Intimacy and Companionship in the Desert

Published April 28, 2016 by Dawn

Moses stood outside his tent rubbing his tired eyes. The sun would soon be up, and families would soon crawl out of their tents and stretch out across the hot sand, picking up their daily portion of manna. This moment held the last bit of peace he might experience until well after sunset.

He looked back into the tent, smiling at the sight of his wife curled up, sleeping peacefully next to his smallest son. His family was such a blessing. A blessing he missed terribly as of late. The demands of the people started early and lasted into the night. Oh God, what have you done to me?

Moses walked toward the outskirts of the camp. Down below the last row of family dwellings and the tethered cattle, there stood a lonely tent. The Tent of Meetings. His heart wrenched at the sight of it. He was on fire, alive with a sudden passion. Yahweh was there, waiting for him. Only, as much as he wanted to go, there was a terrible chasm open between them. God had asked for a sacrifice Moses was struggling to give. His peace, his time, the vision and hope for a quiet life amidst his own livestock. A panoramic view outside his family dwelling, with rolling hills on every side and very few neighbors. With all of that desire in his heart, he was given a crowded camp of angry, miserable people who looked to him for every answer, fretted at every turn and expected Moses to work miracles. He felt the demand of a million people suffocating him, and all he ever dreamed about was space to breath. God had given him mysterious, wispy bread to eat instead of an overflowing table. Everyday, Moses returned in his heart to Egypt’s dining hall, where the daily portion was more than a man could handle on his own. And then he silently pleaded with God for forgiveness and contentment in his portion.

His portion. Not just the manna, but the desert. The heat. The restlessness. The grumbling. The burden of leading a reluctant group of people. The daily disturbances to his inner peace and resilient efforts to honor God. It was more than he could bear. Standing there, looking down at that tent with a longing so fierce, Moses trembled. He needed to be there. He was being drawn, but heavily dragging his feet.

The dirt was hardly unsettled as he slowly moved in the direction of the Tent of Meetings. The Pillar of Cloud was drifting simultaneously in the same direction. Soon, they would converge at the doorway and go in together, Moses and his God. Moses could feel the burden lifting and then settling down on him again, like a tethered balloon unable to drift away. His mind scurried between thoughts, trying to find a good beginning. How does a man bring his uncertainties before the Almighty? How can he remain steadfast and confident in his Father’s love, knowing that he doubts and disagrees with all that Yahweh is doing?

Tears began spilling over each other, racing down his face and into his unkempt beard. Weeks of worry and toil had grown that beard which now became the hiding place for all of Moses’ sorrowful tears. How would God respond to his vulnerable weaknesses?

Oh Father, forgive me.

The weight instantly lifted at the opening to the tent as Moses walked through the dense fog that enveloped his King. He smiled at the pleasure of immediate freedom in that moment. Sweet relief!

Trembling with a mixture of fear and intense satisfaction, Moses lowered himself to his knees and lifted his hands in worship. Oh my God, you are so good. You are my heart’s desire and I long for you. Your purposes are beyond understanding, and yet I trust you implicitly. Lead me in your way. I love you.

“Moses.”

The voice was a gentle thunder. It was melodic and terrifying all at once. Moses shivered. He is here. Hallelujah!

“Moses, your heart is heavy, my son.”

“My Lord … nothing is beyond you. You know me inside and out. How can I hide this burden of my heart from you? Listen to me  -“

A patience hung in the air. Like God was hanging on every word spoken from this fragile jar of clay. “I’m listening.”

“My God, what have you done to me? Surely you have given me more than I can bear. You have made my load too heavy for me, and I have tried in vain to carry it. Isn’t there someone else, Lord?

Moses was suddenly terrified at the memory of this conversation. He’d asked similar things before and angered the Lord. How would God respond to this persistent doubt?

“I have not made a mistake, my son. Whom I call, I will equip. You can do all things through me. I have given you all power and authority to succeed in bringing my chosen people into their promised land. You can and you will.”

Moses shook his head violently. I can’t. He doesn’t understand!

“Please God, this isn’t for me. Isn’t there someone else?”

“No.”

Moses cradled his head in his hands and wept bitterly. His heart was thrilled. He was inwardly certain of his calling, and feeling more alive than ever at the assurance God had spoken. But still very scared and wary. How can I ever lead these people alone?

“Who will you send with me, Lord?”

The guilt washed over him as soon as the question left his lips. He clearly envisioned the people God had already placed in his life – his brother, sister, wife and sons – and recognized that he did not believe in their callings or abilities. He was still looking for someone to come and relieve him.

Moses half expected the cloud to become thicker and choke him to death. He certainly deserved it. The patience of God in that moment surprised him. Just another unexpected facet of a God he hardly knew, although they talked face to face daily.

“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Once again, peace fell upon him as the words settled into his spirit. God, my God, is an all-consuming fire. An ever present help in time of need. A mighty fortress. I can trust him.

“Moses …”

“Yes, Lord?”

“My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

 

*****

This is a recreation of scripture in Exodus 33 that the Lord has been speaking to me lately. I took the narrative back to a pertinent part of information that I think is critical to the intimate relationship Moses had with the Lord. Exodus 33:11 says, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Face to face … how amazingly wonderful.

One thing I noticed in reading these scriptures is that the Tent of Meetings was outside the camp. Away from the hustle and bustle, away from life’s demands and all the people in his life who were either hindering or helping him … Moses had to turn his attention momentarily away from even his calling so he could give his undivided attention to God. But in that turning, Moses was able to speak to God and hear him in a way that most people never would. He came face to face with the Lord Almighty.

In such an intimate setting, with the Lord just as captivated as he was, Moses felt the freedom to bare his soul. His doubts and fears came, unwilling to be suppressed, and when presented to God, were not dismissed. They were heard. They were addressed. They were answered. Maybe not in the way Moses wanted them to be answered. He expected God to send someone. A physical being. Those who surrounded him, for whatever reason, were not enough, and Moses expected that there must be someone else. You have been telling me to lead these people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me” (Exodus 33:12).

I’m not sure if the Lord’s response met Moses’ dismay or deep satisfaction, but contrary to what he thought the answer was, God simply told him, “My Presence will be with you.”

Here’s my wonderings: Are we meeting God outside the camp? Are we turning our attentions away from our own self-interest, or life’s demands, or even those things we consider to be the perfect, pleasing Will of God … Are we turning our attention completely away from these things in our time with the Lord in order to hear Him, or are we distracted by them to the point that we aren’t sure we’ve ever heard Him? Do we have a Tent of Meetings that we go to that is far enough away from our everydayness that when we get with God, we know without a doubt we have heard His voice?

And then Moses’ question: is there something God is asking us to do alone? And even though we may be surrounded by family and friends, could it be that our calling is something God has set us apart to do? Something that cannot be accomplished with the help of those we are most intimate with, but God alone? Could He be responding, in answer to our desperate pleas for companionship, “My Presence will go with you”?  Is it possible that all that God has called us to do will be fulfilled within our partnership with Him? Could He be saying to us, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness?”

Finally, will we trust Him? Not “can we.” God has already shown himself faithful. Thousands of years of human history testify to the faithfulness of God, and because He does not change like shifting shadows, He is as faithful today to us as He was when he delivered the Israelites by parting the Red Sea. So many stories of His enduring love and trustworthiness can be found within the Bible, and in the testimonies of those we love. So will we trust Him? Will we trust Him to walk the hard road, and to be beside us as we stumble through darkness and treacherous landscape? Will we trust Him to carry us when we feel we cannot go on? Will we trust Him to fulfill His promises though life is slipping away and we remain humbly broken and seemingly incapable? My Presence will go with you.

Will you trust Him? Don’t sit at Egypt’s table because you are scared of the desert’s heat, or the long hours or the people God has called you to minister to. Don’t gorge yourself on the riches of this life because the bread of heaven seems monotonous or less spectacular. Don’t allow lesser things to keep you from the promised land because the earth and all its riches are passing away. Walk with your abba Daddy, no matter the cost because He is faithful to keep His promises. They are “yes” and “amen” in Christ Jesus.

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