Psalms 103:7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.In this most interesting single-verse statement, David relates what might be the most powerful description of the human situation which creates a question-do we merely see what God does or do we have some understanding of why?
Moses, in his difficult, frustrating, confusing trek with the Children of Israel, observed with them the acts and words of God as He spoke out of the mountain in ways that terrified the rebellious Israelis. The depths of the revelations demanded a desert experience to occur. The desert minimized distractions and reduced the newly-free slaves to concern for only the very basic needs of life-survival. And survive they did! God's awesome methods-fire and clouds and manna and water-to seal their survival should have/could have also guaranteed that they flourish, but even God refuses to break through the will of mankind. Though the nation survived, the original passengers perished in the desert with miraculous clothes and shoes and health intact-enough to prove the adequacy of God. Perishing was their own choice.
It started early-this tendency to choose perishing. In that early dramatic encounter when God spoke, the people's reaction might be predictable:
Exodus 20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
This powerful God who capably guided their history and freed them from slavery spoke now out of that mountain in a way designed to prove his power. History had proved his love. Nonetheless, the terrified troops rejected further direct contact.
God honored their request to be left alone and let Moses be their go-between, but from that day on, all they could know personally was the acts of God. To know his ways belonged to Moses. In another later dramatic encounter, the gulf between "acts and ways" grew enormously.
Show Me Your GloryIn Exodus 33 and 34, Moses sought to know God so well as to "see" him-to see his glory. Although seeing God's face was prohibited, two remarkable permissions were granted. First, a fleeting glance at the back of God as He passed by a selected cave where Moses waited. Second, God defined his name for Moses. Since name definitions were far more descriptive of an individual in those days, this opportunity became the closest possible encounter with God prior to New Testament days.
At the appointed time as God defined his name in Exodus 34 Moses now possessed the greatest understanding of God's ways known to man. Israel missed the greatest moment of their history. Only Moses truly knew the reality of God's nature. He, because of that profound, mountain-top-cave revelation knew that God was:
Slow to anger
Abounding in mercy
Abounding in faithfulness
Mercy to thousands
That was the revelation of the ages-the key that would unlock the ears to hear God-the insight that would open the eyes to see beyond the visible-the door that would open the heart to grasp the very ways of God.
However, veiled hearts and blinded eyes limited Israel to the Law. Grace and Mercy and Forgiveness could only be dreams. A great poet ended a heart-rending tale by penning these words:
Of all the words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are:
"It might have been."
Study MercyTo this day, the hearts of mankind seem to be divided between those who understand his grace and mercy and look for that in all events that occur and those who see God as capricious, stern and arbitrary. Even to the highly religious but law-bound Pharisees, Jesus recommended that they go and study mercy. They knew the law, but they didn't know God.
Unfortunately, the barrier, the hindrance, the distance remains to this day. When you choose not to see the true nature of God, the results span centuries. Listen to Paul explain in 2 Corinthians 3:14-16.
"But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away."(NIV)
That "veil" divides us into either Law or Grace. If we focus on the Law, we work to prove ourselves worthy of God's love and never find the place of rest, waiting only for the inevitable punishment.
Secret of ChangeIf we accept the incredible love and grace of God, we freely rip the veil aside and expose ourselves to his glorious nature. The result? He changes us into his likeness with ever increasing glory. We move from merely seeing his acts to beginning to understand his ways. Even the things we don't understand don't move us because we know that He is good, and, whatever the event or circumstance, things work out for his glory and our good.
So the application is very simple: Know and believe that God is the God of Compassion, Grace, Patience, Mercy, Truth and Forgiveness. Then invite Him to rule your life and speak to you from the reality of his Word and Nature.
It puts us at rest and makes our hearts go aaaahhhhh!
Gayle D. Erwin
Through the gift God has given you of His word, you have convicted our hearts and changed our lives.
Since last year's seminar at the Cove (Billy Graham Training Center), the Holy Spirit has continued to convict our hearts, teach and guide us in our faith. Through your videos and Servant Quarters ministry, we are maturing and being strengthened in our walk with Christ.
We appreciate that your tapes and videos are affordable so that all people may hear God's Word through your ministry.
Bob and Sherri Rogers
The distinction you developed between servanthood and servitude was an eye-opener for me. Thank you.
In thinking about what you spoke to our fellowship on Thursday evening, serving each other, it occurred to us that as important as serving one another is, of equal importance is letting others serve. Never would we want Jesus to say that we would have no part with Him as He warned Peter. And He tells us that doing for others is the same as doing for Him. So one more "thank you" is due. Thank you for letting us serve our Master by fellowshiping in our home.
Mike and Linda Kazakis
Although I accepted Christ more than twenty years ago, it is just in the last year or so that my family and I have really started following the Lord. I also am so thankful for the fact that you are such a favorite with my 13-year-old son. We heard you last time you were at Applegate Christian Fellowship. Since then, every time you come on the radio (KAPL), Ben stops what he is doing to listen. Ben has a great sense of humor and really loves the way you bring stories alive.
You really gave us a new perspective on Gideon. Since then we have also seen your videos on marriage through a class in our church.
My husband is really struggling to walk a Christian walk and is often accused of legalism. I am ordering The Jesus Style in hopes that it will help clarify some issues. It is easy for us to get sidetracked by rules but also just as easy to stumble off after the world.
I am a 36-year-old construction worker and while going through the emptiest, loneliest time of my life, my neighbor talked to me about God. Needless to say, my whole life is turned around. I'll never forget your audio and video tapes I was given to listen to and watch. Now, I can't get enough teaching tapes of the Word of God!
The word from the missionaries and pastors in Albania is that The Jesus Style is must reading. A Bible School there has made it a part of their reading curriculum. Missionaries are making it a part of their discipleship training. Once again we can see God doing a great work through that simple little book with a profound message.
We had 150 copies of The Jesus Style taken into Kosovo (Kosova is the way they pronounce it) this month. Many contacts and decisions for Jesus.
Gillett and Vicki Doggett
I first was acquainted with you some years back when I was one of two male volunteers at the Ventura County Crisis Pregnancy Center. The ladies had just returned from a convention and had a video of one of your sermon/lectures. How marvelous it was. You took some of the weight off of me and the Word of God has taken more. I'm a little older, a lot fatter, and a whole bunch lighter than I used to be. You keep preachin', boy.
Thank you for your article "Anger" in Servant Quarters. As I have told you before, I have struggled with anger most of my life. Anger is like an unmanned bulldozer cutting a wide swath through the landscape of people's lives. Without a driver, anger meanders on its destructive way. Anger is big, powerful, and devastatingly destructive to all who are in the way.
A dear friend has been such an encouragement to me in my personal battle. He showed me that anger usually results from three emotions, fear, frustration, and hurt. I have experienced anger as a result of all three. Fear of all kinds of things, frustration at not being able to communicate effectively, and hurt from past injuries. They constantly scream for control and when I am angry they win. "Be angry and sin not."
Sinning not is taking the anger to the foot of the cross and placing it at the feet of Jesus. He looks down and says to me, "Where have you been? I have been waiting here for you to come." Remember, He hung for what He did not do but was not angry at those who had done all for which He was hanging. I did it to you Lord and I am sorry.
It has been such an eye-opening and soul searching blessing to attend your family gatherings. God has allowed you to be (or is it that you have allowed God?) a refreshingly simple servant for His kingdom. The pomp and ceremonial doings are not present at the two seminars that I and my husband have attended (one in Portland, the other in Trail).
The message that came to my heart is to be humble and not worry about the right words. I know that this is told to us a couple of places in the Bible, but that knowledge became very clear to me through the help of your presentation at Trail. I also appreciated the excerpt about "flesh."
Thank you, brother, for speaking, for writing the books, for sharing your life and for putting your words on tape. You remind me of Vernon McGee in the way you stay so close to Jesus and the Word.
We met a few years ago in Dalfsen, Holland. I started on your book The YHWH Style. The Jesus Style I have read before and the Spirit Style is waiting. All that great stuff in the Bible is there but most of the time it is a bit far away. I thank the Lord for your books because they make it so touchable. I think that my mind needed to switch somehow because the Message has not changed. I knew that the Lord is who he says he is but actual examples make it so bright in my lazy head.
By the way, that chocolate-covered raisins thing helps me a lot. I have some big raisins myself and you know how tired one gets trying to solve it yourself.
These questions come from Jasu Markkanen of Finland.
Question: In the Old Testament days, God is often depicted as a furious, easily angered being who gladly wreaks vengeance upon anyone who dares to commit a trespass and often upon people who seem not to have done anything, e.g., in Joshua 7, the Israelites conquered Jericho and they were told not to take anything. Achan stole something. The Lord ordered the Israelites to slay the man and his whole "innocent" family. I have obvious difficulties fitting this and many events alike with the Nature of the Father. How can I resolve all this violence with his Name as you teach it.
Answer: I often wish the Bible would go into greater detail about some of these events, because I am sure we would have more automatic understanding if it did. Rather than attempt to interpret God from our distant observation of these events, we are served better by interpreting the events of Scripture through the Nature of God.
If we are convinced that He is Compassionate, Gracious, Slow to anger, Abounding in Mercy and Faithfulness and Forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, then we look rather for seeing the events through that lens. Now that doesn't automatically shed light on why certain events happened, but it does make some clues come together. For instance, we now assume that God was doing a good thing for mankind in the destruction of Jericho. Sort of like removing a cancer in its entirety from the face of the earth.
In Achan's case, we must not assume that Achan's family was innocent. The Scripture does not describe them as innocent. Once again, in the pressure of survival in the Promised Land, to let them remain would be taking out only part of a cancer.
Now I readily admit that this is speculation, but you also must remember that God was dealing with a people naturally prone to sin. Often, the events of the Old Testament present, in a physical way, the seriousness of sin to God and the destructiveness of it in our lives.
Though we don't read of such events in our day, we still reap what we sow...except for the grace of God and the season of His favor. Consequently, I choose to rest in his mercy and grace. I find it to be extremely protective. Should I choose to go outside of that favor...well, I don't even want to think about it.
Question: About that "made himself of no reputation" part in the Nature of Jesus. Just how does it work? For example, you have gone around the world teaching and everyone (well, most) likes your teaching style and message. That's the catch. Doesn't that bring reputation? How is it possible to be of no reputation if people like the way YOU do things and the teaching YOU give? Is it possible to be of no reputation and be popular among the sheep? This is no attack on your way of doing things. I'm only wondering about how to apply that into my life.
Answer: To be of "no reputation" is not the same as being of "bad reputation." Remember that Jesus, being the Son of God and the Messiah, along with his miracles and teaching became very popular with the common people. Luke describes him as growing in "wisdom and stature and favor with God and men."
It was necessary for Jesus to make himself of no reputation in order to make himself approachable to the people he had come to save. That is the key. Jesus managed to avoid all positions of institutional power. He truly gave himself to the people, but ran when they wanted to take him by force and make him king. The apostles received a stern rebuke from him when they tried to shield him from mothers with babies.
I can't think of much that Jesus did that would improve his image, but I join you and many others in loving him very much.
Now, as to how I handle anyone liking me? Well, I certainly prefer being liked to being disliked. I have tried to follow the principles outlined in The Jesus Style. I keep a simple lifestyle and have avoided image-building and positions of power. I enjoy the compliments but quickly turn them over to God and forget them.