Do you remember meeting God?
I suspect that most of us don’t simply because our first and subsequent encounters with the divine are centered on Christ. We may consider meeting Christ, as a mediator between us and God, somewhat equal to meeting God however there may be something more to it than that.
Israel met God. In fact, Moses “brought the people out of the camp (specifically) to meet God (Ex 19:7).” When I read those words I attempted to get my arms around that idea and the significance of that event for the people. After all, they had basically been shunning the idea that a god would deliver them out of Egyptian bondage; then when they did follow this man Moses, they basically bitched the entire way. Now, they are going to meet God and they aren’t very warm to the idea.
In our western culture we view God differently than I suspect they do in other cultures. We like being chummy with God – “I am a friend of God” can be sung without any thought to what that means – even as spoken by Christ. We see ourselves as somehow in a unique relationship with God as a country and that somehow His favor and blessing have been reserved for us. We often believe our history of religious freedom in some way sets us apart from other cultures and provides for us a unique relationship to the God we freely worship. But does it?
When Israel met God, they were not all that comfortable with the experience. In fact, they feared if God spoke to them they would die. The God who had provided for them since leaving Egypt and even before that, was a God they feared. A God they did not understand.
I am under the suspicion that we have lost the fear of God. We are shaping God in our image, through our own understanding to such a degree that it has not only made God familiar, but somewhat impotent. We have so conditioned ourselves to view God through the prism of the suffering servant, come to save all, that we fail to grasp the fullness of God. We have focused so much on the “good news” that we dismiss the history and the God that made that news good.
We cannot have a right understanding of the God of the New Testament without a right understanding of the God of the Old Testament. They are the same God. He may have changed His mind on a few things, nevertheless, He is the same God. Coming to terms with that understanding may help us identify a bit more with Israel and their fear of this God they did not fully understand, or embrace except through their intermediary Moses.
Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. That experience will be a turning point in Israel’s history just as my initial introduction to God in Christ was a turning point. Having “met” God, the people of Israel struggled with the faithfulness of that relationship. The same is true for me.
I’d like to think I know God better now than I did when we first met. Then again, the more I think I understand God, as presented in scripture, the less I truly know. I suppose that’s as it should be.