In one of the most remarkable exchanges between God and man recorded in the Bible, Moses intercedes with the Lord on behalf of Israel, who had so quickly forgotten the power and goodness of the Lord in delivering them from Egyptian slavery that during the brief time that Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the tablets of the law written by the hand of God, they had plunged into the idolatrous worship of a golden calf. Part of Moses’ petition included this request: “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You” (Ex. 33:13a).
Praying for direction. God had commanded Moses to lead His people into Canaan. But because of His displeasure with the sin of the nation, the Lord had announced to Moses: “I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way” (v. 3). But Moses did not know the way to Canaan; neither he nor any of the several million people who followed him had ever been to Canaan. Deeper than that fact, however, was the truth that Moses did not wish to go anywhere unless God was leading him. And so he prayed for God’s direction.
In addition to the precise and clearly revealed will that God discloses in His Word, He has a path for each of His saints to follow. The choices regarding a spouse, a vocation, and where we live, for example, are not up for grabs. Christian Jeannie Jo should not marry just any believer Billy Bob who comes along. God may wish you to be an accountant and me to be a used car salesman. It would be a mistake to get those roles reversed. God is both able and willing to direct believers in the path He has chosen for us, and the reality is that without that direction we would never find the way God desires for us to go. Our most careful investigations, our wisest weighing of options, and our most thoughtful consideration of ends would be insufficient, apart from God’s direction, to get us to where God wants us to be.
Praying for purpose. It’s right to seek God’s direction, but notice that Moses didn’t stop with a request for God’s leading. He explained that he desired that leading “that I may know You.” Now God had called Moses for the specific purpose of leading His people from Egypt to Canaan, a monumental task, a superbly important responsibility, a unique ministry. I doubt if any of us can begin to imagine how all-consuming a task he had been given by God. Most of us would be lying awake with worry, planning, and strategizing. The responsibility would give many of us migraines or nausea. The decisions and the logistics would be so overwhelming that we could think of little else. But Moses prayed, “that I may know You.” He had met the Lord at the burning bush; he had been with the Lord on top of Mount Sinai. God had talked with him face to face, Moses had tasted the blessed presence of the Lord, and he wanted God’s fellowship above all else. Yes, he wanted direction, but not merely so that he would know whether to turn left at Ezion-geber and right at Kadesh-barnea but so that He might walk in fellowship with God.
What about us? Do we even want the Lord’s direction? And if we do, why? Is it so that we don’t get into trouble? Is it so that we are assured of success? Is it so that we can avoid regrets and live a peaceful, contented life? None of those wishes is wrong per se, but they all miss the mark. We should pursue the leading of the Lord not so that we marry the right husband or wife, land the right job, or live in a good neighborhood, but so that we might know Him. Some 1,500 years after Moses, Paul testified, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:7, 8b). His testimony continued in prayer-like fashion: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (v. 10).
May we seek God’s direction in our lives, but may our ultimate motivation in that seeking be to know Him better so that we might please Him more.
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