Draw Near


Anna Stevens-CCSM 2015Guest writing today on the Cross Church School of Ministry blog is Anna Stevens. Anna is with the Cross Church School of Ministry on the Women’s Ministry track. She joins the CCSM from Bristol, Tennessee.

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[d] and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” Exodus 20:18-21

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time in the book of Exodus. I always knew that it told the story of the 10 Commandments, and I knew that it talked a lot about Moses and the Law, but truthfully, for me, it had gotten pretty old. I pretty much wrapped the story of Moses up in the movie “Prince of Egypt,” and completely missed the importance of Moses and his ministry.

I have always known about the Burning Bush, where God’s very presence brought out every inadequacy in Moses and every reason why he couldn’t do what God was asking him to do. Up to this point, I’ve always thought it was just Moses complaining a lot about himself, and it is, but I think there is more to the story. I think that in the very presence of God, everything wrong with me and every reason why I fail at ministry arises, and it should.

In the presence of God, Isaiah was immediately aware of the weight of his sin and inadequacy. That is what being in the presence of holiness should do. What’s so interesting is God’s response to him. Every time Moses brings up another reason why he shouldn’t be the one, God doesn’t affirm Moses or start to build him up, He doesn’t tell Moses how great he is and how he should just believe in himself. Instead, God talks about Himself and how He, as the Maker of Heaven and Earth, is more than enough to equip Moses to do what He wants for him to do.

This calling was never about Moses being enough or well qualified. It’s the opposite.  Moses needed to know just how weak he was. He needed to acknowledge his weakness before God, because the task that God was preparing him for was one that could only be done by someone wholly reliant upon the Lord. And he was. His encounter with God lead to the only response possible: obedience. His obedience led him to confronting the most powerful ruler in the world, leading millions of people out of Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. In all of those chapters in Exodus, I never read of Moses questioning God. Why? Because He trusted the heart of God. Time and again, God never failed him. Never once did God not show up for him. Moses trusted that He would never fail him. Moses had become God’s mouthpiece to Israel, but what Moses really learned was the intimacy of walking with God.

Several chapters later, just after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, God comes down the mountain in smoke, thunder, and lightening. Moses assured the people that they didn’t have to be afraid, because he knew the heart of his God, but,

The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”

Moses drew near. I can almost picture the people standing back a distance from the mountain, and Moses isn’t even paying attention to them, because all He knows is what it’s like to be in the presence of God, and that’s where he wants to be. It wasn’t a burning bush this time, and it didn’t matter, He wanted to be where God was, wherever that was. I’m overwhelmed by the intimacy of that moment.

The truth is, I don’t think that moment of Moses drawing near to the Lord on that mountain would’ve happened without his encounter with God at the burning bush. That encounter, in the middle of nowhere in Midian with nothing but a bunch of sheep around impacted the rest of Moses’ ministry. God met him in that burning bush and He taught him that yes, He was to be feared, but also that He was a God to be known, to walk with, a God to draw near to. That has never been the God that I imagined when I heard people talk about the Old Testament, but it’s so sweet to me, that right in the midst of all the Law being given, right in the midst of darkness, Moses’ gut reaction was to “draw near…to where God was.”

I have to say, when there is darkness, it’s not my first instinct to walk into the middle of it. But if it’s where God is, then whether it’s the brightest burning bush, or the thickest darkness of my life, I’m going to draw near.



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