He is everywhere. He is here – he is there. He is with us, acknowledgement not needed. He goes with us. We sometimes notice, often we don’t. Sometimes we care and then there are times when we don’t seem to. We wonder if it is true but don’t dare talk about it. And yet, there is something comforting and reassuring to know we are not alone. We do not travel alone. We do not face life’s most difficult challenges by ourselves. We do not celebrate our accomplishments without him. Our lives are filled with his presence. We have a million opportunities to feel his love. Yet, most of the time, we just miss it. We are caught up in the other things which feel more real, which consume our minds, which fill our pockets. Yet, he is here. His name even tell us so. His name is Immanuel – God with us.
How might life look different if we realized that God is really with us? Would we make better choices? Would we hold our tongue? Would we more readily forgive? Would we become more bold or more quiet? Would we listen or would be rebel? Would we even care?
Today, we are taking just a glimpse into the life of Moses. Moses has had some pretty incredible experiences with God – probably more than many will realize. God was with him as he was born and as he was raised in a palace. God was with him when he fled to the countryside. God was with him as he married. And God reminded him very evidently as he approached him through a burning bush. God sent plagues, right before the eyes of Moses. God split a sea – right in his presence. Moses had felt God’s power in some small fraction as he held the rod. He had experienced his anger as the people did what they wanted and built a calf to worship. Moses had been in God’s presence enough to glow – actually change his countenance after being with God. Moses and God spoke often. And God showed Moses what to do and how to do it. This seems to be a unique relationship. This bond reminds Moses he doesn’t want to do this alone. After being with God all this time, he wants even more time with him. He wants more of a relationship. He wants even more of a deep experience. And he asks for it, even refuses to move forward without God.
33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’
33:13 Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”
33:14 He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
33:15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.
33:16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”
33:17 The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”
33:18 Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.”
33:19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
33:20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.”
33:21 And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock;
33:22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by;
33:23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”
Moses essentially tells God that he cannot move forward without him. He doesn’t want to proceed unless God is there. He doesn’t want to take another step unless God is present. He has been with him enough to know in God’s presence is exactly where he needs to be. He doesn’t want to make it alone. He can’t make it alone.
Moses asks to experience God’s glory. He wants even more of God. He wants to embrace the goodness of God in all fullness. God realizes that Moses heart is to know he is known and loved. And God helps him to realize this. He helps him to experience, at least as much as he can, the goodness of God. He gives him a sense of his might and power in a moment. But that is all it takes, really. None else is needed. This is more than sufficient.
Do you believe God is with us – all the time? Most of us would say we do. We would want to believe it. We say it is true. But we don’t actually act like it. I mean, we get caught up in the day’s activities and forget it. We don’t audibly hear him so surely he can’t actually be there. How can he lead us without speaking to us? It must mean that God has given us more than just hearing – more than just speech to communicate. It seems to me that we have put God in a box and decided he can only communicate like us. But that isn’t at all how God shows Moses his glory. No words are needed for this moment. It is an experience. There are sights, sounds, feelings, emotions, smells all wrapped into a moment – words not needed. Experiencing God is often most noticed in silence.
If that is true – if God is most evident in silence – then why do we limit him to speech and to English for that matter? Why do we decide he isn’t near because we can’t hear him? Why do we feel like he can’t lead unless he is speaking? What about the subtle yet powerful things which happen all around us? Are they not enough? Do they not say something to us? Does God’s creation not speak to us if we simply stop and sense it? Sure, God doesn’t speak audibly – at least not in my experience. But God is not limited to speaking through words. And we shouldn’t put that binding on him. He created it all so we can experience him through it all.
That would mean God is evident all the time – always with us – if we pay attention. We may see the signs and smell the signals. We may sense the direction or feel the need for forgiveness. We may taste the bread of redemption. We may feel the waters of baptism. We may be cleansed of mistakes through the powerful winds that blow. It just might be God is speaking to us every so loudly without ever speaking a word in our language. It might be we have limited him so much that his voice has become indistinguishable. And that may just be what is wrong with us. God is near – we just don’t get it.
So maybe we start back at the beginning. God created and it was good. God created it all and uses all of his creation to lead, guide, and direct. God loves. He shows his love through so many ways that we need to acknowledge. The simplest things bring the greatest joys. His greatest love has already been given to us in Jesus. And he tells us his name is Immanuel – God with us.
May God’s presence overwhelm you. May his presence be sensed without any words needed. May he guide. May he show us love so we can love him and our neighbor. And may we be awakened to his presence. Show us your glory, Lord. Show us your glory.