There is a world outside these four walls that is longing for fellowship with God. Some don’t think that it is possible. Some don’t think that God cares. Some believe God is mad at them. Some understandably are mad at Him. Some have distracted themselves with other desires so that they don’t even admit to themselves they want intimacy with God. Many have decided that other things are more important right now. Many others not only don’t know what they seek but they don’t think they are going to find what they are looking for in a church. But what about you? You may be longing for greater intimacy with God simply because He is your God and not because you want something from Him. You may not know if that is even possible or how to go about it. You may be angry with God because of something that He has done to you or you may be afraid that at any time now God might lash out in anger at you. You may only care to listen to God when He says something that you find helpful or interesting but you may really want Him to speak into your life. You may hang on His every word, be madly in love with Him, talk to Him all the time, and want to see His glory everywhere you go. No matter where you are at in your relationship with God today, you want to be with God. Ancient Israel desperately wanted to be with God. They even even made a new religion around a golden calf in order to feel like they had a way to be with Him. But that sin means that God now was afraid that if He was with them then He would destroy them. So before we get to how God made a way to be with us without consuming us and explore how to enjoy being with Him we will hear how God was with Moses but wasn’t so sure He wanted to be with Israel.
God made a way to be with us without consuming us.
God was afraid that He would consume Israel on the way to the Promised Land because they were a stiff-necked people. They were stubborn. They needed to have a change of heart and a major attitude adjustment lest they repeat the folly of the golden calf and He get angry and destroy them all. Even before you get to the bombshell of verse three, “I will not go up among you,” God had already distanced Himself from them by calling the people of Israel, ”the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt” instead of ”my people whom I have brought up out of the land of Egypt.” God was already hinting that He wanted Moses to do this next part of the journey without the Lord going with the people. That may also explain the change from when God said that He would send the angel before Israel and now He just says He will send an angel before Israel. The Lord no longer planned to go with Israel for fear of destroying them. The Lord loved His son Israel and didn’t want to see him destroyed. Yes Moses was able to talk God back into going with the people of Israel, but the danger that God would consume Israel if He was with Israel didn’t go away until God’s anger consumed His own Son when Jesus was crucified unto death on the cross.
The good news is that Christ died for you so that you can have communion with God. His death is the only reason God can be with you—and even within you—without consuming you. The good news is that God isn’t mad at you, but because He is mad about you – because He is madly in love with you – He has spent all of His anger on Jesus Christ instead of you. The good news is that Jesus has poured out His Spirit upon you so that you have had a change of heart and God thus is not only with you but within you. Even though you cannot yet see it – you are surrounded right now by angels and the saints who have gone on before us because you are in heaven. In the Holy Spirit you are most intimately at the present moment in the presence of the Father and the Son. You are with God but have no reason to be afraid of being consumed by God’s anger since Jesus already took it all. So enjoy being with God!
Two of the most important ways you can enjoy being with God are talking with Him and seeing Him.
Being in communion with God in Christ Jesus means you can enjoy intimate communication with God. Moses enjoyed intimate conversation with God in the tent of meeting in this passage. The text even says that the Lord spoke with him face to face as a man speaks to his friend (v.11). Given how the chapter ends (cf. v.20) we know not to take this literally, but it is meant to show us just how intimate Moses was able to talk with God. You get to enjoy the same thing. You don’t literally see God’s face but you see His glory in Christ and to speak with God face to face as a man speaks to his friend. And when you speak to God in prayer those prayers make a difference just as Moses was able to change God’s mind so that God would go with Israel. And incredibly not only do you get to talk to God, He also speaks to you. I’ve heard mainline churches brag about how they will hear more Scripture in a worship service than in most Evangelical churches today. But if you are going to really enjoy hearing God speak to you then surely you are going to also seek to understand what He is saying to you. Indeed, you want to understand what He is saying because He is your God and you want Him to speak into your life. I’m not talking about enjoying the sermon as if it is entertainment but enjoying hearing from God and having a hunger for His word. This is why for me the most encouraging feedback I get is when you say enough for me to know that God was speaking to you. For example, recently Charlene said that the message was what she needed to hear and when I asked why she told me how her story fit with what God was doing. Or another example was when Tammy told me after I spoke of us being guardian angels for the world that she had never thought about it that way before – that is helpful because I know God spoke to her through that metaphor she will never forget and it will help her to live out the gospel. Note that the communication goes both ways – God speaks to you and you speak to God. One thing you might notice about the order of worship here is that it is a dialogue – we alternate between God speaking to us and us speaking to God. This is all practice for your intimate conversations with God during the week. Thus one great way to enjoy being with God is to dialogue with Him all the time as friends. What I’m suggesting is far deeper than you set aside a time for devotions and prayer each day, it is great that so many of you already do that, what I’m suggesting is actually a lifestyle of listening to Him speak to you all the time and you praying to Him all the time. This communication is what we do when we enjoy being with someone.
A second major way you might enjoy being in fellowship with God in Christ Jesus is by seeing Him. Everyone knows that part of enjoying being with someone is enjoying seeing that person. You see God when you love one another and when you serve others. After all, being in communion with God in Christ Jesus means you can enjoy true community with Christ’s body the church. We all know that it is not good to be alone as Christians. Moses didn’t want to go to the Promised Land alone. In v.12 he says, “but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.” Thankfully, we don’t have to go through the pilgrimage of this life onto the next alone. He also asks God, “Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (v.16). What made Israel different was that God was with them. What makes us different is that God is within us. I mentioned a couple weeks ago how the apostle John said, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). The lesson there being that if you feel distant from God you don’t need to wait for others to love you but to go ahead and reach out to love others for God lives in you. Since each of us in Christ Jesus have the Holy Spirit in our hearts we see God when we love one another. I know that many of you enjoy seeing God when you love one another, but some of you will find even more enjoyment seeing God when you serve others. The picture of seeing God when you serve others that comes to my mind is in Matthew 25. You are feeding Christ when you see someone who is hungry and give them food, and likewise for those who are thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and in prison. Thus by loving one another and by serving others you are seeing God and Christ. The more you see God and Christ, the more we will be united together in Christ. Indeed, there can be no community without unity. It is very encouraging then to see us come together to serve in the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission. I enjoyed seeing God in the way that you gave so much food that it was a little overwhelming for the mission that night and seeing God in the way that you served others that night. And you all have another opportunity to serve coming up later this month whether you help us lead music, help in the kitchen, provide the food—there are multiple ways to serve others and thus enjoy seeing God. So enjoy being with God and invite others to join you. After all, you are with God and have no reason to be afraid of being consumed by His wrath since Jesus already took it all. Praise be to God! Amen.