You are with me in defeat and failure, victory and success. Help me to grow through the ups and downs of life.
Read EXODUS 33:7–23
The Tent of Meeting
7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
Moses and the Glory of the Lord
12 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.’ 13 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.”
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 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?”
17 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.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
What words would you use to describe your prayer life? Fervent, routine, constant, tired, or…? How would you like it to be?
Yesterday’s reading came to an ominous end. After decisively putting a stop to Israel’s idolatry, God says, ‘I will decide what to do with you’ (v 5). Given what’s happened already, we can imagine some worst-case scenarios. That’s why the beginning of today’s reading is so surprising: a description of what Moses used to do in the ‘tent of meeting’ – and it sounds wonderful (vs 7–11)! Wouldn’t you love to meet God ‘face to face’ (v 11)? The surprise is that it was no Shakespearean discourse. Rather, it was a candid conversation, ‘as one speaks to a friend’ (v 11). And it was blunt. Moses reminds God that Israel, and all its problems, was his responsibility (v 13).
How candid are your prayers? I’d describe my prayer life as disciplined and faithful. I work through my weekly list of requests and record the ways God answers. I believe prayer changes things. However, the times I’ve gone off script and called to God in my frustration, even desperation, are the times I’ve felt my prayer life was most alive. The Psalms are filled with this kind of urgent prayer.1
God’s response is so encouraging. He’s not offended by Moses’ candor, but he doesn’t answer with the specifics of his plan either. Instead, he says, ‘My Presence will go with you’ (v 14) and we witness an unforgettable example of what that means (vs 21–23). This glimpse into the inner workings of the tent of meeting shows us that true prayer involves trusting God enough to tell him what we really think and loving God enough to know that his Presence is all we really need. Jesus taught his disciples the same thing.2 How could this truth refocus your prayer life?
As SU USA president, I asked people to show me their ‘chair of meeting’, the place they met God. Do you have such a place? How has God met you there?
Lord Jesus, I identify with your disciples when they said, “Teach us to pray”. Lord, teach me to pray.
1 E.g. Psalms 13,22,28,69 2 Mark 4:35–41; Matt 28:16–20