Meditations in Exodus: 10. Conversation or a Word
Ex 3:4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
I have referred to what followed this unusual sight in the desert arresting Moses’ attention as a ‘discussion’ with God, and that set me thinking more about what was happening. Perhaps the better word would have been conversation for a discussion implies views put forward by both parties whereas a conversation is more generally a verbal interaction between two people. The only ‘view’ that Moses put forward in this conversation is that he was the wrong man for the job. To tell Almighty and all-wise and all-knowing God that He has got it wrong is somewhat presumptuous and must come out of a massive sense of inadequacy, but we’ll consider that in a later meditation.
But the truth is that this is a conversation, an ongoing interaction that takes up nearly two chapters and, observing that, it struck me how unusual that was. This was very different from, say, the words that prophets received from the Lord where so often we simply read, “And the word of the Lord came to….” followed by content. That ‘word of the Lord’ is more like a one sided memorandum being sent; it is not a conversation.
Conversations with God are in reality very rare. Abraham had a conversation with the Lord when the three men visited him and they ended up speaking about Sodom and what should happen to it (Gen 18). Job had a conversation with the Lord at the end of his book, although it tended to be rather one sided, but it was more than a brief sentence or two. Moses had a conversation with the Lord on Sinai about their future (see Ex 33).
Conversations are two-sided interactions that go on for more than a few seconds and the truth is that God knows so much and we know so little that real conversations are few and far between. Understandably they often more comprise God saying things and us asking questions, which forms a large part of what we have here in Exodus 3 & 4. Although fairly brief we might consider Zechariah’s interaction with Gabriel (Luke 1) and Mary’s interaction with Gabriel (Luke 2) examples of brief conversations and again information impartation and questions comprise most of the content.
Now you may be thinking this meditation is somewhat intellectual and lacking any practical outworking and if you do it is probably because of something I find among Christians – a reticence to talk about communications with God. However the Bible is full of the Lord communicating with human beings; He is almost above all else a communicating God. The Godhead communicated between Father, Son and Holy Spirit even before the foundation of the world as they planned how to handle sin that would flow from free will.
I suspect that we have conversations with God without realising that is what is happening. A thought comes to us. If we were more spiritually aware we would recognise God speaking the thought to us. We ponder on that thought and have various responses. This is our side of the ‘conversation’. Further thoughts flow and we come up with more responses. Most of us would not dare to say we had a conversation with God (we would think that presumptuous) but in reality that was what it was.
I sometimes wonder if the Lord is communicating more with us but we’ve just got our minds too full of the activities or events of the twenty-first century to ‘hear’ Him. I have noted recently it is not only older people but younger ones too who speak about the busyness of life and not having enough time. Perhaps this is a call to purposefully put aside more time to just sit quietly with the Lord and receive from Him as well as share our hearts more fully with Him than we usually do. If there is a spiritual poverty today, I suspect it starts with the absence of positive time with God. Yes, I know He is there all the time, but we are talking about being aware of His presence now.
What we share with Him and what we hear from Him is, I believe, a measure of the depth and reality of the relationship we have with Him. Talk with many Christians today and they rarely pray and even more they never sit still and purposefully listen to the Lord. I am aware, even as I write this, that this is an area in my own life that needs more attention. Billy Graham, when once asked what he would change if he could have his life over again, replied that he would spend more time with God and pray more. His counsel to others was ‘guard your time and do not feel you have to do everything’. It’s probably true of virtually all of us.
But I also pondered why people like Abraham and Moses were special to have God’s time and attention, and part of it was because they were significant people in His plans. But aren’t you and I? Yes, in a measure we all are but perhaps some of us are called to bigger tasks and the bigger the task the more time you need to spend with Him. I can’t remember the saint from the past who recorded something in his diary like, “Very busy day today. Must spend more time praying first.” Whether it is us offloading to Him or Him sharing wisdom with us, it is true. Now I am aware that those words are the words of a servant because servants don’t have conversations, they listen and then do.
Speaking about ordinary life as a Christian, Jesus said to his followers, “you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Lk 17:10) That’s our starting place. We have the Bible, we know what his will is and so we should just get on and be what he says – servants. We don’t need long discussions with him whether or not you like being a servant; just take what he’s said and do it. That’s the starting place.
However we move on from that. That’s where we were when we became a Christian. We had the book and the rules and we got on with it. But then we began to realise more and more there was a relationship here, a loving relationship and we found the more Jesus shared his love with us and the more we received it, the more we changed and the more we enjoyed him and our relationship with him. We might have started out with the ‘hard man’ mentality (Lk 19:21) but the more time we spent aware of his presence the more we realised we were his friends and loved by him and the more we received from him. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (Jn 15:14,15) Sometimes it comes as ‘a word’ but more often it comes in thoughts that just appear. Start to look for the conversations the Lord has with you, become aware of them, and rejoice that you have them.