WILDERNESS: The Only Thing Too Good to Be True That Is Really True

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May 25, 2020

Exodus 33:12-17 (NIV)

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.”

CONSIDER THIS

Moses knows it’s beyond a long shot by now. He’s gone to bat one too many times for the Israelites. Though he has done his absolute best, he has missed cues, made mistakes, lost his cool on more than one occasion, and wanted to give up several times, he knows he has not been enough. He wants to salvage the job, get these former slaves into the Promised Land and maybe retire. Despite so many miraculous things, Moses knows it has been a bust. It feels like a bridge too far at this point. In fact, as we enter into today’s text, Moses seems resigned to finish the job without God.

He says to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.'”

In the past, Moses has appealed to God on the basis of his power, his mercy, and reputation. He has even reminded God of his own covenant promise with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And God has answered.

Today is different. We see in Moses a clear spirit of resignation—a thousand miles from wholehearted surrender. He’s not quitting. He knows he can’t go at it alone; that he needs help, and he just wants the details so he can get it over with. He is willing to limp across the finish line and fade off into the sunset.

So many of us who have failed in life feel this way. We got off the trail. We missed the boat. We fell from grace. We made a critical error in judgment; went to sleep at the wheel; even some kind of “moral failure.” And those two words—don’t get me started. Who hasn’t committed moral failure? It’s the bare threshold definition of sin for crying out loud. People don’t “commit” moral failure. They succumb to weakness in their brokenness. It doesn’t make it OK, just understandable. They don’t need to be shamefully exposed, but graciously covered by the unswerving mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

In this moment, Moses makes the most significant decision of his life. He gets in touch with his heart and he abandons himself to God. Watch this:

“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.”

Moses stakes everything on his relationship with God.

In response he, and we, get the pure gospel. Here it is. Brace yourself for the best news you have ever heard.

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Try to imagine the relief Moses must have felt upon hearing these words from God. Truth is, he didn’t seem to hear it at all. Look at his response:

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?”

Moses! Are you listening? Did you even hear what Yahweh, the God of heaven and earth just said to you? He said, My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Clearly, this seemed too good to be true for Moses. Same with us. We are conditioned to disbelieve anything that seems too good to be true. And the truth is, there is only one thing in life too good to be true that is actually true: the Word of God. God is so good, he adds this:

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you.”

I’m going to press now. Let’s go deep into the Promised Land, a.k.a. the gospel. When Jesus was baptized at the Jordan River, at the very place of the “second crossing” of the Israelites, he received a gospel word from the Father. It is the same Word God speaks over all who follow Jesus in his baptism. He said, “You (your name here) are my son/daughter. You are my beloved. I am pleased with you.” 

A new friend of mine recently shared this concept of a “second crossing” related to our own identity re-formation. We, you and me, desperately need to hear this re-forming word in the depths of our being; over and over and over again until we finally hear it and then over and over and over again until we finally dare to believe it. This is the core of the core of our core identity. God is pleased with us, and there is nothing we can do about it. Because we didn’t earn it, we can’t un-earn it. It is God’s gift of amazing grace. The only thing God asks us is to follow Jesus out of these waters and into the life of his promised presence. He wants relationship. Watch how the text ends today:

“And I know you by name.”

It’s one thing to know a person’s name; quite another to know them “by name.” The converse also holds true. It is one thing to know God’s name; quite another to know God “by name.”

If there is anything he wants me to tell you today, it is this: He knows you “by name.” And He wants you to know him “by name.”

And he wants you to know his name is Jesus.

THE PRAYER

God of the wilderness; Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; Blessed be your name. Thank you for knowing me by name. I want to know you more “by name.” I want to talk to you as friend talks to a friend. I want to be done with casual religion and move into the country of real faith; primal faith; plain unadorned heart level faith. Where you lead me, Jesus, I will follow. I’ll go with you, with you, all the way. Come Holy Spirit, like a mighty wind, and fill my hoisted sail wherever you want me to go. In Jesus name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

Do you really believe this amazing grace of the gospel shared today? What holds you back? What could be worth it to miss this?

P.S.

There’s still time to join the Summer Holy Spirit Book Club. It has absolutely blown up. And there is still room for more. Check it out here. 

We will finish the Wilderness Series on May 31st, the Day of Pentecost. It will be a serendipity we could never have planned. And on Monday, June 1, we will dive into our first New Testament series of 2020, with Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

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