A while back I wrote a blog about being a friend of God. If you didn't get the chance to read it, you can find it here - Friend of God pt 1. We talked about Moses and his invitation to follow God on an adventure. This is what the beginning of friendship often looks like. Coming together to discover one another. Putting aside insecurities, shame, fear, doubt all in order to know and be known.
The life of Moses brings such hope. Moses went from hiding in the presence of God to refusing to go forward without the presence of God, all in just a little over 33 chapters! Friendships are like that though. They often start in this unexpected way and blossom quickly laying a foundation for the future. Moses's friendship with God started simply. After getting over his initial fear of the encounter at the burning bush, Moses stepped aside to pay attention to this invitation. He shared openly and honestly about his fears behind what God was inviting him into and even though he was still a little insecure he recklessly obeyed.
Through Moses's obedience a strong trust started to build. Moses and God spent time in Egypt, in front of Pharaoh and the Israelites. Moses saw a side of God he hadn't seen before. With each encounter his faith grew stronger. As God parted the waters of the Red Sea while Moses held up his staff something shifted inside this once fearful man. The power of a deep rooted relationship gave him the confidence necessary to begin a rough journey through the desert.
It shouldn't have taken that long. The trip was only 11 days. But the Israelites just couldn't get it. They were somewhat of a lost cause. A group of people who simply didn't understand what they had been invited into. Over and over again the wandered in circles. It had to be exhausting to watch, much less lead. But Moses stayed faithful, he stayed steady, he stayed consistent. The Israelites and their wandering didn't seem to move him.
That's a powerful thought if you sit with it for a minute. Moses could have reach the Promised Land in 11 days, but because of the wandering, struggling faith of God's people, his prosperity and abundance appeared to be put on hold. The struggle of the people around us only creates struggle within us if we focus on where we are going rather than where God is staying. God is most real to you right in your reality. Being stuck somewhere because of something doesn't limit your exposure to Him. He will not be more present when you arrive. Moses traveled for an extra 39 years and 355 days! And after all his travels he was still willing to forgo the abundance because regardless of where he was, he had found the presence.
Egypt was about pouring a foundation of friendship. It was the introduction. "Hi Moses, I'm the God of your fathers, the one you've heard all the stories about. I know everything about you - even your failures and weaknesses. I know why you are hiding in this desert. And guess what, I'm not worried about where you've been or even what you've done. I'm focused on where you're going. Come with me. I want to show you something."
A friendship was poured and now the friendship had to be fostered. Because we all know a friendship you do nothing with eventually ends up doing nothing.
The story of the Israelites in the wilderness is a bit much. To summarize; God approaches them with an invitation to encounter Him. He wanted them to know Him the same way Moses knew Him. He gave Moses the run down of how this encounter would go. Moses prepared God's people to come into His presence and as the time drew near the people grew anxious. Moments before they would meet God, they backtracked and bailed on the invitation.
Fear is only healthy when it drives us into His presence. I want my girls to run to me when they are scared, not run from me because they are scared. Same word, two entirely different meanings. It's God's kindness that leads to our repentance and not our repentance to His kindness. In their fear, the Israelites reject God. Rather than experience relationship for themselves they would settle to send Moses up and down the mountain and they would live off flicker of another.
We know living off the faith of someone else doesn't work. The Israelites were created to know Him themselves and not settle for knowing His words through Moses. To reject God's voice is to reject His invitation. You can't behold Him at the same time you are beholding the fear of what you don't know yet. To worship Him at the same time as you withhold part of yourself from Him isn't to worship Him at all. The Israelites grew further and further way. Leaving themselves open to idol worship. Righteous living without relationship just doesn't work.
Over and over again Moses climbed the mountain to meet with God. Regardless of the choices of his people he sought the presence of his God. His temperature was set. His heart was full. From this place of intimate connection Moses had exactly what he needed to deal with the frustrating choices of his people. Up and down the mountain, over and over again, Moses went to be with God on behalf of his people. He listened, he talked, he bargained, he begged. It was a two way conversation full of back and forth.
In the end this is what stands out the most to me; Exodus 33:7-11, "Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away,calling it the 'tent of meeting.'”
If we look at the wording of this sentence we can guess this wasn't the first time Moses had pitched a tent. This was something he did all the time, everywhere they went. Moses was known to pitch a tent. Everyone knew it, everyone expected it. Have you ever done something so instinctively you didn't realize you were doing it? When I was in college I commuted my senior year. I made the forty-five minute drive from Monroe to Oxford every single day. By the end of the year, I was so used to the twists and turns of those back country roads, I often arrived home not remembering myself driving. It had just become so instinctive.
I think Moses did this. In their travels, he instinctively set up his tent of meeting so he had space to be with his friend. It wasn't an after thought. It wasn't if he had time for it. It wasn't even based on how long they would be at a certain location.
The presence of God is always with us but fostering a friendship with Him involves interaction and repetition.
The more time you spend doing something, the better at it you become.
The other thing grabbing my attention is that the tent he pitched was some distance from the camp. It's as though Moses knew his people were loud and his space for quiet was limited and therefore he made a choice that would get him away. Our time is the place the enemy keeps us captive. I see busy people all day long, everywhere I go. People who have not guarded time in the presence of their Father and subsequently missed out on a friendship. It won't happen accidentally. You won't occasionally spend quality, intimate time with Him. It only happens if you are intentional about it. He will meet you where you are because He is good like that, but if you unplug and go where He is He will blow your mind.
Moses went to the tent because the relationship inside that tent was better than anything outside of the tent. What he found in there gave him everything he needed for out there.
In the end Moses chose his friend over his circumstances. God refused to enter the Promised Land with the Israelites for fear that He might actually destroy them because of their stubbornness. They simply were not getting the promise they had been invited into.
Exodus 33:12-15, “ 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.' 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.' The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.' Then Moses said to him, 'If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.'”This is what friendship does – “I know it’s the Promised land and it’s all we’ve hoped for and dreamed about – but Lord if you don’t go with me then I’m not going. The promise is nothing compared to the presence. I choose you and if you are staying right here then so am I.”
This is what it means to foster a friendship with the Father. It means to choose Him, to interact repeatedly and to create space in the midst of the noise and chaos. Sacred Space. We've all been invited to know Him like Moses. We've been given the shot at friendship, but friendships need a foundation built on trust and they need to be fostered toward growth. Have you laid the foundation? What are you doing in your life to build on your foundation with the Father? Where are you meeting with Him repeatedly? How are you shutting out the noise so you can hear His voice? What's keeping you from His presence? Where might you set up your tent?