Encounter with God
The start of what I want to say comes from part of a New Year promise:
I will pour out My Spirit upon you. (Joel 2:28, adapted)
I think that in spite of the present circumstances many of us have found how true that is, and He has poured out on the unsaved in saving power and in baptizing power and in healing and other ways. For this we are very grateful. And it’s a verse that comes to my mind again and again, with the sense that God means it. I will pour out of My Spirit upon you. The promise is upon all flesh, and upon people in different conditions. But I’m speaking tonight particularly to those who have already found Christ as Saviour, and those who are hungry to really know God’s ways and follow His calling. The call of God on Moses is described in the following verses, which in my Bible have the lovely title of The Call of the Rescuer:
One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. ‘This is amazing,’ Moses said to himself. ‘Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.’
When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’
‘Here I am!’ Moses replied. ‘Do not come any closer,’ the Lord warned. ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:1–6)
God spoke to him of knowing the suffering of his people in Egypt, and he said to Moses:
Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:10)
And you might say: Well, where exactly is the connection with that verse, I will pour out My Spirit?
In the days leading up to Pentecost, the disciples of Christ were waiting and seeking for the coming of the Holy Spirit. He had told them to wait until the Spirit was poured out from on high. And so they waited, and so they sought, until He came. And for us, we need to wait on Him, and we need to seek for Him. He that seeketh findeth … Ask, and it shall be given to you … Knock, and it shall be opened.
The call of God comes to us to seek. His treasures are often hidden treasures that don’t just fall readily into our hands. We have to show the desire for them, and the desire for the Holy Spirit to be outpoured, to reveal to us the hidden treasure. The following lines of a poem by Rudyard Kipling are quoted at the beginning of the book Behind the Ranges, which tells of Fraser of Lisuland, a very powerful missionary:
‘Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges –
Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!’
God took care to hide that country till He judged His people ready,
Then He chose me for His Whisper, and I’ve found it, and it's yours!
Something lost behind the ranges, something hidden. The Bible does speak of the hidden riches of God in secret places that He will open to us. That is lovely poetic language, ‘behind the ranges’ – but it made me think of some of these meeting places in Scripture where God meets His own and His Holy Spirit is actually outpoured on people as they meet with God. And the first one that came to my mind was this encounter with God that Moses had at mount Sinai, where he was to meet God again and again. But on this occasion he’s in the wilderness, on his own so far as we know, when he sees the bush that burns and is not consumed. He discovers that really it is God who is in the bush, and that is why it is burning. He meets with God. We don’t know if he had really met with God before then. It may be his first real encounter, and it has a profound and life-changing effect upon him.
He discovers first of all something of the holiness of God. He was hungry to serve God. He was hungry to be of service to his people, and that all seemed to have gone wrong. But now the plan of God is coming into action, and it’s beginning where it has to begin: with an encounter with God. We can quickly try to rush into action for God – which is very worthy, to want to work for Him, to serve Him – but fundamentally there has to come again and again in our lives an encounter with God. We have to be hungry for that. Moses learned a hunger for God that grew as the years passed, and the story of his life shows that. And he discovered first of all that God is holy. God said to him: ‘Moses, take the shoes off from your feet, for this is holy ground.’ The ground where God is is holy. That word holy hasn’t occurred in the Bible until now, and after this it is frequently used as a description of God Himself. The same root word is used in other semitic religions to depict something that is wholly other, but only of our God does it depict One who is morally righteous and good, and holy in that sense: other, different, but righteous. I think there would come over Moses’ spirit a trembling and an awe, and yet a strange delight that gripped him from that hour on.
God spoke to Moses, and in spite of that awareness of a holy God, Moses is inclined to dispute with God when He says: ‘Moses, you go. You go to Pharaoh. I’m sending you to rescue My people.’ The old Moses had said: ‘I want to rescue them,’ and he thought he knew how to do it, but that plan had all gone awry. Now he has no confidence in himself, and he has to become very dependent on that God with whom he is meeting, until eventually he agrees to go to Pharaoh, and he goes again and again.
It made me think of Christ, of whom we read that though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience through the things that He suffered. But Christ was never disobedient. Christ was one with the Father, but clothed in our flesh, walking our way. I spoke last week of the incredible identification of Christ with us as He walked amongst us. So in His flesh He learned obedience through the things that He suffered. He was willing, without any argument. And Moses became willing. He’s very like us: he yielded eventually. How much better to yield immediately – as I think he learned again and again through the subsequent months and years of his life. He found that hidden treasure ‘behind the ranges’ of mount Sinai. I don’t know if he was up the mountain at all, or just at the foot of it in the wilderness, but he was there. And he discovered God.
Is there an answering thrill in your spirit? There is in mine: the sense that God has promised to pour out His Spirit, and He’s calling: Go and seek for the treasure … Something hidden, go and find it … lost and waiting for you: go! … God took care to hide that country till He judged His people ready, Then He chose me for His Whisper, and I’ve found it, and it’s yours!
Do you hear that whisper in your own spirit? Go and find it. Though it’s not so easy when we’re not at church all the time – a little bit now, which has been a delight – he says: ‘I’ll meet you in your wilderness; I’ll meet you where you are. But go and look for it. Look for the treasure.’ You’ll find the holiness. You’ll find the encounter with God that awes your spirit, that sears you for time and for eternity, till God fills your horizon, fills the empty spaces. I know that some of you feel the loneliness of this time of isolation and lockdown, but I know that there is a living God who satisfies to the deeps every lonely place within. And indeed there is a lonely place that nothing else will ever satisfy: no human company. Treasure, there in God. Go and seek Him. During these coming weeks, please God, He will pour out His Spirit, and we’ll find more and more of the hidden treasure.
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