All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Exodus 20:18-21
The people kept their distance. That is the portion of these four verses that stood out to me when I recently read it. I always marvel at how the Holy Spirit will guide us to hear particular applications of scripture when we are ready and in need of hearing them. Like most of us, I lead an exceedingly busy life. It is also a life that is often riddled with challenges that I wish would just go away with the help of an ‘easy button’ like we see on Staples commercials. Of course, it never really works that way, and we have to navigate each situation as it comes.
Perhaps the worst thing we can do is to just keep wishing the situation, which is out of our control, will simply change. Now, we should definitely pray for God to deliver us from tough situations; but we should also be seeking God’s presence through those circumstances. Israel spent a lot of time in the wilderness wishing God would get them out of the wilderness. While they were praying, grumbling, praying, and grumbling some more, God was trying to prepare them for the covenant that was to come. Yet when the Lord Almighty delivered the Ten Commandments, the people kept their distance. Undoubtedly, they were afraid with a healthy reverence of their God, not wishing to physically be so close to His awesome power.
But I also wonder if they were afraid because they did not want to get that close to Him spiritually. Did they really want to go ‘all in’ with God? Sure, they wanted out of the wilderness. But did they really want the relationship with God that would accompany that deliverance? Going deep with God takes us out of our comfort zone. It makes us evaluate our priorities and the way we see the world. It makes us not just pray that His will be done, but to actually be His instrument.
The struggle today is no different than it was then. We are part of God’s covenant through Christ. But sometimes we just want to utilize Him like an easy button. God, just make this happen…God, just make this go away…God, just get us out of the wilderness. Yet what He is telling us is to draw closer to Him. Yes, we are to fear Him. But we are also to draw close to Him…to hunger and thirst for His righteousness. To have such an appetite requires us to continually draw near to Him. To pray, to read, to fellowship, to love…and to do these things in those tough situations, dry seasons, and wilderness walks. Indeed, it is perhaps in these times God grows and develops us the most, truly preparing us to be His people in this life and the next.
So when God calls, may we not keep our distance. May we draw ever closer to Him in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. God is still in the thunder and lightning, but He is in the still small voice as well. May we follow His lead.
-- Pastor Justin
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