How awesome is God, in that He had an amazing, glorious plan of salvation prepared for mankind before He ever created the universe! And since man’s fall into sin, God, in His great mercy and compassion, gives His utmost to seek and redeem His lost creation. This can be clearly seen in many foreshadowings in the Old Testament and especially in the story of Israel’s great journey from Egypt to Canaan. In God’s dealings with Israel, the whole plan of salvation is beautifully and wonderfully foreshadowed. In this series we want to consider several elements of the plan of salvation in Israel’s story.
How does the journey to salvation begin? In an encounter with God.
“Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” (Exodus 3:1-5)
How do we encounter God?
Actually, God first encounters us. In Moses’ case, God caused a bush to burn in order to attract his attention. God will speak to many people through events in their lives. At some point, He will put a halt to their busyness and they will suddenly realize He is speaking to them. This fact illuminates an earnest truth: if God doesn’t seek us, we cannot receive God’s redemption. And therefore: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).
In order to encounter God, we must become still. Here, Moses was all alone in the desert. If you desire to encounter God, turn off the noise in your life: your cell phone, the entertainment system in your car or at home. Withdraw to a quiet place or to solitude in nature and begin meditating on God. Of course, Satan will bring all his devices to bear to prevent that from happening, for God speaks in stillness!
We must recognize with Whom we are dealing. “Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6). Moses knew instantly whom he was dealing with. This wasn’t some random encounter, as when two people happen to meet on the street. He was in the presence of almighty God! The thrice holy God … and He is speaking directly to me! And therefore: “Do not draw near this place, [Moses]. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). At such a significant encounter with God, God’s holiness will be strongly discernible, and holiness will define every aspect of that event!
In order to enable an encounter with God, we must open ourselves to God. When Moses was confronted with the burning bush, he didn’t turn away, but cried “Here I am.” In other words: “I am all yours, o God. I’m listening to what you have to say. Speak to me, my God. Do with me what You desire.” A person who wishes to encounter God must have a deep longing to do so.
The effects of an encounter with God
When we encounter God, we will always be changed by that experience!
1. We will see ourselves from God’s perspective. When we see God, come to a real knowledge of His greatness and are gripped by His holiness, we will instantly recognize ourselves in contrast to Him. Suddenly the guilt of sin will seem overwhelmingly great. The foulness of sin will be realized. That which in the hour of temptation didn’t seem so bad, especially compared to what others do, will suddenly be recognized as terrible in the eyes of God! The person encountering God will ask himself: “How could I ever think to evade God with such actions and attitudes?” Moses hid his face when God introduced Himself to him; he just couldn’t bear to look at Him. When the fisherman Peter had his first great catch at the command of Jesus and realized that he was in the presence of God, he cried: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8) What great grace is offered us if we are enabled to see ourselves in the eyes of God!
2. In an encounter with God, God will always concentrate on the things in our lives that need to be changed. It is God’s goal to enable fellowship between us and Himself. It is His great desire to have His child walk through life in a loving relationship with his Creator. But when sin, rebellion, or disobedience are present, God in His holiness is prevented from doing so until these elements are expunged by the blood of Jesus. The same applies for unwillingness to forgive or make restitution for wrongs committed. All sin and guilt must be purged, for we are to approach God on “holy ground.”
3. God will show us a way out of our difficulties, be it repentance, restitution, cleaning up our life, etc. This is a good indicator if it is the Holy Spirit who is convicting us, or if Satan is trying to rob our assurance of salvation. The Holy Spirit will show us specifically where the sin was and what needs to be done to rectify it before God and people. Satan, on the other hand, will accuse us of being a complete failure, will make our situation appear dark and hopeless, and do his best to rob us of all hope ever to be free and at peace again. When God confronts us, it is always with the intent of helping, healing, and saving us!
4. When we encounter God, God will call us into His service, just as it was with Moses. Moses had to leave his sheep and fulfill God’s assignment to save souls in Egypt. It was no different for Peter: “Forsake all, follow Me, and I will make you a fisher of men!” Jesus consistently required exactly this of people who encountered Him. When people have such an encounter with God, their whole lives are turned upside down! Yet many millions answered this call, gave up everything they had and followed their Savior for the rest of their lives, even into death! Has this been your experience?
5. God doesn’t just call into His service, He also equips us for that service. Sometimes this will be very simple and almost unnoticeable, yet powerful and effective. For Moses, it was simply a question: “What do you have in your hand?” “A staff.” “Throw it on the ground.” In front of Moses a hissing snake threatened him. “Now grab it by the tail!” “But Lord, I’m fearful! What if …” “Grab it! Don’t be afraid.” And when he obeyed, it was his staff again. And then: “Put your hand in your bosom.” It instantly became leprous, and then healthy again. For His disciples, Jesus gave them authority to heal the sick and drive out demons. We need not fear, He will also equip us with exactly what we need to serve Him and fulfill the tasks He assigns us.
6. When we encounter God we will be completely changed by that encounter. We will never be the same. In Ephesians 4:22-30 we read about some of those changes: “… put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man … be renewed … put on the new man … putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth … be angry and do not sin … steal no longer, but rather let him labor … working … that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth … do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” A radical change of character, a “new birth,” has occurred!
7. God leads us to His sanctuary. He makes us holy, righteous, pure, and brings us into His presence. Moses repeatedly came into God’s presence, and how his face shone as a result! Where could we have it better than in the presence of God?
An encounter with God! Have you had one? Have you experienced God in this manner? How glorious were the lives of Moses, the Apostles, and all who encountered God in this manner! Meet Him as your God – on the journey to salvation!