What's on your face? Facial expressions reveal a lot of things. There is a story of a couple of prospectors who struck gold. They had go get to town get more supplies. They agreed not to tell anyone. But by the time they left a large group of prospectors were following them. “I thought we agreed not to tell anybody?” said one of them. “Honestly, I did not,” replied the other. Then someone from the group said, “You need not tell us, it showed on your faces.”
When you stop to think about it, the look on our faces sometimes really does tell it all. Some people's faces you can read like a book. For instance was there ever a time when your parents took one look at you and asked, "What did you do? You look guilty." Other times people will say, "You look like you've seen a ghost!" My mother looked her daughter and asked, "I'd recognize that look anywhere. What's his name?" Or “What's bordering you?”
Sometimes our expressions reveal things we would rather not reveal--irritation, anger, hate, plain old meanness. How will people remember the daily ordinary look on your face--stressed, irritated, pouting, angry--always smiling, radiant, at peace?" What does your face communicate to others about your faith? What's on you face?
READ 34:28-35 As we have read, Moses was completely oblivious to the look on his face--the shine--the radiance – the glow. Moses didn't put on a pious religious face. He wasn't trying to look "holy." The genuine glow was there because he had been in the presence of God. It just rubbed off on him. How did he acquire it?
FROM 2ND HAND FAITH TO PERSONAL FAITH
Today's scripture reading takes place on Moses' second trip to the mountain where he spent 40 days and nights with God writing out The Ten Commandments again. This was a defining moment for Moses. Let me explain. In Exodus chapter 3 God appeared to Moses in a burning bush that did not burnt. God's mere presence in a desert bush was enough to sanctify the patch of ground around it, and God told Moses to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground.
However here in Exodus chapter 34, this mere meeting in the Lord's presence was enough to change Moses' look. He had been so touched on the inside that there was evidence of it on the outside. His face was shining and glowing with the glory of God. Now, the Bible tells us this radiant face of Moses took place at the 2nd giving of the law, not the first. Strange, isn't it. I would have thought it would have occurred at the burning bush, or at the first giving of the Law. But it didn't. I asked myself, “Why would Moses change now?
You see, at the Burning bush, Moses was a very reluctant messenger. He gave all sorts of excuses and tried to get out of what God is calling him to do. Then, when he stood before Pharaoh, he was following orders. God's orders. As he led the people in the first days of their desert trip Moses was always asking "What am I to do?" (x2) Up this point, this whole thing wasn't his idea. It was all God's.
It's common that kids from Christian homes, who go off to college, often lose their faith or shaken. At college, they find themselves in an entirely new world that challenges. Why would that happen? Often, it's because the faith they lose wasn't theirs. It was their parent's faith. These children had gone along with the morals and believes that ruled their home while they were at home. But once they moved away, since the faith wasn't theirs to begin with, they lose it. In order to survive, they need to change from the faith of their fathers (and mothers) to a faith of their own. Their second hand faith need to become a personal faith. For Moses, something like that had taken place. It was no more a second hand faith but now a personal one.
Exodus 32:19-20 tells us when that change took place: "When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. He said to Aaron, 'What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?'" (Ex. 32:19-21)
Here, you see that no one told Moses to smash the tablets. No one told him to melt down the idol and grind it to powder. No one told him to spread it's powder on the drinking water and force the people to drink it. This was all Moses' idea. And then Moses turns on Aaron. Up until this time Aaron had been Moses' "mouthpiece." Ever since the burning bush, Aaron had been Moses' support in his faith. But, no longer. Moses had learned he couldn't lean on Aaron's faith... and for the first time in their relationship, Moses rebuked his older brother and put him in his place. After this confrontation, we see Moses really begin to care for the people. He interceding for the people and his offer to substitute himself for the people to avert God's anger.
When Moses came down the mountain with the new tablets, "he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord" (Ex. 34:29). He had a shine on his face. When the people saw the glow on Moses' face. They were afraid to come near him. They backed away from him like he was "radioactive." Even Aaron, his brother, was afraid as well. Moses downplayed the radiant glow he had because he didn't want them to focus on it. He didn't want people to focus on him and call attention to himself. Rather the Scripture says he "put a veil over his face" (v. 33).
Moses wanted them to focus on God--not on the glow. Sometimes when God does something spectacular for us, we tend to focus on the experience rather than on God who did it. Sometimes it causes us to lose our focus. It is so natural we begin to think too much of our experience and become a little self righteous and arrogant. Moses however wanted the people to focus on the Lord instead of his face.
FROM FAKE TO REAL
What could a mysterious event on the top of a mountain far away and long ago possibly have to do with us today? Is Moses' experience in the presence of God a totally foreign concept to us today? I don't think so. Here's why. God wants his children to be "real." Very often much of what is happening in our Churches and in the lives of God's people is a put-on or "fake." It is more "show" than anything else.
There is a story of an overnight visitor to the White House during the Coolidge administration. Calvin Coolidge was not one of the warmest people to be around - he was well known for his brevity and taciturn nature. Seated at breakfast with President, the visitor determined to attempt to be as "invisible" as possible by imitating everything the President did and thus avoiding any possible digressions of etiquette. All went well, until Coolidge began to catch on. Reaching for his coffee, the President poured some of it into his saucer... the visitor followed suit. Then Coolidge reached for the cream and poured a generous amount into the saucer... the visitor did the same. Then Coolidge bent down and placed the saucer on the floor for his cat.
There is a difference between those who merely get by - who copy, imitate, and fake it - AND those who are "real" or authentic about what they believe and do. Moses had changed from an attitude of "getting by" to one of "getting real". The children of Israel were special people chosen by God to be a blessing to the world. They witnessed God's amazing miracles in Egypt to bring about their freedom from pharaoh. There is the miraculous parting of the Red Sea where they pass through and escaped pharaoh's army. Then there was the manna, the bread from heaven. And all through the journey not one could miss the presence of God leading them through the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. Who would not have been impressed with shaking mountains and fire at the giving of the law!
After all the excitement things seems too settled down. Everybody went about his or her daily chores and routine. Things got familiar. Now that, Moses had been gone for forty days. The people got "bored" with their trembling mountain. So the people decided to do something about it. They thought, why don't we put on a show. They decided to make a golden calf so that they could have a worship party. Very soon Aaron put on a good religious show for the people. How exciting!
You know what is the big difference between Aaron and Moses. Aaron had a show, but Moses had a glow. Aaron put on the show because this is what the people want. But Moses had glowed because he was having communion with God. He was hearing and receiving God's Word. It would be great if we have a choir to lead us in praise and worship before the throne of grace. I have seen some powerful dramas presented during service. I have heard of solos that lifted my heart in worship to the Lord. I have seen some creative arts in services. We applaud great music and drama. We are not against having a great "show" in the Church house, but we are against it if our show has corrupted the gospel. We need to asked continually, Are we just putting on a "show” or are we real? Doing what is closed to God's heart.
The psalmist says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is the familiar injunction in Psalm 46:11, but very often in church there is no stillness, no time in which to know Him. We can get very mechanical in our worship and find "comfort zones" where we don't have to pray and study and seek God's direction anymore. Ministry can and does become ROUTINE. We just kind of go through the motions. If that happens, we have succeeded in putting on a show.
Why are we here?… Worship. This word is used 331 times in the Bible. From Genesis, the first book of the Bible, to Revelation, the last book, we are called to worship. Worship is the theme of this book. Worship is the all consuming subject of the Bible. Here I would like to raise the question, “What should you expect when you come to worship celebration on Sunday?” I believe, first and foremost worship should bring you into the presence of God. Worship is about moving into the God's presence. There is a special glow about the people who have been in the presence of God. When you prepare your heart and come reverently seeking the Lord, He honors that. When we lift our voices together in song and listen to His Word is an invite for Him come into midst. When the Word of God is faithfully preached, it brings the glow to our Church!
As I understand Scripture, wherever Christ is honored, and the Word is faithfully preached, the presence of God is there, and that is a big and important place. Worship should take us into God's presence. That will make us glow. What a privilege and experience that is for all of us.
FROM PURPOSE DRIVEN TO PRESENCE DRIVEN
14 The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." 15 Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" 17 And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."
Some of you may have read the book “The Purpose Driven Church” by Rick Warren. It is a wonderful book about what we as a church is about and how to be purposeful in our ways. This word PURPOSE-DRIVEN keeps coming pack in the book again and again. In John 4:34 our Lord says that, “My meat is to do the will of the Father who sent me.” His “MEAT” was His “PURPOSE!” As we understand he came to save us. So His purpose in life gave him the reason to live and die. Similar for all of us, a “PURPOSE” will give us a reason to live and a reason to die!
The other thing we read from the gospel is the amount of time our Lord spent in God's presence. He rose early to be with the Father. He was before the Father before major decisions were being made. And there is this overwhelming sense of the Spirit's presence as He went about His whole business. As I was thinking I've began to realize that although being “PURPOSE DRIVEN” is essential and has it's place, BUT being “PRESENCE DRIVEN” would seem even more important in the life of every Christian.
From the verses we have read, it seems, Moses has moved from focusing on bring the Israelites to the Promised Land to being focused on God. He was so in tune with the Lord, and so connected to the Lord that he begged Him “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us from here.” He refused to take any action apart from God. He was basically saying, If you won't go with us, then just kill us and end it here. Moses was not willing to take another step or move to any other place apart from the Lord's presence and provision. In Moses we find a “presence driven man”! He was so “presence driven” that he would not move or do a thing without the presence of the Lord with Him.
A purpose in life alone is not enough in the Spirit realm. Moses knew what his purpose was but he wanted something far greater than a purpose he wanted a presence. You see, The presence of God outweighs the purpose of God. For without the “presence” the “purpose” is of little use.
Again, anybody can have a purpose but not everybody has a presence! There are Christians who know the Bible, they know the purpose of God, they could quote it chapter & verse but they had no understanding or know of the presence of God! Remember when the Magi were looking for directions to the baby Jesus. The teachers of the law could tell them exactly where to find. But sadly they have no understanding about the presence of God. As good as purpose driven is, but without the presence then the purpose loses it's point! For instance…
God's purpose is that no one go to hell, but it's not the purpose that saves it is the presence of God that saves! God's purpose is to heal but it's not the purpose that heals it is the presence of God that heals! God's purpose is to deliver mankind but it's not the purpose that delivers mankind it is the presence of God that delivers mankind. We need to seek His presence more than His purpose! Because when I have His presence the purpose will follow in place! His purpose will find the place when I have His presence. Moses knew it was the presence of God that separated them from all the others on the face of the planet! He knew it was the presence of God that made all the difference and nothing else would matter! For it is in His presence that we find all we need in life & more.
We often wonder why it's so hard to push and get people into ministry and God's work. The reason being, the purpose of God was never met to be pushed. It is to be pulled along by the presence of God. You see without the presence of God we try to do it by sheer force of our flesh. It is interesting that the priest had to wear linen undergarments when they go into the Holy place. Why? So that they do not sweat. If we are working to the point of sweating in the work of God, it is because we are depending on our own strength to serve. Instead we are to trust in the strength of Jesus Christ who indwells us. God's plan is that those who serve Him should never sweat!
Moses couldn't drive those people! These were the hardest bunch of hardheads and stiff-necks on the planet. They had to be lead by the presence of God. What was it that guided the people of God! It was a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night! That wasn't anything that Moses could do on his own! IT WAS GOD! What did that pillar of cloud and fire represent! It represented the presence of God. The presence of God day in and day out! What was it that governed the people of God? It was the commandments given in the presence of God. What was it that fed the people of God! It was manna from heaven. It provided by the presence of God. Who was it that clothed them? It was the presence of God. Their clothes or shoes never wore out! All the while the presence of God was leading them.
Purpose is good. Purpose is needed but without the presence then purpose is all you have. When has purpose ever directed you and fed you? NEVER! But God always has in His presence. Remember, purpose failed the Children of Israel just as they were to enter the Promised Land! They knew their purpose was to have the Promised Land, but they didn't realize that it is the presence of God that will bring that to fulfillment. It was His presence that would make all the difference! You see, having God's Presence in and about your life will cause dramatic changes in you! You'll be more concerned about what you do from moment to moment, because you are in God's presence.
You'll want to do what is right in the eyes of God because you are in God's presence! You'll see things and people differently because you are in the presence of God. You'll treat you spouse par excellence because you are in the presence of God. You'll raise up you children right because you are in God's presence. You'll honour your parents and care for them to the utmost because you are in God's presence.
There will be a boldness and also humbleness about you because you are in God's presence! Then in church, What is it that changes the dynamics of any service? IT IS THE PRESENCE OF GOD! It is the “PRESENCE OF GOD!” that will “DRAW” people! It is the “PRESENCE OF GOD!” that will bring “REVIVAL!” It is the “PRESENCE OF GOD!” that will “PROVIDE” for us! It is the “PRESENCE OF GOD!” that will “FILL” the SS Classes! It is the “PRESENCE OF GOD!” that will “BUILD” a Youth Group!
If you seek His purpose it sounds good but without His presence his purpose means little! For it is with “HIS PRESENCE” His Purpose is accomplished! Let me ask you this question! Are you purpose driven or are you presence driven? What do you seek? Do we seek His PURPOSE or His PRESENCE? However, one of the biggest problems in the church today is that people want a deep relationship with God but don't want to pay the price for it. Developing an intimate relationship with God takes time and effort. It doesn't happen overnight. The late John R. W. Stott once admitted the truth that many of us have felt but failed to confess: "The thing I know will give me the deepest joy -- namely, to be alone and unhurried in the presence of God, aware of His presence, my heart open to worship Him -- is often the thing I least want to do." I know that being in God's presence is what's best for me but I confess that it's “often the thing I least want to.”
The next question here is “How badly do we want the presence of God?” Each and every person in this church could and not only could but should tap into that very presence of God and walk in His presence. This morning, the only thing holding you and me back from a deeper experience with God is ourselves. God wants us to know Him more and experience more of His presence.
An encounter with God has results. "…they saw that his face was radiant.”(Ex. 34:35). That radiant look comes to us when we, too, spend time with God. Each time we are with God we will be changed a little more. It just happens. It's a work of God over a period of time. It might be inconvenient at times. His dealings in our life might be uncomfortable. Maybe, even painful. All our sufferings and trials is a way in which the Spirit is cracking our being open so that God's shine may get through. Are we allowing God's Spirit more freedom to effect changes in our life?
When we spend time in the presence of God, we come out changed. Our behavior will change. Our attitude will change. Our speech will change. Our giving will change. Our lives change! When we do get that presence of God, I believe this church, your life, your family, your homes will never be the same. It will be the beginning of something that is “EXCITING & DYNAMIC & LIFE CHANGING” 1.) We will Look different. 2.) We will Love different. 3.) We will Live different.
Let's purpose in our heart to spend more time seeking His presence. Expect change to come. Expect to hear from heaven. Expect something good to happen to you.
What does your face say? What's on your face? It is said that Abraham Lincoln, when he was President of the U.S., was advised to include a certain man in his cabinet. When he refused he was asked why he would not accept him. “I don't like his face,” the President replied. “But the poor man isn't responsible for his face,” responded his advocate. “Every man over forty is responsible for his face” countered Lincoln. We are responsible for what's written on our face. Does our face radiates the joy and peace of the Lord. Or does it display the cares and burdens of this life? If we'll only come to God He'll anoint us with fresh oil and if we'll let him he'll fill us with his glorious presence to reach our family, friends and neighbors with the life changing message of Jesus Christ.