A strange thing happened on the way to the party. The cloud went away. The cloud went away and apparently no one noticed.
Following God’s blueprint, the Israelites had built a portable church as they trekked across the desert toward the promised land. Its most unique feature was the cloud that hovered over it by day, which became a pillar-like fire in the sky at night. It was the symbol of the very presence of God.
Other nations had armies. Other nations had chariots. Other nations had swords and spears and horses. But no other nation had the cloud. No other nation had the presence. What made Israel unique was the presence. When it moved, they moved. When it stopped, they stopped. It was evident to them and to the world that the presence of God was with them. I think they took great comfort in the cloud.
Then one day it wasn’t there. I mean, it was gone. They still killed the lambs. They still had the ceremonies. They still went through the order of service. They still had the opening and closing song. But the presence was not there. No cloud. I wonder who noticed it first. I wonder if anyone sounded an alarm. We don’t have any of those details, but we do have this one: Jeremiah (2:6) will describe the event in these words: …”They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness…?’”
The presence was gone and no one asked Why? As tragic as it was to lose the presence, the greater tragedy was not to notice it was gone.
Fast forward to Corinth. Not everything that happened in Corinth fit the ideal New Testament template, but the church was asking the right question. The topic was what was going on in the church and they wanted to make sure that, when a guest attended their worship service, “he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (ICor 14:25).
Our quest, too. Spirit-filled, transformed people. Powerful, Spirit-filled preaching. Passionate, Spirit-filled praying. Meaningful, Spirit-filled music. Earnest, Spirit-filled calls to confession and repentance. Basking in His forgiveness; renewed by hope. The distinct sense that we didn’t just come to do church, but that we met with Him, to be changed by Him. And all who worship there will confess, “God is really among you.” Oh, God, please make it so among us. Amen.