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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