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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“Zuriel, come along. It is time.”
Zuriel’s father was calling him to join the family outside their tent. Several times a week their whole community would line the pathways in front of their tents as Moses would make his way to the tent of meeting. The process used to excite Zuriel, but by now it had become routine.
It wasn’t long ago that the thought of Moses spending time in the presence of God created a sense of wonder. No more. It had been several years since it had been anything but an exercise in tradition.
“Where are you, boy?” his father called again. “The whole family is waiting on you. He is almost here.”
Annoyed at the inconvenience, he left what he was doing and joined his father, mother, and two brothers outside their home. His younger siblings were pushing each other until Dad broke it up and told them to look respectable. The family had to look good as Moses passed.
As was the custom, every home in the community emptied as families lined the corridor of tents. The people looked forward to the times when Moses would leave the camp to visit the tent of meeting. On those occasions everyone would participate. Not one person was left inside. With anticipation they would wait for Moses to enter because this was when the presence of the Lord would appear in the visible form of a cloud resting on this unique tent.
Around the corner he finally came, with his usual group of escorts. The security was in place, and his advisors were walking beside him, but there was one that caught Zuriel’s eye. A young man about the same age as Zuriel was walking right beside Moses. Quietly Zuriel watched as the group paraded past his family, but as soon as they were out of range, Zuriel quickly turned to ask his father who the young man was. “Why, that is Joshua; he is being trained to take over when Moses retires,” answered his father.
“Take over?” he questioned in his mind, “How can someone that young be in charge of this entire nation?” He was skeptical, yet intrigued. He decided to observe and try to find out more about this future leader.
The first thing Zuriel noticed about Joshua was that he had special privileges. As they neared the entrance to the tent, everyone in Moses’ entourage began to fan out – everyone, that is, except for Joshua. He was the only advisor who accompanied Moses into the tent of meeting.
Zuriel watched to see what would happen next. As always, God showed up. The cloud fell and the people began to worship. Zuriel’s imagination ran wild as he wondered what Moses and Joshua were doing and seeing inside the tent.
After an hour or so, Zuriel started to lose interest. But his curiosity was piqued again as be noticed movement around the tent. All the soldiers that escorted Moses to the tent began to form the ranks and his advisors returned to the front of the tent from where they had been resting. Just a few seconds later Moses appeared from the tent and began his short walk back into the camp. But where was Joshua? He was not with Moses.
The crowds began to clear as everyone entered their tents or went about their business. Children began to run and play again. Mothers began to prepare the evening meal, and fathers were seen checking their tents for leaks or their cords to make sure they were tight. Everyone left their perch outside their tent – except Zuriel. He wasn’t going to leave until he discovered the whereabouts and the “what-abouts” of the mysterious Joshua.
For anther forty-five minutes he waited. Without any commotion or fanfare, Joshua exited the tent. Not one other person noticed as he slowly walked back into camp.
Zuriel had to know. He tried to convince himself not to ask the question, but as Joshua came near, his curiosity got the better of him. He had always wanted to know, but now that someone his own age had experienced it, the questions burned all the more intensely within him. “Hey,” he called to Joshua as he walked by, “what is it like in there?”
Joshua stopped and looked over at the curious young man. With a light-hearted, yet serious look in his eyes, he answered, “Why not go find out for yourself?” Joshua looked back at the tent of meeting with a look that drew Zuriel’s gaze also. However, the sight he had seen hundreds of times before looked different. Instead of looking from a distance, he was considering going in himself. He wanted to take his turn in the tent of meeting.
The Tent of Meeting
Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshipped, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide, Joshua Son of Nun, did not leave the tent. Exodus 33:7-11
In Exodus 33:7-11 the Bible tells us about the tent that Moses established and the purposes behind it. In this short passage we read about four principles that created one of the most exciting opportunities ever know to any living person. The four principles are these:
1. Anyone can go.
2. God’s presence will show up.
3. Intimate communication will take place.
4. You can stay as long as you want.
These are the four principles that still apply today and will radically affect the life of anyone who takes his or her turn in the “tent of meeting.” The “tent of meeting” is no longer a place but an attitude. It is an aggressive posture and a pursuit. The people that enter into this very special and vital tent relationship with God are the ones who are learning to delight themselves in him (Psalm 37:4), meditate on his word (Psalm 1), and passionately seek him (Matthew 6:33).
By turning your heart and attention to God, you are entering into a place of intimate communication with God and vibrant communion. Whenever you shut out the world’s noises to concentrate on Christ’s character, you are there. Whenever his children sneak away to linger with God, his presence, peace, joy, and abundant blessing are with them.
Anyone Can Go
In verse 7 the Bible declared that “that anyone inquiring of the Lord” could go into the tent of meeting. The invitation was not limited to ministers and preachers. There were no requirements concerning age or spiritual maturity. The promise simply said anyone who wanted to go, could go.
I wonder, however, how many people never took their turn in Moses’ day. I wonder how many people never take the opportunity to meet with God today. I picture a lot of people filing out of their homes to line the corridor of tents as Moses passed and entered the tent. I see many of them getting excited and praising God that their spiritual leader was getting the opportunity to meet with God, but how many of them never took the opportunity themselves?
The incredible thing about our God is that he offers an open invitation for any who want to meet with him. His door is always open, and he does not discriminate. If you want to go in, he will welcome you.
God’s Presence Will Show Up
When Moses went in, God met him there. That sounds very similar to a promise god made to us in the passage that says, “If we come near to him, he will come near to us” (James 4:8a). If we make the effort to seek God, God will allow us to experience his presence. He will not turn us away.
When I take the time to separate myself from all the chaos of this world, God comes and meets with me. I know he will do the same for you.
Intimate Communication Will Take Place
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Wow, what an incredible relationship Moses had with God. “Face to face.” God and man talking as friends.
This is the kind of awesome communication that you will experience when you enter into the tent. Not one way communication, but two-way conversation where you share with him and he shares with you. In that kind of relationship, you can talk about everything that matters and things that don’t matter. You can share important things, and just by sharing mundane things you make them important. Intense communication between friends – it happens in the tent.
You Can Stay As Long As You Want
In typical relationships you can wear out your welcome. You can stay so long that the person you are visiting gets tired of you and wants space. This does not happen when you are in a “tent relationship” with God. According to verse 11, Joshua stayed until he wanted to leave. God did not kick him out, and he was free to stay longer than his leader, Moses. He stayed longer, prayed hard, and left fulfilled in his relationship with the Lord.
God is waiting for you to long for his presence so much that you will stay a little bit longer than you had intended. He wants you to come daily into his presence and not leave until you have touched his heart.
Time For The Tent
There you go. Those are the principles that established the tent of meeting. They worked way back in Joshua’s day, and they work today. Your first step toward Christ is salvation. Your second step is to set aside some “tent time.”
Calling YOU into the Tent
There’s a famous street in Tijuana, Mexico. It’s called Revolution Street and it’s famous for two reasons. Tourists cross the border between Tijuana and San Diego, California, by the millions every year for the purpose of (1) shopping and (2) partying.
I have been there several times, and I find it interesting that every store and club spends money to employ people for the simple purpose of attracting people to the bargains inside their establishments. You cannot walk down this street without one of these “callers” trying to convince you that their store or club is the place you need to go to spend your time and money. These people are persistent and loud as they call out for your attention. If you take the time to listen to their pleas, you will begin to believe that their merchandise really is better than the store down the street. You will be convinced that their prices are better than in others. The “callers” are strategically placed and they intentionally work to get your attention.
I hope that God will use the information that has been strategically, intentionally, and prayerfully placed in this chapter to call you into the tent of meeting. As with the callers on Revolution Street, this message is urgent. God wants you to join him inside.
What Happens in the Tent?
The things God will do in your life as you take time to meet with him are limitless. However, it is good to know how you should approach him. Because you are still reading and haven’t already put this book on the shelf, I assume that you want to develop your times with the Lord into something that is beneficial and life changing. Although you have a strong desire to meet with God, you may not know exactly how to get started or how to get the most benefit out of your times with the Lord. Below you’ll find some information about what to do once you commit to take time in the tent with the Lord.
As you begin to spend time with the Lord, you should include three things in your times with God. They are worship, Bible reading, and prayer. Although you may have known for some time that these things are beneficial to your spiritual growth, let’s look specifically at how you can include these things in your times with God.
Worship is always easier in a crowd; people tend to love worship when the band sounds good and the congregational setting is energetic and fun. However, people often neglect worship when they are alone with God, and they shouldn’t. Worship should be a major component of your time alone with the Lord.
Your times of isolation with God should include sweet times of worship when you open up your heart to him. You can do this using a CD of worship music. You can spend some time reading, meditating on, and pondering the Psalms, or you can tell God in your own words how much he means to you. Worship is an attitude. It doesn’t have to include music, although it can if you like. However, it does have to be a part of your relationship with God.
As you begin to add worship into your daily times with God, find out which way works best for you. You may need to begin by using music and singing along with another person’s words and style of worship. As you practice worshiping, you will discover that you become a better worshiper.
Worship is not an activity, it is an attitude and it becomes a lifestyle. Work to develop this more within your relationship with God.
Read the Bible
I can still remember my first Bible. It was more of a symbol than anything else. I didn’t read it much, and when I did, I would get lost. As a young teenager of fourteen, I thought the Bible was boring. Although I loved God and wanted desperately to walk closely with him, I neglected his gift of Scripture because my perception was wrong.
However, around that time I began to read the Bible because a youth pastor told me that in it lay the key to my Christian growth. I made a commitment to invest my time and energy into reading, studying, memorizing, and understanding the words that were “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16).
A remarkable thing happened. Not only did I learn to discipline myself and stay consistent in my reading, but I fell in love with the Bible. It fascinated me with stories of war, enticed me with characters so daring and committed that they were willing to give their lives for their cause, and challenged me by speaking directly into my everyday life. The more I read, the more the blinders came off. Instead of avoiding it, or just getting through it, I began to savor it.
The Bible was no longer a symbol. It was not a duty any more. It had become a source of hope and joy to me. And it became a tool that God used to direct me, shape me, and build in me the convictions, passions, and heart that he desired for me to have.
Looking back, I realize it was my love for the Bible and daily involvement in it that helped me become the person God wanted me to be. If I had not invested time and energy in reading it, I am not sure who I would be today.
That is why it is imperative that you read the Bible – not only for what it will do for your mind and intellect, but also for what it will do for your heart. If you want to know who God is, what he thinks about, and who he wants you to be, begin reading the greatest book ever written – the Bible. Pick it up daily and read it with anticipation.
Pray Like You Have Never Prayed Before
The third discipline that I believe needs to be included in our times alone with God is the discipline of prayer. However, I do not want you to pray the average prayer. I want God to teach you how to touch heaven and hear the Lord’s voice.
Prayer that gets God’s attention does not consist of you always talking and him always listening. You need to get a glimpse of what true prayer is. You see, God is wanting to teach you about who he is, who you are, and how the two of you are supposed to work together to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God.
Prayer is not about what you want but what he wants. You shouldn’t always tell him what you are worried about; you should take time to hear what he is concerned about. That is the kind of prayer that makes the relationship that you build with God in the tent of meeting different from the average Christian’s. It is this kind of communication that will allow God to trust you with things that he truly cares about.
When you pray, take time to:
1. Worship him. We have already talked about this, but do not overlook the importance of this step. It is in this step that you begin to have the right focus so the rest of the time that you spend with him will be sweet. When you worship him, you begin to see him as he is; he is able to tackle any obstacle or move any mountain. The rest of your time with God will benefit greatly if you take time to remember and verbalize his greatness (Psalm 103).
2. Confess. Don’t overlook your problems and the sins that seem to dominate your life. Confess them to the Lord and ask him for strength to overcome them (I John 1:9; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
3. Reflect. Ask the Lord to show you where you may be in danger of falling into sin. Ask him to reveal to you any areas where he is not pleased with you. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Pray that prayer and allow God to show you your faults not just in actions, but in attitudes and thoughts as well.
4. Thank him. One of the best tools that you will have as you try to strengthen your relationship with God every day is a good memory. Take time each day to remember what he has done for you in the past. If you remember what he did for you yesterday or a week ago, it will keep you focused on his goodness and give you the faith you need to face a difficulty tomorrow (Philippians 4:6).
5. Listen. You will find that God wants to share his heart with you. He is waiting for you to listen so he can tell you what he cares about. Take time to ask him what he is burdened over and listen.
6. Ask. The Bible makes it clear that it is okay for us to “make petitions” (Philippians 4:6). There are things that concern us or that we want to see happen that we are allowed and even encouraged to share with him. He is waiting and he will listen. The problem that we have is not that we forget to ask him for what concerns us, but that we neglect all the other things. Don’t forget all of the other components to healthy prayer, but don’t neglect talking with God about your needs, wants or desires either.
7. Share your heart. For some reason we have made prayer into a mechanical thing. We seem to think we have a ration of words with which to communicate to God and we don’t want to use them up talking about less important things like feelings. However, the best way that I have found to receive comfort is to express my true feelings to the Lord. If you are dealing with feelings of loneliness or inadequacy, he already knows, but you will begin to feel a release from those very real and strong emotions if you sit in his presence and talk with him about how you are feeling. I encourage you to talk with God about anything that concerns you. Don’t wait for a crisis to turn to God.
An Incredible Opportunity
I hope you understand by now that you have been given the opportunity to have a “tent of meeting” every day. God is waiting for you to take your turn inside the tent. Not only do I hope and pray that you know he is waiting for you, I also pray that you are starting to see the need to carve out time each day to spend with him. I trust that God is speaking to you and you are beginning to have a desire to know God in an intimate way.
When and Where?
Many great ideas have gone unnoticed because they were not followed up with action. For this reason I want you to take some time to decide how you will apply the principles you have just read. If you believe God is calling you into his tent, you can’t neglect it. You must make a plan of action. You must answer two questions. When and Where?
If you wait for time alone with God to be convenient, you will never take time to get to know him. There will always be something else calling for your attention. Something else will seem more important at the moment. So, before you go any further, decide where you are going to set up your tent. Now determine when. Are you going to take time in the morning, or are you going to set aside time in the afternoon?
Possibly you are thinking about the time you waste in front of the TV right before you go to bed at night. Maybe you are going to do what I did and take some time in the morning and some time in the evening. Whatever you decide, stick to it. Spending time must be a priority if you are going to live this new life of discovery with God.
Zuriel Took His Turn
After Joshua was out of sight, Zuriel continued looking at the tent of meeting. His curiosity was aroused, and he had to know. Slowly he walked toward the tent, but no one noticed. He did not draw a crowd like Moses had, but he was captivated. Something about the fact that God would meet with him as he had with Moses, made him continue.
As he reached for the tent flap, his anticipation peaked. He didn’t know what to expect, but he knew he would never be the same. The tent of meeting was no longer an exercise in tradition; it was his opportunity to experience God. He no longer had to settle for merely hearing about God in services and from his parents; now it was his turn to discover God.
Timidly, yet with excitement in his heart, Zuriel entered the tent. His relationship with God was about to take off.
· Have you had a habit of taking time to meet with God in the past? Have you been one of those who worshiped from a distance, but never took your turn? Are you ready to change that?
· Which of the four points from Exodus 33:7-11 meant the most to you? Why?
· This chapter lists three things you should be doing in God’s presence. Is there one that you neglect more than the others? Is there one that you enjoy more than the others? Why?
· Which of the components of prayer that was listed challenged you the most? Why?
· Which one challenged you the least? Why?
Father God, I don’t only want to know about you. I want to know who you are. I will no longer be satisfied worshiping you from a distance; I commit to come close. Teach me how to spend time with you. Show me how to worship you even in the everyday moments of life. Teach me how to pray so that I am not merely sharing with you my needs, but I am hearing your heart. Teach me how to hear your voice, enjoy your presence, and understand your Word. I accept your invitation to come near to you. I love you. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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© 2002 by Sean Dunn