In the Old Testament books of the Bible, encounters with God’s glory were rare. Then in the New Testament Jesus came, the fullness of God became human. He became touchable. After Jesus ascended, the Holy Spirit filled the believers. Now God was near us, with us, available 24/7.
The remarkable, fearsome Almighty God always with us. A little bit crazy. Definitely shocking. And a wonder, I wonder if we’ve fully wondered.
Wondering about Moses
In the wee hours of the morning and the fuzziness of half-consciousness, the strangest question came into my mind. And it had to do with the Bible story of Moses.
You may remember Moses, the great prophet who led the Hebrew slaves out of their captivity in Egypt. You’ve likely seen either Charlton Heston play him or seen the cartoon movie “The Prince of Egypt.” But before the showdown with Pharoah, there’s a scene in the desert where Moses is drawn to the remarkable sight of a bush that is on fire without burning up.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”Exodus 3:1-5
And the question that I asked myself in semi-consciousness was this, “When did Moses put his sandals back on?”
Because here’s the thing, I think the whole God-speaking-to-me-from-a-burning-bush thing might shake me up a little. And putting my shoes back on would seem like a door I was closing on the holy scene. It would strangely signify I had stepped out of the supernatural encounter. It would be weird to perform such a normal task when life wasn’t really going back to normal.
Did Moses just sit there stunned for a bit like I imagine I would? Did he eventually back slowly away, dragging his sandals with him until he could put them on out of sight of the bush?
Or did he bend down and quickly put on his sandals, intent on the mission God was giving him.
Was there a sense of urgency or a sense of time being inconsequential?
How do you imagine your response after such an earth-shattering revelation from God?
Encounters with God’s Glory
Later, Moses asked to see God’s glory, and the goodness of God passed before Moses as the Lord hid his face. Moses bowed and worshiped. (Ex. 33:18-23, Ex. 34:6-8)
Job’s response to the appearance of God is recorded in Job 42:5: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Isaiah replied similarly: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts..” (Isaiah 6:5, NKJV)
Even the angels before the throne of God never get over the sight of Him and continually cry “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty”. (Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8) And when the seventh seal of the Lamb is opened, heaven is silent, awestruck and speechless, for half an hour. (Revelation 8:1) Half an hour is a long time to be too overwhelmed for speech.
Grace: A Wonderful, Overwhelming Mystery
God told Moses that the place where he was standing was holy ground. God’s glory was there, his holiness was there, because his presence was there, right before Moses.
And yet, we have God’s presence available to us now, because of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Have we really appreciated this?
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13.)
God’s Glory in Mundane Spaces
But how do we, on one hand, keep the awe, and on the other, carry the presence of God with us into mundane spaces? How do we worship God in ordinary life?
Maybe you’ve either heard of or read “The Practice of the Presence of God” where Brother Lawrence discovers his own answers to this question. His answer is an attitude of worship that you keep with you through everything. There is no time or space that is inappropriate for conversations with God and worship of his glorious person. No task is too mundane to include him, even peeling potatoes!
Thanks to Jesus, we can be in God’s presence AND wear the sandals. Because of the Great Exchange – our sins for his righteousness – it’s not just the ground that has become holy, we have also. “God made him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Honestly, that makes me want to sit in silence for half an hour!
And we need to start with that awe of the glory and grandeur of the Almighty to appreciate Paul’s message in 2 Corinthians, chapters 3 and 4.
Glory and More Glory
“Now if the ministry that brought death, (the Old Testament laws that made us aware that death was the penalty for our wickedness, my note) which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!”
Grace Upon Grace
Before, a run-in with the glory of God brought the “woe is me” damnation that is exclaimed by Isaiah and Job as they realize just how lowly and unworthy they are in contrast. The law of God carried this same condemnation. God’s holiness shows the extreme filth of our basic selfishness and unholiness. We don’t possess in ourselves the cure for our ungodliness and his holiness extinguishes all our pride. We are “undone”.
But Paul explains further how the Lord’s rescue changes our status from worthless to worthy.
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart…For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Full and Thankful Vessels
So we don’t have to wait for the revelation of God’s presence to dissipate before we put our sandals back on. We can continue, as Brother Lawrence learned, to keep the awe of the glory of God’s presence with us, even in our ordinary, mundane lives. Because, let’s face it, if you’ve truly experienced God, life isn’t really going to be the same again anyway. Putting his sandals on, wasn’t really going to change the results of Moses’ encounter. And being an “ordinary jar of clay” isn’t going to keep Christ’s glory from shining through us as his power transforms our lives.
But let’s take the awe with us as well. Any beautiful treasure we have is something we return to examine again and again. What greater treasure do we have than Christ? It’s okay to sneak away every so often, remove our sandals and be speechless in reverent worship.