The Presence of Christ
Edward Robinson, Exmouth
Both Enoch and Noah, we are told, walked with God. This does not refer merely to some specific occasion, but to that which characterized their daily pathway down here. Each of them lived in an evil day: of Noah (meaning rest or repose) it is said, by way of contrast to all around him, that he was a just man, Gen. 6. 9, whilst Enoch (whose name signifies disciplined or devoted) fitted in so little with the world in which he lived that "he was not; for God took him", 5. 24. Who could estimate the blessedness of the communion enjoyed by these favoured men? At the same time, how consistent must have been such a walk; how separate from the scene around, and how compensating the joy of such nearness to their God. The translation of Enoch was a foreview of that soon-coming greater occasion at the rapture, when the Lord will come, not only for the eternal pleasure of His saints, but also for His own satisfaction.
The Psalms breathe the experience and aspirations of nearness to God, as David expresses, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple", Psa. 27. 4. How much more, since a divine Person has become Man, should our aspirations after God be quickened. Peter, as he writes, looks back nostalgically to the transfiguration of the Lord, and writes, "And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount", 2 Pet. 1.18. In a day marked by a general decline in spiritual and moral standards unprecedented within living memory, the cultivation of the presence of Christ throughout each day is undoubtedly the greatest preservative of the Christian. Cultivation ? How much is involved in this important aspect of our Christian living? Paul sums it all up with those simple but all-embracing words, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,", Phil. 1. 21.
It is fitting that John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved", should recount how the Baptist, looking upon Jesus as He walked, says, "Behold the Lamb of God", John 1. 36. The two disciples heard him speak and they followed Jesus, coming under the spell of His attraction and leaving the Baptist. They are asked "What seek ye?", and reply "Master, where dwellest thou ?". It is clear that they are not in any way concerned with the kind of house in which He lived, but rather with the circumstances of His life.
The hymn writer describes it:
Thou abidest in the bosom,
Of the Father's love, In that love for ever dwelling,
Love all thought above.
His reply to the disciples is "Come and see", and "They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day", John. 1. 35-39. Their enquiry brought a gracious invitation and an experience beyond their expectation, a day which was again a foretaste of that eternal day soon to be entered upon by all His lovers who are looking expectantly for the return of their beloved Lord.
There is evidence that nearness and communion with Christ bring from His presence pleasure, personality and power, as is witnessed in the early days of the church after Pentecost. Two men, Peter and John, went to the temple to pray. They had known much of the sweetness of nearness to the Lord in His pathway, as is attested adequately in the Gospel narratives, and in the power of the Spirit they were still in communion with Him. They were also, doubtless as the consequence of this, men of outstanding personality, so that, when accosted by the lame beggar, Peter (as usual the spokesman) can say "Look on us" and "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk". Immediately the beggar's feet and ankle bones receive strength, Acts 3. 1-7. Peter then delivers a powerful address, beginning, "Ye men of Israel", going on to accuse the Jews of killing the Prince of Life, and stating that faith in His Name had given the lame man perfect soundness. He ends his address with a call for repentance, and the disciples are asked, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?". Peter replies, "by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead . . . doth this man stand here before you whole". And the concluding testimony is from these men of Israel, who had been convicted by the disciples, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled ; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus", Acts 4. 13. This, then, is the secret of power in testimony now, as it will be of endless pleasure when we shall be in His presence eternally, never more to go out.