Jesus himself - Part 2
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Jesus '“ the present One
Millions believe that Jesus exists, and some are very good at proving it '“ but not all have a living relationship with him. He is somewhere else, remote, and not present in their day-to-day life. That is not a mere incidental. I am talking about a real, intact relationship, his presence in our lives. Without his presence, life is empty and pointless.
One of the prime Bible examples of the importance of our relationship with the Lord is Israel. They had escaped from Egypt by the mighty hand of God. They were making for the Promised Land when the going became tough. Like frightened children, they hankered to go back to where they had been safe. They made a god, a golden calf, to lead them back to Egypt. It was sheer madness! The Lord showed them that if that were really what they wanted, he would not force himself on them. He said, 'I will not go with you because you are a stiff-necked people' (Exodus 33:3).
However, whatever they did, God was not going to break his promise. He had vowed to give them the Promised Land and no matter what they got up to, that is what he would do. 'What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness?' (Romans 3:3).
So, to make sure that they got there, he said that he would send an angel with them in his place. Interestingly, the sullen people were completely taken aback! 'When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn' (Exodus 33:2-4). The possibility of being in the land without the Lord scared them stiff. The biggest angel in glory could never fill the land with his presence. Only the Lord could do that. And they knew that was vital.
They may have been an uneducated rabble straight out of slavery but they were more sensible than a lot of people today. Mere angels would not do for them. It had to be God and no one less significant. They needed his presence! Nowadays people put their hope in angels or in beings from a nearby planet or from outer space. Some try to make contact with the spirits of dead relatives or cosmic forces, or trust in stellar influences and their horoscope or even lucky charms. What about God? All those centuries ago, Israel was not prepared to settle for anything less than the presence of the Lord their God in their midst.What happened next is certainly a premier occasion for the record books. Moses, prepared to perish, stood up to intervene and intercede for the people. He was a religious pioneer. Even now, his words to God preserved in Exodus 32 and 33 seem to us frighteningly bold. 'You have been telling me, '˜Lead these people.' Remember that this nation is your people. If your presence does not go with us, what else will distinguish your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?' (Exodus 33:12-16)
Moses' faith and action won the day. The Lord said, 'My presence will go with you and I will give you rest' (Exodus 33:14).
Here was a vital spiritual lesson before history began: God is all-sufficient in himself; his laws, however good and useful they might be, are not enough on their own. In his presence there is peace and rest: 'I will give you rest.' The same Lord repeated exactly the same words more than 1,000 years later. The Awesome One present at Mount Sinai became the man Christ Jesus and said, 'Come to me and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11:28). Just like the people back then, we need a living relationship with him today, the certainty of his presence in our lives.
Jesus '“ the rest-giver
Jesus is the only one who can give us rest. We are all restless until we find rest in his presence. Then we can relax. The Ten Commandments and the mass of other rules that Moses gave to Israel never gave them rest, but only hard work. Laws bind; they do not emancipate.
Israel's escape from Egypt was a faith operation, not a reward for being law-abiding. Virtuous they certainly were not. God gave commandments but made one fact clear: success comes about only through a relationship with him, his presence. 'Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain' (Psalm 127:1).
The introduction to the Ten Commandments is a further reminder. 'I am the Lord thy God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery' (Exodus 20:2). That is who he is '“ a loving God full of concern for his people, which is why he gave them the Commandments. They were only the ABC of his loving guidance for a primitive society on earth. Unfortunately, modern society has not yet learned the ABC.
God himself means to be our all in all. He wants us to rest in him, in what he is. That is the lesson of the Exodus. It was all God's doing. He planned it and carried it out. It was not the wish of Pharaoh, the cooperation of Moses or the will of the people. On the contrary, Pharaoh refused to let them go. Moses wanted to back out of the whole project. The people only went when driven. The only goodwill at work was God's good will. He resisted Pharaoh's resistance, willed against unwilling Israel, and worked when Moses did not want to work. He knew what was to be their permanent good throughout the coming generations and his plan was not to be thwarted by their unwilling and short-sighted fathers.
When Moses died and Joshua took over, he had to learn the same lessons as Moses. On the edge of the Promised Land, with years of campaigning ahead, the Lord promised just one thing '“ 'The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go' (Joshua 1:9). The greatest historical act of emancipation '“ the exodus from Egypt '“ could never have taken place if he had not been in the midst of Israel. They neither asked for it nor deserved it. They had nothing to recommend them. He simply chose them, mapped out their destiny, and made it happen.
The Lord's words to Joshua were so like the words of Jesus when he gave us the Great Commission to preach the gospel to every creature. 'Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age' (Matthew 28:20).
Christians tackle a hostile world like Israel tackled a hostile country. The same guarantee comes with God's orders '“ his presence. The Church today has organisation, brains and prestige, and nearly 2 billion people call themselves Christians. It is vast and complex but its inner secret and reliance is the abiding presence of the Lord.