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Monday, June 18, 2012

Living in the presence

We often turn to scripture to give us some insight into the "next step" we should take - especially when we just don't feel like we can "muddle through" on our own.  What we often forget is God never expected us to muddle through - much less on our own!  I know the passage I have chosen for today is directed to Israel, but it has much in the way of instruction for us, as well.


So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I'm commanding you today—live a good life.  (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 The Message)


Israel is called to "attention" - it is time to move into the land of promise, but before they do, they need to clearly understand what is ahead and who will be responsible for their success.  To this end, Moses "recaps" the last um-teen years when Israel has been wandering around in the wilderness - on their way OUT of Egypt (the land of bondage), on their way INTO Canaan (the hope of deliverance).  Before they possess, they must see the land "dis-possessed" by all who currently inhabit it.  Moses is giving the instructions - his concern being the rebellious attitude of the people he has been leading all these years.  He knows their "tendency" or "bent" toward whining, complaining, pridefulness, and a whole gamut of other deeds which are not very God-honoring.  


Now, in clear fashion, he lays out the plan God has for them - to give them clarity in their expectations as they face the enemies of the land.  Sometimes, we trudge ahead without clearly understanding what we will face - he gives them insight - based on the sightings of the spies sent in many years earlier.  They have knowledge - but he wants it to sink into their hearts - because when knowledge crosses the "brain - heart" barrier, it becomes something we can hold onto.  


First things first - he instructs them to keep God exactly where he needs to be. He directs them in keeping him central - you just cannot live in someone's presence and not have them in the middle of your life!  Think about it - when two people live together, you get in each other's space, do you not?  Moses is clear - we need to be in "God's space" and he needs to be in ours!  This is the starting point for any who will walk with him - access is a must.  When two live this closely, there is no room for the battle of the wills - leading to declaring this or that off-limits.  The two must have access - full and complete.  Moses' intent here is for us to realize nothing is "off-limits" in God's presence.


Next, he outlines the importance of trusting God to set out the path to be followed.  This may seem a little elementary to some, but consider who he is speaking with - rebellious, self-willed, and hard-headed individuals - an entire nation of them!  The fact is, they would rather lead than to be led!  The idea of following is a struggle to them.  Sound like anyone you might know?  He is pointing toward the idea of moving in unison - not only as a nation - but as people "in step" with God.  When he moves, they move.  When he stops, they stop.  Remember the cloud of smoke and pillar of fire thing over the tabernacle?  The nation of Israel actually had a "visual" of God moving / stopping!  


Last, but definitely not least, he instructs them to love and serve God.  Now, this is the kicker - it is to be done with everything they have.  Okay - so how much does this play into their success as they "venture INTO" what God has for their future?  Everything!  Whatever we choose to love will get out service.  Whatever we focus on long enough will grab the affection of our heart.  So, he is telling them to focus on God, allowing him to grab the heart, not the riches of the land they are entering, or the "bigness" of the enemies they will face.  We could take a lesson here.  When we focus on the "bigness" of the enemy, we are actually minimizing the "greatness" of our God!  We begin to allow the influence of what we "see" to affect what we "believe".  


Moses knew the heart of rebellion began when "sight" began to affect "thinking".  When he was "away on the mountain" speaking with God on their behalf, they began to "imagine" all kinds of stuff - drifting into all kinds of mischief in his absence.  It was at one of these times they created the golden calf!  Worshiping an image instead of their God.  Exactly what they had been told NOT to do!  Out of sight, out of mind!  God needs to be kept in the middle of our "sight" if he is to affect our "mind"!  This goes back to his first point - keep in God's presence.  Remember, two cannot dwell together without the one affecting the other - being in the other's "space"!


So, lest we think it ends there, he adds the caveat to "obey all the commandments" God would instruct.  Look at the progression:  1) Keep in God's presence; 2)  Learn to trust him to unfold the path to be taken; and 3) Serve him with all you've got.  Service is an outflow of obedience.  Obedience produces a sense of satisfaction like none other.  When two live together in harmony, service is a "natural" thing.  Serving God is not a "conjured" thing - it is an outflow of obedience.  Service begins in the presence of the one we serve.