This morning a friend preached from Exodus 33, about the Israelites’ reaction to when Moses went to meet God in the Tent of Meeting. He reminded us that the tent was there for everyone to enter, but only two did. He implored us to daily enter the Tent as Moses and Joshua did, because we, too, are dependent on God’s Presence and Glory.
I’m desperate for it.
There are many days—many moments even–where I miss my turn in the Tent, where I miss my Divine Appointments and forgo the opportunity to enter God’s presence. Sometimes it’s because I let the day get in the way and forget to go out to the Tent of Meeting, but sometimes it’s because I go looking for the Presence of God in the wrong place.
It’s true that God is everywhere present. Theologically, I believe the Presence of God manifests itself differently from how it did in those wandering desert days the Hebrews faced. After the Resurrection, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God is no longer in an isolated location, where a certain ethnic group and its leaders held exclusive rights. We believe God is now with us all the time.
Yet we still have to go looking.
Also, the presence of desert days hasn’t changed. I still have those. I am still wandering, asking big questions about what God has in store for me. Where I’m going–what’s next–and even wondering if He’s actually going to make good on those promises of a land that flows with milk and honey. There are days where I climb the mountain, and the vista doesn’t reveal that Land is anywhere close.
Not that I’m sure I even know what I’m looking for.
I went up on that mountain so I could see for myself where we were going. I figured if I went up to the place where He was last—the place where Moses got the Law and brought it down—I’d find God, some clear vision, a way forward, something. I wanted a glimpse of the Promised Land for myself.
So I could get reassurance for myself.
No wonder I didn’t find what I was looking for.
God is not at the end of a long climb propelled by my fear of what’s next.
God is no longer where the rules and procedures carved in stone were handed down. God is not in the shrine that I built to those stone tablets, believing those rules are the very formula that will deliver me from suffering and to a land teeming with things I think I want.
I come back to the sentence that has propelled me for the last three years: I surely have to be where God is.
And this time, God is down in the tent, behind the pillar of cloud.
In a tent, behind a pillar of cloud – God is in the place where I see the least of the land and where there are few people. God is in all the obscurity and mystery. God is in all that I cannot see and all that I cannot know. God is where I carry the weight of Glory, not the weight of worry about the future.
That tent is the place where God will speak to me, face to face “as a man speaks to a friend.” And like Moses, I can take to God all the things I was promised but still don’t know.
All the things I still can’t see.
When it comes down to it, I realize, like Moses, I want God’s favor more than I want answers. I, too, pray “Show me now your ways, that I may know You in order to find favor in your sight.” I, too, remind God that I am one of His people. I remember that there are promises and there is work to do.
God, I’m ready. Please just show me the way.
(And honestly, I, too, would like to know who is going with me.)
God answers that for me as He did for Moses, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Yes, God is everywhere present. But if I am not in that tent, if I am not looking to meet God face to face, it means I am looking for something else.
To get into the Tent, we must make an about-face, turning from our quest to secure our own futures with answers we got for ourselves. Taking the path to the Tent takes me off my well-worn path of worry, insecurity, and self-destruction.
We go looking for the Presence of God so we stop looking for other things that don’t deliver.
I see most clearly when I turn from all the other places where I’m seeking the affirmation and control that will bring me the future I thought I was promised.
When I repent.
I see most clearly when I enter God’s mystery—where I boldly walk into all that I don’t know. Where I remember who I am—which is one of God’s people who has been given Glorious Promises–promises of hope and a future!
I see most clearly when I enter the tent.