Reviving our Faith

Spending Time alone with God

Exodus 33:7-11
Paul J. Bucknell

Note: 'Exciting Devotional Times' is the third of five sections that compose this one longer article on Reviving Our Faith through God's Word which higlights the four aspects needed for exciting devotional times with God. The purpose of this larger series, Renewing Our Lives and Minstries Through God's Word, is to revive your spiritual life and ministry through improving the quality of your personal devotional times. (Click to see this series' full 3-day ADT schedule.)

Spiritual Struggles | Spiritual Needs | Exciting Times | Faith & Desperation | Exercises

Experiencing Exciting Devotional Times

Discovering the Power of Exciting Devotions (Exodus 33:7-11).
“Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about, that everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. And it came about, whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” (Exodus 33:7-11)
1) Moses regularly had a special time with God (Exodus 33:7-8).
A Special Time1 Moses was a man of many experiences. We remember him at the burning bush and then on Mount Sinai. He was the man that led millions across the Red Sea. But what we find here is that Moses “used to” or regularly took a tent, put it up and met God. The camp would move around according to the leading of the pillar of fire, but Moses would always set up His tent and meet God.
Intimacy demands regular meetings.
We would think he would not need these regular times with the Lord. But, once we think it through, those who have had special spiritual experiences can go up and down in their excitement. At a foundational level, we all need to cultivate a special time with the Lord just like Moses. We are not made to live on special annual feasts that we might have at some special holiday. That is ludicrous. Feasts are never made to replace those regular times with God. People look for special spiritual experiences to boost them along because they are not having significant times with God each day. Special experiences are fine if God gives them to you, but they are not to be sought for. They are not the spiritual pill of life. God will give us what we need when we need it. Instead, we need to turn our minds and hearts back to cultivating regular and significant meetings with the Lord.
We might ask, “Why did Moses regularly go out to meet the Lord?” It is evident, that what he experienced on the mountain top was not enough. We will look at this later. Many of us can say we had a special experience with God, but we are fools if we think that those special high spiritual experiences will fill the deep need to regularly commune with God. The need is there but it is to be filled by the regular meetings with God. This is the problem of those running to this and that revival. Perhaps, they are spiritually touched. But it is not enough. It is never enough. It is not meant to be enough. God has a much better way for His sheep!
This is one key to finding spiritual renewal–To realize that our spiritual lives are nurtured and row as we meet God. If meeting God is the way that we are to grow, then we need to meet Him on a regular basis. We can think of it as a developing friendship. Each time we see a certain friend, our hearts are excited. The same is true with regularly meeting the Lord. We don’t say to ourselves, “Oh, I had such a good time with my friend last time. I don’t need to see him again.” The opposite is true. They joy of meeting together becomes a good and natural motivation for meeting together. It is from this special meeting of God through His Word that causes growth in individuals.
We, like Moses, need to shape our physical lives so that we have regular times with God. It doesn’t matter how important or unimportant we are in the eyes of the world. We go to bed earlier so that we can get up earlier to have alert times with Him. We make it a daily habit. The habit is merely giving us the occasion to meet. More will be said later as to what will happen in that meeting, but without being deliberate to meet God, it is essentially saying that God is not important to our lives. That would be a tragic mistake.
Moses thought it was utterly important. Jesus thought it was essential. The same should be true with us. We have never learned so much that we cannot learn more. We have never been on such a spiritual high, that we do not need to humbly meet again with God. We are never at a point in our life where God’s Word is not crucial to guiding us, protecting us and comforting us.
We must make every effort to have God meet with us. We have many obstacles to doing this. Sometimes we just don’t feel like it. We don’t believe God will meet with us. We think we will be there alone. We are distracted with catching flights, cooking, kids and plans. Or our minds are already anxiously plotting out the events and conversations of the day. We need to be frank. Any life that does not daily seek God is already crumbling away. Don’t fool yourself. You might be pastor or deacon, but a life without regular meetings with God is a dead life. This is where many Christians are today. The Christian life is a pretense. We go to church but we lack the joy of a Spirit-filled Christian. Are you regularly meeting with God alone? When? How often? Where? This is an important spiritual discipline, but if you show up without meeting God, then we should recognize that nothing of import has occurred. Let’s look at what should happen during these times.
2) Moses had a special meeting place (Exodus 33:8).
A special meeting2It is interesting that Moses established a special tent for the purpose of meeting God and that it was placed outside the camp. This was called the ‘Tent of Meeting.’ Not everyone would go in the tent, but they would go there to hear what God was saying to Moses. Imagine having times like that with God! Some groups of Christians still live this way, thinking that when they have a spiritual need or problem that they need to meet a man who is meeting with God. There is no doubt that is sometimes very helpful. But we need to remember that God has called all of us His spiritual priests. “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Under the New Testament, God has given a much greater way than under the Old covenant. We will look more into that later, but it is clear that Moses is an example for the way the Lord wants to relate to all His people. Everyone should be meeting with the Lord. That is our New Testament call as His disciples and children.
Devotions: A meeting place with the Lord. We see that the tent was placed outside the camp. This can have two meanings. It can first of all mean that Moses sought a place where it was quiet. As long as he stayed in the camp, everyone there would be coming by. He would be distracted from the daily affairs of life. If I don’t get up early, people call, things happen, I need to go places and handle things. Moses sought a place away, as much as possible, from the noise of earthly life. I have to get up when it is still dark and quiet to do this.
The second reason to have the tent outside the camp is to disassociate himself with the sin of the world. God again and again tells us that His anger is on those who sin. It was for this reason in Genesis 6:3 that God says, “My Spirit will not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh.” It is here that the godly seed began to marry those who were not godly. Almost instantly, the godly seed was polluted, and God came to judge the world by the flood. Numerous other verses say the same thing but from different perspectives.
“You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
“For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I will do with you” (Exodus 33:5).
Intimacy means separation.
Just having a special place to meet God does not mean that God will always be there. We can think of the many temples and shrines around the world. God is not in those idol-infested places. Nor is He with those who reject Jesus Christ the Son of God. The Jews and Muslims reject key truths about knowing God. God does not visit their worship centers either. But the same is true with the Christian. God will not necessarily show up. There are conditions. When we have unconfessed sin, God is not going to commune with you. God has spoken clearly to His people, as in the seven churches of Revelation (Revelation 2,3), but we have ignored Him. Is there sin that the Lord is speaking to you about? Is there something that the Lord has pointed out that you need to change, but you have been reluctant to make those changes? That is something you need to repent from. Otherwise, you take your sin to your supposed meeting with God. He refuses to meet with you. You dishonor Him by your whole approach.
3. Moses had a special meeting with God (Exodus 33:9-11).
 The third aspect key to a significant meeting with God is that He actually is there. Notice what the scriptures say, “Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend” (Exodus 33:9).  As I mentioned before, man many times has tried to engage God’s attention but has failed. What is different about Moses? Although this looks like a special situation between God and Moses, later I will show that this is meant to be typical of our relationship with God as New Testament Christians. When Moses entered the tent, God came. People try, but it just doesn’t happen. Man’s greatest temples are like empty river beds full of the world’s dust. Man was made for God, and yet God is not present in their lives. Today, we have people screaming for excitement when they find a rock that looks like Jesus’ mother with a shed tear (I’m sure we have no idea what she looked like). What happened in Moses’ case is extremely different. It is the difference between spiritual life and death.
When Moses found the time to go to this tent, God was there. It is as simple as that. God was willing to meet with him. The New Testament truth is very similar. God is ever present, and ready to meet man in his needs through Jesus. We are not talking about doing this or that so God can come. I like to think of it in this way. When I enter a room or place to meet the Lord, He is there. I can just pray in Jesus’ Name, and the Almighty Creator is there in my presence. It is absolutely awesome. Here is some small fry talking to the Maker of the heavens!
It shows us that God is more than willing to spend time with us if we would just meet with Him. God is never too busy to meet us. We, of course, might be too busy for Him, but not Him for us. We might have to wait twenty minutes on the phone to speak to someone for technical help, but the Lord comes when we purpose to meet Him. Of course, it is good to have a regular place to meet, but it is more important to meet Him than to have a regular place. Moses put up a tent no matter where He was.
His presence means everything!
Let me ask a question, “Why do you think he put up the tent and went in there?” The answer is obvious. He expected to meet God. Would he keep doing it if God did not meet him there? He probably would for a while but then stop. The goal of our devotions time is to meet God, not just to say prayers or to read the Bible. When we our intent on meeting God, then God comes. When our goal is simply to say prayers, then God probably will not come. When we merely are happy to have read some of God’s Word, then God doesn’t have to be there. But for those who know that prayers and reading of God’s Word are means to address God and hear from God, then they are not content if God is not there. They demand that God be there. God has to be there or why should they read the Bible! The problem with Christians in this age is that they are content to reading and studying God’s Word without God.
Prayer, then, can be just saying some prayers without faith. We just say prayers because it is suppose to help. But we honestly don’t need God for that. False religions have many people who just say prayers. We think there is some magic in the words. This is religiosity. God will stay away from those kind of payers. If, however, we are insistent on God hearing our words, then we find the real spirit of prayer. Prayer is, after all, communion with God. If we talk and do not hear from Him, then we had better change things until God does hear and respond to our prayers.
The same is true with Bible Reading. We do not just read God’s Word. When I hear my wife’s voice on the phone, the words are special. Her voice and person shape the words that I hear. The same is true when I read God’s Word. If He is not there, then the words are void of life. We need God to speak to us through His Word.
Now some of us have never learned to meet God this way. We never even thought that God would want to meet with us or has anything special to say to us. Our faith has, in these cases, never naturally grown. So our expectancy of what would happen in our devotion times is rather dead and dry. We don’t expect much and therefore don’t get much out of it. This is why many Christians can’t keep up the habit of reading God’s Words. It just doesn’t mean that much to them and eventually give up on it. We should be discontent with reading God’s Word if God doesn’t speak to us. We want Him to be there. He is most important. What He has to say to us is important for our lives. God wants to come regularly so that He can commune with us. It was this way from the beginning.  
Where is God in all His power seen before the fall? Would you believe He was walking around the Garden with Adam and Eve? This is what we find God regularly doing before the fall. “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Why would the Creator condescend to hang around with Adam? The Creator is separate from His creation and immeasurably greater than it. And yet we find that He desires to build a special relationship with us.
What do you expect to happen when you open your Bible to read? What should happen? Are you really conscious of God’s presence when you pray? Are you sure God is there? If you have not paid attention to this aspect, then you have been wrongly trained and need to retrain yourself. Keep your devotional times short if necessary, but make sure God is there! Insist on it.
4. Moses heard a special Word from God (Exodus 33:9).
A Special word.4 The fourth aspect of an effective and significant time with God is one in which we hear a special message from God. One brother, who had been a Christian for 7 years, told me how God had never spoken to him. He was desperate. Whenever we were in a Bible study together, he would never have anything much to say. I now understood why. He is like an orphan who never heard his parents’ voice. I wonder how many other Christians face this same problem?
We read in verse 9, “Yahweh would speak with Moses.” We might think this is something extra special. But again as we look through the scriptures, God often speaks with man. It is a very common thing. God spoke to Adam and Eve after they sinned, but it is written in such a way that God had often spoken to them before that time. Then we have the many times God spoke to Moses or the prophets. Many of these words are written down as the “Word of God.” God has spoken because He has words of life and hope to offer us. I realize that there are some people who tell others that God spoke to them but are living in sin. We see in Isaiah 59:2 that God will not speak to those in sin. It might be a demon they hear, but it is not God. If it was God, then he would be judged (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:30-31). God cannot stand the presence of sin for sin is open rebellion against His honor and ways.
Behind this phrase, ‘God speaks with us,’ is the understanding that God has special things to say to His people. We have already discussed about the need to make a special and regular place to meet God, but we should expect to hear from Him too. I have needed to reshape my understanding of myself and expectation of what God might say.  
First of all, I now recognize that God wants to speak to me everyday. Along with this knowledge is an awareness of my desperate need for Him to speak to me. I admit, I do not know what I need to hear from Him, but He does. I might need comfort or exhortation, rebuke or warning. He guides me, helps me, teaches me and motivate me to do His will. I cannot do His will without Him speaking to me. And so, deep in my heart, I recognize that my heart is empty each day without His Word abiding in my life. I am spiritually dry each day. I need to be spiritually fed. I could depend on yesterday’s, but that will not do. If I do not have what He would otherwise give to me for today’s need, I would neglect to minister as I ought to others and even fall into temptation. Without the Spirit of God moving in my life each day, I am like a kite without a wind.
Secondly, my expectations of what will happen during my times with God have been drastically improved. I now live in hope that God will speak to me those things that I need. Actually, I am a newcomer to this kind of life. This was the way Jesus lived. I need to follow the leading of the Spirit of God. What makes this all so rewarding if how this new expectation goes right along with the new life within me. My new life thrives on the word of God. It wants to grow and flourish. When I see my spiritual life grow strong, I get very excited about being His child. This is indeed remarkable. God is involved with each one of our lives. Because He cares, He wants to train and enable us to live out the best for each day.  
Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you” (John 15:7). The Lord wants His Word to abide within us. He wants to shape us by His Words. The scripture plays a key role in all of this. The Bible contain the Words of God. They are written for us to be greatly impacted by them. More will be stated in another session what this all means, but for now let me define ‘God speaking to us’ as the way the Spirit prompts certain truths to our minds when reading God’s Word. Of course, He can speak apart from the scriptures but from a careful look at Jesus’ life, The Father largely used His written Word to speak.
There are many inadequate and outright wrong concepts of God that keep His people from listening to Him. Some are intimidated by those in authority, including God. They are shy at meeting God. They think those in high places have no time for the unimportant people. Some followers of Christ tend to think (wrongly) that God only will meet with them at very special occasions. Others think that God will only yell at them when He speaks (because that is what their own physical fathers did). The majority never think of meeting God when they read His Word and pray. They out of habit just do it. God is not important to their lives unless they are going through some crisis.
Our Heavenly Father is very interested in who we are and is deeply concerned with helping us to do His will. He knows we cannot do it alone and therefore has given His Spirit to help us.  This is what Jesus told us in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” When we understand God’s close involvement in our lives, then we can anticipate hearing good and important words that has to do with our lives and ministries. This anticipation or expectation is the same as faith. We actually believe God wants to speak to us. We believe He will meet with us. We trust Him to speak to us through His Word.
When was the last time God spoke to you? Have you learned to hear Him speak? How much do you prize what He says. Do you let novels and ipods disengage your minds from what He spoke earlier in the day? What do you expect to gain from meeting with God tomorrow?  Let’s make sure that not one day is wasted in our pursuit of Him and His will!
An Old and New Covenant
These basic thoughts that we have been sharing are so startling to some Christians, that they do not know what to think. It seems to them that they have missed out on Christian living. They have to some extent. But they also receive a word from the evil one that hints that this presentation of Moses might not be an accurate presentation of what God wants to do in believers’ lives.
We can easily reject those false words because God’s Word has so much to say on this matter. This is what we find in 2 Corinthians, chapters 3-5. This passage is much too big to examine the whole section, so we will only capture the major contrasts relevant to our lesson from Moses’ life. Our real question is to see whether we are to expect God to meet us on a regular basis like He did with Moses. You will find much more, however.  Facts about our relationship with God that seem absolutely astonishing.
The Apostle Paul makes a clear and purposed contrast between Moses and the Christians. He admits to Moses’ special experiences. They are real and happened.  But they are of such little value when compared to what we see Christ has given to us. Let’s look at a few of these contrasts.
• A contrast between Moses and the Christian (2 Corinthians 3:3)
“You are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3.
We first of see the contrast between what God did with Moses and the believer. This is indicated by the ‘tablets of stone.’ Moses name isn’t used here (as it is in 3:7, 13, 15), but the ‘tablets of stone’ are ever so clear that it is Moses who is being referred to.
Moses received tablets of stone while the Christian has God’s Word written right on their hearts. The difference is great. In the Old Testament (OT) the Law was shaping the community through outward laws. But the believer in Christ is shaped because God’s truth is in his heart. The Spirit of God gives light to God’s Word right in our lives. We can also note that the Word was written not with a stylus but with the Spirit of God. This is just the beginning of a whole list of contrasts. Again, we do not look down on Moses’ experience. It was awesome, but it is nothing compared to what He wants to give His believers today.
Let’s just take a look at one more section here. The section is a bit long but very important.
“Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 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” (2 Corinthians 3:13-18).
Moses’ brightness came from meeting God. But to emphasis its temporariness, it faded away. He wore a veil so that others could not see the diminishing of this glory. It is so special to see the contrast of Moses’ diminishing glory with our own lives. We, as believers in Christ, do not need a veil because Christ’s glory gets greater and greater. As we spend more time with Him, a literal transformation takes place. It is gradual and yet sure. Our conclusion is simply that it is wrong to say that Moses’ experience was greater than what we are offered in Christ. The opposite is true. Our experiences with God radically transform us into Christ’s glorious image! > Next

Revive Your Faith Deepening Our Reflections  Tracing Our Life's Journey Pursuing Our God 

The Heart of Discipleship (Isaiah 50:4) The Heart of Discipleship ( Isaiah 50:5-9)

Exodus: Overview Christ in Exodus 3 Whys in Exodus

Titus: Overview Pastoral Overview Called into His Service (Titus 1:1-4) Church Planting (Titus 1:5-9)

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom

By Paul J. Bucknell

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