[buzzsprout episode=’535204′ player=’true’]
July 9, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
How many of you have been to a restaurant, and you sat down to eat, and the meal that was put in front of you was so good that you just couldn’t stop eating it? I’m sure you’ve had one of those experiences where you started eating, and it was so good, you just couldn’t step away from the meal, even after you got to the point that you were already full. You just put food in your mouth knowing that when you leave the table, you’re going to regret this, but you can’t stop; It’s SO good.
Today, we’re going to take a look at a story from the Bible that’s a little bit like this, except we’re not talking about food. We’re talking about God today.
We’re studying leadership by looking at the life of Moses, a guy who was a refugee in the desert. He actually spent 40 years on the run in the desert, because he committed murder. In the story today, God is leading his people out of slavery in Egypt. An entire nation is now refugees, on the walk from Egypt to the Promised Land, and on this journey from Egypt to what is today modern-day Israel, God meets with his people. God gives his people a taste of Himself, and when His people start to taste a little bit of how good God is, they decide they want more, and the more that they get, the more that they want. God really starts to satisfy them, and they start to have this deep hunger and this deep longing for God.
Now, I want you to hear something. What we’re reading about today isn’t an isolated event in the Old Testament. In fact, this happens in the New Testament when God meets with His people. But it also happens in our day. When a revival happens in a church (And by the way, that word revival just simply means when God meets with His people, and God puts a hunger and a desire in their hearts that they haven’t had for a long time, and when God brings life back into a church that’s dead). Every time in church, the exact same circumstances take place: When people walk out the doors, they walk out wanting more. They walk out longing for more of what they just got from God.
Today, we’re going to take a look at what happens when God gives you some of Himself. It’s so satisfying that you start to say, “I want more, God.” And as you want more, God gives more of Himself, and as He gives more of Himself, you decide you want more of Him. That’s the cycle of satisfaction that we’re going to see today in the Bible.
We’re going to be in Exodus, chapter 33. The first thing I want you to learn about hungering and thirsting after God is this:
I. Follow hard after Jesus
Now, if you played the game of hide-and-seek on the playground in elementary school, that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m not suggesting that God is hiding in the cabinet, and you have to go try to find Him. The idea that I am suggesting today is the idea of follow-the-leader. It’s where you can see the leader, and you know what the leader is doing, and you’re following as hard or as close as you can to the leader. It’s actually the word disciple. In the New Testament, that literally means “walking in the footsteps of the master”. And perhaps nobody is a closer disciple, or nobody is following the leader harder, than Moses is. When Moses is following hard after Jesus, he wants more of what he’s getting from God.
Exodus 33 tells us the story. We start today in verse 12. Here’s how the Bible describes this.
12 One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13 If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.” 14 The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
The original language that you hear today is a bit awkward, like Moses is having 2 conversations at the same time with God. The first conversation is, “God, you’re sending us into the Promised Land, and I need to know who is going to go with us.” In this first conversation, what Moses is really saying is, “God, you’ve given me the responsibility to lead this great nation, and this is a huge undertaking. God, one man isn’t big enough or strong enough to lead these people all by himself, so who’s going to help me lead these people?” And God says, “Moses, I’m going to help you lead the people. I’m going to go with you. Moses, I’m going to be the one who helps shoulder this load with you. You don’t have to handle it all by yourself, Moses. In fact, it wouldn’t be good if you did try to handle it all by yourself.”
But at the same time that conversation is going on, Moses is also asking the Lord, “Lord, I want to know your will.” Basically, what he’s saying is, “Lord, I want to know you better. Lord, I want to come closer to you and come nearer to you. And not just me; I want you to be near to all of Israel. I want them to feel your presence; I want them to know that you’re close to them as well. I want them to know that they have your favor.” And as God starts to meet this request of Moses, he continues to ask for more. “God, you’ve showed me yourself. God, you’ve given me conversations with you. God, now I want more; I want to know more of you. God, I want to be closer to you. God I want more.”
And as God gives Moses more of Himself, Moses longs for more of God. It’s the cycle of Moses being satisfied with God, and God satisfying Moses with more, and it keeps happening. It’s like what John Piper described in Desiring God. As you are satisfied in God, God is glorified in you. As you long for more of Him, He gives you more of Himself. And as you get more of Him, you want more of Him.
Have you ever been working outside in the dog days of summer when you’re in the back yard, and it’s a million degrees outside, and you’re thirsty? –Like ready to get something to drink or else you’re going to keel over dead from thirst. You know that you’re already way past dehydrated when your body already starts to become thirsty. You needed water a long time before you started to get thirsty. But, you’re plugging away trying to get a job done in the back yard, and in the distance, you hear the ice cream truck. Has that ever happened to you? Immediately, you start to think to yourself, “There’s a cherry popsicle on that ice cream truck, and I really want a cherry popsicle right now, ‘cause I know that ice cream truck is about to come here, and I’m so thirsty, I need something inside of me. So I want a cherry popsicle super-bad.”
Now, here’s the truth: Your body doesn’t need a cherry popsicle when you’re outside in the backyard in the middle of the dog days of summer. What does your body need? It needs water, but you hear the ice cream truck, and you start to decide, “I want a cherry popsicle. I don’t want purple (Nobody likes purple); I want a cherry popsicle, because cherry popsicles taste good.” In reality, what your body needs is a drink of water. But because that ice cream truck is getting nearer, what you start to long for is a cherry popsicle. For a brief instant, it’s going to put some liquid in your mouth, but it’s not going to satisfy you deep inside.
The Psalmist, David, felt this way about God. He felt like a deer in the middle of the desert with nothing but cactus and sand dunes around him, and in Psalm 42, David described it this way:
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?
David is saying, “I’m so thirsty, and I desire God so much that no one and nothing else could satisfy me. If I tried to be satisfied somewhere else, it would leave me unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Only God can satisfy me.”
When John Piper wrote his book, Taste and See, he described it this way: Has it been a long time since you’ve been satisfied by God? –since you’ve tasted the goodness of Jesus? If that’s the case, it really isn’t Jesus’ fault. You see, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If he has satisfied you in the past, he certainly can satisfy you today and in the future. If there’s something that’s not satisfying you anymore about your faith, the problem is with the faith; the problem is with you. And maybe your satisfaction has become deluded, because you’ve become distracted by something other than Jesus. That something other than Jesus will leave you wanting more; it will leave you unfulfilled. But when you’re satisfied in Christ, and when you taste and see how good He is, He’s going to satisfy you at your deepest levels, and he’s going to make you want to come back for more.
II. Passionately pursue God’s favor
Here’s the truth: Moses was following hard after Jesus, and Moses was also passionately pursuing God’s favor. Moses said, “God, I want people to know that you’re with me, and I want people to know that you’re with your people.”
In the grand scheme of things, here’s what you need to know about the timeline of Exodus 32:
In Exodus 20, God has gotten His people away from Egypt; he’s gotten His people alone. God has gotten His people’s attention. And His people have prepared themselves for God to deliver the 10 Commandments. Go back and read it in your Bible. God speaks to His people with an audible voice, and the people hear God with their own ears.
In Exodus 25-31, God lays out the instructions for the Tabernacle, but here’s what’s mind-blowing about the Tabernacle: God says, “Moses, I’m going to do something for Israel that I’ve never done before. I’m going to make my presence dwell in a very specific place on earth. Wherever that Tabernacle is and wherever that Mercy Seat is, I’m going to be there. And the people can get close to me by coming to the Tabernacle.”
In Exodus 33 earlier in this chapter, Moses goes to meet with God in the Tabernacle, and God becomes so close to Moses there, that the pillar of cloud descends on the Tabernacle, and all of Israel stands up and knows that God and Moses are having a face-to-face conversation in there. And they wait for Moses to meet with God face-to-face.
Even still, Moses wants more of God’s presence. Moses wants more of God’s glory.
Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16 How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” 17 The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”
In verse 16, Moses is asking the question, “How will somebody at work tomorrow know that I belong to Jesus? How do my next door neighbors know that the people that live in that house next to me have something different about them? God’s favor is on them.”
In verse 17, God is saying, “Moses, I’m meeting with you; Moses, I’m speaking with you. I’m in your presence and you’re asking for more, so I’m going to do what you’ve asked.”
In these verses, the word personally denotes proximity. Moses is saying, “God, I’ve got to know that you’re close. I’ve got to know that you’re right here. –not just right here by me, but I’ve got to know that you’re right here by your people, all of Israel. I’ve got to know that you’re close to us and that we’re close to you. And God, if we get away from you, it’s terrible for us. I want everyone to know that we’re your special people and that you are close to us.”
The truth is, that people should be able to see God’s favor, because people can see that there’s something different about you. You don’t live the way other people in the neighborhood live. You don’t do what other guys around the water cooler do. There’s something a little bit different about you, and people can see God’s presence when they see you.
God says, “Moses, you’ve asked for a good thing, so of course I’m going to give what you’ve asked for. You’ve asked for more of me, and I’m going to give you more of myself. What you asked for was a very good thing. Moses, I’m going to be with you, and I’m going to be with my people, Israel.
I did a little Bible research this week on this phrase, because this phrase shows up in a number of places in the Bible. It’s where God is with someone, and because God is with them, they are favorable, or God’s favor is on them.
Here’s where it shows up in Genesis: When Joseph is a prisoner in the dungeon in Egypt, the Bible tells us that even though he’s in the worst possible place in Egypt, God is with him in that prison, and God blesses Joseph, and God shows His favor to Joseph. The Bible tells us that God was with Samuel the prophet, and He gave Samuel’s words great power in the midst of the people. God was with David and gave him success on the battlefield and favor in the eyes of Israel. It was because God was with him, not because of David, the warrior. And God was with Hezekiah, King of Judah, and gave him success when he went to war against Assyria and Philistia.
Perhaps the greatest example of this, found in the New Testament, was when the Bible tells us that God was with His son, Jesus, in unprecedented ways. Luke tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and in favor with both man and God, because God was with Him. And I hope right now, you’re thinking, “Jeff, I want that really, really badly. I want what Moses had; I want what David had; I want what Jesus had; I want God to be near me, and I want to be near Him. How do I get that?”
Here’s the answer to that question. In fact, I want to ask you to write this down, tear it off, and put it on your refrigerator door this week. Here’s the answer to, “How do I have that kind of closeness with God?” The answer is:
You will never be fully satisfied until you first hunger for Jesus.
This statement in and of itself looks like a contradiction, but if you’re new to Christianity, like if this is your first day ever coming to church, let me explain what this statement means. It means that you were born with this itch deep down inside of you, an itch at the human soul level, and no one and nothing else can scratch this itch. You’ll dislocate your arm trying to get to this itch, and nothing can really scratch it. You can try money, but it’s not going to answer it. You can try to use drugs, alcohol, fame, or sex, but none of those things can scratch this itch. The itch was built inside of you by God. It was created by God, and only God can answer this itch. So you can’t really be satisfied until you first start to long for and start to hunger for Jesus. And when you start to long for and hunger for Him, then He starts to satisfy you. As you start to be satisfied in Him, he starts to create in you a longing for more, and He starts to satisfy you more. This cycle continues for eternity, in Heaven.
Let me tell you a vivid example of this. Dion Sanders (You all recognize his name), a famous football player and baseball player, at the height of his career as perhaps one of the most successful athletes on the planet, he almost threw his life away. He wrote about it in a book in 1999 in a national best-seller called Money, Power, Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life. Dion Sanders writes, “At the height of my career when I had everything, and I mean everything, that the world had to offer (I had money. I had fame. I had power. I had it all), I almost drove my car off a bridge, because there was an itch inside of me that I could not scratch no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t get to it, and all of the stuff that I had available to me left me wanting more.” In his book, Dion Sanders says that it wasn’t until he found Jesus that he finally was able to scratch something that had been inside of him all along. Sports couldn’t do it. Money couldn’t do it. Power couldn’t do it. Nothing else could answer this deep longing…except Jesus.
In the book Money, Power, Sex, Dion Sanders says all that stuff almost ruined his life. It was when he hungered for Christ that he finally started to be satisfied deep inside.
III. Long for more of the Holy Spirit
Here’s what I want you to see to wrap this whole thing up today: I want you to start to long for more of the Holy Spirit. Before you theologians in here start to beat me up over this statement, let me make sure you understand what I’m not trying to say. I am not saying that you need a second baptism of the Holy Spirit, that once you give your life to Jesus, you don’t really get the Holy Spirit until you are baptized by the Holy Spirit later. That junk isn’t true; the Bible doesn’t teach that, and that’s NOT what I’m saying today.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: You have exactly as much of the Holy Spirit as you want. If you want more, He’s going to give you more of Himself. If you want less of the Holy Spirit, He’s going to step back and let you have less of Himself, and he’s going to watch you try to fill the void with something else, knowing that the something else isn’t going to satisfy you.
What you have today in the Old Testament is perhaps the greatest example of somebody longing for more of God. –Somebody who has already been on the mountain and has already spoken to God face-to-face like a man speaks to another man. He’s somebody who has seen the finger of God and hear the voice of God, and in Exodus 33, verse 18, Moses makes this audacious request. Look at this one verse.
He is saying, “God I need your favor. God, I’m following hard after you, and I want more of you.” And as he gets more, Moses decides to press it a little bit further with God.
Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. 20 But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. 22 As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”
In verse 18, Moses is saying, “God, I want to see you with my own eyes. I’ve heard your voice. I’ve seen your finger. I’ve spoken with you face to face. And now, God, I want something that no human being has had since Moses in the Garden of Eden. I want to see you with my own eyes.”
I want to ask you, is Moses pushing his luck here? Are you thinking, “Moses, what’s your problem? What’s your deal? Why can you not get enough?” I don’t want you to focus on Moses for the rest of this morning. I want you to think about God. The way that God answers this request teaches us a lot about the nature of our God. So when Moses says, “God I know I’ve heard your voice. I’ve seen your finger. I’ve seen your glory. But, I want more. I want to be able to see you with my own eyes. Can I have that, God?”, God answers that request starting in verse 19.
Moses is asking for something that has not happened since Adam and Eve in the garden before the first sin. He’s saying, “God, I want to see you with my own eyes.” Now, we thought that if Moses saw God with his own eyes, his eyes would burn up, and he would fall over dead. -I didn’t think you could see God with your own eyes. I thought that was against the rules.
God says, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, Moses. I’m going to do something for you that I haven’t done for anybody in a long, long time. ‘you see that rock over there? Moses, you’d probably better go hide in that rock there. In fact, I’m going to cover you up, so out of even a glance of your peripheral vision, you don’t see my face, because you will fall over dead. Here’s what I’m going to do for you: I’m going to walk by you, Moses, and when I walk by you, I’m going to show you my glory. Moses, I’m going to show you my beauty, and I’m going to allow you to see my holiness. I’m going to give you the privilege of seeing my character and my nature in ways that people haven’t seen it since the Garden of Eden. Moses, I’m going to do something for you that I haven’t done in a long, long time. I’m going to let you see me from behind, and I’m going to let you see me with your own eyes.”
If there was one moment in history that I could go back to, this would be the moment. I’d be in the crevice of that rock with Moses, so that I could see God in all of His glory. By the way, the New Testament tells us that if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the glorious presence of God. Anybody who has seen Jesus has seen God with their own eyes.
God is saying, “Moses, you asked for something good, and because you asked for something good, and because I’ve been satisfying you, and because you’ve been longing for more, I’m going to give you more of me. I’m going to give you what you’ve asked for. I’m going to give you more, because you’ve longed for more. I’m going to give you more of me, because you’re being satisfied by me and only by me.
Do you know that this is the exact same God that we worship today? He will give you more of Himself if you want more of Him. But if we’re honest, a lot of us in this room have been so distracted by other things, that those things have started to steal our attention away from God, and pretty soon, we’re not longing for Him the way that we once longed for Him.
You see, when it comes to spiritual warfare, the best defense is really a good offense, and this is what you’re reading in the New Testament. The great apostle, Paul, puts it this way, “Do you know why your next door neighbor doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus and doesn’t want anything to do with church? It’s because they’ve never experienced what you’ve experienced.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
Your neighbors don’t want anything to do with Jesus, because they’ve been blinded and deluded by other things, and one of our jobs is to try to show them how glorious our God is. When God starts to give His glory to us, we start to pass that glory to others by showing other people how glorious and how beautiful our God is.
But if we were honest, I can imagine some of you here have been captivated by other things and looking for other things to scratch this itch inside of you. If that’s you today, maybe you have some Next Steps that you need to take. Maybe there’s something you need to do to put into practice what you’re hearing from the Bible today.
Maybe that second Next Step refers to you. You haven’t been longing or looking, and you haven’t been satisfied with Jesus in a long time, because you’ve been trying to be satisfied by other things.
Maybe you’re one of those people that hasn’t been running hard after Jesus and haven’t been putting the time and energy into your relationship with Jesus, and as a result, your faith is becoming stale. Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t have a genuine relationship with Jesus, and you’ve never started this journey with Jesus. Today, you need a heart-transforming, a soul-regenerating life with Him. You need to go from death to life and for God to put in you a new heart and to find faith in Jesus Christ for the first time.
• I don’t have Moses’ desire for God. Today, I ask God to work in my heart to want to a relationship with him.
– I have been looking for satisfaction in things other than Jesus. Pray for me to passionately pursue Jesus this week.
+ I will run hard after Jesus by putting more time and energy into my relationship with him than anyone else this week.
- What is the longest you’ve ever gone without food? How satisfying was the food the next time that you ate?
- Describe what it would look like for God to show you favor? (Be specific about the kind of favor you want from him)
- Would you be willing to go on a journey with someone if they refused to tell you where they’re going? In your opinion why was Moses willing to go on this journey with God?
- Why can’t anyone see “God’s face” and live?
- How does God set people apart from others today?
- Reread Numbers 12:6-8. If Moses already has this type of relationship with God, why would he want more of God’s presence?
- Pray for a deeper hunger for the Holy Spirit this week.