Intimacy 2/3: Pursuing Intimacy With God
Bijgewerkt: 25 nov 2019
What does intimacy with God look like?
The Bible provides us with many detailed descriptions of how people interacted with God. We’ve got David’s very emotional prayer journal in the Psalms. We find many detailed stories of how the prophets interacted with God and of course we have the life of Jesus who modeled complete unity with the Father.
I’m going to explore a chapter in the life of Moses with you in this blogpost and distill four powerful lessons for our lives and our relationship with God. But before we start reading, I will need to give you some background information.
The people rebel, God responds
God called Moses to lead His chosen people out of slavery in Egypt to bring them to the Promised Land – a fertile land flowing of milk and honey where they could prosper and be a blessing to all nations. During their time in the desert between Egypt and Israel, God would take them through a transformation process to live as His people. In that period of time, He would reveal Himself, give them laws to live by and give instructions for worship. But, most of all, He would help them to understand that He is not just one of the many small “g” gods worshiped around the world. Yahweh reveals Himself to Israel the One and Only Living God who is above all, and that they were His chosen people.
This whole process was anything but a smooth process. Many times, we see that there is sin among the people and rebellion against God, even after He showed them many times that He is good for His promises.
Then, when Moses is up Mount Sinai for a long period of time, receiving the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets, the people rebel in a deeply perverse way. They demand that Aaron, Moses’ brother who was the High Priest, make them a golden calf to worship from the golden jewellery that they had received from the Egyptians – a gift from God.
Furthermore, it says that when they celebrated and worship this calf, they “indulged in pagan revelry” which means the party got out of control. Not that they played music too loud and annoyed the neighbours, but in the sense that they got utterly drunk and turned the party into an orgy...
The people God had set apart to live holy and to worship Him alone and be a light to the nations, now turned away from Him and ignored any instruction they had received. God was furious and expresses His intent to Moses to destroy them. Moses intercedes for the people and God changes His mind and gives this alternative:The Lord said to Moses, “Get going, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt. Go up to the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I told them, ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ And I will send an angel before you to drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Go up to this land that flows with milk and honey. But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way.” (Exodus 33:1-3)
At first, this sounds like a promise, but actually it is goodbye. God sounds like He is ready to give up on this whole project. He says: “go ahead, I’ll give you the land that I promised, I’ll even send an angel to help you conquer it, but I’m not going with you because I cannot guarantee I can keep my cool with you guys”. God says: “I will give you what I promised, but not what I intended”.
What I love about this passage is how it shows that God is not just sharing plans and instructions with Moses, but He is sharing His heart. That’s what makes Moses’ relationship with God intimate. God reveals His deep love and beautiful plans with Moses, but also His disappointment and anger with the people.
1) Intimacy with God = heart-to-heart
Prayer is not just a time when we get to pour out our lives before God, but more so, a time when we get to listen to what He has to say. If prayer is more about talking than about listening for you, you are not truly pursuing intimacy. Our first desire when we come to God should be to know Him better.
Our first desire when we come to God should be to know Him better.
So often we treat prayer as working off a wish list of prayer points – but prayer should be so much more. Prayer is meant to be a time of speaking and listening. It’s a time where we lean in and listen carefully to what God is saying.
Intimacy with God means that we come close to His heart and understand what His heart is beating for. What takes place is a heart-sync. Our hearts sync up with His heart. His desires and character become ours.
2) Intimacy with God = face-to-face
Moses had this practice of setting up a special tent outside of the camp where he would encounter God. This was before the Tabernacle was built.
Exodus 33:11 (NLT)
Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
This is no fancy way of translating. Every English translation reflects the Hebrew words face-to-face. Moses’ communication with God is described as “face-to-face, as one speaks to a friend”.
This type of intimacy with God was first limited to only a few people at certain times, but is now for everyone. Jesus brought us all back into relationship with Him. So what we'll read about Moses is actually what we can have as well. 2 Corinthians 3:16 says: Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone.
You and I can encounter God the way Moses did. The level of intimacy we read about here is not limited to a few chosen people but available to all of us. He longs to reveal Himself to you as well.
Meeting God face-to-face means putting off your mask of piety and presenting the honest version of yourself to Him. He won’t minister to your mask.
What does it mean for us that we can encounter face-to-face? Well, for us, this means that we have to come as we are. We don’t present a different version of ourselves. We don’t put on a mask of piety, but we are honest about where we are, how we feel, what we think and the current status of our faith. That’s coming face-to-face with God. And that’s where God can truly minister to you. He won’t minister to your mask.
3) Intimacy with God = a place of powerful intercession
Moses, in his time, was the only one that truly understood that God was different from any god that the other nations worship. For them it was all about moving their god through prayers and sacrifices to work on their behalf. But Yahweh, the God of Israel is so different. He is a personal and living presence. A God that desires true intimacy with His people. A God that sees His people as partners in His purposes and wants to include them in His plans and even give them a voice!
And so, in this place of intimacy with God, Moses responds to God’s intention to withdraw from the people, but give them the Promised Land.
Exodus 33:12-17 (NLT) One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.” Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”
It’s from this place of intimacy with God, that Moses could intercede powerfully for the people of Israel. God agrees to go with them and continue the story of salvation through them – because of His relationship with Moses.
God sees us as partners in His plans and purposes. Through prayer, He even gives us a voice in how to go about them!
Our intercession is more powerful when we are intimate with God, because we understand better what we need to pray for. We can pray more in line with God’s purposes and intentions when we know Him well and understand what His heart is beating for.
Moses knew it was never actually God’s intention to destroy the people of Israel, or to leave them behind. God was sharing His heart with Moses. Moses in return makes this bold request on behalf of the people, because he knew God’s intentions and understood His purposes.
Prayer is a strange concept. Right? It can feel very weird. It sometimes feels like we inform a God who already knows everything, about situations He is already working on and giving suggestions to the One who possesses infinite wisdom!
But Exodus 33, and many other passages in the Old & New Testament, tells us that intercession is a powerful weapon, not to be underestimated. God is inviting us as partners in His work. Our prayers shift the atmosphere and open new doors for the Holy Spirit to work.
Through prayer, we move heaven and shake the earth.
Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors said: "God is unchangeable. Yes! But only in His nature, character and purposes. His plans are flexible."
God is giving you space for influence in how He operates. Mind boggling as this may be and overwhelming as this responsibility may feel – He longs for us to be His partners through prayer.
1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
So, when you pray, pray with expectation. Your prayers open a door for the Holy Spirit to move in power. Through prayer, we are moving heaven and shake the earth.
4) Intimacy with God = being sold out to His presence
Moses understood that the goal of the Exodus out of Egypt was not to arrive in the land, but to become the people of God. The land was just part of the promise – the essence was that they would be God's people, and He would be their God.
Exodus 33:15-16 (NLT) Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
Moses basically says that he'd rather stay in the desert with God, than go to the land without Him. That's intimacy! I love Moses’ determination here. “We’re not going if you don’t go with us!” Moses is sold out to the presence of God in his life and among his people.
This is an attitude that we should adopt in every part of our lives as well. Our first desire should be the presence of God – not the benefits of His blessing. Don’t long for a successful life – crave the presence of God in everything you do so that you can be successful. And don’t long for a happy marriage – crave the presence of God in your marriage and happiness will flow from it. The same principles apply to the church. Don’t long for a growing church – but crave God’s presence in the church, so that many people will be drawn closer to Him.