Tuesday, April 19, 2016

God is Not Subject to Pay Equity


Rest – On God’s Terms and His Bottom Line
Exodus 33:17-23: And the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight, and I have known you by name.” Then Moses said, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
God tells Moses He will grant his request to go with the people because Moses had found favor in His sight and because God knows him by name. This latter condition may be a reference to God speaking with Moses face to face, and knowing him as a friend. We are also tempted to think that God has bought Moses’ arguments.  Perhaps so, but Moses wants to make sure and asks God to be shown His glory. But let us be sure of one thing – whatever God does (and what He does, He does abundantly), He does on His own will and desire because as the text implies, Moses had found favor in His sight.
Chuck Smith marvels at how wonderful it would be if we each sought the heavenly glory of God rather than being so ‘earthbound’ in our thinking about Him. He writes, “We get so bound up in the things of man, the things of man’s creation, the work of our own hands; oh, that we might see the glory of God.” Moses in the Old Testament and then Paul and John in the New got a glimpse of the glory of God and their lives were changed forever. Smith goes on to say that seeing God’s glory (or getting a real glimpse of it) will create in us a dissatisfaction with earthly things. It will make us feel as if we can never settle into the old routine again. He writes, “I can never be happy again with just the old mundane material world around me, but there'll be that longing to enter into that glory, and the presence of God.” That’s the extra assurance that Moses was looking for as he had a real hunger for a closer relationship with, and a greater knowledge of, God. And you will remember that Moses had many years earlier already seen something of the Glory of God when God’s glory had appeared in the cloud (Exodus 16:10) and when it had rested on Mount Sinai like a consuming fire (Exodus 24:16-17).  Still, or maybe because of that, Moses wanted more of seeing and knowing God’s Glory. And God responds.
And God says, “I’ll let My ‘goodness’ pass before you.” And, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.”

Moses wanted to see God’s glory and God offers to show him His goodness. To commentator David Guzik that makes a lot of sense because God’s glory, he says, lies in His goodness. The most important thing for us to understand as we seek to know God and His glory is that God is good. If we fail to grasp that, we will fail to learn much about God.

Matthew Henry suggests that God denied that which was not fit to be granted, and which Moses could not bear. And God does so out of compassion for man, for “A full discovery of the glory of God would quite overpower the faculties of any mortal man in this present state, and overwhelm him, even Moses himself.When we ask things of God, we must be thankful that sometimes He denies our request. Henry goes on to say that seeing the face of God “is an honor reserved for the future state, to be the eternal bliss of holy souls...In the meantime let us adore the height of what we do know of God, and the depth of what we do not.” It is also of note to Henry that “Sinful man dreads the sight of God his Judge; but holy souls, being by the Spirit of the Lord changed into the same image, behold with open face the glory of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

On the aspect of proclaiming the name of the Lord, David Guzik reminds us that “in the thinking of the ancient Hebrews (and also in other ancient cultures), the name represented a person’s character and nature. God promised to reveal His character to Moses, not merely a title.” Moses was asking to see more of God’s glory, but God was offering him infinitely more than just the mere visual grandeur of His glory. God was offering Moses what he needed to know, not what he wanted to know.

Smith says this is
“a name that was highly revered by the Jews, so highly revered but that they would not even attempt to pronounce it. So the name of God became non-pronounceable. When the scribes would come to the name of God in their text, . . .  they would not put in the vowels, only the consonants, Y-H-V-H. Now try and pronounce Y-H-V-H, unpronounceable, can't pronounce just the consonants, you need the vowels for pronunciation. We don't know what the vowels are. That is why we don't know if the name of God is Yahweh, or Jehovah, pronounced with a "Y" not sure how to spell it. We don't know what it is. We guess at what the vowels might be, but we don't know because the name of God was not pronounced by them.”

If he is correct, then for centuries now we seem to have taken a risk or perhaps compromised and deemed that God’s name is both Yahweh and Jehovah.  And if that’s not enough, here’s what else Smith suggests took place each time a scribe was about to write the name of God:
But the scribes when they would come to these consonants, before they would write them in the text, they would go in and take a bath, put on fresh clothes, wash their pen completely, dip it in fresh ink, and then write the consonants. Now can you imagine how many baths you'd have to take in some of these passages where the Lord's name is mentioned several times? Yet that is the kind of reverence in which they held the name of God, feeling that it was such a holy name that it should never pass the lips of man. Thus it was never to be pronounced by man.

Readers, he says, when they would come to the name, “rather than attempting to pronounce the name, they would bow their head in reverence and they would just whisper the name.” Nothing was held in higher respect than the name of God. My, haven’t we come a long way – when we often hear the name of God being used so abhorrently today, not only by adults, but also by very young children. What’s your practice? What do you let your children or grandchildren get away with in your presence? I remember once being in the midst of negotiations and someone took the name of Jesus in vain. I very politely asked him, “Jesus Christ is not whom we are discussing right now, so I would appreciate it if you would keep Him out of it.” The man got the message; didn’t apologize, but changed his vocabulary going forward.

When God said, “I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you”, was He really saying He would pronounce His name before Moses? Smith says that as far as the Israelites were concerned only the High Priest knew how to pronounce the name of God and he would do so once a year on the Day of Atonement.

God knew that Moses had to be protected when He showed him His goodness, and Moses tells us in verses 21-23 of this passage how God intended to do that. First God gave Moses a very specific instruction as to where to stand in order to see what he was being allowed to see. Then as He passed before and by Moses, God would hide Moses in the cleft of the rock he was told to stand on and use His own hand to shield him from seeing God Himself.  It is this passage that prompted Agustus Toplady to write the famous words many of us have sung, Rock of Ages, cleft for me; Let me hide myself in Thee.

David Guzik gives us a list of people who have experienced a glimpse of the glory of God while being protected by Him.  They included Isaiah, the apostle John, and Paul, from our Bible. And post-Bible times, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd (the great apostle to the American Indians), and D. L. Moody. We may not be given that honor, but that should not stop us from having an earnest desire to experience God deeply, in whatever way He chooses to allow us to do so. We can all see something of the glory of God, even though we will not see it fully, or clearly, or even comprehend it.
Even Moses was only allowed to see God’s back. But let us not forget that indeed what God allowed for Moses was more than what He had allowed for any other man. There’s also suggestion here, I believe, that while we can never see God, we can see “behind God”, that is, we can see where God has been and has left His mark. Have you seen God in nature, in the life of a newborn, in miracles that we take for granted? God’s been there. Watch to see His back as He moves on and move with Him and you will experience the after-effects of God’s glory and presence.

The message is that if we were to be allowed to see any more of God or all of God, we could not bear it, no matter how much we desire it. We have to understand the whole scene as another of God’s infinitely brilliant designs for our experiences – He reveals a certain amount of Himself while still concealing all of Himself; He blesses us with the revelation but at the same time protects us from any more. And that’s how God rewarded Moses and his desire to see His glory. And as Guzik points out, God does all He can to satisfy us as we seek Him. But the bottom line is that He would have us know Him more by His goodness and mercy, than, as Matthew Henry says, by His glorious majesty.
And it did not stop there for the believer.  There was more of God’s glory to be revealed when God gave us His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 3:18).

God tells Moses He will be “gracious to whom He will be gracious.” God as absolute owner of all and everything, grants His gifts to whomever He chooses and in any amounts that He chooses.  He owes no one anything; nor is He accountable for His actions to anyone. That’s why the world had, and has, a problem with Him. The motivation for any of His decisions in this regard stem solely from within Him and not because of anyone meriting anything He gives to them. His gifts are strictly on the basis of His doing what seems right to Him and Him alone.  Now for those of us that have been taught that there must be “fairness and equality” in all aspects of our lives today, that is hard to swallow.  Yet, it is the very thing we need to grasp in our relationship with God. Telling God He’s wrong in doing so gets us nowhere fast.
 
You and I need to come to the place where we seek God without ceasing, accept the blessings He gives us, keep asking for more, and recognize His right to withhold our requests when He chooses to, which ultimately is for our own protection. We cannot invite or expect the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, until we get to that place.



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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

God's Response To Your Prayers For Others


Finding Favor In God’s Sight 
Exodus 33:12-16: Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, Thou dost say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But Thou Thyself hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Moreover, Thou hast said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight. Consider too, that this nation is Thy people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Thy presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Thy sight, I and Thy people? Is it not by Thy going with us, so that we, I and Thy people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”
We long to find favor in the sight of someone (a person we are devoted to) or we hope that circumstances will favor us (for a goal we are chasing). Having favor is a good thing. Some work to be the favorite son/daughter. Some work toward having the teacher’s favor or the the boss’s.  But throughout history, a few good men and women have chosen to desire the favor of God. And they weren’t losers. Contrary to what some people think, those with high IQs are just as likely to seek God’s favor as the rest of us.  Moses was one of those people.
In the preceding segment of our discussion, we learned that Moses was comfortable enough with God as he had the privilege of speaking with the Almighty ‘face to face’ figuratively speaking, as one friend speaks to another. With that kind of relationship that God and he had established, Moses was not afraid to challenge God lovingly, and he did, for good purpose – the saving of his people, the Israelites.
So Moses asks God to tell him who God intends to send with Moses and the people as he takes them to the promised land. “You want me to do this, God, but you won’t tell me who you are going to send with me, since you’re not coming.”  Wow.
And if that’s not enough, he continues: “God, You said You have known me by name; and that I found favor in Your sight. But if that’s the case, why are You not letting me know Your ways?” I think Moses was appealing to the fact that they had a good relationship, that they had spoken to each other as friends. And friends share their plans.
It is important to note here that because Moses has found favor in God’s sight, he expects to know the ways of God (to know what God was thinking or planning). But seeking that is not about having extra knowledge himself through which he could succeed in his own endeavors, but rather as the text says, he wants to know God’s ways in order that he may “know” God. Is that the end purpose for knowing God’s ways? Not really. Moses says, “I want to know Your ways so that I may know You and that will bring me right back to where I really want to be, in a place where I have found favor in Your sight.” You see, it is a circular process. We find favor in God through obedience; we learn His ways as He shares them with us; and in so doing we know Him better; and this in turn, gives us more favor with, or keeps us in the favor of, God. I think that any child of the Creator who follows that process sincerely and passionately, would be sending to God a sweet aroma of praise and adoration – music to His ears from His beloved child.
And then Moses keeps on going. “And look God, consider this. This is not just about You and me. This nation of the Israelites that I represent is your nation, your people. What about them?” Many of us who approach God find it so easy to ask things of Him on our own behalf. “God, I really need You to come through for me here. My little girl is hurting right now and I can’t bear it, Lord. I need this job Lord for my family. And so on.” We’re pretty good at doing that, even if it is with honorable requests as Moses had just asked of God – to know Your ways, in order to know You.
But what about entreating the Almighty strongly on behalf of many others? The extended family? The whole department at work? The entire class at school? The whole team you play with, including the opposing side? The body of believers you worship with? That’s a lot harder, isn’t it? And yet, I believe that God appreciates our sincere interest in others.
And how does God respond to Moses? Moses is concerned about his people and God’s people, and God responds to say His presence “shall go with you (singular) and I will give you (singular) rest.” It’s nice that Moses cares about the people, but God only promises to be with him and to give him peace and rest. What does that say to us? What does that say to us when we’re praying for the salvation of others? What does it say to us who may be praying for something with respect to our children – their family, their jobs, their health?
I think the message is clear: keep on praying for others and interceding on their behalf; that says a lot about us to God and He hears it; but what He promises in return is His presence with us and His peace and rest for us. Like the old Greyhound Bus Lines slogan, “Leave the Driving to Us”, we are to leave “the saving” or the “helping” to Him. And as far as whatever He does with respect to others, we can be certain of one thing that will help us with respect to His decisions – He will be present with us and give us rest and peace. I believe understanding that process of how we are to pray and react to God’s decisions on behalf of others is paramount to living a victorious Christian life.
But somehow Moses wasn’t there yet for he continues to push God. Instead of saying “thank you, God”, he comes back at the Almighty once more with the plural, avoiding the singular. “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” Still more evidence to God that Moses really cares about his people and he’s not in it just for himself.  If God wasn’t to lead the people, then He should not make them go forward for without Him they would perish.
God does not interrupt him. And Moses goes on with his last argument. And in so doing, appeals to God this time on the ‘singular’ level of the conversation on which He was focusing and promising.  “God, how will others know that I have found favor in Your sight,” but then adds the plural aspect because to him it is also about the people, “I and Your people?  This was a rhetorical question to God; Moses already knew the answer and he tells God.  “Why, the only way for people to know that is for You to go with us.”
Our testimony is based not on what we do, but on God being seen by others to “go with us”. Moses says, “God, that’s what distinguishes us from all the other people on earth.” Wow.  Can’t wait to see how God responds to that.
But get the picture here. Is God with you today? Are you living a life of distinction from others by having God readily event in your life by how you talk and act and work? I pray that each of us reconsider these questions as we study this remarkable relationship between God and his friend, Moses.

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Saturday, April 09, 2016

How God & Moses Stayed In Touch



Exodus 33:7-11: Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about, that everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of the tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. And it came about whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
How often have you said to someone or had them say to you, “Let’s stay in touch.” and it never happens? As I was studying this portion of Scripture several thoughts came to mind. If God has anything to say to me or any of His followers on a regular basis, I believe it is this – “Let’s stay in touch.” Jesus, Who had spent three years getting to know His twelve apostles intimately, could say to them over and over as He did to Peter, “Feed me sheep.” And He probably wants to say that to us as well, but I get the feeling that in this day and age, He first needs more of us to simply “Stay in touch” with Him. It is us that have not maintained the relationship that we could have with Him. So, He keeps asking, “Stay in touch.”
When the Israelites were in the desert having fled Egypt, God and Moses had a way of staying in touch. Moses would pitch a tent, which he called the ‘tent of meeting’ [for that is where he met with God] outside the main camp (at a good distance). In fact, anyone who wanted to hear from God through their leader Moses, would go out to the vicinity of this ‘tent of meeting’. Commentator Matthew Henry believes that this was not Moses’ own personal tent for his family, but the tent he used for giving audiences to solve disputes, to give advice, and to hear from God. Chuck Smith suggests this was done outside the camp because God would not live among them in their camp, lest He destroy them out of His recent anger towards them.
Whenever Moses went out to the tent (which seems to have been set up at all times while they were in one place), all the people would go and stand outside the entrance of the tent, fully concentrating on Moses until he entered the tent. And then they had learned that something miraculous would happen – the ‘pillar of cloud’ (the symbol of God’s presence) would come and hover over the entrance of the tent, and God would speak with Moses.
David Guzik suggests that this is Moses leading the people in worship and that the tent was the temporary place of worship as the Israelites had not yet built the tabernacle God had given them detailed instructions for. This was to be the ‘meeting place’ for all to worship in. Clearly the rising of the people to worship whenever the cloud came and settled over the tent indicated that indeed this was a time of showing reverence and for some, adoration, towards God.
But at the same time reading in-between the lines we detect there were two groups of people involved – those that still sought God and those that stayed far away, back inside the camp, inside their own personal tents.
Robert Jamieson sees this account as being mostly focused on Moses being the mediator for the people before God. The comfort of having God dwell among them was removed from them because of their sin, but as Henry points out they were still free to take what action was needed to follow God. And this the people did, for they were now a people eager for reconciliation with God. They too wanted to “stay in touch” with Him.
Near the end of this passage we read that the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. David Guzik says this is to be taken figuratively, that is, Moses did not actually see God’s face but He did hear his voice and felt His presence. That is, they spoke freely and openly with each other. Moses, as author of the text, is trying to convey how simple it was to communicate with God. It is God’s desire that we communicate with Him as a true friend, although He is much more than that. The phrase “face to face” is not deemed to be literal for further down in this chapter as we will soon discover, we read that no man can see God, and live. Throughout scripture, there is considerable reference to the ‘face’ of God and how it can be figuratively revealed to us, but that’s a separate study. Suffice it to say that on this occasion Moses and God spoke intimately as two friends.
The passage closes with reference to Moses’ assistant, Joshua, staying close to this tent of meeting while Moses returned to the camp. David Guzik reminds us that Joshua had become a devotee to God because of Moses’ leadership. His remaining at the tent was either because he was asked to by Moses or he wanted to.  In either case, his purpose for doing so would have been to hear anything else that God may have wanted to say to Israel. Hearing from God and staying in touch with Him was so critical to the lives of Joshua and Moses, and whether to the lives of the Israelites as a whole, whether or not they knew it.
So what do you do to “Stay in touch” with God? Where do you go to speak to Him “face to face”? How do you know He has come to meet with you? Every one of us who wants to hear God speak into our lives would do well to consider our specific answers to these questions.


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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

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