The Rest of God’s Presence


Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. 



Scripture:

 Ex. 33:12   Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

Observation:

We are invited into this very intimate conversation between Moses and God. Moses had continued his spiritual climb until he knew God in a way that perhaps no human has ever known God since. Through prayer and fasting he had come to recognized the voice of God and the result was a relationship in which God and Moses spoke with one another as would two good friends. 

We find Moses up on the mountain in conversation with the LORD. It’s in this back and forth dialogue that we are struck by God’s response in verse 14, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” The Hebrew text actually says “my faces will go,” in other words, this is not about some type of abstract presence of God, but that there will be manifestations of God’s goodness and grace that will be sen throughout the entire journey. God’s appearance will be varied by the necessity of the circumstances and the result will be an incredible sense of peace and rest for Moses. 

The mystery of the future church is foreshadowed in this conversation: God’s people who learn the intimacy of seeking the face of God will be able to rest in God’s presence. The church should be a place where the many faces of God are revealed in the varied circumstances of life. Seeking the face of God in those circumstances will reveal God’s presence and provide us with rest. 

Application:

Just google “anxiety and depression” and you will be overwhelmed by the number of scholarly articles and blogs that have been written on the topic. It seems that we are a society that no longer knows how to find peace and rest. Interestingly, this article by Tim Newman, “Anxiety in the West: Is it on the Rise?” provides us with some interesting ideas to ponder. Specifically, in the West, and then in the Americas there is far greater anxiety and depression than in other parts of the world. He tells us “Millennials were revealed to still be the most anxious generation.” He then goes on to speculate on different causes for this anxiety. I’d like to add my own speculation, and that is that somewhere along the way, we forgot what it meant to seek the face of God and spend time in God’s holy presence, and hence, know real rest.

When I was a child, my parents read to us from the Bible at breakfast every morning. We prayed together as a family, and I distinctly remember hearing my parents voices as they lifted up each one of us before we headed out for the day. When we moved to America, the schedule became much more hectic and it soon looked as if the morning times around the table would disappear. My mother wasn’t about to let that happen. She made us all get up thirty minutes earlier, just so family time in God’s presence was not swallowed up by life. 

Today’s Millennials were raised in an era where everything that school and the world had to offer began to swallow up family time in the presence of God. How many of today’s young people would say that they were raised by good parents who took them to church, but there was nothing else spiritual that happened throughout the week? What if we have lost the art of slowing down and becoming intentional about being in God’s presence, and therefore, we find no rest? And the result is a generation consumed by anxiety.

Just a few verses later in our text Moses asks God, “Show me your glory, I pray.” (v. 18) This morning the worship song, “Show us your glory, Lord” keeps going through my mind: 

We've waited for this day
We're gathered in your name
Calling out to you
Your glory like a fire
Awakening desire
Will burn our hearts with truth
You're the reason we're here
You're the reason we're singing
Open up the heavens
We want to see you
Open up the floodgates
A mighty river
Flowing from your heart
Filling every part of our praise
Your presence in this place
Your glory on our face
We're looking to the sky
Descending like a cloud
You're standing with us now
Lord, unveil our eyes
You're the reason we're here
You're the reason we're singing
Open up the heavens
We want to see you
Open up the floodgates
A mighty river
Flowing from your heart
Filling every part of our praise
Show us, show us your glory
Show us, show us your power
Show us, show us your glory, Lord
Open up the heavens
We want to see you
Open up the floodgates
A mighty river
Flowing from your heart
Filling every part of our praise

(Songwriters: INGRAM JASON / ANDREWS MEREDITH FRANCES / GARRARD STUART DAVID / ROZIER ANDI / MACDONALD JAMES SHERWOOD Open Up The Heavens lyrics © Word Music LLC, Stugio Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Timber Publishing, Sony/ATV Cross Keys Publishing, Open Hands Music, Hbc Worship Music, Mesmerized Music, Publisher Unknown, WORD MUSIC, LLC)

While this song comes from this very passage of scripture, I am deeply moved by this exchange between God and Moses and it gives me pause. Moses, in great humility, and out of his deep relationship with God asked if it might be possible to see God’s glory. I’m afraid that we come to church, casually on a Sunday morning, and we stand and sing this song asking God to “show us your glory.” Do we really understand what we’re asking? This is a covenant relationship between two and there can be nothing casual about this from our side. To ask to see the glory of God was to risk death if one wasn’t in the right place with God. Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of the rock so he could just see the backside of God because the glory was too great to behold. But in this place he found a deep sense of rest. 

Anxiety does not have to rule the day. Shutting off the world and learning to relax in the very presence of God is life-changing. We are invited into a deeply intimate relationship with God as a result of intentionally shutting out the distractions and spending time with God. God promises that when we seek his face, his many faces will go with us into every circumstance of life, and we will find rest. 

Prayer:

Lord, I desperately need to know you more. Amen.

Comments

  1. Thank you so very much for your writings. They fill me with God's love and hope in this dismal world. Appreciate you so much.

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