“It was Moses’ custom to set up the tent known as the Tent of Meeting far outside the camp. Everyone who wanted to consult with the LORD would go there.” — Exodus 33:7 (NLT)
True confession. I’ve been going through a season in which it has been hard to connect with God, and I can tell you that it’s not God’s fault. I’ve been busy and distracted by many things, and the older, more leisurely ways that I used to use to connect with God aren’t working for me now. I’m not happy with my situation. Far from it! The problem is that I have been stumped as to what to do about it. Just recently, however, as I was talking to God about my struggle, I felt like He suggested that I take a closer look at the life of Moses to see if I might find some ideas that would help me. So as I began looking at an old familiar passage, I found some real gems that I believe will make a difference in my life. Perhaps you also are not satisfied with how your walk with God has been going, so perhaps there are things that might help you, as well.
Right from the first verse gems of truth started jumping off the page. Exodus 33:7 is meant as an introduction to the passage, and as an introduction, such gems are not expected. But here we see something special that Moses did. He set up a place for people to meet with God. It is referred to as the Tent of Meeting. This tent was meant to be a place where anyone could go, yet many commentators believe that it was only ever used by Moses and his faithful assistant Joshua. How sad if this is true! Yet the fact that Moses established this place with not only himself but others in mind speaks clearly about his heart that everyone be invited to have intimacy with God.
I realize that one hindrance I experienced in connecting with God is noise and distraction. I think God likes it when we are able to focus on him alone, and so the idea of establishing a place where I can focus — my own Tent of Meeting — is a powerful one. If you are wondering how to do this, perhaps there is a room in your home that can be set aside for meeting with God? I know that many of us don’t have a separate space we can use, so maybe it would be possible to repurpose a space that you are already using for something else? Maybe a desk generally used for other purposes might transform nicely into a place of prayer, Bible reading, and journal writing. Even a kitchen table could be transformed. You could help to make it special by placing a candle or cross on it, or changing the lighting in the space, or turning on worship music. You just need to be creative!
One of my heroes of faith is Moses. The first thing that attracted me to Moses is that he set up a tent of meeting, where he would go to meet with God. And apparently God liked it, because God showed up and talked to Moses like a person talks to a close friend, face-to-face (Exodus 33:7-11). Then I like the fact that Moses knew that he needed God so much that he told God that if God didn’t go with he and the Israelites, then it would be better not to go to the Promised Land, because no one would know that they had that special relationship with God. And Moses wanted others to know God’s presence (Exodus 33:14-16).
God seemed to answer Moses’ prayer for letting others know about God’s favor and presence in a most unusual way. It appears that not long after Moses prayed that prayer, God called him up on the mountain to receive the Law once again. And when Moses came down from the mountain, his face glowed so much that it actually scared the people, and Moses had to put a veil on his face to calm them down (Exodus 34:29-33). While it’s not my goal or purpose to scare people, one of my goals in life is to have such a level of intimacy with God that I glow. I want the presence of God to be so strong in me and with me that people will see a testimony of the love and nearness of God, with the hope that they too will draw near to God.
One important thing to note from Moses’s example was that he didn’t know he had any tangible sign of God’s presence. Others had to tell him. The only time that he was aware of God’s presence is when he set aside time to devote to God. Then God showed up in a way that was tangible to Moses. That might just be a general principle for all of us. We won’t often be aware of God’s presence as we go about our day, and if we want to be aware of God’s presence, then we need to come aside to a private place to meet with God face-to-face.
Unfortunately, because we don’t see what others see in us, we can fall into discouragement, because we aren’t aware of how God has transformed us, and we can feel like we are failures because we don’t see much fruit in our lives from our faith. So we need to speak positively to ourselves about God’s work in our lives – even if we can’t see it, speaking it out is an act of faith. But this is also a call to action for each of us to encourage one another in a very particular way: we call out the good and Godly things we see in others. We actually “reflect back” to them what we see in them. This is a powerful way to build up another person, and as we built up part of the Body of Christ, we build up the whole body of Christ.
It is easy to think that the glowing face of Moses was because he spent 40 days and nights in God’s presence. Certainly it is true that Moses first glowed after that experience. But he also spent much time before that in the Tent of Meeting, during which he built an intimate relationship with God. And Moses did not settle for this one mountaintop experience, thinking that he had somehow “arrived” because he got his credentials with God and that he had street cred with his people because he glowed. No, Exodus 34:34-35 tells us that Moses continued to meet with God, and that his face glowed after every meeting. His desire for intimacy with God and for God’s presence did not stop with the mountaintop experience. He kept up his intentional meeting with God, and God’s presence in his life was consistently the result.
May we all set apart time to focus on God, and may that lead us to become thoroughly saturated in His wonderful presence!