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God’s Presence Anywhere and Everywhere

A Lent Reflection for Friday, March 1 by Rebekah Bolin


Lectionary reading for 3/1/2024. Psalm 19; Exodus 19:9b-15; Acts 7:30-40

Selected passage for reflection: Acts 7:30-40


Read 


Acts 7:30-40 NIV

30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’[a] Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’[b]

35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.

37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’[c] 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’[d]


Reflect 

To understand this passage, one really needs to understand the context.  Stephen, a recent convert to Christ, was on the chopping block (Acts 6:12).  The religious leaders were accusing him of blasphemy, saying he was degrading the name of Moses, God, and the Temple (Acts 6:8-15).  These verses in Acts 7:30-40 are part of Stephen’s defense.  First, Stephen is showing his knowledge and respect for Moses by recounting Moses’ story (thus discrediting their accusation that he was speaking blasphemous words against Moses).  Secondly, Stephen is defending himself by pointing out how God appeared to Moses in the wilderness.  The religious leaders were concerned that Stephen’s Gospel message was in some way going against the temple because they believed God’s presence was in the temple.  However, the message of Jesus, of which Stephen was spreading, says that God’s presence is found everywhere, even inside people through the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:48-51).  So here, Stephen is intentional in sharing a story about Moses in which God appears to him in a burning bush outside of the temple.


There are obviously many ways to dissect this passage in regards to what happened with Moses, but contextually, these verses are about Stephen trying to convince the people that God’s presence can be found anywhere and everywhere.  Interestingly, the religious leaders were so disturbed with this message and thought it so blasphemous they end up stoning Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). 


Our initial reaction to the religious leaders might be one of disgust or disbelief.  How dare they kill someone over such an obvious Truth!  Of course God’s presence can be outside the temple, or in our lingo--outside the church!  


However, upon deeper reflection, many still do not fully believe the whole truth of Stephen’s message: God’s presence is literally everywhere.  It may seem blasphemous in today’s world to say God presence is amongst the poor, the rich, the oppressed, the oppressors, the widows, the orphans, the sinners, the saints, the republicans, the democrats, the drunks, the drug users, the queer, the happily married, the divorced, the Christians, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the bars, the corporate buildings, the churches, the Bible studies, the sports stadiums, the brothels, the mountains, the seas, and everywhere in between.  And wholly with you.  


If at any point you read the above paragraph and questioned or thought, “Surely God can’t be there or with them,” then you have the same attitude as the religious leaders.  If we are honest, it truly is hard to believe the extent not only of God’s presence, but of God’s love.  Can God’s loving presence really extend to all people in all situations?  According to Stephen and the Gospel message, yes!  What great news this is!  Once we can embrace this truth, we are able to let go of judgements and live a life of love.  We can also live in the truth that God is with us, with you.  And may this Truth bless you each and every day.  


Respond 

Think of areas of your life where you have a hard time imagining God’s presence.  Is it in your job?  Your relationships?  Your finances?  Your marriage?  Your kids?  Your boss?  In rush hour traffic?  Next to you in a bar?  In your grief?  In your sickness?  In a decision you made?  In a mistake you made?  In areas where you are ashamed?   Write these areas down on a piece of paper.  Then spend some time praying over each of these areas and ask God to reveal God’s presence in each of these areas.  Be patient and allow the Holy Spirit to move and reveal where God is or was in all areas of your life.


Rest 

Dear God,

You are not only a God who shows up in temples, churches, and burning bushes, you are also a God who makes your presence known through the whispers of our hearts.  May you show your presence in all areas of my life.  May peace and comfort come over me as I recognize that you are with me at all times and in all situations.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen


About the Author 


After growing up in Wisconsin, Rebekah graduated from Fuller Seminary and has lived in Los Angeles since 2006 (minus a year and a half of living on the Big Island of Hawaii). In 2018 she started and pastored a church in Downtown LA. The church has been on hold since covid, but the vision is still alive and well and she hopes to eventually start it back up. Until then she is out traveling as she works for a major U.S. airline. In her free  time, she loves to travel, hike, put together jigsaw puzzles, try new food, play soccer, laugh around the dinner table with family and friends, and enjoy the adventures of life the Lord takes her on.



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1 Comment


I get so angry at the judgmental and critical people I see, and then I realize that I am doing exactly the same thing. Thank you for your challenge today!

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