Not too Close

Focus 40 Day 30

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled
with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God
speak to us or we will die.”
—Exodus 20:18–19 NIV

To be honest, I can’t really criticize the Israelites too harshly here. Moses had just delivered the Ten
Commandments to them—God had expressed his authority over them and their lives. The
expression of his presence was too much for them; they wanted a filter. The prospect of being face
to face with God was intimidating.

When I look at myself, I have to wonder if I am any different. Going to church is easy.
Listening to a message that speaks generally to what God wants for me and from me is a fairly safe
filter. Occasionally, a message will get dangerously close to where I live, but most of the time I can
keep them at an arm’s length. But talking directly to God is a much different prospect.
Having a direct conversation with God, allowing him close enough to peer into my life, to
comment directly on my thoughts, priorities, prejudices, and choices, is a frightening prospect. So
often I limit my God exposure to the filter of a Sunday morning sermon.
I can justify it in my mind. After all, I am going to church and that is what Christians do,
right? They go to church and live by the rules. That thinking makes me no different than the
Israelites.

The identity as God’s children was fine for the Israelites. They were even okay with the Ten
Commandments, as long as God kept his distance. I can be that way too.
It is one thing for God to say to everyone, “Thou shalt not covet.” It is quite another for
him to look directly into my own life and ask, “Why are you so jealous of your neighbor’s new car?”
or “Why do you resent your co-worker’s promotion?” “Why do you try to imply to others that that
great idea was yours?” That is when God gets too close and prayer gets too dangerous.
Is your prayer life really limited because you are too busy or too distracted? Or do you avoid
prayer because you’re afraid to let God too close?

Father, give us the courage to speak to you face to face, to let you examine the deepest part of us, and to challenge our most private thoughts.

-Rev. Bruce Steffensen, Interim Pastor, Holiday Park Church of God, Portland, Oregon

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