Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Intimacy with God

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I have to ask myself this question: If those who are younger who are following behind me, if they linger where they see me spending time, where will they be? Consumed with work? Ministry? Hobbies? Recreation? Or a lifelong obsession with knowing God?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, July 31, 2015.

Intimate: Does that describe your relationship with God? Nancy was invited to speak on this topic by Life Action Ministries, the organization that that Revive Our Hearts is part of. Let's listen as she shares how to stay close to the Lord day by day .

Nancy: Exodus chapter 33 and chapter 34.

Now you know that the context for this whole extended passage is Moses in the wilderness with the Children of Israel. They’ve been delivered out of Egypt. They’ve gone through the Red Sea. They’ve been at Mount Sinai where God has given them the law. And then Moses was called up to the mount to spend forty days and nights with God. Here’s a man who knew God more intimately than any other man in his day.

While Moses is on Mount Sinai, as you recall, having this amazing encounter with God, chapter 32 tells us about what’s happening down at the bottom of the mountain where the people say to Aaron, “Make us a god we can see.” And so they make the golden calf.

God says to Moses, “You’ve got to go down and see what’s happening here.” Moses comes down. He’s furious. God is upset. We have broken relationships in spades. At the end of Exodus 32 there’s this plague that God sends on the people.

God says, “I want to consume these people. I’ve had it with them.” We’re not off to a very good start.

But in the midst of that whole very tragic situation, we get this personal glimpse into the life of Moses and his relationship with the Lord. What you see in these chapters is like angles on this whole thing of intimacy with God. You have intimacy experienced at one point but then intimacy broken because of sin, and then Moses seeking after intimacy when God has broken off communication and fellowship with His people. And then you see our incredibly gracious God restoring not only Moses but His people to a place of intimacy.

So I want to read several parts of this extended passage. I wish we could read all of both chapters. But let me just begin in verse 1 of chapter 33.

The Lord said to Moses, "Depart; go up from here [from Sinai], you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, 'To your offspring I will give it.' I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey (vv. 1–3).

Now so far so good. A lot of great promises here. But here comes the sticking point and the one that Moses is not willing to settle for.

God says, “But I will not go up among you” (v. 3). You can have all this other stuff, but I’m not going with you.

Now as I read through this passage, just you might want to make mental note of the points of intimacy and the points of broken intimacy. Here’s a point of broken intimacy. God says, “I’m not going with you.” There’s a separation here.

“Lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people." When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned. No one put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you’” (vv. 3–5).

It just struck me as I’ve been thinking about this passage that these people as foolish and sinful as they were, they had the good sense to realize how tragic it was that God would not go up with them. They had the good sense to mourn. As far as they were from God, they knew that this was a horrendous situation that they should be called to go into the land without the presence of God.

I find myself wondering:

  • Does it really matter to me to the extent that it should when the fellowship is broken?
  • Does it make me mourn?
  • Does it make me put off my ornaments?
  • Does it make me grieve?
  • Does it make us grieve when not only our personal intimacy with God is broken but when God’s people are not experiencing intimacy with Him?

It’s a disastrous word when God says, “I will not go up among you.” Sometimes I wonder if it really matters to us.

So the people are separated from God. There’s a broken relationship here. There’s no intimacy. But then you come to verse 7 and you have a whole new picture here, a contrast between the people of Israel and Moses the servant of the Lord.

Verse 7: “Now Moses,” by way of contrast, “used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp . . . and he called it the tent of meeting.”

Now as you know this is not the tabernacle. That had not yet been constructed. This was apparently a temporary structure that Moses set up for the purpose of seeking the Lord. 

Everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.

Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he’d gone into the tent. When 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. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

When Moses turned again to the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up these people,’ but you have not let me know who you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name and you have also found favor in my sight.’

"Now therefore [Moses says], If I have found favor in your sight, please show me your ways, that I may know you [it’s not enough that you know me; I want to know You] in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people." And [God] said, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

[Moses] had said to Him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (vv. 7–16).

Chapter 34, those first several verses the end of 33, and the beginning of 34 God calls Moses up once again to meet Him up on Mount Sinai. In that second forty-day journey God reveals Himself again to Moses. Then look at verse 8 of chapter 34.

Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, "If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us.”

Moses is not letting go. He’s not giving up. He’s not settling for anything less than God going with them.

"For it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance” (v. 9).

And then skip down if you would to verse 29, chapter 34:

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him (vv. 29–30).

You see Moses is near to God; his face shines but the people are afraid because they’re not holy.

But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the Lord had spoken with him at Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with the Lord (vv. 31–35).

In the moments we have here I want to just have us consider together the priority of intimacy with God and then as we look at Moses’ life the process of intimacy with God, and then as we’ve seen in this last paragraph the product. What happens? What’s the outcome of intimacy with God?

But we see in this passage the priority, how much it mattered to Moses to meet with God. Now if you go back to chapter 33, I want to focus most of our comments on verses 7–11 of chapter 33. And you have this structure that Moses erects, this tent of meeting.

Verse 7: “Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting.”

Now the tent had to be outside the camp because the people had sinned. And God said, “I cannot live with unholiness.” So we’re seeing here already that sin separates from God. And yet in spite of the fact that God is judging His people and is withdrawing His presence, Moses is intent on pursuing and maintaining fellowship with God. He’s determined to meet with God. And he’s intentional about finding a way to do that in spite of the fact that he’s living with two or three million Jews who are separated from God, who are living what we might call a carnal life.

So this is determination. Sin has separated the people. God has said, “I will not go up with you.” But Moses will not take that for an answer. He is not content to live or to move forward without God’s presence.

He says, “We must have God. Not just His provision, not just His protection, not just His angel, not just His direction. We have to have God.” In order to have God he makes this conscious, deliberate, intentional, determined choice, busy as he was as the CEO of this nation. He takes time out. He stops whatever else he’s doing, whatever the demands are of these clamoring Jews and he goes away from the camp, he goes outside to meet with God.

It’s just interesting to me because this hits me right where I live, you don’t get the impression that Moses is multi-tasking while he’s in that tent of meeting. I mean no email, no other books, no other conversations going on. Just a purposeful, focused meeting with God.

Verse 8: “Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had come into the tent.”

It’s interesting to me that the people around Moses watched him carefully. As far as they were from God in many respects, they were curious, they were intrigued. There was something compelling about the vision of this man going into that tent of meeting. They knew what he was doing. They knew what mattered most to him.

The people around us watch us. They know what we’re doing and what’s most important to us—especially the people that we’re closest to, the people within the four walls of our own homes, the people that we live with and do life with. They know that we jump out of bed and are on our way to work ten minutes later.

Now we can talk all we want about a great relationship with Christ, but the people closest to us know what really matters to us. They know whether we are or are not connecting with the Lord in intimate times out on a regular basis.

Now some people only watched Moses get to know God. Others went out to meet God themselves. We kind of have these two categories. The people would rise up, but verse 7 tells us that there were others who would seek the Lord.

We won’t become more spiritual just by knowing and watching spiritual people. It takes our own commitment to seek God ourselves. So we see in Moses’ life here the priority, the determination, the concentration of making intimacy with God a priority. And then just a bit here about the process.

Verse 9: “When 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.”

Verse 11: “Thus the Lord used to speak with Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend.”

When Moses left the crowd to seek the Lord, the Lord met with him and the Lord spoke to him. You have here the visible symbol of the presence of God with the pillar of cloud, which wouldn’t it be great to have?

Yet we have a more sure word, a more sure revelation of God Himself in His Word. We have the cloud; we have the fire right here. God speaks to those who take the time out to seek Him and meet with Him.

We see Moses listening attentively. I just picture him on his tiptoes, on the edge of his seat if he ever sat. Maybe he just stood. Maybe he was prostrate before God. I don’t know. But listening attentive, wanting to hear what God would say. I suspect that that started for Moses at the burning bush that from that moment he was always just all ears to hear what God would say.

God will meet with us if we take the time to seek Him. He will speak to us if we are listening. Because Moses did seek God, he enjoyed this extraordinary intimacy with God face to face. Now we know this is not a literal manifestation of God to Moses because God says to Moses in this same passage, “No one can see my face and live.” But figuratively speaking, we have reference here to openness, to closeness, to friendship, to relationship.

This is not just Moses checking something off his to-do list, “Had my devotions today.” I think of how many times I’ve had my devotions but not had devotion, face-to-face friendship, not covering anything, not hiding anything.

I’ve just been pondering how I relate to my friends. I thank the Lord for some precious women friends who are part of my life, my walking partner in Little Rock (although I doubt they’re walking out there today with the snow they got this morning). But you have these friends; you tell them things you don’t tell other people.

You want to be together. It’s not a burden. It’s not an obligation to be face to face with your friends. It’s a privilege. You wish you could have more time together. I wish that for the friendships that I have. The closer the friendship the fewer barriers, the fewer walls, the fewer secrets.

But it requires for us as it did for Moses the willingness to take off the veil, to be uncovered, to be exposed. We stand exposed before Him who sees and who knows all. This requirement of transparent honesty and openness before God. No pretense. No hiding. No posing. No trying to leave a good impression, coming just as I am.

Now just briefly what’s the product? What’s the outcome of our experiencing intimacy with God? Intimacy with God is always transformational. It’s life changing. Always. It changes us.

And we saw this in Exodus 34:29: “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”

What was shining? It was the reflected glory of God! It’s not his own glory; it’s the glory of God because he’s been in the presence of God. He’s altered.

When Moses went back to the camp, he took with him the residue of that relationship. Now he was unconscious of it. It’s others who saw it. And isn’t it often that way in our relationship with the Lord? Sometimes I look at my life and I say, “Has there been any growth? Is there anything changing? I want to be like Jesus, but I just know my own issues and struggles and battles with flesh and self and pride.

But as we spend time with God, others become aware that God is transforming us. He is making us like Jesus. Our lifestyle of intimacy with God can and will motivate others to be seekers of the Lord, to seek Him more earnestly as a result of seeing His presence in our lives.

Not only did they worship, but they were afraid at points. We read that in chapter 34:30 when they saw Moses and the skin of his face shone. They were afraid to come near him. Now God is the one who draws near and invites us to draw near, but shouldn’t there be something of the fear of the Lord in those around the people of God when they see God reflected in us?

It ought to motivate them to make sure they’re right with God. Then you have your impact on the next generation. It changes others. We read this, saw this in chapter 33:11. “When Moses turned again to the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”

Those of you who are parents and grandparents wanting your children and your grandchildren to know the Lord, that’s birthed out of an adult generation knowing God. Joshua wanted to be in the place where he saw his leader spending time.

After Moses left, Joshua lingered. He didn't want to leave. He wanted what he had seen. He knew that a relationship with God was not drudgery for Moses. It wasn’t a chore. It was something to be desired.

Our lives are molding and shaping the lives of those around us, particularly the next generation. I have to ask myself this question: If those who are younger who are following behind me, if they linger where they see me spending time, where will they be?

  • Consumed with work?
  • Consumed with ministry?
  • Consumed with hobbies?
  • Consumed with recreation?
  • Or consumed with a lifelong obsession with knowing God?

So the outcome of intimacy with God is transformational.

And then just a word that I want to add as we wrap up here that was on my heart as I was contemplating this passage again this morning, and that is the prospect that we have as it relates to seeing and knowing God.

Moses knew God in an extraordinary way. But even he was limited in how much of God he could see and know. He was always longing for more. He prayed, “God, show me your glory” (v. 18). Apparently he was wanting a physical manifestation of God.

God denied his request because He said, “No one can see Me and live. Moses if you saw Me physically the sight would kill you” (see v. 20). So even Moses as incredibly as he was able to know God, there were limitations on how much he could see and how much he could know.

The fact is, you and I as New Testament believers can know God in a way that Moses never experienced. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). 

Second Corinthians 4: “God has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (v. 6) who is the image of God. In Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I are blessed to be able to see and to know a greater fullness of God than even Moses ever experienced. Moses longed to see it, and he was given glimpses of it. But in the face of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit, we are called into a level of intimacy that Moses only dreamed of.

Then this promise as the huge prospect and what gives us hope and courage and faith to go on in this very fallen, prodigal world. One day we will see and know Him in a way that we can only dream of now, in a way that is not possible now. Now we see in a mirror dimly but then face to face exactly what Moses longed for, what he experienced in some small measure. But what he wanted was the full, unhindered open view just seeing God as He is. And we will see Him face to face. We will see Him as He is and—praise God—we will be like Him.

Two can’t walk together in intimacy unless they be agreed. The greatest intimacy we will ever experience, the consummation of intimacy in our relationships with Christ will take place when we see Him as He is and the vision transforms us into His very likeness and for eternity we walk in unhindered open communication and fellowship.

So in the last chapter of the Bible we have that great vision of the Holy City, the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it. And his servants will worship Him. They will see His face. Moses said, “Lord, I want to see Your glory.”

“We will see his face, and his name will be on our foreheads. And night will be no more. For they will need no light of [some] lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light” (Rev. 22:5).

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been inviting you to a more intimate relationship with God. If you missed any of the message, you can read the transcript or listen to the audio at ReviveOurHearts.com.

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“No one is affected by the actions of consenting adults to do whatever they want.” Have you heard that idea? It’s popular, but is it true? Nancy will address that next week when she launches into an in-depth study on "Noah and the Flood." Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

 

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