Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent. – Exodus 33:7-11
This is one of my favorite passages in scripture. Most people aren’t even aware that it is there. However, I think it is a very powerful story of worship and of the presence of God.
Every time I read this snippet of the story of Moses and the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, I am struck by several things.
The first is in verse 7. It says that “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting….”. So the tent of meeting was placed outside of the camp, but it was available for anyone who wanted to go and seek God. Anyone who wanted to be in His presence was invited to go out to the tent of meeting, at any time that they desired. However, this short passage doesn’t mention anyone going to the tent except for Moses and Joshua.
The second is that, whenever Moses would go to the tent, the people would get up and stand in the doorways of their own tents and watch for a sign that God’s presence was visiting Moses. And when they would see the pillar of cloud they would stand and worship from their own tent doors… they would worship from afar…
The people who had been rescued from the enslavement of the Egyptians, though invited, didn’t enter the tent of meeting to be in God’s presence. They stood at a distance and watched for their leader to enter God’s presence and then they worshipped without drawing near. Never experiencing His presence for themselves. Never investing themselves in taking the journey to where God’s presence was housed. Selah. (Pause and think on that)
And then there’s Moses. The passage says that God spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend. When Moses would go out to spend time in God’s presence, then God talked with him. Personally. Intimately. Comfortably. As if speaking to a close friend.
Finally, the passage names Joshua. Scripture says that Joshua was a young man, and that he never left the tent of meeting. He, in spite of his youth, made the decision to remain where God’s presence resided. He did not leave. He literally chose to LIVE where God was. He determined that he wanted, more than anything else at that time, to spend his days – and his nights – communing with God.
Such a powerful “little” story.
In the Old Testament, the presence of God was housed in one location. The Israelites chose to remain a distance from this place and worship God without drawing near to His face and presence. They stayed, “safely”, removed from where the powerful evidence of God would appear. Joshua, on the other hand, chose to remain incessantly where God was. Night and day He sought after God.
Of the two, who do we more resemble in these advanced times? The ones who have been freed from the enslavement of the enemy, yet we worship the One Who paid for our freedom and liberty from afar? Or the one who longed to be nowhere else but face-to-face with God?
God’s presence is no longer housed in a specific tent outside the city. It is no longer inaccessible to those who refuse to leave the safety of their own comfort zone. Wherever we are, God, Himself, is there…. Scripture, in Psalm 139: 7-10 says “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
And Jeremiah 23:24 says “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.”
There is nowhere that we can go where God’s presence does not reside. His presence is in even the most secret of places. And it is our choice whether to abide… remain… LIVE in His presence, or to stand back and watch others spend time with Him, as one spends time with a close friend, and miss out on knowing Him intimately.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13
Don’t leave the tent.