Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Getting Ready for God

What is the picture of God you have in your mind?

Is it of a kindly, old, bearded man, sitting in a rocker? Is it of a lovey, dovey, mushy, syrupy sweet guy, always ready with a positive word, affirming your decisions and choices? Is God just another buddy of ours we talk to when things get a little rough?

While the Bible DOES talk about God being loving ("God IS love" and "God so loved the world..."), and He does call people friends several places throughout scripture, this image, taken by itself, is a one-sided, partial picture of Who God is and what God is like. Relationship with God solely based upon this perspective is underdeveloped and only 1/2 baked.

Even Morgan Freeman's portrayal in "Bruce Almighty" dressed in casual vacation-wear, gives a fuller picture than simply All Love, All the Time.

Exodus 19 gives a different picture.

Moses and the people are getting ready to go up to the mountain and hear from God. God wants interaction with the people. (The 10 Commandments are coming, along with some other instructions, in the next chapters of the story of how we are to live. [If you read chapters 20-23, give particular attention to the place of widows, orphans, aliens, and sabbath in God's economy.])

God has recently freed the slaves from their taskmasters and led them through the Red Sea (which was parted in chapter 14). And God has some things He wants to say to His people. But before the people and God meet, God tells Moses there are some preparations that need to be made for this meeting.

- They are to set themselves apart (or consecrate themselves) from the ordinariness of life (v10)
- They are to wash themselves and their clothes (v10)
- They are to observe limits between where they will be standing and where God is going to appear (v12)
- They are to prepare themselves for the meeting (v15)
- They are to abstain from sexual relations between now and the time they meet with God (v15)

Does this mean we have to be perfect before we come to God? No. None of us is or ever will be perfect. I don't think Moses or the people would have claimed this for themselves.

Does this mean we come to God based upon what we do and how thoroughly we have prepared? No. Relationship with God is based upon the fact that God created us, sees our need, hears our cries, and is responding. Again, Moses & the Hebrew children were responding to a God who had liberated them from a 430-year-old curse.

So what DOES it mean? It means that God is unlike anyone else you or I know.

It means God deserves the very best, most heartfelt praise, and whole-hearted devotion we can give Him.

It means if we are willing to take the Person of God seriously, there will be a bit of weightiness and a measure of trembling and seriousness and awe in our interactions with him.

It means that when we have the opportunity to meet with God, we have a chance to be with One unlike anyone else we will ever interact with.

What kind of preparations might you feel led to make prior to your next meeting with God?

For some of us the issue is simply clearing time in our schedule. We can get so cluttered with tasks, responsibilities, rides to games or concerts or meetings for good things, that we forget to take time for the Best.

For others of us the issue may be turning off the music, shutting off the dvd or the tv, and finding a little quiet time by ourselves, away from the computer screen.

For others of us, it may be listening to that still, small voice inside us, telling us to send a card to the family member, make a phone call to a friend, stop by for a visit with that irritating person, or willingly forgive the one who wronged us. Funny how so often God shows up as an unexpected 3rd party in our meetings with other people.

Maybe your preparation is going back and reading a verse or a chapter or a book of the Bible. How long has it been? What might explode off the page, jump start your spirit, or cause your heart to swell?

From my experience, anything you are asked to do, any sacrifice you are called to make, will be dwarfed in comparison to God's presence and arrival at that meeting.

Grace & peace.

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