Worship Restoring God’s Image

Background:

Some passages in certain books of the Bible show God’s intentions toward humanity up-close and personal. Exodus 34 is one of them.

The story up to this point is God has established Abraham’s family to represent Him in His fallen world, and he has just delivered them from the nation of Egypt who enslaved them. The people, however, prove to be stubborn and rebellious of heart, when He brings their complaining souls to Mount Sinai and makes a covenant with them. While Moses goes up on the mountain of God for 40 days and 40 nights to get the Tabernacle instructions, the people brazenly rebel right in front of God’s presence by degrading God’s living glorious image to that of a calf made of gold. God is so insulted, He is ready to start over with just Moses, but Moses intercedes, and God changes His mind. Moses punishes the people, but God still will not Himself go with the people, or He’ll consume them.

Moses goes back to God for another 40 days and 40 nights to plead on behalf of Israel, and settle a new covenant with Israel. And here he asks the most daring request a human could ask of God, “Please let me see your glory.” God responds by telling him, he can see His goodness, and hear His name, but He cannot see His face. God prepares the new covenant, and bases it on, not just what he’s done for Israel, but upon His own character. He passes in front of Moses telling Moses His name and all that it means, and Moses responds by hurrying to bow and worship.

The name of Yahweh

How does God describe Himself?

  1. Yahweh–I am. He exists. He simply is, was, and ever will be.
  2. El–God. Creator, Judge, Powerful, Ruler.
  3. Rahum–Compassionate–Characterized by the tender feeling of the heart toward those who are suffering: also the tender feeling a Father has for his children.
  4. Hanun–Graicous–With a face shining full of favor.
  5. Erek-Aphaim–Slow-angered. He has a long fuse.
  6. Rav Hessed v Emeth–Abounding in Love and Truth. All that is in God is full to overflowing with Loyal love and truth
  7. Notser Hessed lelaphim–Keeping Loyal love to thousands. He keeps His commitments to all.
  8. Nose’ avon, vpesha’ vhattath–Forgiving wickedness, transgression, and sin. The Hebrew word Nasa’ has the connotation of Carry. It is not the Hebrew Idea of letting go of a sin, but the idea of bearing with the person who is sinning, transgressing, and acting wickedly against.
  9. V’Nakeh Lo yinakeh— By no means letting the guilty go unpunished. He will justly execute His wrath upon all.
  10. Paqed avon avoth al b’ney, v al b’ney b’nim al Shaleshim, vraveyim. Visiting the transgressions of the fathers on the children and children’s children to the third and fourth.

Dreadful and Glorious. God of the Old Testament showed Moses exactly what He is like.

Moses Response

Moses hurried and bowed down and worshiped. (Vs. 8) For an creature of earth to be thrust back into the fiery mantle from which the dust came, would be less terrifying than for a human made in the image of God, to come to know the one whose image he bears. Fullness of Joy, and utter dread. Worship– This is the melting in God’s presence in which all of our unworthiness is exposed like silver dross, and the Image is recast to that which it was originally intended to represent. The people of Israel cast a calf, and therefore exchanged God’s glory for the lesser glory of a creature of earth. (See Romans 1:23) But here Moses was before God’s glorious good presence and name, and he worshiped. He wrote down all that God commanded him on two stone tablets, and came down the mountain.

The Result

Moses’ face shone radiant light from being in the presence of Yahweh. (Vs. 29) He did not know it, but the people feared to go near Him. Did he glow like the moon or like the Sun?

  • In Daniel, the righteous are told that their faces shone out “Like the brightness of the expanse of Heaven forever and ever.”
  • In Matthew, this is translated as “The righteous will shine like the Sun.” Matthew 13:43
  • In Matthew 17, Jesus’ face shines like the Sun on the Transfiguration mount.
  • Acts 6:15 Stephen’s face looked like the face of an angel, and he looked up and saw the glory of God. Acts 7:54
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 says of the believer, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
  • A little later in his letter, Paul expresses, “The God who said, ‘Light will shine out of darkness’ is the God who has shone in our heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

It is safe to say Moses’ face shone like the sun. But how? God had restored the image of His glory in humanity in Moses here for a short while. How except by the revelation of Himself and Worship?

Worship is how God restores His image on earth. And if he restores His image on earth, He restores the earth. Only . . . through fire.

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Melting

I visited the Welder’s house, and I received instruction.

He showed me a weld that was poorly done. It had sags. It had fish eyes. It had lumps. And it was not structurally sound. So either it would suffer abuse and afterward fall apart in 2-3 years, or it would nee to be ground down again. If it was done again smoothly in a structurally sound way, even after abuse it would last at least 10 years instead.

I understood: This is why God takes his time with us. And often has to grind us down and have us start over. Because he knows if he does not, then when we suffer abuse, we will be struck down to the core of our being, and will fall apart much quicker, unless he takes his sweet, steady time preparing His vessel according to the need only He can foresee.

He also showed me a weld with cracks, and he told me, “Cracks always propagate!”

I understood: any issue that is not dealt with before the Lord will continue to be an issue. Arrest smaller issues before they become larger ones.

He told me that welders often go fast because they get excited. But when that happens they only lay half of the load down. It takes a steady hand that has insight into the true nature of the particular metal who has a successful weld.

I understood: As God prepares his vessel, the vessel will be tempted to speed up the process any way he can, because he feels the Lord’s power, but he does not yet possess the true insight into the material which He is being welded into.

 

The Idea Cycle ~ The Rock Cycle

This one hasn’t had much time on the inside, so it may be colder than other epiphanies.

My beautiful wife is in school, in a geological science class, and I sat with her as she read her textbook and came to understand something about our planet, which for me naturally led to revelation of how we are like the earth.

I have a great fondness of ideas. They are my joy. I got the blessing to paraphrase what my assistant Head of School was saying today about Christian Education Curriculum. He was saying how if we cannot find what we’re looking for out there, then we will have to create our own, and I worded it this way, “When we can’t adopt, we give birth.” While a curious reversal of the common order of child-bearing, I have found this generally true of me. I rarely find I can adopt ideas being dissatisfied so often with how they are organized, so I am often forced to give birth to new ones.

But new Ideas are merely old ideas remixed. In the same way, rocks. I was studying Exploring Earth Science by Reynolds and Johnson, and the Rock Cycle shows how rocks are formed on earth. According to Reynolds and Johnson these steps can happen in any order, but this order is the best at demonstrating them in action.

  • The first step of the Rock Cycle is weathering, where rocks are broken down by natural forces.
  • Second, Transportation, where rocks are transported across great distances
  • Third, Deposition, where the rocks minerals and nutrients settle on the ground and cease to move.
  • Fourth. Burial and Lithification– The process by which Rocks are covered up and become layers of rock.
  • Fifth, Deformation/Metamorphism, where the rocks are changed by extreme pressure and heat into different compositions.
  • Sixth, is melting where the rocks are scattered in the intense heat of magma and broken down to their simplest elements.
  • Seventh is solidification, where melted rocks cool and solidify beneath the surface.
  • Eighth is uplift where Rocks are lifted by volcanic forces to the surface.

When I read them, these eight steps made perfect, delightful sense to me as a bit of an idealist. I deal in ideas. And these eight steps make for a very helpful way of understanding how ideas are formed and take new shape anytime they come back into the world again. We ourselves are geologically like  idea-factories.

I will begin the metaphorical “Idea Cycle” with what Reynolds and Johnson classified as the eighth step in the cycle. Ideas can start at any point of this cycle and may skip steps.

  1. Inspiration (Uplift) Where ideas are born anew from deep within us, and are raw and full of life-altering force.
  2. Talking (Weathering) where ideas are expressed thoughtfully and dialogued about. They are hashed out, broken down, smattered and shattered in this phase of ideas, but it is very important when it comes to shaping ideas.
  3. Writing (Transportation) This allows ideas to be communicated over a wide distance and left to sit on their own once they have reached the reader.
  4. Reading (Deposition) Where ideas come to rest before the eyes of a reader as he or she takes the idea into their consciousness.
  5. Understanding (Burial/Lithification) This is where the idea becomes comprehended and a part of a person’s mental internal dialogue.
  6. Deconstruction (Deformation/Metamorphosis) When ideas are comprehended, they then are to be broken apart and figured out how they all work. What makes this idea tick?
  7. Emotion (Melting) This is where ideas take their most melted and scattered fiery passionate form.
  8. Values (Solidification) The idea has been fused into the bedrock of your person and you are become a person with deeply held values, and are then ready for them to inspire your every action, deed, thought, and intention.
  9. Inspiration again arises, from (according to this cycle) our values.

There is much I learn about this cycle even as I write it. For one, ideas are not set in stone. (Shameless pun.) Even if they were, stone weathers, transports, deposits, lithifies, deconstructs, melts, solidifies, and uplifts again. Notice, two, that ideas have life internal to the person and external to the person, just like rocks to the earth. The external life comes about in talking, writing, and reading. The internal life an idea is deconstructing, emoting, and valuing. The bridge between these two lives of ideas are inspiration and understanding. Inspiration is the idea trying to get out. Understanding is the idea settling in.

If you too deal in ideas, learn from these steps in the cycle. If you are not feeling much inspiration, perhaps you need to move between different steps of the cycle. Perhaps you need to feel something you’ve deconstructed, or express what you value, or write down what you have only talked about, or deconstruct what you understand.

And let Rocks have their humbleness communicated to you. We see rocks on the surface, but they have been through a lot. Your ideas may also have plenty of interaction on the surface, but they have been through a lot of personal digestion. And the ideas of other people belong right alongside yours because ideas do NOT last forever without being settled, understood, broken down, felt, valued. “The making of books is endless.” Solomon said so in Ecclesiastes. Some books need to be out of print because the ideas have already been recycled. The key is to let your ideas burn with the fire of the soul which birthed them, and live in the humility that Christ lived with when he walked among us as a fellow human being.

Thoughts and discussion welcome. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humility and Pride

I would like to introduce a way of thinking about the human composition. I understand that to discuss humanity is a grand subject unworthy of such oversimplification, but I hope you will forgive the philosophical implications of this picture. I’d like to view the soul, the heart, the mind, and the body at four levels. The deepest level is the soul and that is the essence of who we are, where the spirit lives and moves in and out. The second level up is the heart, where it is deeper than thoughts, though the thoughts can try to express it, it is the place where all stored information from the mind resides sub-consciously and cultivates emotion and mood and temper. The next level up is the mind, where thoughts are understood in a conscious sense, information is taken in and formed together into the simplest and most complex interpretations, often in an environment created by the heart, which assumes it’s stance of being at the soul and spiritual level. The Top level is the surface where the body is, where our mouths intake food and output words. Where our mouths breathe, and where our hearts pump life, and where our minds control us consciously and unconsciously to act. So there you have this pattern: four levels. Topmost is body, second is mind, third is heart, and fourth is soul.

Two other features of this pattern, I give you: The Spirit moves through all of them. The spirit moves through the body as energy to act, it moves through the mind as inspiration, it moves through the heart as emotion, it moves through the soul as the life principle that animates the whole  being. The Will is also something that moves and, if you will directs, the spirit where it decides to go. It is an elevator that reaches down to the level of the soul. It reflects the state of being just as it also reflects the state of the heart, and of the mind, and is visible in the human body.

These attributes, these building blocks can be seen as making up the human person. Now, I’m sure we can all think of other attributes that could be added to this basic 6 part composition, but I want to make a point about pride and humility.

C.S. Lewis is quoted to believe that the fundamental sin at the root of all other sins is Pride. I was in Starbucks talking with my wife and the man who was best man at my wedding, and he said, “I’ve always wanted to understand that emotion better.” “Pride? An emotion?” I said to him. I understood that pride is a matter of the heart, but it goes deeper than the heart in this word picture above us. Sometimes it’s frustrating when different cultures put the seat of the emotions at different places. In English it’s in the chest, in Hebrew it’s in your intestines, where will you put it next?

The point that my friend was bringing up, and I think it’s a valid one, is that pride is something deeper than the thought, and I agree with him. He and I are likely descended from the kings of Ireland and Scotland respectively, which doesn’t seem to matter to me all that much, since we are all descendant from the first King, Adam, but anyhow. Pride is a fundamental problem of sin. And even if you’re a King, or a knave, a prince or a pauper, a scoundrel or a scholar, you still can let pride rule your heart, because it is seated deeper than your emotions.

That’s exactly the point I want to make here. Pride is central. You can Stand haughtily like you’re high and mighty, that doesn’t make you proud. You can think grandiose thoughts of yourself that doesn’t make you proud. You can feel about yourself a sense of self-sufficiency in appreciation or deprecation of yourself, that doesn’t make you proud. All of those are symptoms of your pride. Your pride is at the level of your soul. It’s the impulse we have to crawl off the altar upon which we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. It’s the living principle of self-serving that naturally refuses the submission of the will to God. Pride is more formidable than any other state of being except one. Pride is more sturdy than confidence, more insistent than anger, more devious than mistrust. It twists the noble sword of truth into a dagger of division. It kindles a flame on the tongue that ignites the course of our lives according to our own being, rather than based on God’s own being. The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. These three, but the deepest of these is Pride. Lust of the flesh and lust of eyes are like two greedy hands feeding this impudent self-destroyer at the core of each of our very beings.

Pride is the opposite of humility, but even if humility is not grasped at the deepest level, pride can swing humility by the tail. Humility is pride’s sack-cloth it wears whenever it feels the need of ingratiating that part of all human beings where God intended for us to reserve our devotion and fealty to Him. Pride needs only an inch, and he can live in out-right rebellion against God. All Satan, the Proud One, needs in us, is the tiniest ledge—the smallest shadow he can hide in, and he will succeed in marring the glorious image of a holy God stamped on each one of us.

As I sat there with my friend talking about how Pride can be beaten. I wrote down this phrase on my phone when I went to use the bathroom: “Perhaps the will is the only vehicle that can deliver the nuclear blow of humility to the deeply subconscious and central issue of pride.” If the Will is like the Spirit and it can be like an elevator to all four levels of a person’s being (assuming again, my word picture is a good one) Can Humility be a choice of the Will?

Well let’s think for a moment. The Will is like the steering wheel for our whole life. If we don’t have much strength of will, it simply means we do not have much grip on the steering wheel, but we each and all have one. The Will is the place of decision. The Will Moves with resolve in action, in mental affirmation, in heart solemnization and soul “becoming.” The Will can deliver true humility to that deepest level.

Now, some of you, who I’m sure have already thought this out, may say to me, “Ah ha . . . but if you by your own will choose humility at the level of your soul, aren’t you able to take pride in that?” Well, I suppose so, if that’s what you were deciding. It’s not a serpent eating it’s tale though. It’s not a never ending cycle. All the soul needs is to choose to love God. How do I know?

Because in Numbers chapter 21, the people were complaining out of pride, so God sent serpents among them. By the way, He says in Deuteronomy that this whole time He has them in the wilderness is to test what is in their hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2, says, “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” So what is he doing here in Numbers 21? He sends the serpents among them to test them, to humble them, to see if they had a heart to keep His commandments. And what was the test? All they had to do was look at the serpent that was lifted up. That’s all they had to do. “Look!” Look! It is perhaps the most profound and simple movement of the body, but that’s not what saves a person. It is perhaps the most passive thing a mind can do to take in the information of a snake on the pole, but that’s not what saves a person. It’s perhaps the slightest nudge inside a person’s emotions against the organ of their acceptance, but that is not what saves a person. What saves a person, is the disposition, the humility to seek to see their salvation from the same hand of the one who afflicted them for example. It is the humility to seek salvation in God, not claim it for yourself. Humility gives it’s life at every level. Pride keeps back some part of it for himself.

To write about Pride is to do it an injustice. It doesn’t deserve this much attention, but because he has already done so much damage, I don’t need to convince you that it exists. You may need some convincing that it is in you. I know I did. I have a healthy does of the most unhealthy disease every man suffers from.

So how do we choose humility? What hope can we take that Pride is not incurable? Fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God is to depart from Evil. Fear God keeps us from evil. Fear God is man’s all. Fear God is the antidote for pride. At least it abates it for a time, the way light abates a shadow. But should that flame ever flicker and die down, the shadows of pride will enshroud the soul evermore until the day when the Devil and all his works are totally and completely cast down. Fear God is the beginning.

This is an attitude of the Will, to transfer this Fear of God to all levels of our humanity. At the surface it is seen in obedience to God, and physical posture of submission before Him, and words which reverence Him. Fear God at the level of the mind is occupying every thought with him, seeking him and knowing Him. At the heart level, it is loving Him, and rejoicing in Him; thanking Him. To Fear God is for that fantastic word –which post-modern Christianity has all but retired—piety to permeate every part and parcel of us until we are no longer parts but we are one whole living in the Fear of God.

If any of you would give objection to this saying, “There is no need to fear God now that we have the Cross and Jesus Christ.” Or say, “’There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear,’ doesn’t the Bible say?” Of course you are right, except that you must examine more closely the meaning of Love as it is shown in the person of Jesus Christ. The attitude toward God, the soul’s position before God, the heart’s emotion toward God, the mind’s thoughts of God, the body’s posture toward God as seen in Jesus Christ was never irreverent or flippant. This lack of reverence we have for God is the very smell of Pride in a human soul that rises before the God who smells what is in secret, and cannot stand it. If Love be without reverence, it is not love, just like if love be without truth, it is not love.

So Pride versus humility. I am convinced that the answer to beating pride at that deepest level is from the deepest part of us, we decide to humbly and totally submit and fear the Holy God who fashioned us and created us in His image to rule and bless and fill the earth.

One way to test whether we know the fear of God, is if our hearts can feel the terror dripping from these words of the author of Hebrews 10:, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If you do not feel the dread of this truth in your heart, you do not yet fear God. The emotions are not everything. They are a good thermometer. How hot is your heart at the knowledge and obedience of God?

As Paul said to his Philipian beloved church, I iterate, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When Adam sinned, he sinned by mouth, by mind, by heart, and by soul. And when Jesus had the opportunity, “he did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped. But he emptied himself.” This is our example for how to repent from our Pride. “And he took on the form of a servant.” The answer is to be a servant who is “obedient to the point of death even death on a cross.” This is the Salvation of the human soul, seen in Jesus’ humility and humanity, which we too are called to have the same mind. And this is how we as God’s servants, can know true humility when we smell it.

I close with this for now: pride and humility are like the odors of our soul. Pride is the smell of rotting flesh. Humility is the warmth of justice submitted to God as good. You can see the body, you can hear the mind, you can feel the heart, but you can smell the soul. And humility is the only perfume that is acceptable in God’s nostrils.

“With Me”

I feel like I am at the center of a merry-go-round. The world is spinning around me and if I step out from this center, where already my head is spinning I will get swept to the non-existent corners of the spinning circle. These two words in combination have unlocked some of the most profound mysteries of the Christian Faith that I am still only in the seedling stages, but if you will permit me I’d like to share just what these two words entail as I muse on the meaning of this in my life.

The first thing to note is that the Me is a capital “M”. That means whenever the phrase is used, it is being said by God to the one who is listening. That is the first earth shattering fact. God speaks. Did you know that? The same God who spoke into the darkness and said, “Light, Be!” can speak in your hearing if you have the heart to wait in the silence and listen? The Phrase “With Me” is something He said to me as I was pre-writing a story for a beloved woman whom I love more than anyone else in the world . . . that’s my wife in case you’re wondering . . . and she was trying to understand some things about how faith works. Well, I haven’t written the story yet, but this phrase with all its earth shattering implications can still carry meaning in other less storied ways, although it seems to be a favorite way of God’s to show us what things mean by putting them in a story. After all God had the Bible written, a story with 40 authors that spanned all of time to it’s eternal beginning and ending, but through it all these two words resound with the eternity and temporality of both. “With me.”

Another thing to note is that “With Me” is something God can say to the one who is acting, so that he will act “With Me.” It’s kind of like you’re pulling on a rope to heave a boat onto shore, and He comes up behind you and tells you to do it “With Me.” meaning as He Himself is acting behind you, and it is His strength that will accomplish the task, not your own. He isn’t saying this because he doesn’t have enough strength to do it, so he needs you to do it with him. No, no, no, no, no. You are his representative in any given situation. Most of the time when God did something miraculous he did it through the hand of Moses, or Elijah, or one of his servants. Did Moses strike the Nile and turn it to blood or did God? The answer very simply is both of them. Was it God’s power that accomplished it or Moses’ power that accomplished it? Well obviously it was God’s. But why did God have Moses do it with him?

Part of the idea communicated in the phrase “With Me” is making sure that you are whole-hearted in acting with Him. God is 100%, and you get to be 1% of that percentage in an action He is doing, because you are his creation, and God is moving His creation with His creation. It is what He does, but I want you to understand this. People say you need a lot of faith. Even Jesus said, “You don’t need a lot of faith. You could have mustard-seed faith and it would be enough to move a whole mountain.” You don’t need a lot of faith, what you need is complete faith. God being represented 100% is the mystery of faith in you who are whole-hearted in submission to being “With Him” as He does it.

So here you are in the midst of a situation beyond your control, and your heart is afraid, which by the way is a division of your heart from God. When you’re afraid, you are not 100% whole heartedly devoted to God. In fact, if you were whole-hearted you would have no fear except fear of God. But you’re in this situation, where you need a miracle, and you are crying out to God, but you don’t cry out with your whole heart. You hold back part of your heart so that if the answer does not come you won’t be disappointed. God does not answer prayers with that lack of faith. It is when you completely, whole-heartedly, soundly and with all your being are swept up in the hope and desperation of believing that only God can save you, and only God can answer you, that you can appreciate the level of faith with which He does things.

I’m sorry what was that? God has faith? Faith is the fruit of the Spirit, and God is full of Faithfulness and Love. When he says, “With Me.” He is offering himself fully to be present in that situation with you with all the power you need. All that remains is your complete total faithfulness of heart to Him and it will be accomplished. It is when He says, “With Me.” That He is inviting you to “Go! You have the green light. I’m ready when you are ready. I am fully present, and if this is what you want with all your heart, I am ready to do it with you.”

Faith is more appropriately understood through the phrase, “With Me.” Because when you are in a situation and you must act, to do the impossible, like lift a gigantic bolder off of a crushed human being, or calm a storm, or to act in some way that seems impossible, the only way you are going to accomplish it is by totally being present in the situation, and totally being submitted to what God is doing in the situation. He may say “With Me.” in a rebuking tone depending on the heart He is speaking to in order to communicate, “Stop your way. Do it with Me, as I do it My way.” And when you stop doing it your way, and do it “With Me.” you will know the power of God and your own powerlessness.

This level of powerlessness, I think is why we don’t want to be “With Me.” We don’t want to hang out with the Super-impressive power-holder, because next to him we feel insignificant. Pride and fear water down faith. They take that 100% concentration of a human fully submitted to God, and reduces him to a corrupted image that lacks in the glory of God. The risk we experience whenever we step out on faith, whether it be embarrassment, or lack of confidence, this risk is the temptation to see if your heart is utterly devoted to God, or if you are asking with any hint of selfishness. If there is any unsoundness in your faith, it will falter. It takes total surrender, and un-distracted boldness to stare Him in the face, who with a flinch of his face has the power to render you empty.

So God calls you in faith to do what must be done, “With Me.” that means furthermore, and much to our rejoicing, that He is active in accomplishing Good in the world. He is working. Just as Jesus said, “My Father is always working.” (Jn 5:17) And he said, “I do nothing except what I see my father doing. Whatever the father does, the Son also does in like manner.” (Jn 5:19).

This is the secret of faith. God is working. You are His child. He has the power, so do things “With Me.” as He calls you, and commands you to do them. It is the Father telling his son, “Join me in my work, that you may grow up to be like me.” as Jesus demonstrated for us. And Jesus was destined to be firstborn among many brothers. So don’t think that Jesus was the only one who had miraculous powers. The Apostles got to do everything Jesus did, and more. Miracles still happen today, but the true miracles are ones that re done, “With Me.”

So, how does one grow in the ability to answer and act in power when God speaks to you and says, “With Me.” The simple answer is something I heard Leonard Ravenhill quote once. He said, “Sinning people stop praying. But praying people stop sinning.” How do you get to do things “With Me.” By simply abiding and staying, “With Me.” Go where He goes. Speak as He speaks. Listen as He listens. See as he sees. Do as He does. Think as He thinks, Feel as He feels. This is the spiritual calling for every believer. You are his image on earth. You are a little Christ. You are to be about your Father’s business proclaiming the Kingdom, healing the sick, preaching the good news to the poor, setting the oppressed free, and proclaiming the time of God’s favor, and calling the world to repentance.  But you cannot do that and you will not do that, and you will not even WANT to do that until you are resolute to stay with Him.

The Lord does not listen to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. His yoke is easy, his burden is light. If you will surrender your many heavy burdens and those grooves in the rock you’ve been chiseling for yourself to have some grip of safety should a whirlwind come, and you leave everything behind and follow Him with everything and not turn back. Then you will begin to see more than just life being aligned in pleasant ways. You will see more than just a wisdom that is not your own, guiding your decisions. You will see more than just smooth places where you felt only thorns before. You will see more than just clear opposition from friends and enemies which prove you to be His disciples.You will see more than the depth of your own human depravity and that of your fellow man. You will see more than just hard situations which need miracles supernaturally resolved. You will see more than the supernatural physical healing. You will see more than the demons being cast out. You will see more than than the dead being raised. Beyond all these things, you will know the fullness of Joy being in the presence of your loving God and will walk the path of life with Him forever. And best of all you will see God.

How do I know? Because Enoch walked with God, and God took him. Elijah and Moses sought to see God, and Moses got to see His back, and Elijah was carried to heaven in a whirlwind, and they were ontop of the mount of transfiguration where they got to see the glory of God’s face in Jesus’ face. Because Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

As I finish this article, one final note. “With Me.” isn’t something we can manipulate God into saying. It’s not something He says all the time. He says it whenever He chooses. And He invites you on His terms, when He wants to speak it. I have heard Him say it to me only in an instructive way, and in this instructive way I communicate it to you, dear reader.

The God of Tenth Chances

To be sure, the subject of God’s character is an inexhaustible topic. Books about books will continue to be written, but in my experience there are few books which will reverence the One who is being studied from a personal standpoint. Whenever I listen to preachers I listen for the soft hush ready at the edge of every word apprehensive they might miss His still small voice when He speaks. I wait in the listening of men like John Bunyan, Leonard Ravenhill, T. Austin Sparks, or any believers who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, and my soul reaches out its hands to be warmed by the fire of holy men of God who let the Holiness of God forge them. Men like these came out of that fire the color of molten metal: that Amber shade of reverence that tempers each word at just the right temperature to comfort and confront the selfish human heart. In my study, I have been discipled not to know the content, but the character, not the plot-lines but the person, not the heroic deeds, but the heart of the One who did them. And one such story amazes me, simply put. And in light of so many who mistakenly wag their bony fingers at God in the Old Testament and say, “You are all wrath and no love. You look nothing like Jesus.” I feel compelled to patiently try to keep back my smile as I look them seriously in their misguided expressions, and assure them that there is more to the story if you know where to look.

The story is familiar thanks to Cecil De Mill’s The Ten Commandments, but as often happens whenever something is taken out of its culture and put into the vein of another set of values, the story gets rewritten in ways that obscure what was originally going on. One thing that has helped me to see more of what is happening in the story of Moses and God versus Pharoh in Egypt over the people of Israel, is translating the passage from Hebrew into English. Syntax, Word-meaning, nuances, and idiomatic phrases are much more refined down here at this level, and some of my findings I want to share with you. My aim is not to tell you a different story: My aim is to tell you more about the Hero.

Who is the hero? Well, the obvious answer according to the way the story has been told is that it is Moses. And Pharoh is the villain. This is close, and its easy to see how the hero’s side is the one Moses is on, and the villain’s side is the one that Pharoh is on, but I can tell you with complete confidence that the hero isn’t Moses.

How do I know that? Well, for one thing the action does not originate with Moses. Moses is not the one who is on a quest to save the people of Israel. That is God’s doing. Moses isn’t the one who goes through and slaughters all the first-born of Egypt, that was God. God was the one who remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was the one who gave the words to Moses to speak. Moses isn’t the hero, he’s the Hero’s message boy. And God wanted him to be his message-boy. In fact, he grew angry when Moses refused to be his message boy, and let him have a message boy himself so he would actually go. Moses isn’t the hero. The hero is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who made man in his own image, and against whom Adam and Eve sinned. Same God.

It’s also the same God who saw the intentions of all humanity’s hearts in Genesis and saw the need to shorten man’s life-span so that evil would not become irreversibly rampant. Evil would have taken over the whole world except one man, God’s remnant– the one man who stood in the gap. It’s all God needs to keep his foot-hold or his work. He chose a remnant, he held onto a single thread a number of times in the Bible, where He kept on holding onto the hope and plan that he would in the end save his people.

So his people, in this passage are the people of Israel. God is fighting for them, and Moses is the servant who does his master’s bidding. His master is the hero. The villain is Pharoh. Pharoh is shown to be the villain in plenty of actions he does like drowning the Hebrew babies, and in things he says. One of the things he says to Moses and Aaron when they come to him, “I do not know Yahweh. Who is he?” Boy are you ever about to find out!

Yahweh is shown in this story to be very patient. It is something about Him that I have come to appreciate more and more. He says to Pharoh, not quite like what Moses said in The Ten Commandments, “Let my people go, and they will serve Me.” or here in this first account “Let my people go into the wilderness to celebrate a feast to me.” His first request was let them come and eat with me. The intention of this request was shown to be answered later on in Exodus of what God was talking about in Exodus 24. The elders and Nadab and Abihu and Moses and Aaron go up and they get to eat and drink together in the presence of the God who they could see, by the way. God was interested in celebrating, but he was also interested in holiness. So here he was, God the hero, commanding his subject Pharoh king of Egypt to release the children of Israel who had been suffering great affliction under his hand. And what does Pharoh say. He says, “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey His voice?” God is so patient. He knows Pharoh is hard of heart. God is part of the reason why his heart is hard.

So then begins a contest between God and Pharoh, and God agrees to this contest, for no other reason I can surmise other than He wanted to show the world what he could do. He had to show the world how powerful He was to humble the proud. But if that was all he showed them we would just be reading a variation of the book of Job, where God flexes his muscles for Job. No, no, no. What we see here in Exodus is the just, merciful, thorough, and patient devotion God has to deliver His people, from the proud who he knows from afar. This story is prototypical for the whole Gospel which we who name the name of Christ hold to be a treasure in our hearts. The Gospel, the good news, the bitter-sweet reality is that God will stop at nothing to get his people back, but not without giving his rival every chance in the world to set him free.

So, God is a God not of second chances, not of third, or fourth, or fifth chances, but here we see that God is a God of Tenth chances. Even the seventh chance, he considered being done with the contest, but He is so patient to give his rival every chance to submit before He goes for the jugular. Because all the terror He unleashes in Egypt, the staff-snake, the blood, frogs, lice, flies, disease, the boils, he says to Pharoh, “You still won’t give up?” Then he brings 3 more signs of his power, Hail, locusts, and darkness, and still Pharoh’s heart is hardened.

Is God cruel to tease him? Cruel? Did you watch closely? God is King. He has the right, and he gives Pharoh 10 chances to turn back before he whips out the big guns. God isn’t cruel, he is merciful! He is also devoted to finish the fight He starts so he can have his people free to serve him.

Have you ever considered this, when you read the narrative of God versus Pharoh, never once does it say that God was angry with Pharoh. If you don’t believe me check the story again for yourself. God’s wrath isn’t mentioned until much later. In fact the first 10 signs God does in Egypt, God sends them by the hand of Moses. It isn’t personal yet, but then, when the 10th plague, which is the 11th sign is given out, the last straw that broke Pharoh’s camel’s back, We read an interesting statement in Exodus 11:4 which we do not see earlier on in the story. God says to Moses, “About midnight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt.” In the Hebrew it is glaringly obvious with the presence of the first person pronoun, ‘I’. I tell you, when I translated that my soul shuddered through me. God’s patience has run its course, and now He himself is coming to rescue His people. And the blow is devastating. He cripples Pharoh, and Egypt by taking the one thing they have left, what the American President J.F. Kennedy said once in his speech on peace, “We all cherish our children’s future.” God took that future away from them because of their pride.

Yes, God is one who kills; we are the ones who deserve death. But can you see His patience, His incredible forbearance which Peter, who saw Jesus closer than anybody else did, recognized? He said, “God is not slow in fulfilling his promise, but is patient with us not wanting any to perish but all to come to the knowledge of repentance.”? (2 Pet 3:9)

O the tenacious love of Yahweh, who will not let the proud stand to oppress the children of freedom! The proud person’s days are numbered, because they are nothing like God.

God is a hero who takes down Pharoh and sets free His people, and even after his people are free to go, that last intention of Pharoh’s heart is proven yet again to be evil continually, through and through. He lashes out with the last of his strength at the Red Sea, and Yahweh obliterates his military. Pharoh knows by the end, only when he has lost everything, that he is beaten.

Now it gets personal. God is with his chosen people who have seen His wondrous works, and now we see the anger of God. We see it when the people complain, when they refuse to obey, and we see God very personally involved in leading the people in a cloud by day and fire by night, he feeds them he gives them water, and all they do is complain and say we want to go back home.

Seven strifes and sinful compainings later, God is ready to wipe them out. It’s written in Exodus 32! What? A God of love? Of course! Somehow many have come to miss the anger of God that is backed by his great love which he has for his people. It is not an out-of-control. Hardly! As he said to Moses in Exodus 34, Yahweh is “Slow to anger” literally it takes a long time for the anger to come out of His nostrils. Yahweh is an angry God, because his very name is Jealous. (Ex 34:14) Jesus showed us this in the temple when he cast out the money changers and sellers out of the temple. Zeal for his house consumed him. Anger and zeal and jealousy are not weaknesses in God’s character, they are part of what make Him good. Of all the people in the world, he did not expect the Egyptians or the other nations to know him, but he did in his heart hold that the Israelites would know him. The affront to God was not from Egypt who sinned in ignorance; it was the nation He had chosen for himself to call his own, and to show the whole world how He could love such a people.

And in this moment, God in the Old Testament is written off by many as being nothing more than a wrathful and vengeful God? You bet he’s wrathful. If a man had just patiently won a battle against an ignorant enemy, only to have the prize you fought for whom you loved so much criticizing you and begging you to go back, even erecting images to fantasize over what they used to have in their idolatrous slavery, you would feel some of what He felt.

Enter Moses, God’s message boy who God brings along for this expedition, and in Exodus 32, Moses intercedes for the people, by being part of God’s secret council. Moses represents God to Himself by being the mediator, by demonstrating his understanding of God’s character, and implores him to show more kindness and truthfulness, and God changes his mind.

The fatalists out there like some of my Calvinist friends don’t appreciate the gravity of what Moses did. To think that any sinner could change God’s perfect mind is tantamount to blasphemy. But to think of it from the standpoint of relationship, God is one who invites us into His council and considers what we have to say. Not many of us get to this point with God, because most of the time when we pray it is us who are changing our minds to God’s. It takes great humility, communication, and trust with God, for you to have a say in His council. And God is gracious enough to gladly give us this chance. After all, one might argue, which God would be better? A God who did everything the way he wanted it because that was best for everyone, or the one who entrusted the decisions of what was best for all to others who he let into his council, and still managed to do the perfect and correct thing. One is aloof, the other is accessible. Our God is not aloof, but he is accessible to the humble.

What a hero! What a God! So patient, so kind, so . . . what many of us might call “human.” Jesus, the human, showed us, better than anyone else what God is really like. Because in him, “We beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) Jesus is God, just as the Word was God in the beginning with God. And he mysteriously assumed the whole essence of Creation in Himself because all of it subsisted through him.

And God is the God of Tenth chances, because even after 10 times of seeing if there was any other way, God Himself steps into the picture, and what a dreadful sight to behold! 10 times it is proven that creation will fall apart unless He himself comes to rescue us. Jesus, God Himself came Himself to save the world, Himself, because no one else could do it. God made the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 that the people of Israel would come out of Egypt into the promised land, and that this covenant was contingent not on what Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob did, but on what God did. And God himself walked in between the pieces, knowing that if Abraham broke the covenant, then He would have to pay the price. And so Jesus died on the cross, and gave his life willingly because no one else could do it.

Does God deserve what we do to Him? He has been good, we cannot see that. We would rather blame Him, and shame Him, than bless Him and confess Him. You who see only a harsh and unloving God in the Old Testament, the issue isn’t with God, it’s with your heart. The Bible says, “Seek Yahweh while he  may be found.” You’ve got one chance this vapor of a fleeting life to seek out and know and love the God who you are called and created to obey. And Jesus Christ isn’t some milder version of an angry God, He’s the entire package with all the tears, laughter, jealousy, power, healing, and wonder-working of God as He is known through the Old Testament.

Take heed, you who are on your ninth chance God has given you, because His patience does end. You have an intercessor now who has gone to the cross for you, and if you spit on him, and refuse him with your heart, your soul is forfeit. There is no more sacrifice available for you who will not look at the love of a God so tender and good, who gives His all so that you can be free to serve him. God is a God of 10 chances, and Jesus said to forgive your brother 490 times, but know that one day it will be too late. Either your heart will turn to stone, or your body will turn to dust. “Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded.” James 4:8.

So much more needs to be said on God’s behalf. This is a beginning, a taste, a call to recognize and remember the one whose image you bear. He is calling you to repent, and represent Him well in the world as perfectly and humbly as Jesus did.