How do I live with God?
What does it mean to live with God. How do I live with God in this broken world?
Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.Exod 24:18
Waiting for the Master
In Exodus 24 we are told of an extraordinary event where the elders of Israel participate in a meal with God.
This was an amazing experience and it is coupled with the tale of Israel formalising a covenant with the Creator in the valley below Sinai and Horeb. The spiritual experience that these elders were now participating in must have been amazing. They must have truly understood what it felt like to live with God. In a sense, they were enjoying a meal of communion with God!
With the elders is a man called Joshua, whom many of the elders would have viewed as a young man. In fact, the record suggests that he was around 40 years (contemporary with Caleb) at this point. Nevertheless, he was there in his capacity as Moses’ assistant.
Departing to the Mountain
After the meal, Moses bids the elders to continue in fellowship and await his return, then together with Joshua, they depart into the mountain of Horeb.
The bible appears to mention Horeb and Sinai interchangeably and associate Mt Seir with the location, and it is likely that both were mountain peaks in the same range with Seir somewhat to the south. Holman Bible Dictionary claims that Horeb is an alternative name for Sinai. It goes on to state that the term Horeb is often used to refer to Sinai with Horeb being the region and Sinai as the specific peak. (Butler, 1991) Deut 1:2 says “It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.” (ESV). For our purposes, suffice to say that Horeb and Sinai were possibly twin peaks in the range.
At the top of Horeb, Joshua and Moses pause for 6 days, possibly meditating together on what was to come. Then on the seventh day, a voice calls Moses out of the mist surrounding Sinai away across the ridge from Horeb, and Moses leaves Joshua.
Waiting for the Master
Joshua’s eyes strain after his master as he departs until the mist swallowed him. Now from the mist comes an amazing sound and light show as Moses communes with the Most High.
And so, Joshua settles in to wait for the return of the Master. This is what it is like to live with God today.
The analogy is obvious as we wait staring into the mist for the return of our Lord. So we live with God as we wait, earnestly desiring the return of Jesus. We are aware of His presence, we see evidence of it in nature and all the other elements of creation, and we await the return of His son.
And Joshua waits, first a day, then another, then a week and two and three….
Now staring into the mist awaiting his Lord, plainly sustained by God in his waiting (implied by Exo 34:28 Moses “ate no food and drank no water” therefore Joshua probably did not either), Joshua has been on Horeb over 30 days. Below, the Elders lose heart for the waiting and return to the camp. They abandon Him, they no longer live with God.
Then the people gather themselves to Aaron and demand to know what has happened to Moses. In the absence of an acceptable reply, they go altogether astray from the service of He who had saved them from Egypt.
They start a riotous party:
“And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”Exod 32:6 (ESV)
So, we left behind a way of life that is sometimes characterised as a “party” lifestyle, but perhaps we should interrogate this. Is this world truthfully a party lifestyle? At times perhaps, some individuals engage in the “party” life, certainly at certain stages of life. Later in these articles, we will interrogate what it is that we classify as “the world”. For the present, it would be a good idea to try to forget the stereotypical Christian definition of “the world” and instead try to think more deeply about what it is that occurred in the camp below.
They Corrupted Themselves
What is it that Israel indulged in that so awoke the wrath of God such that He considered their destruction?
God tells Moses, go down to the people because “they have corrupted themselves”, “they have turned aside… out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf…” and have blasphemed by calling the calf, “God” that brought them out of Egypt. (Exod 32:7-8 – ESV). They no longer live with God.
So, God hated this display. They were outside of God’s favour. Israel had “ruined” themselves (Strong, 1890). They turned away from God’s commands and made the Golden Calf. Therefore, they ascribed the work of God in bringing them out of Egypt, in effect, to the work of their own hands.
In some respect this is repeating the sin in Eden which we will deal with in the next article.
Not giving God His Due
God performed incredible acts to get Israel out of Egypt. The calling of Moses, the plagues, the amazing feat of the parting of the Red Sea. In spite of these wonderful works, Israel still rejected God. They preferred something they had crafted themselves over the living God.
It gets worse. God had offered for Israel to be Name Bearers. God told Moses that His name was “I will become whatever I choose to become” and I choose to be manifest in this people Israel. Israel were to show God to the world around them, the nation was to be a priest nation for the nations of the world (Exod 34:10). If you live with God, you bear His name. This is a very simplistic explanation of what God was saying in Exodus 34. Really, God didn’t disclose His name here, so much as express His personal, absolute, free-willed essence. But He also offered Israel the opportunity to participate in this essence.
A Basis of Fellowship
This was ratified in Exod 24 at the beginning of this sorry episode. God had even met with the elders as the representatives of the people. Therefore, God established a “basis of fellowship” between God and the people. They were invited to live with God.
This just goes awfully astray. It happened in Eden and now it happened again. It always happens. God’s people reject His overtures of love and connection. The rejection comes through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the arrogance of material wealth. (1 Jn 2:16 – LEB)
What is wrong with this world?
So, what is the analogy between this episode and our experience with the world that we have left behind, just as Joshua left behind the people. The simplistic answer is a world of sexual and other immorality (just as the people rose up to “play” – possibly a euphemism for sexual cavorting or alternatively a mocking and scorn for God and Moses) full of “partying”.
If, however, you look at and consider the average person in suburbia in your city, would you say that their lives are a truly lives of immorality and “partying”?
So, is it useful to consider the average suburban mum and dad in this context when the evidence of your eyes and ears are that, for the most part, they live lives that are not much different to the average Christian man or woman?
Except that they are in general, without God. The average Australian will happily join in a mocking and scorn for God and religion. This is probably the case in much of the world.
This is the key. The Israelites are without God. They do not live with God. Therefore, they do not acknowledge His power. These “Christians” do not acknowledge His gift of His son. Therefore, they claim the ability to save themselves from death by the power of their own right hands. This is what separates them from God. It separates them from the healing of the rift between God and His creation.
God is calling the world to bear His name and to growth as His sons and daughters and the world for the most part does not want to hear it. People are called every day to live with God but they do not want it.
Exod 32:25 refers to this as nakedness.
This is the bareness that comes from separation from God that is evident for example in 2 Chron 28:19 where Ahaz made Judah naked or in Prov 29:18 “where there is no vision, the people perish (are made naked)”.
Fundamentally, to live with God therefore is to acknowledge the power of God and the gift of Jesus.
As servants of God, this is the noise that can distract us in our service to Him. The noise that says, You haven’t called us, we don’t need You, we can save ourselves if we can just put together enough money by working hard at the things of the world. So, that’s the party that we hear from the plains below as we await on the mountain peak for the return of our master. It’s the noise that we must not be distracted by.
The noise of the “party” surely rose high in the air and almost certainly reached the hearing of Joshua. The outside world did not distract Joshua. He was intent on the return of the Master and obedient to his promise to await Moses’ return.
He certainly didn’t hear singing in the normal sense of the word despite Exod 32:18. The Hebrew is “abase self, afflict, chasten” (Strong, 1890)
And so, on the morning of the forty-first day, Moses returns to Joshua and together they make their way to the camp. What followed was the shattering of the tablets and the destruction of many in the camp.
Dwell with God in the Heavens
So, the lesson for us is clear. As we await the return of Christ to the earth, we must not be distracted by the cares of this world. Paul exhorts us
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”Rom 12:2 (ESV)
James likewise says,
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”Jas 1:27 (ESV)
However, be careful in applying the lesson of Joshua to your life. Scripture often highlights a particular behaviour to emphasise one character trait at a time.
We are not called to wait and do nothing else. We are called to action. Joshua, for example, never left the heavenly heights of Horeb in his mind. His body returned to the world to continue the work of God, but his mind stayed dwelling with God. He had a Kingdom Heart
Dwelling in the Heavenlies whilst doing the work of God in the mundane world is much of what these articles deal with.
What are we to Do?
A couple of quotes from John Eldredge (Wild at Heart Author) might assist you in understanding what we are called out of and what we are called to:
True strength does not come out of bravado. Until we are broken, our life will be self-centred, self-reliant; our strength will be our own. So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for? I don’t trust a man who hasn’t suffered; I don’t let a man get close to me who hasn’t faced his wound. Think of the posers you know – are they the kind of man you would call at 2am, when life is collapsing around you? Not me. I don’t want clichés: I want deep, soulful truth, and that only comes when a man has walked the road I’ve been talking about.(Eldredge 2010)
Truth be told, most of us are faking our way through life. We pick only those battles we are sure to win, only those adventures we are sure to handle, only those beauties we are sure to rescue.(Eldredge 2010)
Every man carries a wound. I have never met a man without one. No matter how good your life may have seemed to you, you live in a broken world full of broken people.(Eldredge 2010)
Being a “Grown up”
So, God calls us to adulthood as men and women and to confront our wound. We know that without God, we are nothing, but that in God, we are superconquerers. (Rom 8:37)
James in particular states that pure and undefiled religion is to keep ourselves unstained from the world (or undistracted by the temptations of the world) but only because, he is telling us to go into the world!
The Widows and the Fatherless
We have a job to do. Jesus calls us to visit the widows and the fatherless. Who is James referring to that he calls widows and fatherless out specifically? Why not the ill and the poor?
Specifically, we are called to visit two classes of people who are in affliction: Widows and Orphans.
These are people who have no Husband and no Father. They are without God (Father) and Jesus (Husband). This world is full of people in this state and we must have compassion on them. That can’t be disputed, however this goes deeper. Jesus promises in John 14, that he “will not leave [us] as orphans; [he] will come to [us]”.
He won’t leave us as Orphans
How will he do this? By joining us with our Father.
“In that day, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.”Jn 14:18-20 (ESV)
When Jesus calls us to visit the Widows and Orphans, we come to a world that has lost its connection to God the Father and Christ the Bridegroom. We offer them a Father and a Husband to dwell with.
Go out into the world
This requires that we go and work in the world. This is not about passively avoiding contact with the world so that we can avoid its distractions. This is about actively seeking to work in a world that desperately needs God and His son, to heal the rift left in Eden.
For Joshua, for all that he returned to the camp with Moses he appears to have left something on the mountain and for the rest of his life, the impact of that experience never left him. He dwelt in the heavens with the Father on the top of Horeb for the remainder of his life. His heart was a Kingdom Heart.
Working for the Kingdom Now
A short while later when they scouted the land, he was able to support Caleb when confronted with giants of evil and a people adamantly opposed to God and, with courage, state with Caleb,
“Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”Num 13:30 (ESV)
Joshua knew how to deal with a people opposed to God. He watched Moses single-handedly face down the entire nation when it was given over to opposition to God. He had watched as God worked through Moses to bring this nation to heel, as Moses boldly cast down the tables of stone and took control of the camp.
The Kingdom was theirs to take!
Canaan was well able to be taken with God in control. But alas it was not to be.
Forty years later, Joshua was instructed once again:
“Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’”Josh 1:11 (ESV)
There was no doubt, no fear. God strengthened Joshua and Joshua in turn inspired a whole nation to conquer a land of rest from all their journeying.
We have a Land to Possess for God
We have a land to possess for God. Currently it is full of darkness. It is adamantly opposed to Him and broken with giants of evil. These giants are the supreme rulers and the privileged. They are the rulers of darkness. They are the spiritually depraved who stand in places where there should be spiritual purity.
There is no doubt that this is a big task. A rift was formed in Eden that we, as Sons of God, are called to heal. If we accept Jesus into our lives, we accept God. If we accept God, we take on His purpose. Our purpose is to go to war with evil. We are called to take on the ills of this world and to strive to fix them. Ultimately, our purpose is to fill the rifts of this world with the Love of God.
With God we have power
That’s a tall order but remember 2 Kings 6
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.2 Kgs 6:15-17 (ESV)
They that be with us are more than those who are with them. God’s will dwells in our hearts. With God in our hearts, we share the might of all who have God dwelling within them. We are Superconquerers through Him who loves us.