and its real power, her/she should be living in the immediate presence of the Lord, and a recipient of the glorious blessings which that closeness provides. In that closeness, God will impart His love directly, so that it may be experienced and felt. It is an indescribable assurance, from an indescribable God. In such a relationship with God, there is a superabundance of good things just as the psalmist says in Psalm 84:11 “For Jehovah God is a sun and shield; Jehovah will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” And as Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You; because he trusts in You.” Perfect peace, perfect rest, perfect trust.
The difference is, that when God lived in the Holy of Holies, he was only attended on, or the Holy of Holies was only entered, on pain of death, once per year. Even then only after a long and exacting ritual of preparation (Leviticus 16:2-19). As for other times: “Jehovah said to Moses, Speak to Aaron your brother, that he does not come at all times into the sanctuary within the veil before the mercy-seat, which is on the Ark, so that he will not die. For I will appear in the cloud on the mercy-seat.” The reason is clear in Exodus 33:20 as “He said, You cannot see My face. For there no man can see Me and live.”
Compare this to now and what First Corinthians 6:19-20 asks: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have of God? And you are not your own, for you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Yes, we are not our own.
As the Word and the psalmists tell us, those believers of the Old Covenant desperately desired to dwell in closeness with God. It was the highest calling they could imagine. Now, as First Corinthians 6:19 tells us, the Holy Spirit lives in us. We cannot dwell closer to Him. We cannot dwell nearer Him, since He dwells within us. But like a husband and wife sharing the same house and same bed but not talking to each other for years; there is a world of differences between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and a personal relationship with God, and all that follows there from.
Oh, that all believers could see the awesomeness of their situation. Oh, that all believers could see that intimacy with God; fellowship with God; dwelling with God and He with us, are all with us now for the asking. We all have the opportunity of living, true, and authentic Christian life; all we need to do is ask, and reach out. We have all we need before us right now!
Being in fellowship with the Living God has blessings indeed; it is also a wonderful influencer of character. The closer we are to God, the more like God we become in character; for the presence of God brings upon us humility, fear and religious prudence. In life, as we learn from our mentors, we become, whether we like it or not, more like them, little by little. So too it is when we are in the presence of God; we develop more god-like inclinations and tendencies, more righteousness, more holiness and the Fruit of the Spirit is evidence of this change, of these changes within us. For as the psalmist said, “it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in Jehovah God, to declare all Your works” (Psalm 73:28). Let us speak the same and do the same.
Thank You that Your Holy Spirit dwells in me. But I confess before You now; I have lived my life and indeed still live my live as though this were not the case. I have been blind and insensitive to the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit. I humbly ask Your forgiveness and I repent of my selfish attitude and character. I humbly acknowledge that Jesus died for me and bought me at the price of His own life. I now recognise that I am not mine, but Yours; all I have is Yours; all I am is Yours.
Please Father, give me a fresh and new desire for You, to the exclusion of all else. Help me Lord, to meditate on You day and night. Awaken in me the desire to be in Your company all the time. Awaken in me the desire to dwell in your presence as You dwell in me. Change me now Lord, for Your Kingdom use, that I may be a blessings for all around me, but Lord, let it be all of You and none of me. Use me Lord as Your tool, such that all glory is to You and You alone.
In Jesus name I pray. Amen and Amen.