This is not the trite “Jesus is my friend” shallow Christians like to talk about. Yes, I am making a judgment here. (It’s not my first time.) When I hear someone using that phrase to describe Jesus I can safely assume that 1. They are a new Christian; 2. They have a shallow faith that has not led them the greater depths of who God is; 3. They spend a lot of time in children’s ministry—and I give those people a lot of respect. They already have my respect when I’m in conversation with them. May the world have more people like them!
A friendship with God is actually quite the deep and brave relationship. Deeper and braver than most people want to go. Moses was called a friend of God. It was at Moses’ death that this was recorded, There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. Deuteronomy 34:11. Moses didn’t earn this by keeping his faith shallow.
Do you remember the story from Exodus about the golden calf? Think back to all of your 68 times watching The Ten Commandments by Cecil B. DeMille. You will then remember that God was mad. Very mad. Look at what is recorded in Exodus 32:7-10. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
Did you know that Moses was offered the same deal as Abraham? God was going to start over and create a new nation with Moses. God was that angry and he didn’t want anyone to stop Him.
But Moses didn’t take the deal and furthermore he dared to plead with God! God didn’t want anyone to stop Him yet Moses dared to try. But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” Exodus 32:11-13.
I don’t know what is more amazing. That Moses tried to change God’s mind for guilty, rotten people or that Moses didn’t step back from God.
This is what happened next. Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. Exodus 32:14. Someone relents after being nagged and asked again and again and again. God changed His mind because of a relationship with Moses. This is the same relationship that God desires to have with us. With me. God is so personal with us that he moves the universe to be involved with us.
That is a huge thought. Could I have that kind of relationship with God? I don’t know. It’s one thing to wrestle with God but another to cause God to relent? That would mean I would have to be in God’s face or at least without the noise of life that can get in between God and I. And honestly, I like that noise too often. I used to be comfortable with that controlled distance I have with God. To get into God’s face? I don’t know. But then I read further and that is what Moses asked of God.
Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” Exodus 33:12-13.
This is so conversational and so reasonable. A first read through and it may also sound haughty. Do this for me God because I’ve done this for you. But that conversation would be me coming from my outside-of-a-friendship relationship with God. Moses knew he didn’t have that. I’m working on that because I want to have conversations more often with God like that.
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:14-17.
This is so personal. God knows my name. God desires this kind of a relationship with us. With me. I believe he misses those walks in the garden in the cool of the evening more than we can guess we do (Genesis 3:8). But we have so much crazy busyness, so many intentions, so many justified numbing behaviors that we may never know God like this. We have found new fig leaves.
Keep reading in Exodus and look what Moses then asked of his Friend God. Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” Exodus 33:18.
Can you believe that! To see God’s glory!! To really get in God’s face! Would you dare to ask that?! Most people wouldn’t dare to wrestle. But to ask to see God’s glory seems so selfish. Just too much.
But God does desire that relationship with us if we ask bravely.
The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” Exodus 33:19-23.
I am actually relieved to know that God doesn’t always give us what we ask. But he does give to us. He couldn’t give to Moses his face but Moses got to see God’s back and hear God’s name. That is more than enough for me. Can you imagine seeing God’s back or hearing God’s name? That is more than enough for me.
Deuteronomy closes with Deuteronomy 34:10-12. There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.
…whom the Lord knew face to face. Wow. Can I live this bravely to be that close to God?
(photo credit: http://www.ebibleteacher.com/children/lessons/ot/exodus/tencommandments.htm)