They stood inside the entrance to their tent doors while Moses approached the tent of meeting outside of the camp. Their gaze was fixed upon the back of Moses as he made his way to that first tabernacle. He was going with one purpose and that was to meet with The Lord face to face. The tent of meeting had been pitched by Moses and it was a prelude of the tent to come. It was for everyone who desired to seek the Lord (Exodus 33:7).
The location of it required a person come closer to the Lord, leaving no distance between them. I can see the cloud, the Presence of God descending upon the entrance of the tent after Moses entered while the people worship from their tent doors. It breaks my heart because I see people who were content in “knowing” about the Lord from a distance while someone else pursued His Presence on their behalf. We are not so different today.
I have been camped out in the Book of Exodus lately. Without going into great detail, I have been in a time of personal reflection and drawing closer to the Lord. There has been an ache that I cannot ignore and the deep calling unto the depths within me. It is a dissatisfaction to not remain content where I have been with God and to press into His Presence with total abandoment, no matter the cost.
I have that burning desire to meet with Him, to turn aside to that burning bush and to be consumed by a Jealous God. Yes, the glory is wonderful and the manifestations are amazing, but when it is all said and done, I am after Him, His nature as well as the essence of the Great I Am.
This is why my heart breaks when I read of the account in Exodus 33. I see a people who had witnessed the manifest Presence of God, yet the desire to experience His attibutes was worth more than knowing His nature and hearing His voice for themselves. There was a contentment to have another seek Him on their behalf while enjoying the benefits of His goodness and worshiping from a self prescribed satisfactory distance. This is the epitome of peripheral worship.
The shallows of peripheral worship
The word, peripheral is defined as “being situated on the edge of something“. The Israelites were situated on the edge of glory and yet besides Moses, no one else other than Joshua is mentioned as venturing to that tent. In fact, it is stated that he would not leave even after Moses had left. He lingered. That is what His Presence will do; it will cause you to linger and to want to know Him even when others do not want to come close. It was in one of these moments within the tent that Moses asked to see God’s glory.
The Lord knew Moses and He referred to Himself as Lord, something He had never done with anyone prior to His relationship with Moses. This was an intimate dialogue to go from being God Almighty to Lord. Moses refused to worship from a distance because He had been with God up close and He wanted to know Him. I wonder how many of us worship from a safe distance, not realizing that our perception of the Lord is affected by the distance that we establish between us and Him.
Peripheral worship is easy and nontransformational. It is comfortable and self seeking. There may be a longing to worship, but the fruit of a life bears the mark that someone has spent time in His Presence. When you distance yourself from God, you remove intimacy and fellowship with Him. You remove the liberty that is available through Christ to come boldly before the throne of Grace.
It is in Him and through faith in Him that we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12). When you observe God from a distance, your perception is impersonal, but when you choose to come close to Him, perception becomes revelation that God longs to have a relationship with you, one where you reverentially fear Him while loving Him. You are forever changed when you come close to Him as His radiance imprints upon you. Intimacy becomes a habitation instead of a place for a mere visitation with the revelation that you are the tent which the Lord desires to make His home, His resting place.
The cost of coming close to God
Standing from a distance costs nothing, but coming close beckons everything. Coming close leads to vulnerability of hidden things, things that need to be purged and changed and rearranged while distance leaves us comfortable in complacency and sin. There are many who want the glory of God, but they want it while they stand at their tent door, allowing others to obtain it for them while they remain in a compromised existence. It doesn’t work that way.
It is not the responsibility of the pastor or apostle, or any other church leader to maintain your fidelity and intimacy unto the Lord. We can have as much of God as we want. The question is, how desperate are we to die to ourselves so as to have all of Him? Relationship requires something of us all. It requires more than lip service, but a heart fully faithful to the Bridegroom.
I encourage those who have worshiped from a safe boundary because you know that going further into His Presence will expose every part of you, come closer to Him. He is worth it, regardless of the cost to your pride, your flesh or to your comfort. He is worth it all. Personally, I want to linger in His Presence and to want Him more than the air in my lungs.
I want to see and to demonstrate His miracles, signs and wonders while remaining in awe of His nature as a holy God and a loving Father. I want to be His holy habitation, welcoming a personal purge of what does not please Him and leaving no distance between us because distance leaves a gap for something else to have my affection. It is a wonderful thing to come closer to The Lord. Let us not settle for catching a glimpse of God from a distance or squandering His glory, but let’s come closer to Christ and bid Him to transform us in His glory.