Summary: The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Can I be a friend of God?Can we, each one of us, be friends of God?
Can I be a friend of God? Will God speak with me (Exodus 33:11) ‘face to face, as a man speaks with his friend’? Like Moses, can I be a friend of God? Can we, each one of us, be friends of God?
Well, in the unfolding story of God’s dealings with Moses and the Israelites, God has rescued them from slavery, suffering and affliction in Egypt. God has delivered them; and God has given the 10 Commandments, so that they will know how to live in relationship with God, and in relationship with each other. However, within a month the Israelites had broken the first two commandments, first constructing and then bowing down and worshipping a golden calf.
God was angry with them. Moses had been on a 40 day sabbatical come study leave up the mountain.
He left his brother Aaron (the deputy pastor, the ‘curate’) in charge! When Moses returned, his ‘curate’ Aaron had a bit of explaining to do. He’d really made a mess of things! In just 40 days the congregation had forgotten God, and started to worship a beautiful golden cow! The Bible doesn’t tell us whether Moses took any disciplinary measures against Aaron! But the problem was that the people ‘en masse’ had ignored and rejected God. They had put pressure on Aaron, and he also had then disobeyed and rejected God’s commands.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a sobering reminder that in the (temporary, 3 month) absence of our own leader we must be faithful to God. The best way to do that is to open our bibles on a weekly basis here, and also on a daily basis in our homes, hearing the word of God for ourselves; because the better we know the word of God, the better we know the voice of God, we will also know what is not of God!
The University of N. Iowa in America once offered an art course that included an unusual exercise. The teacher brought to class a shopping bag filled with lemons and gave a lemon to each class member. The assignment was for the student to keep his lemon with him day and night, smelling, handling, and examining it. Next time the class met, without warning, students were told to put their lemons back in the bag. Then, each person was asked to find his lemon. Surprisingly, most of the students did so without difficulty. (This was adapted from an illustration found at www.sermonillustrations.com).
Those students recognised their lemon because they had spent time with it. They had studied it and held it close. It was their lemon! In fact most of them knew their own lemon so well that as they looked at other lemons, other ‘false’ lemons, they knew it was not theirs. So it is with us and the word of God. So it is with us and the commands and the call of God.
So it is also with us and the friendship of God, because the friendship with God is like none other!
Now if you’re looking at your bibles right now and thinking, “OK, so when are you going to preach from this morning’s 5 verses from Exodus 33?” Here we go!
In Exodus 33 verses 1 to 6 we learn that God wants to send the Israelites off to the Promised Land with an angel. God is not going with them. He’s sending an angel instead (Ex 33:2). The Israelites have rejected him, and God knows that if they reject him again he might destroy them all (Ex 33:3). Moses passes on this news to the Israelites and they take off their jewellery as a sign of sorrow on their part (Ex 33:4-6); but let’s note, there is sorrow, but there is not repentance!
Is there anything which we have done for which we feel sorrow, for which we feel ashamed? Have we actually confessed it to God and asked for his forgiveness? Friends; being sorry is not the same as repentance. Being sorry sometimes means we are gutted that we got found out! Repentance is a change of heart, a change of mind, turning away from wrong and embracing God’s way of doing things; and that is true whether the sin is chasing after other gods, or lying, or adultery.
When we do or say something which hurts a friend, we want to put things right. We want to make sure it never happens again. We want the relationship to be restored. That’s how God views his relationship with us. He wants us to have the same view towards him!
The Israelites were sorry, but not repentant! As a sign that God is still near but no longer dwelling with them, Moses pitches a tent outside the camp (Ex 33:7).