Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up… “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:1-2, 5-6
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. Exodus 34:29-30
Sometimes, I find myself concerned about how easily we as church leaders throw around the notion of God speaking to us. It seems to me that we are often guilty of speaking about that possibility as if we’re describing what we had for breakfast. In scripture, when God makes an appearance and speaks to one of His servants, or when one of His servants has just come from being in the presence of God, it is never a small thing. It is something that forever changes that servant, and that change is evident to the rest of God’s people.
So, as I ponder Moses’ friendship with God, I come away with a few observations that I find helpful in my own life and ministry. There was plenty of evidence in Moses’ life of His walks and talks with God. I wonder if there is plenty of evidence in mine? Here are three examples of what I mean:
1. There is something disquieting and discomforting about God speaking to us. God appeared to Moses through something that did not make sense…an anomaly in nature…something inexplicable. When God makes an appearance in my life, my testimony won’t sound like I just read an interesting fact on Wikipedia. Rather, there will be testimony of something that caught my attention…something unusual…something OTHER THAN my normal routine. It will be something unexpected. And it will be a little scary. Or even a lot scary. In scripture, whenever an angel delivered a message from God to someone, the message always begins with “Don’t be afraid!” Think about why that is so. Moses hid his face from the burning bush…because he was afraid. Next time I catch myself claiming I’ve got a word from God and there is no hint of fear or trepidation in me, I may need to rethink that first statement.
2. The clearest evidence that God has spoken to me is the change in me. When God speaks, our world changes. It really is that simple. If there is no change, if the word has no power to change, then it likely is something other than God’s word. And in scripture, the first and most obvious change is in the one to whom God appeared and spoke. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after being with God, his face was glowing. Literally. It was scary. The people were more than a little “attentive” to it. The Moses that came down from that mountain was very different from the one who had gone up some 40 days earlier. I do not believe every “word from the Lord” given to a pastor for his weekly sermon will necessarily make his face glow. I do not believe that the glory of the Lord must necessarily pass by with every moment of sermon preparation. But I do believe God’s Word changes us. And if I truly have a Word from the Lord, that change, that GROWTH, should be evident in my life.
3. If I have to “sell” my people on my Spiritual authority or Pastoral authority, then I probably don’t really have it in the first place. Jesus said it best: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. John 10:27. Once God’s people enter into covenant with Him, the authority of His Word speaks for itself, and they respond accordingly. As God’s spokespeople, our task is to hear the Word of God and then to speak it exactly as we have heard it. Our accuracy in the speaking is what determines the authority of that word. If I, as a shepherd of God’s people, find myself having to convince them of my authority or somehow “sell” them that I really do have a Word from God, something is very wrong…and my search for what is wrong should begin with me. In scripture, when God speaks, His children listen. His voice has that effect. His Word has that effect. The people Moses found himself shepherding through the wilderness were stubborn and stiff-necked, to be sure. But you rarely see them questioning whether Moses had the spiritual authority to speak to them on God’s behalf. A shepherd of God’s people having to explain his pastoral authority is a little like a comedian having to explain the punchline to a joke.
I believe God is still very much in the business of speaking to His people. And I believe He does it through leaders like you and me. I want very much to be the kind of leader through whom God’s people can hear His voice and see His hand so very clearly. And when I read scripture about God’s ways of using people like us to carry His message to a lost and dying world, it occurs to me that I may not have taken seriously enough the burden of that responsibility. I have a renewed sense of where spiritual authority comes from and how dependent it is on the state of my own heart. Don’t you love scripture?