Exodus 33-36 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals Himself to us through His goodness

I have a friend who works for the FBI.  I’ve come to understand that most individuals who work for this part of our government are not involved in high-level espionage and intrigue like we see in the movies. However, when I ask him a government-sensitive question, the standing joke is, “I can tell you, but then I’ll have to kill you.”  Some things are just better off left alone.  This exchange is not so unlike a conversation that Moses shared with God in our reading today.  Fortunately, Moses made it out alive.

@ Exodus 33
“Go up to [Canaan] this land that flows with milk and honey.  But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.  If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.”(3)  Of all the names that God could have called the Israelites at this point, stubborn and rebellious or stiff-necked seem rather tame after discovering their idolatrous dancing frenzy of worship to a golden calf.  Many other names come to mind for me, but then I remember how God viewed rebellion in I Samuel 15:23, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.”  Very apropos, indeed!

Because of their sin, God would not travel to Canaan with them. “When the people heard these stern words, they went into mourning and stopped wearing their jewelry and fine clothes…As [Moses] went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover…When the people saw the cloud…they would stand and bow down in front of their own tents.” (4,8,10)  Their repentance, humility and reverence captured God’s attention, and the appeal for mercy by Moses on their behalf captured His heart.  He forgave them and promised to go with them to Canaan.  He loved them!  He just couldn’t help Himself.

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (11)  Instead of the visions and dreams through which God had spoken to others in the past, God’s conversations with His friend Moses were more personal, more directed.   But Moses revealed that he wanted even more when he asked God to show him His glorious presence (18).  According to the original Hebrew, he wanted to see God’s significance or weight – His Glory, His Power, His Character – the whole deal!  Apparently, Moses had momentarily lost his mind!  What was he thinking?  He was thinking he wanted more!

God was so very kind to Moses in His response, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh…But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” (19-20)  But this warning was different than the bantering with my FBI friend.  Moses was not going to see the face of God because he just couldn’t handle it.  He would see the after, the weight, the more of God’s glory through His mighty acts to come.  Amazingly, Moses did see God many centuries later on the Mount of Transfiguration through his visit with the visible Christ, the glory of God.  More of God’s goodness!

@ Exodus 34
“The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out ‘Yahweh! The Lord!  The God of compassion and mercy!  I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.  I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.  I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty.’  Moses immediately threw himself on the ground and worshiped.” (6-8)  Like Moses, we can’t help but fall on our knees in worship when His Presence overwhelms our space. He reveals His very nature to us through His compassion > His mercy > His unfailing love > His faithfulness > His forgiveness > His justice.  In these moments, these glorious moments, we see the more of Him! 

Moving Forward:  Show me your glorious Presence, Lord.  I don’t deserve it, and I’m not certain I can bear it, but I join with Moses – Show me more! 

Tomorrow @ I Kings 1-4

Exodus 5-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His perspective, nothing is impossible

When painting a picture, an artist goes to great length to exact the proper perspective in a landscape or portrait. An old trick that many painters use is to hold up the thumb at arm’s length to measure the apparent height of a tree in the foreground in relation to objects in the background, etc. The apparent height of the tree may look like it is the length of the thumb; but of course, we know the actual height is much taller. It’s all about perspective, the measured or objective assessment of an object or situation.

If the perspective in a painting is off, the entire picture will look skewed and off balance. This fact holds true in all of life as well – if our perspective in a situation is wrong, our response and behavior will be off balance and skewed. Moses learned a lesson on perspective in our reading today.

After finally acquiescing to God’s call on his life to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses buckled at the first sign of resistance from Pharaoh, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”(5:22-23) God had to put things into perspective for Moses.

Once again, God revealed to Moses precisely with whom he was dealing, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them.”(6:2-4) The patriarchs knew Him as the Almighty, but now He also would be known as Yahweh, Jehovah, the One who would keep His covenant with Israel, the One who would perform great miracles in order to do so.

Moses! Raise your thumb and see the Egyptian landscape through faith in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises. When I think of the challenge before Moses, I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath. As David looked out on the landscape before him and saw the giant, perhaps his boldness came from a raised thumb as he thought, “God will help me take him! Why that giant is no bigger than my thumb!” Faith changes our perspective.

Moses went before Pharaoh with this promise from God, “Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet.”(7:1) Through God’s perspective, apparently, Moses seemed like God to Pharaoh who was considered a god himself. Even though Moses still met with much resistance from Pharaoh, he was allowed regular access to him because of his status.

How do we look at the challenges we face? When our trust is in Jehovah, the One who keeps His promises, we will measure our problems with a different perspective. We will hold up our faith, that thumb if you will, and see our apparent trial as God sees it. And in order to keep His promises, He will do great miracles. Thumbs up!

Moving Forward: Today my thumb is up. I’ll not look at my challenges in the natural, without faith. I’ll view them as God apparently sees them, and nothing is impossible for Him! He kills giants, parts water and raises the dead!

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 21-25

Genesis 12-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He communes with us at our altar of dedication

A few years ago Tom and I took up residence at a new location.  It wasn’t a place we had planned to live, but through God’s leading, we knew it was exactly the right place for us at the time. The Lord provided it for us through one of His servants whose generous heart made it possible, and although we didn’t own this place, it was home to us.  Before the very first night we slept under the roof of our new home, we built an altar – no, it wasn’t a literal altar for sacrificing animals, followed by a visit from the local Fire Marshall.  It was an altar of prayer, straight from our hearts, where we thanked God for His provision, and it was an altar of dedication, calling on Him to bless and protect our dwelling.  We learn from our reading today that the patriarch Abraham knew plenty about pitching a tent and building an altar.

@ Genesis 12
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others’… So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed.”(1-2,4)

This obedience to the Lord by Abram was monumental on many counts:  1) Abram worshiped many gods when God called him (Joshua 24:2), so to be obedient to this voice of one and make this challenging transition was huge.  2) Abram was a wealthy landowner, and it was a risky proposition. The nomadic lifestyle in that day was assigned to those without a land or inheritance. 3) This move wasn’t just a matter of packing up the family and pulling a trailer to a new location.  Abram moved everything – livestock, valuables, servants and their families.  4) Abram knew nothing about his new home.

We can conclude that hearing this word from the Lord created faith in Abram’s heart, and a belief that this God, Yahweh, was the true God worthy of his obedience.  In our times of transition, it is often the Word of God that reinforces our determination to follow the One who is Yahweh, the true God who is worthy of our obedience.

The first stop of significance for Abraham was Shechem, “Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh…Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’  And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” (7)  Second stop, “After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord.” (8) I’m beginning to see a pattern here – pitch a tent, build an altar. 

@ Genesis 13
Abram experienced a brief and difficult sojourn to Egypt where no tent was set up, nor altar built, but now he was back on track, “So Abram left Egypt and traveled north into the Negev…From the Negev, they continued traveling by stages toward Bethel, and they pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, where they had camped before. This was the same place where Abram had built the altar, and there he worshiped the Lord again.” (1-5)  Then, finally after a long and tedious journey from his home in Haran, Abram settled in Hebron, “So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the Lord.” (18)

Wherever Abram set up his tent, he built an altar to God – the pattern of one who follows God’s plan in obedience.  No matter where Abram was on his journey, God was going to be honored, worshiped and called upon by him.  Communication would continue, not only in the process, but also in the promise.

What we learn from Abraham’s walk with God is that no matter whether we are on the way to our next dwelling or living in the promise, wherever we pitch our tent, we should build an altar, a place of reverence to Him.  Whether it is a new home, a new job or a new marriage, we would do well to build an altar in our hearts to honor and worship the Lord, to call upon Him and to commune with Him. 

Moving Forward:  My tent is pitched today and the altar is built where I worship and commune with my God. 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 16-20