I’m still reading “Good or God? Why Good Without God Isn’t Enough” by John Bevere. The excerpts from several chapters below really has me meditating on how I come to God. Although He welcomes us bringing our requests to Him, He wants a relationship with us. Rather than approaching our Lord with a “wish list” of what we want Him to do for us, having a relationship with Him would change our desires to want what He wants.
God instructed Israel’s leader, Moses, to take them into this Promised Land. He declared there would be a choice, mighty angel to guide and protect them. This warrior angel would drive out any and all foes. However, there was one catch: God Himself would not go. (Exodus 33) But Moses, who wanted an intimate relationship with God, declined. “Then Moses said, ‘If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.'” (Ex 33:15) What is in “this place”? It was the place of lack, adversity, stress, and hardship— the desert. Moses gave a reply that’s perplexing, even mind-boggling, to the average person. In essence he declared, “If I have to choose between Your presence and Your blessing, I’ll take Your presence— even if it’s in a place of lack and hardship— over Your blessing in a great environment.”
Moses’s objective was to lead the people to meet with and worship God in the wilderness at Sinai. Why would he want to bring them out of Egypt straight to the Promised Land before initially leading them to the Promiser? Once out of Egypt, Moses brought the nation to Mount Sinai, the same location where he had met with God at the bush. When they arrived, God instructed Moses to tell the people: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” (Exodus 19:4) God, the Creator of the universe, made it clear the chief purpose of bringing Israel out of Egyptian bondage was to bring them all to Himself. He was seeking out a personal and intimate relationship with them.
“Then the Lord told Moses, “Go down and prepare the people for my arrival. Consecrate them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothing. Be sure they are ready on the third day, for on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai as all the people watch.” (Exodus 19:10–11) Egypt’s filth still clung to the people’s garments, and it had to be removed before the people could enter God’s holy presence. Egypt was symbolic of the fallen world’s system. People of this world live for the indulgence of the flesh, the gratification of the eyes, and for status, reputation, and prominence—“ the pride of life”. “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 John 2:16). Knowing God isn’t the focus. Rather, “How can I benefit?” is the emphasis.
God did come down on the mountain on the third day, but the response of the people was heartbreaking. The people of Israel couldn’t handle God’s presence because they still loved their own interests over His. Knowing Him intimately was not a priority. The world’s motivation, which still clung to the hearts of the Israelites, is not capable of producing genuine relationships since the motives are self-seeking. Israel could only know God if they cleansed themselves of this filth. However, Israel couldn’t rid themselves of their desires as Moses did. His passion was for a genuine relationship with God. Israel wanted benefits from God.
Can someone carry the filth of the world in their heart and still have a genuine relationship with God? Does the grace of Jesus Christ eradicate the necessity of cleansing ourselves from the world’s filth? “And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: ‘I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” (2 Cor. 6:16-7:1) (see also Exodus 29:45-46) His desire for intimacy has not changed, but it can’t happen if we still have the filth of the world on our garments.
God is not blind to our inner motives. He tells us to cleanse ourselves from all filth, not just of the flesh but even of the heart and spirit. He knows whether we have the filth of Egypt on our garments (live for self-gratification) or if, like Moses, we seek His desires over our own. So just as Moses instructed Israel to cleanse their garments in order to meet and have an intimate relationship with God, we too are told by the apostle Paul, “Let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” (2 Cor 7:1)