But there is one element of this blessed dream that I envy more than the rest. Adam and Eve walked with the Lord God Almighty in the Garden of an evening! That notion just floors me! A perfectly created world with no suffering, sin or evil was inhabited by human beings and the tangible presence of God himself was with them!
God's presence in the Garden of Eden must have been not only awesome to behold, but it also must have had a profound effect on the environment in which His presence dwelt - effectively making the ultimate paradise in which humankind could dwell and worship Him.
Then I read about the Fall, and all of the consequences that mankind reaped as a result. We chose to go our own way, and consequently it seems that God's tangible, 'walk-in-the-garden', presence departed from the earth. This is the world with which I can more easily identify. I read about suffering, hardship, and pain as I progress through the Old Testament - yet the presence of God remains something that humanity seeks.
When God started to gather a nation unto Himself through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, the nation that arose sought God's presence as a sign of devotion to their Creator. And while the Bible speaks of God's presence dwelling with this nation of Israel - it seems so limited and sacrosanct compared to the presence at which I marvel in the Garden of Eden.
This was a presence that led the way as a pillar of cloud (Exodus 13 verse 21), a pillar of fire (13 verse 21), and a thunderous sound that made the people tremble (19 verse 16). God's awesome presence resided with the people of Israel in their travels and in their settlement of Jerusalem, but only in the form of the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle, and eventually, the Temple. Only a select few could stand close to where God's presence dwelt, and only on a select few days each year.
Any unsanctioned contact with the Mercy Seat where God's presence dwelt resulted in instant death. God's presence with His people was a force to be feared, and yet the people of Israel knew that their survival as nation depended on it and thus continued to seek and enquire after His presence daily.
Moving through the Old Testament, I find the book of Psalms. In Psalm 27, I get a glimpse at the passion with which King David sought after the presence of God that was found only in the Temple. 'The one thing I ask of the Lord - the thing I seek most - is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord's perfection and meditating in His Temple,' (27 verse 4).
Why does David seek to spend all of his days in the temple of God's presence? Because King David knew that his only refuge, his only security was found in God's presence. 'For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock,' (27 verse 5). He would meditate on the Lord's goodness, on the Lord's wisdom and on the Lord's triumphant sovereignty, and this would give him the courage and wisdom to live in a way that pleased the Lord.
Maybe this reliance on God's presence is what earned David the title of 'a man after God's own heart', and resulted in the blessing of David's kingdom both in David's time and the generation that followed.
If I follow the genealogy of David through the end of the Old Testament and into the beginning of Matthew, I find the most tangible, 'walk-in-the-garden' presence of God that has ever existed on the earth. Jesus Christ embodied God's presence in human form thus changing the way that humanity would understand and experience the presence of God.
As I read Christ's teaching, He speaks of a kingdom of heaven that blesses the poor, the oppressed, the weak and those that are suffering for the cause of righteousness - right here, right now on this earth. Could it be that the effect of living in this new expression of God's presence could bring the idyllic kingdom of heaven to earth? Maybe the perfect world for which I long is something that God's presence should inspire me to work towards?
Next month, I'll continue my journey of discovering God's presence through the New Testament, and maybe I'll find the true nature of God's presence that can define my relationships and interactions in the kingdom of God.
'He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.'
'Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need' (Hebrews 9 verse 12; 4 verse 16)
Blaine Packer is a graduate of Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies who is passionate about media and mission. Currently residing in Launceston, Tasmania, Blaine is involved in both media and local ministry work at Door of Hope Christian Church.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html