Next lessons: Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22.
Exodus 33:12-23: This revealing text brings us face to face with the core of religion. It is an encounter with God, being with God, seeing God face to face. This and nothing less than this is the central control system of all faith and religion. It is not content to have God’s permission; it seeks God’s presence. Faith is not satisfied merely to obtain God’s approval; it craves and seeks God’s presence in all people, all places and all things. We want much more than to get something from God; we want to live with God as we dwell in the secret place of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. We need more than God’s words and works, we are starving for God’s breath as we pray deeply and sincerely:
Moses’ unquenchable thirst for God is sharpest as Israel has just reached its lowest degradation by worshipping the golden calf that it had made rather than remaining true and loyal to the God who made them and saved them. They repented. They were forgiven. God scheduled the continuation of their journey through the remaining wilderness and onward and forward to the land of promise. God commands Moses and the people to leave from where they were and to march on toward Canaan.
This God of grace and power promised also to send an angel before them to drive out their enemies; but God added that God would not be personally present on their journey. God said, “I will not go up among you …”(Exodus 33:3). If you do not want God, you will not have God. If you do not seek God, you will not see God. Sin creates alienation from God. In such a state of tragic separation, it is impossible to have the blessings of God without God, to have the progress, the conquest, the ownership of great things without the God whose breath is life, whose heart is love and whose presence is joy. Moses refused God’s offer to be absent and distant. Moses said, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15). If God is not present, there need be no journey, no progress, no program, no revival. We are here not just for dictation and direction, but for fellowship, companionship, relationship, friendship and partnership with God. All the things of God without God will leave us frustrated and fearful. On the other hand, the absence of all things combined with the assured presence of God fills us with unfailing love, infuses us with indomitable power and overwhelms us with incredible joy. We are content with what we have, and can survive and succeed despite the absence of the things we don’t have if only God is with us. The presence of things and the absence of God is poverty. The absence of things and the presence of God is power and praise. If you don’t believe it, ask the slaves and their posterity, who had nothing but God, and that was enough to overcome slavery and transform the world. If all you have is God, that is enough! “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”
Hebrews 13:5 Follow this theme of relationship with God versus receiving only blessings from God. Feel the heart-beat of God’s desire to be with us in Psalm 99. Sense the wonder of how the members in the Church at Thessalonica are able and willing to move beyond membership into discipleship and follow them as they follow Christ. Consult Thessalonians 1:1-10 to see the phenomenon of determined Christian growth.
Read Matthew 22:15-22 to line up a properly prioritized relationship between Christ and Caesar, church and state, God and world!
C. G. A.