|THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Series: Moses - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 4, 2017
We are in a season of graduations. Knowing that for some of us it may strain us a tad to remember back to when we were graduating we have a short quiz to help us think about the then and now. See how well you do with this. Identify the celebrity by their high school senior year photo.
This first one should be pretty easy.
Chris Evans (1999, Lincoln-Sudbury High School, Massachusetts)
Emma Stone (2003, Xavier College Prep)
Ben Carson (1969, Southwestern High School)
Barack Obama (1979, Punahou School, Honolulu)
Donald Trump (1964, New York Military Academy)
Kurt Vonnegut - the author - quote: “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
not much has changed…
We are in a season of graduations. Transitions. Moving from past to future - whatever that future might be.
Probably you’ve heard at least one graduation speech that goes something like: “After all the hard work - sweat and tears - we finally made it.” There are a few well deserved thank yous to a special teacher or parents. A few inside jokes. Then some philosophic thoughts. Followed by some vision statement about chasing dreams. The future is ours. We can achieve whatever we try to achieve.
Which is understandable. Having visions about what we would like our lives to be like.
Coming back to Exodus and Moses… How was that for a transition?
What we’re coming to this morning isn’t exactly a graduation per se. But what we’re coming to is an example of what it can look like for us to follow God’s vision as we move through the next steps of our life.
Proverbs 29:18 tells us: “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”
Prophetic vision is all about God speaking to His people. God’s word - His instructions - His commands. God revealing His vision - what God wills for how His people are to live. Specifically God’s law. What God has been revealing to His people through Moses.
To “cast off restraint” - in Hebrew - describes someone taking off their turban and having their hair set loose to fly any which way. A bad case of turban head. The idea is being out of control because there are no healthy boundaries on our lives.
Some Bible translations put it this way: Without prophetic vision the people perish.
Meaning that if we’re not living within the boundaries of God’s vision for our lives we will wander off into self-inflicted destruction. Which as a - next steps - vision for our lives - destruction and perishing - doesn’t sound all that good.
But… God offers us incredible desirable blessings in life. Someone who gets blessed by God - someone who experiences the fullness of life with God - daily experiencing the fulfilled promises and blessings of God - that comes to us as we’re careful to live within the boundaries of how God instructs us to live life with Him.
Since January we’ve been looking at God at work in the lives of real people living in real places in real time as real examples for us of what that living life with the living God looks like. God and His work of redemption and what that looks like for us. God’s vision for our lives.
We’ve been looking at Moses - God at work in and through Moses. Real time learning how to follow God through life.
The beautiful baby birthed and borne in a bitumen basket bobbing in the bulrushes by the bank. Moses raised and educated Hebrew and Egyptian. Moses - uniquely born and prepared by God for God’s purposes. Moses who kills the Egyptian and gets rejected by both the Egyptians and the Hebrews. Who flees across the desert to Midian. Ends up sitting by a well - moody and marinating on His epic failure - wondering what ever happened to his vision of his life.
God provides a family - a wife - a son - employment. In the wilderness where nothing makes sense God provides sustenance - purpose - deliverance. A land to dwell in. All that comes from God with the purposeful job title of “Shepherd of Midian” and a question: “Moses, are you willing to trust Me for what your life is to become? Your vision or Mine?”
Moses - Prince of Egypt - ends up as a shepherd. What would have been the bottom of the Egyptian social totem pole. A total reorientation on life. Looking bottom up.
Then Moses at the burning bush. The Holy God speaking directly to Moses. That’s vision clarification. Isn’t it?
Sometimes we find ourselves - having exhausted all our efforts at trying to be so clever at making our lives work - when we’ve finally been humbled by the desolation - broken by the wilderness - when we’re finally ready to turn to God - to listen to God - what we discover is that God is already right there where we desperately need Him to be.
God our creator - in all His holiness - despite what we may think of ourselves or where we may be in life - God in all His holiness God still desires to dwell with us - to love on us - to lead us in life - not toast us in wrath.
A huge encouragement for us. God wants us to get this. His vision for our lives. God’s desire is to transform us and to make us into Godly men and women who will live out the great adventure of life with Him - living in His promises and blessing - being used by Him - bringing glory to Him.
So, what does look like for us in Mercedland?
Exodus 33. We’re going to focus on just 5 verses - verses 7 to 11. And read these out loud together. And then come back and make 3 observations. Three simple - basic - observations which hopefully will be encouraging to you.
Maybe encouraging from the standpoint of “Keep going. You’re on the right track.” Or encouraging - as in I need to work on this.
Three observations to help us follow God’s vision for our lives.
Exodus 33 - verse 7: Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Observation number one: Place.
Verse 7: Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting.
The tent here is not the Tabernacle. Tabernacle is a different word in Hebrew: “mishkan” - which is still about God dwelling and being with His people. But the Tabernacle is a way different structure. The Tabernacle had a fence around it - the altar - the Holy of Holies - the Ark of the Covenant - sacrifices going on. That’s different.
The word her for tent is “ohel” - which was something that nomads took with them when they traveled around with their flocks. It’s a portable tent. Much smaller. Like something we’d take camping.
Probably something Moses could set up by himself or with very little help - maybe some help from Joshua - maybe a few other guys. Not that a real man would ever ask for help setting up a tent. But that’s a topic for another time.
Moses calls this tent “the tent of meeting”. In Hebrew the word for “meeting” is “moed” - like having an appointment with someone.
The idea is something like “the tent where you keep your appointment.” Tap it in on your schedule - Friday afternoon - tent appointment with Yahweh.
Meaning this is probably a regularly scheduled event that takes place in a known location. Something that Moses does on a regular - ongoing - basis. He knows where and when and so does everyone else.
Moses pitches the tent where? Outside the camp. A good distance - “far off” - from the camp.
We’re told that the people that are seeking God come to the tent - outside the camp. Why? Because that’s where the tent of meeting is. That’s were Moses keeps his appointments with God. That’s the place you seek God - outside the camp.
When the people got there maybe they lined up to hand a prayer request card to Moses as he’s going into the tent. Maybe Joshua gave them a number. “Now serving #1,563.” “Oh good, that’s it my number.”
Maybe they just watched and prayed that Moses would put in a good word for them or that he got the answer they needed.
People seeking God went outside the camp to the tent.
Everyone else - all the rest of the nation is back in... camp - hanging out at their own tent - watching Moses walk out to the tent - following him with their eyes until he went into the tent. Watching as Moses leaves them and enters the tent of meeting and gets alone with God.
Are we together here on the process of separation? Moses getting away from the people - even the people that are following him. Moses meeting alone with God. Not abandoning the people but needing to be in a space alone with God. He has to get away from the people - first - in order to spend time alone with God.
All of us need a place to be with God. Our own personal God space. For me, these days, that’s mostly on the couch in the front room - with a cup of coffee.
On special DAWG Days - Day Alone With God - sometimes that alone time has been in Yosemite. Sometimes it’s been in Chowchilla - walking through the park or one of the neighborhoods. Maybe by a lake. Different places where I’m not running into people or distracted by stuff.
Regular alone time with God. It’s what I do every morning. It’s part of the routine. Exercise - eat - time with God.
Our smartphones are the way we stay connected. Which means that all that connectivity is an ever-present opportunity for distraction. Which is especially true the younger you are.
Crossway found that the silence in our lives is increasingly filled by a phone. Our phones are distracting us from the real-world stuff of everyday life - including flesh and blood relationships - including God.
Their takeaway was this: “While phones and electronic devices can prove helpful in facilitating spiritual growth and discipline, they can also introduce temptations that distract us from or even harm our relationship with God. In light of this, great wisdom is needed as we navigate our technological age.” (1)
It’s not just our phones. Let’s be honest we’re addicted to distraction.
We’ve over-scheduled ourselves to the point of death. Mental - physical - spiritual “nutsoness.” We’re hanging on by our fingernails trying to keep up with what we’ve obligated ourselves to. Maybe some of that is good. Stuff with children - family - earning a living. But way too often we’re killing ourselves with commitments that take God out of the picture.
We’ve got to get a grip. We’re never going to live the vision - experience the full blessing - if we’re distracted from the priority of being alone with God. Time alone with God centers on God. And if God is at the center of all of what’s in our life everything else clicks into place.
Which is why location is important. Being alone with God means being… alone with God. Separate from the “nutsoness” so you can spend undistracted time alone with God.
Hopefully, you’re hearing that as a pat-on-the-back encouragement. The time you’re spending alone with God is well worth it. Keep going.
But, if you’re saying to yourself: “What time?” “What place?” Maybe you need to process some changes. Regularly disengage from anything that keeps you from being with God.
Schedule regular time to meet with God. Yes. Tap it into your phone. But when you meet with God, turn off the phone and leave it in the other room.
Observation number two: Position.
Verse 9: When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses - not the people outside. But with Moses who’s in the tent alone with God. ...and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door.
Let’s picture this.
Moses enters the tent. The pillar of cloud descends. The pillar of cloud is what? Real time visualization of God’s presence. Meaning God is there with Moses. God meeting with Moses. God speaking to Moses.
Astounding to think about. Yes?
When people see the pillar of cloud they know that the Almighty God of creation - the God of their fathers - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - Yahweh Who’s delivered them out of bondage in Egypt - when they see that the God has come to the tent of meeting to be with Moses - the people do what? They worship. Each person at the entrance of their own tent - rising to worship God.
What’s the largest crowd you’ve been in?
For me, maybe the ’84 Olympics opening ceremonies. Any one else there? 90,000 plus people in the Coliseum - maybe a billion more watching. Being at the nexus - the center of all that - an amazing sense of the presence of humanity - of focus.
Imagine - maybe 2 million people - the nation all standing and worshipping God together. Songs of praise. Prayers of adoration. Rising from this vast multitude. A deep fullness of sound. Thunderous. Moses has got to be hearing this inside the tent. What a moment. Wow!
This is being in the presence of God big time. God Who alone is worthy of worship. God Who from the midst of a burning bush told Moses, “Take off your sandals this is holy ground” Holy ground because God - the presence of the Holy God - makes it to be holy. The tent is holy because God makes it to be holy.
Last Sunday we talked about “Total Depravity” - which is a term theologians use to describe us in our sin before God. “Total depravity” meaning each of us is totally corrupt in every part of our nature. There’s nothing within us that’s worthy of God’s approval. And, every one of us displays our depravity as thoroughly and completely as we can. That is who we are individually and as a race since Adam fell.
We see glimpses of our depravity in the places we do life. Poverty and heartbreak and disease and psychosis and pain and murder and abortion and child abuse and slavery and trafficking and addictions and war and oppression and broken homes - broken lives - people living in bondage - in darkness - knowing no hope.
Our sin that always damages our relationship with God. Our sin that always effects others. Our sin always is self-destructive. Sin is forever suicide.
God is holy - totally separate - transcendent from anything else. God is totally free of sin - morally pure. God is holy and we’re not. Thank God for His love and grace and mercy - without which we would have no hope.
The response of the people gives us an indication of what Moses was doing in the tent. He’s not making hot cocoa and smores.
Moses is the leader. He’s the example. When Moses worships the Holy God of their fathers... the people worship the Holy God of their fathers. God who redeemed them from bondage in Egypt. God Who covenants with them - promises to bless them and to lead them - even to dwell with Him in the promised land. God Who has the vision for their lives. God who gives laws - boundaries for the people to live in relationship with the Holy God.
God Who spoke to Moses from a burning bush. God Who spoke to Moses while the top of His mountain was engulfed in pyrotechnics.
Moses comes to the tent with the expectation of meeting God - not with swaggering pride and arrogance - some kind of macho man great leader of the people thing - but in humility - openness - brokenness - awe and trembling before God - the great I AM.
Are we together on the “position” of Moses’ heart before God? Maybe even his physical position. The people stood to worship. That’s respect. Maybe Moses stood. Or maybe he just fell on his face. His physical position demonstrating his heart position before God.
Let’s be careful. Our gathering together on Sunday mornings - our coming together to worship God - Love God - is a response of obedience that God blesses. That God expects. God calls us to gather together as the Body of Christ and to not neglect that responsibility.
God has purposely placed each us into the Creekside congregation. On the Sundays when one of us is not here we’re not worshiping in the completeness of what it means to be the Creekside congregation.
So, focusing on Moses let’s be careful not to loose sight of the people worshiping outside the tent. That reality is an intentional example for us as a congregation.
But worshiping God alone - in our own individual places and times of being alone with God - that’s worship that God also blesses - expects - desires from us.
If we’re alone and we’re singing praise to God that’s great. Even if we need a bucket to carry a tune (old joke) or a smartphone (ouch) - or whatever to sing along with. Sometimes I’m singing along while I’m driving. Which encourages other people to give me more space. What a blessing.
Read Scripture to God. So many of the Psalms are prayers. David praising God. Why not read to God in adoration of Who He is. He’s worthy of it. When was the last time you told God how awesome He is?
We please God when we worship Him. We bless God and we get blessed by God as we worship Him. When we worship God - just us and God - our hearts get opened up to His. He blesses us with His presence.
Sometimes we loose sight of what an awesome privilege that is. Sometimes we take worship for granted.
We are a collection of atoms created and sustained by the will of the Holy God. God gives to us the privilege of knowing Him and worshiping Him - the God Who redeems us and calls us to live His vision for our lives. We are in the presence of the Holy God.
Maybe that encourages you or challenges you. How’s your heart attitude in worship. Are you coming in humility - with confession - in adoration - with openness - awe - expectation?
Place. Position. Third observation: Prayer.
Verse 11 says: Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
This is an astounding statement. Isn’t it? Can you imagine this?
“To speak” - “dabar” in Hebrew - means… “to speak.” It has the idea of just talking with someone - ordinary conversation.
“Face to face” has the idea of... “face to face.” Eyeball to eyeball - nose to nose - directly in front of the person we’re talking to.
“Friend” - “ray-ah” in Hebrew is a… “friend.” A companion - a confidant - a colleague.
In Numbers 12 God says that He speaks to His prophets in visions and dreams. But, God says, “not so with My servant Moses.” God says, “With him [Moses] I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.” (Numbers 12:6-8) That’s astounding.
Once in a while wouldn’t most of us have settled for a vision or a dream? Maybe even an occasional handwriting on the wall? But face to face. That’s astounding. Intimate.
One of the brain rattling truths of the New Testament is that - because of Jesus - we can experience that kind of depth of intimacy with God. Perhaps even a deeper intimacy with God than even Moses experienced.
The Apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Jesus - the Word of God - rather than being spoken - Jesus takes on human flesh - gets born in Bethlehem - taking on all of what it means to be human and lives here with us - fully God - fully man. Jesus coming clothed in humanity is the fullest revelation of Who God is - the fullest expression of His Word.
Moses had to hide in the cleft of a rock while God passed by. God needing to cover Moses with His hand so Moses wouldn’t be toasted by the awesome holiness - the glory - of God. Face to face apparently is not “full on” glory. Moses was limited in His relationship with God.
The apostle John writes, “We have seen His glory.” Not a pillar of cloud or fire. But the face of Jesus.
The apostle John writes in 1 John 1:1-4 that he saw Jesus - looked at Him - touched Jesus with his own hands.
What color were Jesus’ eyes? John knew. What did it feel like to touch Jesus? John knew.
In Jesus - God invites us to take in His glory - to enter into intimacy with Him.
We might be tempted to say to ourselves, “Well, with all the crud going through my mind and my life I can’t imagine why - even if I got off in a tent someplace - why would God ever want to come and speak to me? Why would God ever want to have any kind of relationship with me that comes anywhere close to what He had with Moses?”
Why? We can’t process why. But He does.
Paul writes in Galatians 3: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26,27 NASB)
God favors His sons - and daughters. That’s who we are when we come to God through faith in Jesus. God’s children are clothed in Christ. We’re entitled to wear the clothing of the Son because we are His sons - sons of our Heavenly Father. How could God not favor His sons - and daughters?
We need to grab on to that for ourselves. God favors us. He is our Father. He desires intimacy with us. God desires for us to speak with Him - what’s going on in our lives - in our hearts - our concerns - our joys. God provides for that depth of prayer. He enables it. We need to without hesitation boldly come before our Father in prayer.
But notice also that God spoke to Moses. We need to grab that for ourselves as well. Prayer - way too often - is us speaking at God.
How awesome is it that God desires to speak to us - to share with us His vision for our lives - how we are to live in relationship with Him and within His great work of redemption. God, in fact has spoken to us in His word - written - the Bible - and in the flesh - Jesus. God the Holy Spirit provides for and enables our understand of what God has spoken.
The question is are we willing to listen? Are we willing to take in what He says and to live in obedience to His word?
Hopefully that’s and encouragement for you and maybe a challenge. When we separate ourselves from the “nutsoness” of life and humble ourselves before God - opening up ourselves up to take in and live in obedience to what He speaks to us - He will speak to us.
Processing all that…
Three observations. What it can look like for us to follow God’s vision as we move through the next steps of our life - living in His promises and blessing - being used by Him - bringing glory to Him.
Three take home questions:
1. Where’s your tent?
2. How’s your heart?
3. How's your conversation?
1. Crossway - see Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Crossway, 2017
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.