Moses had some of the most amazing interactions with God that anyone who has ever lived has experienced. He was known as a humble and “meek” man, yet he was a tremendous leader. One of the things that made Moses such a powerful leader was his genuine love for God and desire for his glory, and he genuine love for the people of Israel.
These weren’t the easiest people in the world to lead. They are frequently described as “stiff-necked” (stubborn), and prone to fall into great sin. They also frequently complained against their leaders, to the point where Moses once felt he was about to be stoned. Moses had a tremendously difficult task in his ministry, as he was chosen to lead the people of Israel out of bondage and into the Land of Promise.
Most people would not put up with the kinds of griping and rebellion that Moses faced on a frequent basis. So what was it that allowed this man to continue to lead this mass of people for 40 years? I believe Exodus 33 gives us some great insight into this.
Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
(Exodus 33:13-16 ESV)
God had just announced to Moses that his presence would not continue to travel with the Hebrews through the desert because their sinfulness would bring destruction upon them. Moses will not settle for that. He implores God, based on his own character and glory, to go with his people. He goes so far as to say, that if God’s presence will not go with them, there is no reason for them to go on. Moses clearly states, that it is just that – the active presence of God – that distinguishes his people from every other people on Earth.
As Western Christians, we need to hear this. We can certainly find a way to “do church” without the presence of God. We have have powerful worship music, great expository sermons, programs that fit every kind of need, have multiple staff, and multiple campuses, and yet God may have nothing to do with our efforts.
When considering what we need in our churches, we must above all be praying for the presence of the living God. That is what distinguishes the church of God from some kind of club filled with nice people trying to do good things. We need the presence of God because the mission that he tasked us with is a supernatural one. We are called to suffer with joy, to serve without care for recognition, to be united in love like a family with people from widely varying backgrounds, social standing, race, age, you name it. We are called to show the supernatural love of God to a world that knows only superficial love, and we simply cannot do this without the presence of God in all our ministries.
Take the same firm stance that Moses did. Plead with God that his presence would be known in your church, in your sermons, in your Sunday school, in your worship, in your small groups, in your love for one another, because unless he is present with us, we have no way of moving forward.