Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You [progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understanding more strongly and clearly] and that I may find favor in Your sight. And [Lord, do] consider that this nation is Your people. And the Lord said, My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest. And Moses said to the Lord, If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here!
Recently, my senior pastor led us through Exodus 33, calling us to seek God's leading and glory again. I've always loved this old testament account. My Bible naturally parts to the page that houses this portion of scripture. Exodus 33 narrates Moses' preparation for the journey he had in leading the Israelites into the promised land. We see an exchange between him and God and God's promise to him, "My presence will go with you and I will give you rest." Though I've seen this scripture time and again, this sentence cut to the heart this time.
God was promising to lead His people to a place of physical and spiritual rest. Weight and weariness are the bedfellows of those that go on without His presence. I thought about the weight and weariness associated with striving that I periodically (okay, often) experience from pushing full steam ahead instead of yielding or waiting. Admittedly, I'm guilty of sometimes leading myself instead of following God.
I look back at all the times I've moved without Him. Yes, as a believer and follower of Jesus, His Spirit dwells within me, but there have been plenty of times I've either ignored or silenced Him. Times when everything around me is louder than His voice and when I've been blinded by the things of this world and His glory lost it's beauty and brilliance in my life.
Throughout their journey from the wilderness into the promised land, God led His people with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night (Exodus 13:21). God is still leading His people today by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14). When we find ourselves in a place where we have unrest, it may be because we have been content to go on even when God has stopped. We've gone without His presence. We've settled for going with the presence of others or the presence of our gifts, skills, intellect, connections and experience even if God's presence is not going with us.
I thought about all the ways my dreams, ambitions, my personal will and resolve and the well-meaning advice of others directed and dictated my steps. I thought about all the ways these things deafened me to God's voice and blinded me to the point that I didn't even realise the cloud I had started off with had stopped moving with me.
We've moved without the cloud. Moved without the dove. Moved without His voice. On that spiritual slippery slope, we scarily may not even be able to pinpoint the last time His presence was with us or the last time we heard His voice. We've been elated and energised by approval and applause for the path we have taken even when God's not in it.
I recently stopped to ask myself, "When's the last time I prayed and cried out with a fear of God and contrite spirit for God to show me which way to go?" For Him to show me which job to take, how to do my job, what business or project to start (or stop), what to use my gifts, skills and experience for, where to live, what community to become part of, what opportunities to pursue (or lay aside or turn down), who to disciple me and who to disciple.
When was the last time the weight of the assignment at hand (to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbour and make disciples of all nations using your gifts, talents and abilities) brought you to your knees? When's the last time you said, "God, I'm not going if you're not going with me?"
We often trade divine leading and purpose for short-lived productivity and temporary applause. We see waiting as weakness and lingering as foolishness. In our hunger to achieve, our thirst to accomplish, and our drive to feed our egos (and broken and distorted self-image), we've kept going and kept pushing. Even though all the while the Lord may be saying, "Pause!" "Stop!" "That's the wrong way!" "Let me lead you."
We've settled on continuing to speak even when God is silent. We've continued building when He's asked us to tear down. We've added on when God's asked us to scale down or simplify. We've gripped what He's asked us to release. We've relinquished that which is mundane, unrewarded and unseen for that which is worthy of the approval and applause of man. Whatever ends up leading us, if not God, is an idol.
Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left. Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good riddance!”
Isaiah 30:21-22 (NLT)
One of the lines of Hillsong's Like Incense has struck a deeper chord within me lately. "Let Love keep my will upon its knees." This is my prayer, that Love indeed shall keep my will upon its knees. That love for Him shall reign in my will, ambitions and pursuits this year.
This year, God is calling us back as followers to a deeper dependence on His leading and His voice. My 2022 is starting with repentance. Repentance for all the times and ways over the last few years that I've gone on without the One I am called to follow.
He's still leading anyone who desires to be led by Him. He's still giving rest to anyone weary and in need of strength, wisdom and power for the journey ahead. He's still revealing His beauty to all those who have wandered and desire to be captivated again by wonder and first-love.