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Yearning for His Presence
Hungering to Know and Be Known
Scripture Reading:
Have you ever longed to be with someone?
When Corrina and I were dating, I lived just off Pembina Highway at the south end of Winnipeg, and she lived in Portage, an hour away.
We couldn’t easily just spend an evening together during the week.
At first, we only saw each other every other weekend and then as our relationship progressed, we began to see each other weekly, but still only once a week.
In between it was the old-fashioned telephone.
No video chatting of any kind.
In between, we longed to be in each others presence, not just hear each others voice.
Why? Simple, we grew to love each other.
We still long to be in each others presence.
Thankfully we haven’t had many extended periods of being apart.
I like hanging out with Corrina, she’s my best friend and I would miss her terribly if she was gone.
Life would be so empty.
Yearning for someone’s presence is an indication that we have a deep relationship with that person.
In the Old Testament we have a number of descriptions of people whom God speaks to.
There are of course, have many of the prophets who heard direct words from God. Samuel comes to mind, when he was a boy, sleeping in the temple, God called out his name and told him what would happen to Eli’s family.
Elijah talked to God on the mountain of God and God spoke to him.
Isaiah saw God in the temple, or at least a vision of him in the temple, and all the prophets’ received messages from him.
However, no person in the Old Testament had quite the kind of relationship with God that Moses did.
Moses, Learning to Know God
Turn with me to Exodus 3 and we’ll trace the progression of Moses’ relationship with God.
(read Ex. 3:1-6) (blank) This is Moses’ first encounter with God.
He knows who God is, but he had never heard God talk to him before.
Notice his reaction.
He looks at the burning bush until the voice identifies itself as being God.
Then he immediately hides his face.
He intuitively understood that God is so great that you don’t just look at him.
In that day and age, most people would look down when coming into the presence of kings and rulers.
You only looked up if you received permission to do so and even then you were very careful in what you said and how you looked at the king.
With Moses, the story continues.
God tells him that he has heard the prayers of his people in Egypt and has come down to rescue them.
(read vv10-12) (blank) Moses, understandably, does not see himself as capable of doing what God has asked him to do.
It is a God-sized task.
Moses is definitely not God.
He also knows that he was not wanted in Egypt, he fled because there was a price on his head.
Now, he was a simple shepherd, tending his sheep far from the halls of power and far from the danger of Pharoah’s men.
He was an exile.
In his mind, his day had come and gone.
Notice what God’s answer is to him.
The first thing he says is “I will be with you.”, then a sign.
Later on, God does two more signs with Moses that show God’s presence, his staff turning into a snake and back into a staff again and his hand becoming leprous and then whole again.
But God didn’t start with these signs, he started with the simple but impactful promise to personally be present.
Not an angel, not an emissary, not an army, God himself will be with him.
God gave him more details about what would happen, Moses kept resisting the call, God told him his personal name, “I AM”, God gave him the miraculous signs signifying God’s presence, and finally, sent him his brother Aaron to do his talking for him.
After all this, Moses agrees and returns to Egypt after meeting his brother.
They meet with the Israelite leaders and Moses is accepted by them as being God’s messenger and the leader he provided.
Then come the whole series of his appearances before Pharaoh and all the plagues.
All this time, God keeps speaking to Moses telling him what to do and what to say to Pharaoh.
I imagine that his confidence in God kept growing and growing as he saw the plagues happen one by one.
I imagine the authority with which he spoke and acted grew with time.
Whatever God said he would do was done and whatever he said would happen, happened.
The longer God was with Moses, Moses grew in authority.
He commanded and told Pharaoh what would happen.
By the time they get to Mt. Sinai, Moses’ confidence in God was sky high.
He also no longer hid from him.
Repeatedly Moses went up the mountain where he met God.
He is described as trembling with fear, but he never shied away from meeting God.
Moses, Face to Face With God
Later, in chapter 33 we have this description, (read 33:7-11) (blank) What a description!
Moses spoke to God face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.
He got to talk to the God of the universe face to face.
Talk about intimate fellowship.
God was his strength and support.
The burden that was on Moses as he led this huge group of people through the wilderness was massive.
But he wasn’t alone, God was with him.
At the end of chapter 34, we read that when Moses left the presence of God his face was radiant.
When Jesus was on the mountain with Moses and Elijah talking to God face to face Jesus also became radiant.
The glory of God attached itself to Moses.
He reflected God’s glory.
But there’s more.
Moses treasured the presence of God.
He needed it.
He couldn’t lead without it and by now, he couldn’t live without it.
On either side of the story of the tent of Meeting that I just read we have another story unfolding.
Before, we had the story of the people persuading Aaron to make a calf out of gold that they then worshipped as the god who rescued them out of Egypt.
God had told Moses on the mountain what was happening and said that he would destroy them and build a new nation out of Moses.
Talk about a temptation.
Moses resisted and called on God to not destroy his own reputation by doing this.
After Moses dealt with the situation back at the camp and we read this, (read 33:1-6) (blank) Do you catch what God is saying to Moses? “I won’t go with you, I’ll send an angel instead.”
Then we have the part about God meeting with Moses face to face in the Tent of Meeting followed by this account of Moses and God’s conversation.
(read 33:12-17) (blank) Moses wasn’t satisfied with an angel.
By now he couldn’t live without God’s presence.
God had become everything to him.
In his opinion, the entire venture, leading the Israelites to the promised land, would rise or fall on one factor, the presence of God.
That was the only thing that set them apart from any other nation.
No presence of God, no nation of God.
No presence of God, no hope of success.
Moses didn’t want to talk to God through an angel, he wanted to talk to God directly.
He didn’t want direction from God through an angel, he wanted God’s leading directly from him.
God Longs to Know us and be Known by Him
But, did you notice the contrast between Moses and the people of Israel?
Moses wants God’s presence and wants to hear directly from him while, the people of Israel are terrified of God’s presence and don’t want God to speak to them directly, they want God to speak through Moses.
Why the difference?
For one, they haven’t had the experience of an intimate relationship with God as Moses had.
Secondly, God’s full might and power and holiness are terrifying if you haven’t been cleansed by God.
Yes, they saw God work in incredible ways in Egypt.
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