The older I get, the more it seems that people look at an encounter with God as something like a paleontologist who has devoted his life to the study of dinosaurs. He never expects to come face-to-face with real, live prehistoric creatures.
For many people, spirituality amounts to picking through the artifacts of faith that survive from long ago and far away. In that bygone era, humans saw God, heard His voice, and experienced his awesome, at times terrible, power. But that was then.
Today, those kinds of gripping encounters with God — with a God who wasn’t an illusion, but Someone who was real, Someone you could see, and touch, and feel — well, there could be no comparison.
A good illustration of this is found in the life of Moses. It took Moses 40 years in the wilderness to learn that he was nothing.
Then one day Moses was confronted with a burning bush — likely a dry bunch of ugly sticks — yet Moses had to take off his sandals. Why? Because God was in the bush!
God was telling Moses, “I don’t need a pretty bush or an educated bush or an eloquent bush. Any old bush will do as long as I’m in the bush. If I’m going to use you, it won’t be you doing something for me, but me doing something through you.”
That same attention-grabbing encounter with God found in Exodus Chapter 3 in the Bible is one almost everyone has heard about in Sunday School, or at least seen Charlton Heston experience in the film The Ten Commandments.
God wants each and every one of us in all of our beings to see that it will not be me doing something for Him, but Him doing something through me!
Unlike encounters with real, live dinosaurs, encounters with the real and living God are more than just awe-inspiring. They are life changing!
Moses’ life was never the same after his encounter with God. He was used to transform over two million slaves dependent upon the people of Egypt for everything into a worshipping nation dependent upon God Almighty for every aspect of their daily existence.
All because he encountered God in the bush! And even though he originally flinched at the thought, God used him in a mighty way!
The prophet Isaiah encountered God in a different way, although the result was the same. In a vision, he saw God in all His holiness! (Check out Isaiah 6!) And in the end of this encounter with the living God, his response was simply, “Here am I. Send me!”
God is looking for people who will worship Him! People who at the sight of Him will bow down before Him struck dumb in awe and magnificent wonder.
But He is looking for people who will do more than worship Him! He is looking for people who will work for Him, who will willingly depend upon Him, trusting Him to do great and mighty things in them and through them.
He is looking for people who will say, with Isaiah, “Here am I, Lord. It is I, Lord. I have heard you calling in the night! Send me! I will hold your people in my heart!”
The tragedy is that we tend not to respond to that call of God, thinking that to do so will mean we must sacrifice all that we hold dear and treasure. The call of God may mean that, but not necessarily.
God is not calling us necessarily to go to some foreign jungle land or primitive village. He is calling us to simply be His arms and legs and voices here and now, wherever we are and in whatever way He desires to use us. He is seeking willing servants! And if we are not willing,
God will do whatever He must in order for us to be willing. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “God cannot make new wine without crushing the grapes first.”
In “Character Forged from Conflict”, Gary Preston tells the story, perhaps apocryphal, of a young man who applied for a job as a Morse code telegraph operator, back in the days when the telegraph was the fastest means of communication. He walked into the large, noisy employment office where in the background a telegraph clacked away, filled out an application, and sat down with the seven other applicants, who were waiting to be summoned for the actual job interview.
After just a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office and walked right in. The other applicants were taken aback at this, since none of them had heard or seen anyone summon this young man to come in for the interview that all were awaiting.
After just a few more minutes, the young man emerged from the office escorted by the interviewer who announced, ”Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has been filled by this young man.”
One of the other applicants, grumbling, protested, “Wait a minute — I don’t understand something. He was the last one to come in, and we never even got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair.”
The employer responded, “I’m sorry, but all the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse code: ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. So the job is his.”
So the question is: Are you listening for the voice of God calling YOU? It may come through a burning bush, or a caring friend. But it may also be as simple as a still, small voice. The question is: Are you listening?
Will you say with Isaiah, “Here am I, Lord. Send me!”
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.