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It has been said that it takes a long time to grow an old friend. I have friends going back 35 years. When you have known someone a really long time, you have a friendship that has stood the test of time. Even if you haven’t seen those friends for a while, you can pick up where you last left off. I have friends that I may not have seen for two years, but when I get together with them, we start telling the same old, lame stories and laughing at them.
One of the marks of true friendship is that you get comfortable with one another and can tell each other the truth. In fact, Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Psalm 27:6 NKJV). A true friend will say, “Here is what you need to know. Because I’m your friend, I’m going to say this. …”
In the book of Exodus, we find the story of a man who had a very close relationship with God. More than a relationship, he had a friendship with God. It was said that Moses was God’s friend (see Exodus 33:11). God revealed to Moses things he had never revealed to another human being before. And one day when God and Moses were deep in conversation, Moses asked the unthinkable. His request is almost without parallel in human history up to this point. Moses actually asked to see God. But friends can ask special favors of friends, and God was not offended by this request.
During this conversation, Moses decided to go for the gold. He said, “Please, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Let’s understand what Moses was saying: “God I want to see you now. I want you to actually show your face to me right now.”
That is really what prayer is all about. It is not about getting things from God. Prayer, when it reaches its ultimate objective, is getting God. It is God you want – that closeness with God, knowing his presence.
New Christians can tend to pray for things for themselves: Lord, bless me. … Give this to me. … Provide this for me. … But when Christians become more mature in their faith, they will start praying things like, “Lord, I just want you. I want more of you. I want to know you better. No matter where I go, everything is good as long as you go with me, and I go with you.” That is a mark of spiritual maturity. Moses was a man who understood what it was to pray.
Pastor and theologian A. B. Simpson wrote,
Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is his word.
Once his gifts I wanted, now the giver own;
Once I sought for healing, now himself alone.
In what is known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When I pray, “Your will be done,” I am effectively saying, “Lord, as a finite person, I am coming to you, an infinite God. This is what seems to me to be the best course of action to take. … But if what I am praying is somehow out of your will or falls short of what you want to do, I would ask you to overrule it, Lord. I want your will even more than mine.”
Never be afraid to commit an unknown future to a known God.
The great pastor and evangelist D. L. Moody said, “Spread out your petition before God, and then say, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.’ The sweetest lesson I have learned in God’s school is to let the Lord choose for me, especially in regard to temporal things.”
God could not grant everything Moses had asked him for. If God showed himself to Moses, that would have been the end of Moses. So God worked out a sweet deal for his friend. He told him, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen” (Exodus 31:21–23 NLT).
I find that amazing. God was saying, “All right. I have never done this for anyone before, but we are friends. I’ll tell you what. Stand over there – don’t peek, don’t look. I am going to pass by. I am going to put my hand over your eyes. Here I go. Here I come. … Ready? … OK, you can peek. … That is all you can handle.” Amazing. Moses was the friend of God.
We may read a story like this and think, I wish I could have been Moses. I wish I could have a friendship with God like that. But the friendship a Christian can have with God is actually closer than the friendship Moses had with God.
Although Moses was God’s friend and was greatly used by him in so many ways, Moses lived in the time of the old covenant, under which the high priest represented the people before God. But the new covenant is different. Jesus died on the cross for us, and now he is the mediator between us and the Father. We don’t have to go through a high priest – or anyone else for that matter. Hebrews 10:19–20 puts it this way: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.”
We can enter into God’s presence. We can experience friendship with God.