What is wrong with the logic in this?
- In God’s presence is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
- All humans live in God’s presence (since God is present everywhere).
- Therefore, all humans have fullness of joy.
Obviously, something must be wrong here!
You don’t have to be a Bible expert to know that sentence #3 is not true! It is absolutely incorrect to say that all humans are experiencing the fullness of joy. In fact, people spend the majority of their lives feeling more empty than full, and they hardly know what joy means because so few people have ever experienced it. Everyone knows how sorrow feels, but most people in this world have little or no idea how joy feels.
Therefore, it is clear that when God declares that fullness of joy is found in His presence, He cannot mean just “being where He is,” because He is everywhere. If He meant that, even non-Christians would always live with the maximum joy possible for humans to experience, because we are ALWAYS in the presence of the omnipresent God.
Let’s drill down and find the error.
The Hebrew word for presence is “PANAH.” It is a word that also means FACE, and it also means to TURN. Does that seem odd to you? Let’s look at an example of this Hebrew three-way meaning.
On Easter Sunday, while Mary Magdalene was stooped over peering into the darkness of the cave/tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid, Matthew tells us that she heard a voice behind her. Becoming aware of someone’s PRESENCE, she TURNED to FACE the person who was speaking to her.
The Hebrew word for “turn” and the Hebrew word for “face” have the same root as the Hebrew word for “presence” because we TURN to FACE someone when we become aware of their PRESENCE.
But listen: unless we become aware of someone’s presence, we do not turn to face them! When Jesus came to earth, the prophecy in Isaiah 53 was fulfilled which said that He was “like one from whom people hide their faces.” What a strange description! God had arrived on the scene; but the reaction of people was NOT to be suddenly aware of God’s presence and turn to face Him, but instead to turn their faces AWAY from Him! God was literally in their presence, but they refused to acknowledge His presence.
In the time of His coming into His own place, His own people did not receive Him. This grieved the heart of God, because His nature desires that we turn and experience His presence, face to face.
Our Father God created you and me to experience a private, warm, first-hand relationship with Him. He designed us for that relationship. He literally engineered us to thrive on a personal, comfortable and intimate conversational relationship with Him. To know Him is to live a life in which we flourish. In His presence is “fullness of joy,” or “joy at its fullest.”
God is forever present in the secret place just as much as in the public place. For example, the eyes of God see every room in your house, not just when you are home, but also when you are out. His eyes run over the dusty storage places just as surely as the well-vacuumed outer rooms. The eyes of God see everywhere.
The ears of God hear everything … the creak of the floorboards, the distant sound of birds, the cricket and the cicada in the yard. And He sees and hears you. He watches as you dress for the day or fall asleep in your favorite chair in the evening. He hears the song that you sing, half to yourself when no one is around, and He listens to the sigh that slips from your lips when your mind turns to your heart’s burdens.
In that sense, God’s FACE is always TURNED toward you, because He is alert at all times to your PRESENCE.
Only divine love drives an attention to detail that profound! In anyone other than God, we would call it obsession. From anyone else, we would consider it stalking. But from Him, it is the tender care of our Creator for the precious lives that He created and sustains. The richness of His constant dwelling upon us is not to fill a vacuum or a need in Him, but to lovingly tend to the needs in us.
It is within that deep understanding of His Father’s personality that Jesus invited us to find a private place to be alone with God. Here’s what He said in Matthew 6:6:
“But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
The King James version of the Bible (which was translated into English 507 years ago) said “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet …”
I suppose literally hundreds of thousands (if not millions!) of sincere Christians have spent time among the mops and brooms in the half a millennium since the King James translation was released.
Their hearts were right, but their translation was bad.
What Jesus ACTUALLY said was that we should go into our “TAMEION,” a Greek word meaning an inner room (almost always without windows) where you would go if you were going to conduct a very private conversation with someone (which you didn’t want others to overhear), or to count your savings (in a time of no banks and many thieves).
In other words, this room is where the MOST IMPORTANT CONVERSATIONS AND TRANSACTIONS TOOK PLACE, and where the most TREASURED objects in your life were kept safe. It was not the place where you kept the dust mops and garbage supplies.
Jesus was saying, “When you pray, go into the guarded place where the most private conversations happen and your most prized treasures are kept. Treat your time with God as a treasure that you would never want stolen, as an intimate dialogue that you would never want to publicly display. Close the door! And when you do that, you will find that God (who is already in the room waiting for you) will listen to your secret prayers and will reward you.”
This unbelievable privilege is not embraced by enough Christians. We are never promised reward for prayers prayed in the outer world for others to see and hear, but this incredibly generous promise of reward is reserved for those who TURN from their busy lives, and FACE the God who has invited them into a private conversation, and so experience His PRESENCE. In THAT kind of presence there is genuinely “fullness of joy!”
Do you have a treasured place in your home or apartment that knows the imprint of your knees? If so, then you know about the Presence of God being the source of our joy, and you know that the joy that comes from those private encounters is the source of your strength!
I long for that for all of you.
One last thought: The idea of a room without windows has been the focus of my thoughts recently because, even though I am not gazing out the window at everyone who walks by when I pray, it has dawned on me that my cell phone is a “window to the world” which I carry with me into my intimate time with God.
It is amazing to me how often the phone at my side demands my attention just as I am involved in the midst of an important conversation with my Father God. For me, to be in a windowless room has come to mean that my “window to the world” is not invited in to distract and disturb me.
I am not telling you that every Christian must do as I do, but I would like to challenge you to spend “phone-less” time with the Father. He will do a fine job of caring for those items which would otherwise interrupt you. He will notice your intentional “shutting the door” to your inner room and He will reward you!