Part 1 – Radiant Obedience
Have you ever wished there was a way to pull out of the rat race and collect yourself? When you do find that time, is anyone able to know or see the evidence of it in/on you?
In the Christian Church there is a tradition of reckoning the year a little differently than the usual calendar. Advent, leading up to Christmas, begins the Christian year which follows with Epiphany then Lent leading to Easter and so on. We are currently in Lent – a season of pondering, reflection, and self-denial to continue becoming our best selves.
The tradition derives from the desert. In the Bible the desert is not only a very real place and situation to survive through – it also becomes a metaphor for trial, suffering, and a potential place to meet God. This year for Lent I am hoping to help our students meet God, but first we must get to the desert.
Our first lesson of Lent began with the Israelites receiving no end of miraculous help from the Lord to deliver them from slavery in Egypt. In return, God simply asked for obedience – God is the Almighty, humans are mere creations. God is refreshing the promise with His people to lead them out of Egypt back home to Canaan. Exodus 13:11 begins with Moses, their leader, reminding the children of God, “This is what you must do when the Lord fulfills the promise he swore to you and to your ancestors…”
God’s promises are conditional, and their fulfillment is reliant upon our obedience.
As miracle after miracle delivered them out of slavery, it would seem a no brainer that the witnesses and beneficiaries of God’s awesome might would unquestioningly follow the law to the letter! Just days after they literally crossed a sea on its dry seabed, however, the children of God were doing what so many children do best… complaining. Moses plead to God on their behalf and continued leading them home to the land that had been promised to them.
At Mt Sinai they stopped for a rest and for the covenant between God and His people to be fully realized and sanctified. While Moses was up on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights, one would hope the rest of the people were preparing themselves to meet God? Praying and fasting as their leader was doing up on the mountain? Perhaps even preparing for a journey to their new homes? No – the people convinced the 2nd in Command to build them an idol to a false God.
What was it God wanted? Obedience. Rather than put in the hard work to see their long-term promises of God fulfilled, the people wanted short-term satisfaction. One of the ideals of Lent is that our short-term satisfaction is usually less fulfilling than God’s long-term promises, so in this season we often will put aside our short-term satisfaction for that deeper goal – a fast.
For what purpose?
Moses received the Ten Commandments from God during that initial 40 days on the mountain, but as he saw the idol worship of the people he threw the tablets down and shattered them in his anger. As usual with anger, consequences occur for the angry. In yet another act of power from God, Moses is forgiven and pleads for God’s continued presence with the nation – which God immediately answers. If Moses would stand in a certain place in a certain way and not look at God too soon (this all requires obedience), then Moses would actually see God on the mountain as He passed by Moses. “But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live (Ex 33:20).” Meeting God is not without challenge or consequence, yet not all consequences are negative.
Moses met God there, chiseled a new set of tablets, received the fresh law from God, and spent another 40 day fast on the mountain (that’s 80 days total receiving nourishment from God rather than eating human food, and nearly a quarter of a year for the people without their leader present). When he finally returned to the people what Moses did not realize was, “…that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord (Ex 34:39).”
He was transformed.
My question for our students: Does anybody know that you’ve spent time with God?
We so often want out of the race of life, a break where we can simply let our guard down and be ourselves without proving anything to anyone. This time is not the same thing as concerted time with God, and likewise will not yield the life transformation so many of us are seeking. One breeds short-term satisfaction while the other brings fulfillment on a soul-level from God.
Yet, even meeting with God has conditions, much like His promises of blessing. We want the results, but are we willing to do the work of obedient faithfulness, seeking results on God’s terms?
This Lent, I do want freedom for you. I do want a chance for you to catch your breath. However, I want us to experience truer transformation from God. I am not yet who God envisions for my destiny, even as God already loves me. I am not yet done with sin, even as God continues to purify and sanctify so that I may one day see sin only in my rearview mirror. I am not yet the obedient child God desires (more like a petulant teen most of the time), yet God still offers miraculous intervention and forgiveness as He did for Israel.
This Lent, will I join those people in the desert by patiently waiting for God to move (devoting ourselves to prayer, Scripture, worship, etc), or will I join those people distracting themselves with idols (money, entertainment, tech, etc…)? After this season of preparation, when we celebrate Resurrection at Easter, will I come out of the desert radiantly transformed due to God? Or will I appear no different as before, albeit with the pain of resentment in my eyes for not having met God?
It all hinges on our obedience to God’s urging, teachings, and Scripture.
He IS present with us as with the Israelites. He IS working miracles on our behalf. He IS bringing us into a promise that we cannot imagine! He IS ready to transform us. Each of these things happen on His gracious terms in direct proportion to our obedience as Moses modeled.
Follow God, and we will be radiant. Scripture, prayer, fasting, serving others in Christ’s name. A time-tested formula to pursue long-term promises from God rather than short-term satisfaction.
We’re in this together; let’s help each other. Your good is my good, and I will continue seeking your good in every way I can. If you don’t hear it from anyone else this week, I love you. See you Sunday. And let’s seek radiant transformation together, this Lent.
Part 1 of 6.
(Story summary of Exodus chapters 13-34. Direct quotations from NLT.)