The Bible emphasizes God’s manifest presence, not only his omnipresence.

There is a difference between saying “God is everywhere,” and saying “God is here.” The former is the default category for most Christians. We talk about God’s presence being inescapable and that he is “everywhere present” (Ps 139:5-121 Kings 8:27).

But it seems Scripture is more concerned with his presence manifest in relationship and redemption. And though these divine realities are certainly not at odds, the biblical story does turn on God’s being manifest with his people in Eden, the tabernacle/temple, the incarnation of Christ, and the new heaven and new earth.

As evangelicals, we talk a lot about the presence of God but seldom look to the Bible to see what it is. When we do, we find that it is first and foremost a theme on which the story of Scripture hinges. If we read our Bibles though we begin to see a two-fold pattern.

First, the Bible makes clear that the presence of God is a central goal in God’s redemptive mission. All of God’s work ends with the Lord dwelling with man. And second, the presence of God is, not only an objective, it is also the means by which the redemptive mission is fulfilled. God writes himself into his own story to bring salvation. To understand our Bibles and how it changes us, we need to know God’s presence.

If we are honest, many of us can think of God as our “magic genie” from time to time. We keep him on the shelf until troubles arise or there is something our neighbor has that we really want. The problem is, real relationships don’t work this way—especially with the triune God. The Lord over all will not be left on the shelf of anyone’s life.

Instead, Scripture is clear that all of life—and, principally, the gospel life—is about being in God’s relational presence. This is why David proclaims, “in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11). When we push all our peripheral issues to the periphery, this is all that is left and all that really matters.

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