I have been reading through the Bible chronologically this year, and last week, I read a part in Exodus that struck me so emphatically that I have not been able to stop visualizing it. In Exodus 33, it says that, when Moses and the Israelites were in the desert, all of the Israelites would rise up and worship at the door to their tents whenever they saw Moses enter the Tent of Meeting to talk to God. And while God was there, He talked to Moses face to face, "the way a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11).
When I first read it, I was so jealous of Moses. He got to hang out with God as a friend, to talk face to face with Him. But last night, during worship, I discovered another side to the story. While Moses was talking to God face to face, the Israelites were worshiping at their tent doors.
That's beautiful, right?
The whole camp knew that God was there, so they stood up and worshiped.
But I think that it's also a little bit tragic.
Moses was talking to God face to face. Moses got to enter God's presence and hang out. The people of Israel could see where this awesome gab session was taking place, but they all stayed at the doors of their tents. In fact, the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers talk about the offerings and sacrifices and purifications the Israelites had to observe in order to honor God. They were not ever allowed in the Most Holy Place (or the Holy Place, for that matter), no matter how pure they were.
They lived in a camp where the presence of God Almighty sat in a cloud of a pillar of fire all of the time, in the presence of God, but they never met Him face to face.
That was life under the Law of Moses.
But you and I, we do not live under that law. Jesus died for our sins on the Cross and filled the sacrifice so that we don't have to purify ourselves and offer a peace offering and a sin offering and a guilt offering (etc, etc, etc - I cannot for the life of me keep them all straight). When God looks at me, He already sees me as pure, as clean, as having done all of my sacrifices and offerings. Even better than that, He invites me into His presence. He longs to see me face-to-face. It says in Psalm 11:7 that, "...the upright shall behold his face."
I meet with God intimately, as a friend, every morning. I meet Him over coffee, and we discuss what's going on in my life (and my friends' lives, and my family's lives, and the world, and in His Heavenly realms, as well. He rarely interrupts, so I do a lot of the talking). Sometimes we sit in the comfortable silence of friends who are so sure of each other's love that they don't need to discuss it. I take these times for granted, but my life has not always been this way. For most of it, I did not meet with God in an intimate way.
I can't believe I wasted so much time. I can't believe it took so much time for me to fall in love with the Saviour of my soul.
And it makes me a bit upset to think that those Israelites had the same longing that I do for intimacy with God, but they could not have it the way that I can. And I can have it, but so often I choose not to be intimate with God. I choose not to take my problems to Him. I choose not to trust, not to see His love.
It's just like when somebody already has the camera that I have been saving up for and doesn't want to learn how to use it or to carry it around because it's heavy.
Okay, it's just like that, but times a thousand.
What am I doing? Why am I wasting this amazing gift?
What would the Israelites say to me if they could talk to me about it right now?