A Daring Friendship

Originally published July 2006.

Do you remember the story from Exodus about the golden calf?  Think back to all of your 68 times watching "The Ten Commandments" by Cecil B. DeMille.  You will then remember that God was mad.  Very mad.  Look at what is recorded in Exodus 32:7-10 -  “The Lord said to Moses: ‘Hurry back down!  Those people you led out of Egypt are acting like fools.  They have already stopped obeying me and have made themselves an idol in the shape of a young bull.  They have bowed down to it, offered sacrifices, and said that it is the god who brought them out of Egypt.  Moses, I have seen how stubborn these people are, and I’m angry enough to destroy them, so don’t try to stop Me.  But I will make your descendants into a great nation.’”

Did you know that Moses was offered the same deal as Abraham?  God was going to start over and create a new nation with Moses.  God was that angry and he didn’t want anyone to stop Him.

But Moses didn’t take the deal and furthermore he dared to plead with God!  God didn’t want anyone to stop Him yet Moses dared to try.   “Moses tried to get the Lord God to change His mind: ‘Our Lord, You used Your mighty power to bring these people out of Egypt. Now don’t become angry and destroy them.  If You do, the Egyptians will say that You brought your people out here into the mountains just to get rid of them.  Please don’t be angry with Your people.  Don’t destroy them!’” Exodus 32:11-13.  

I don’t know what is more amazing.  That Moses tried to change God’s mind for guilty, rotten people or that Moses didn’t step back from God.  

This is what happened.  “So even though the Lord had threatened to destroy the people, He changed His mind and let them live.”  Exodus 32:14.  God changed His mind according to the Contemporary English Version.  The King James Version says that God repented which would imply that God did something wrong.  The New International Version says God relented.  Someone relents after being nagged and asked again and again and again.  Bottom line is that God changed His mind because of a relationship with Moses.  This is the same relationship that God desires to have with us.

That is a huge thought.  Could I have that kind of relationship with God?  I don’t know.   It’s one thing to wrestle with God but another to cause God to relent.  That would mean I would have to be in God’s face or at least without the noise of life that can get in between God and I.   And honestly, I like that noise.

To get into God’s face?  I don’t know.  But then I read further and that is what Moses asked of God.

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘I know that You have told me to lead these people to the land You promised them.  But You have not told me who my assistant will be. You have said You are my friend and that You are pleased with me.   If this is true, let me know what Your plans are, then I can obey and continue to please you. And don’t forget that You have chosen this nation to be Your own.’” Exodus 33:12-13.  

This is so conversational and so reasonable.  A first read through and it may sound haughty.  Do this for me God because I’ve done this for you. But that conversation would be me coming from my outside-of-a-friendship relationship with God.  Yes, I have a close relationship with God but I tend to keep it at a safe distance.

“The Lord said, ‘I will go with you and give you peace.’  Then Moses replied, ‘If You aren’t going with us, please don’t make us leave this place.  But if You do go with us, everyone will know that You are pleased with Your people and with me.  That way, we will be different from the rest of the people on earth.’  So the Lord told him, ‘I will do what you have asked, because I am your friend and I am pleased with you.’” Exodus 32:14-17.

God called Moses His friend.   That is why Moses is referred to as  “friend of God.”   We use that phrase flippantly about God being our friend but this is what it is really like.  This is it.  This is nothing like the “Jesus is your friend” comfort phrase we so often use because this sort of friendship is not comfortable at all.

Honestly this is not the way it is in my life.  I can wrestle with God but a friendship implies God knows me and I know Him.  I’m more comfortable with the image of God I have made to keep Him safe and distant enough to be comfortable.  I can wrestle Him down and not let go until God blesses me (Genesis 32:26b ) but it would be dark outside.  It would be little ol’ me taking on the “Big Guy” and getting my chance to know.  But a friendship with God would mean that little ol’ me and the “Big Guy” meet on common ground--and we meet often.  We do meet often but it is noisy--my noise that I bring with me.

God desires this kind of a relationship with us.  I believe He misses those walks in the garden in the cool of the evening more than we can guess we do.  But we have so much noise and so many intentions that we may never know God like this.  We have found new fig leaves.  

Keep reading in Exodus and look what Moses then asked of his Friend.  “Then Moses said, ‘I pray that You will let me see You in all of Your glory.’” Exodus 32:18.

Can you believe that!  To see God’s glory!!  To really get in God’s face.  I wouldn’t dare.  Most people wouldn’t dare to wrestle!   But to ask to see God’s glory seems so selfish.  Just too much.

But God desires that relationship with us if we dare.

“The Lord answered: ‘All right.  I am the Lord, and I show mercy and kindness to anyone I choose.  I will let You see my glory and hear My holy name, but I won’t let You see My face, because anyone who sees My face will die.  There is a rock not far from Me.  Stand beside it, and before I pass by in all of My shining glory, I will put you in a large crack in the rock.  I will cover your eyes with My hand until I have passed by.  Then I will take My hand away, and You will see My back.  You will not see My face.’” Exodus 32:19-23.

I am actually relieved to know that God doesn’t always give us what we ask.  But He does give to us.  He couldn’t give to Moses His face but Moses got to see God’s back and hear God’s name.  That is more than enough for me.  Can you imagine seeing God’s back or hearing God’s name?  That is more than enough for me.

Deuteronomy closes with Deuteronomy 34:10-12 - “There has never again been a prophet in Israel like Moses.  The Lord spoke face to face with him and sent him to perform powerful miracles in the presence of the king of Egypt and his entire nation.  No one else has ever had the power to do such great things as Moses did for everyone to see.”

I believe no one has ever had the power to do such great things because no one else has dared to be that close to God.

This is a challenge.  Youth ministry is a challenge but our first challenge we should try is a semblance of this kind of a relationship with God, our Friend.  If we do this, mixed with our call to youth ministry, a better youth minister is just going to happen.