The Encounters series we do each year is one of my favourite. When I read these encounters with God in scripture, what we are reading are these transformative moments in the lives of people who desperately needed Jesus.
Do you ever feel like that? Some of the encounters we see in scripture were from people whose view of who God is was ‘blown up’ after they met Him. Sometimes we encounter these incredible people who, often despite the reality of their situation, have faith in the all powerful God. This is really evident in the Gospels when these people and their faith break the mould from what others tell them is possible.
In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, famous pastor and theologian A W Tozer wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
I wonder if someone had of said that statement to the people living in the middle east around 30AD what they would have thought. By the time of Jesus’ ministry, the God of Israel, in the minds of the Israelites, had become nothing more than a petty and legalistic deity who carefully counted the good deeds of the people, but not as carefully as the bad deeds were recorded and punished. They had created an image of a God who seemed to have no care for the suffering of His people. To the average man or woman living in this time, their God had come to share the same traits as those in authority over them.
And so when Jesus stated his ministry, and started to break their rules – for many people their picture of God grew! We find an example of a rule breaking encounter in Luke 5:12.
Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy
12 In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
13 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 14 Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy.[c] This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
15 But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Listen along as we explore the passage above – and see how the truths it teaches us should shape our lives!
This week we continued to look at Moses’ encounters with God. We see as Moses spent time with God he changed. He became consumed with God’s glory and developed a heart of compassion for the people he was leading.
In Exodus 32, the Israelites sinned greatly, rejecting the one true God by building a golden calf and worshipping it. God was angry with them and threatened to destroy them. Moses stood for the people before God, declaring that they were still God’s people and reminding God of His promises. He also declared to God that God’s name and glory would be diminished in the sight of other nations if God destroyed the people. Moses asked God to forgive the Israelites’ sin. We saw in this passage how much God detests sin. In Exodus 33, Moses pleaded with God for His presence to be with the Israelites as they travelled . Moses knew how much he needed God. He asked God to show him His glory. As we spend time in God’s presence we should also desire to see God’s glory and to see Him revealed to the world as the mighty, loving and faithful God that He is.
Finally, we see an encounter where Moses lost sight of all that he had learned through being with God. In Numbers 20, Moses disobeys God by striking the rock instead of speaking to it. It didn’t seem like a big deal but to God it was. Moses had dishonoured God in the sight of the people. Moses was also angry with the Israelites, he had lost the heart of compassion toward them that had come from God. Although Moses had come to God he hadn’t opened his heart and let God work in him.
No matter what we are going through in life we need to make sure when we come to God we open ourselves to Him, we allow Him to work in our hearts and minds. It doesn’t matter if we have done this in the past, we need to continually be doing it, to be filled with His Spirit, over and over. Encounters with God change us as we allow God to work in us. We need to be people who seek to encounter God with all that we are.
This week as part of our series ‘Encounters’, we looked at Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush in Exodus chapters 3 & 4. On an ordinary day when Moses was going about his regular work as a shepherd God did something extraordinary to draw Moses to Him. God will use whatever means He thinks is necessary to get our attention.
The first thing Moses experienced when he met God at the burning bush was God’s holiness. We must never forget that God is completely holy and that only through Jesus making a way can we approach Him.
When Moses encountered God at the burning bush God told him to do a task that seemed beyond him. Moses was told to go back to Egypt where he had fled from forty years before, to approach Pharaoh and rescue the Israelites. Moses puts up excuses, just like we often do when God tells us to do things that we think are beyond us. But God created us and knows us completely so He knows what we can do and as with Moses, God promises He will be with us.
An encounter with God will change us. It reveals our sinfulness, our fear, our lack of faith, our false security. But it also reveals the power and magnificence of God. It brings reassurance to us, that God is the I AM, the One who will be with us. If we have truly encountered God we are changed. We are changed so that we are ready to do His will. We are changed so that we can bring change. This happens to Moses. The Moses who left the burning bush was different, he was ready to obey. He returns to Egypt ready to do everything God tells him to do.