Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Six days, and on the seventh

Moses prized the presence of God in his life. And this determined the intensity of God's touch on his life. Note how the Lord singled out Moses from the other Israelites, to approach him: "The people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was" (Exodus 20:21).

Moses represents the blessed man spoken of by David: "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts" (Psalm 65:4). The word for "causeth" here means to be moved upon, to be urged by God to come up.

Many Christians have experienced this call, this divine urge to commune with the Lord. The Holy Spirit calls them to the mount of intimacy often, saying, "I desire to change you, to give you a greater anointing. I want to take you deeper and further in me. I want to reveal my ways to you as never before."

Yet, not all who are called respond. As a result, God doesn't touch them with his fire and unction. At first they may have answered, "Lord, I won't let you down. I'll seek your face continually." And for a season, they shut themselves up in prayer. But they didn'tset their hearts to go all the way in prayer. After a while, they ignored God's voice and went their own way. They cut short his call to come up to where he is.

Most who are called and chosen stop halfway up the mount.

Halfway is where many believers end up. The Bible tells us, "He said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him" (Exodus 24:1-2).

God had chosen a handful of men he wanted to touch. He had wonderful plans for these men, especially for Aaron and his sons. They were to be Israel's priestly leaders. The Lord had told Moses, "I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar; I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office" (29:44). Likewise, the Lord had told the elders, "Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (19:6).

So, why did God tell these men to their faces, "Worship me afar off. Don't come near to me. Only Moses shall come up to me at the top of the mount" (see 24:1-2) The fact is, God knew the sins brewing in these men's hearts. And they had to be dealt with. He wanted to touch their lives. But he couldn't do that as long as they were hiding sin.

So, God allowed them to come only halfway up the mount. Yet, even so, he appeared to them supernaturally, as a cloud of darkness: "They saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness" (Exodus 24:10). These men now stood in the incredible, revelatory presence of God. They even ate and drank there, at a table in his presence. But they were still "afar off" from him.

Israel's elders were being exposed to the utter, shattering holiness of God. It was as if he were saying, "Sin has a hold on your heart. And it's keeping you from the full revelation I want to give you. Your besetting lust is robbing you of close communion with me. You can't be intimate with me as long as you have hidden sin."

Try to picture these men as they heard this word:

* Aaron had been told by God, "I'm going to sanctify you as high priest. I'll clothe you in purple and gold. And I'll set you before Israel as an example." Yet Aaron's heart was tainted by jealousy over Moses. He also had a sensual streak, and he feared man more than God.

* God had told Nadab and Abihu he would reveal his holiness to them. Yet these two men were hardened in an addiction to adultery. They didn't possess an ounce of the fear of God. Now the Lord was telling them, "I'm a merciful God. My desire is that when you come into my presence, you'll allow yourselves to be broken."

* God had told the seventy elders he wanted to exalt them before the world. Yet these same men refused to be under anyone's authority. They considered themselves to be as gifted and holy as Moses. (This would later manifest itself in a rebellious uprising.) But God was urging them into his presence. He wanted to deal with their deadly pride.

God was warning these chosen men, giving them a mercy call.

The Lord so desired to use all these men. He wanted them to be broken, so he could bring them higher. So he gave them an incredible mercy call, to come up.

Saul received the same kind of mercy call. This man's heart was bound by demonic strongholds. He had marched into Ramah seeking to kill David. But the Holy Spirit moved on Saul. All night long, the king lay in God's presence, smitten. Yet even this merciful, supernatural intervention didn't change Saul's heart.

Now Israel's leaders were at a similar crossroads. They were halfway up the mount, halfway to God's touch, halfway to his consuming presence. "Then went up Moses, and Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel...And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand" (Exodus 24:9-11). Note the last verse: the Lord didn't judge them. In truth, these men deserved to be slain, because of their sin. But God's only desire was to redeem.

Next we read, "Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you" (24:13-14). The elders were to stay and wait for Moses' return. But almost immediately, their hearts were pulled by the Israelite camp below.

Soon they weren't willing to wait on the Lord anymore.

I picture Nadab and Abihu as the first to leave this halfway camp. They itched to get back to the restless crowd and their own lustful ways. So they followed the tug of their flesh. Despite God's appearance to them in the dark cloud, despite being allowed to eat and drink in his presence, they left that place untouched.

These two men represent Christian leaders today who freely indulge in lust, pornography, adultery. They're so hardened by their sin, nothing can reach them. They reject every mercy call from the Holy Spirit, every convicting message from his prophets, every encounter with the Lord himself. They abort all his attempts to deliver them.

The next men to be tempted were Aaron and the other pious leaders. One after another, they whispered, "We don't know what's happened to Moses. He may have abandoned us." Soon the whole body of elders repeated this faithless chant. These were men who had been called by God to a life of prayer and communion. But now, one by one, they left his presence untouched. They didn't repent or yield to his holiness. Instead, they turned back to a religion of abominable flesh.

Yet, further up on the mount, Moses experienced God's touch in full. How? He was obedient to the Lord's voice. He had followed his call to come up: "The Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there" (Exodus 24:12). God was saying, in other words, "Come into my presence. Just be there for me."

For six days, Moses waited outside the glory cloud. I believe it was during these six days that the elders left the halfway camp. They were convinced God had nothing more to say to them. But Moses obeyed the Lord by waiting. Then we read, "The seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud...and Moses went into the midst of the cloud...and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights" (24:16-18).

Moses received an incredible revelation of the Lord during those forty days. And just as God called Moses then, he's calling his servants to the mount today. His Spirit is urging us to come up to a place higher and deeper in him than we've ever known. He's calling us to communion, to intimacy, to talk with him face to face, as Moses did.

Indeed, the Lord has given us the same commandment to wait on him: "On thee do I wait all the day" (Psalm 25:5). "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). "They shall not be ashamed that wait for me" (Isaiah 49:23). Passage after passage calls us to wait on God. Yet, how many of us quickly turn back to our old ways? How many of us are pulled back by our flesh, to a dead form of religion?

The Holy Spirit spoke this to my heart: "David, those who wait in my presence feed me. Their quiet worship, their waiting to hear my voice, are my food." Such God-touched servants have determined, "I'm going to wait on the Lord. I won't settle for anything less than face-to-face communion with him. It doesn't matter what others do in their walk. I want God to take me places in him where others refuse to go."

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