Our women's Bible Study group is working through Luci Swindoll's Cultivating Contentment, and we were talking about a statement Luci made that, "Our souls are restless with a longing to see God." (pg. 10).
The discussion spun off from that statement to the question, "What does it mean to see God? Can we see Him? What about the warnings in the Bible where God said, '...you may not see my face, for no one can see me and live'?" (Ex 33:20)
And yet, earlier in that same chapter the Bible says, "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, like a man speaks with his friend." (Ex 33:11)
One of the ladies said that Moses was special, unique...the rest of the Israelites didn't get to speak with God like that. They used the example of Mt. Sinai to illustrate the point, showing that Moses went up the mountain to meet with God, while the rest of the Israelites stayed at the foot of the mountain, at a distance.
The statement that made my mouth work like a voiceless guppy was this:
"I'm with the Israelites. I don't really want to get that close to God.
When God comes near, the earth quakes and mountains tremble.
Let Him be over there and I'll stay over here and we'll get along just fine."
Pause for a moment and just take that in...
Then another missionary woman said, "Yes, I feel the same. Whenever I try to get close to God, it seems to cost me more than I expected. I'm afraid of what God's going to ask of me if I get too close."
At that point, my jaw slammed shut and a deep sadness overcame me. These women, missionaries who had 'laid down their lives' to follow Christ, were afraid to get too close to God because of what He might ask them to sacrifice, to give up.
I've been pondering those statements for the last couple of weeks, and I've started to understand their fears. Yes, to follow Christ will definitely cost something. It will cost a lot. It will require us to lay down our lives, pick up our crosses. It's not an easy road. It's narrow, it's unpopular, it's a process of dying to self. Why would anyone want to do that?
Because 'those who lose their lives for Jesus' sake will find them' (Matt 10:39).
The life God purposed for you before the world began, before He formed you in the womb.
(Ps 139:13-16, Jer 1:5)
Why would I want the life God purposed for me?
Because those purposes are designed out of a heart of love so wide and long and high and deep that it's hard to grasp...His love surpasses knowledge...we can't even imagine the greatness of the plans God has for us. Instead, it's much easier to imagine the hardship, the suffering, the cost.
If only we could grasp that love! If only we could be like Moses and climb the mountain, reach out for His Presence.
I believe the Israelites missed their chance for close communion with God. Yes, Moses was special, chosen for a specific task to lead God's people out of slavery.
But I believe God wanted to speak directly to the Israelites right from the beginning...
Moses said to the Israelites:
"Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, 'Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.' You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice." (Deut 4:10-12)
"When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men of your tribes and your elders came to me. And you said, 'The Lord our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey." (Deut 5:23-27)
The Israelites had an amazing encounter with the Presence of God, and survived! But they felt like they were pressing their luck to want any more. They were afraid that if God continued to speak to them directly, eventually it would cost them too much... they would die.
It was the Israelites who requested that Moses be their mediator...God was quite happy to speak to them directly, but they were too afraid. They chose to keep their distance.
But what good did keeping their distance do for them? While Moses was communing with the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Israelites were building idols. They preferred to worship something made by their own hands, than worship the One who made them. (Ex 32)
Sad. So sad.
Why would any follower of Christ want to be like the Israelites, rather than like Moses? Are we afraid of what God is going to ask of us if we seek His face? If we yearn for more of His presence? Does that fear keep us at the foot of the mountain, standing at a distance, possibly worshipping idols that are 'safer'?
Do we think it will cost less to serve lesser gods?
It will cost more...it will cost us our eternal lives.
Yes, God is to be revered, awed, adored, glorified, feared...but we are not to be afraid of Him. He is our Father in Heaven, the Lover of our Souls, our Good Shepherd. He is our All in All. Without Him, we can do nothing of Kingdom value.
So don't settle for the foot of the mountain...seek God's face while He may be found. Hunger and thirst for His kingdom and His righteousness. His promise is true:
"You will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13)
Be seekers of God, then taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!