Day 12, Chapter 12: The Place
I love the mountains. Doesn't matter if it’s to hunt, fish, walk, or sit - I just love hanging out in mountainous terrain. I’ve spent hundreds of hours climbing hills, hiking majestic peaks, and sitting in lush valleys reflecting, relaxing, and rejuvenating my inner person. If you’ve never sat at the edge of a 13,000 feet mountain peak on a clear, sunny day, looking over forests, rivers, lakes, and valleys - well, let’s just say your bucket list is incomplete.
I remember the day seven years ago while hunting elk in Colorado. Actually, I wasn’t elk hunting; I was “place hunting.” I had walked an hour or so from the truck when I rounded a turn, crested a hill, and...there it was. Several hundred yards below me was a gorgeous stream. Across the stream was a beautiful green meadow, covered with flowers, leading up into a golden aspen forest. Indescribable beauty! Almost surreal. Well, this is it, I thought. My hunt is over. I couldn’t find a better place to sit and talk to God.
“How’s it going today, Abba?” I asked. “It sure is great to be together here in this amazing setting.”
I sat there for a while thinking and conversing with Dad, just enjoying the pleasure of His company. After an hour or so, I heard the unmistakable screech of a Golden Eagle. Sure enough, there it was, soaring right in front of me - gliding, dipping, flying over the river then back above the trees - just showing off.
“How do you like that, son?” Papa God asked after a while.
“Awesome, Dad. Incredible performance,” I said, thanking Him.
If any of you have biblical proof that God would not have caused this eagle airshow and then spoken to me in this way, please keep it to yourself. Leave me in my blissful ignorance. What a day!
As much as I love mountains, I don’t like being alone on one in the dark. They get a little scary when the sun goes down. The absence of light awakens fright, and thrills give way to chills. There are wolves, grizzlies, black bears, and mountain lions behind every bush, just waiting to eat me. And one can get lost, really lost, on a mountain in the dark. So I make sure I’m back to the truck by nightfall.
Having experienced the intimidation of a mountain alone at night causes me to be even more impressed with Joshua and his thirty-four days alone on Mount Sinai. Many people know Moses spent forty days and nights with God on this mountain, receiving the Ten Commandments and other laws, precepts, and religious rites God intended Israel to live by. Almost no one, however, thinks about Joshua. But he was there, also.
God instructed Moses to join Him on this fiery mountain and to take Joshua, his servant, with him.
Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandments which I have written for their instruction. So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up the mountain of God. But to the elders he said, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them’” (Exodus 24:12-14).
Moses obeyed, and up they went. Then things get really puzzling. God actually made the two of them wait six full days before He said anything. “And on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud” (v. 16). Can you imagine? What would you do for six days sitting just outside of a cloud caused by the glory of God, with thunder crashing and lightning flashing inside of it? The mountain actually shook at times. I wonder if Joshua ever asked, “Hey, Moses, are you sure we’re supposed to be here?” We’re not told what they did for six days, or why God made them wait. Perhaps He was teaching them patience. Finally, however, He spoke from within the glory-cloud and invited Moses in. Notice, I said Moses was invited.
The part of this story that intrigues me most is that on the seventh day when Moses disappeared into the glory cloud, Joshua was left alone for thirty-four more days! He wasn’t invited to the party. One can only imagine what it was like to be there alone for more than a month. Was he horrified when Moses walked into the cloud? It was more than just a cloud, after all; it was a fiery cloud: “To the eyes of the sons of Israel [from the base of the mountain] the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top” (v. 17). One has to wonder:
Did Joshua question for thirty-four days if Moses survived?
Could he hear God and Moses talking?
Did he flinch every time the mountain shook?
Could he hear the finger of God chipping the Ten Commandments into the tablets?
Did he ever get hungry? If so, what did he eat?
Was he tempted to leave? (We know he didn’t. Exodus 32:17 tells us they came down together.)
Did Joshua sit for hours just staring at the glory?
Did he have angelic visitations?
While Yahweh was with Moses, was Jesus or Holy Spirit visiting Joshua?
What did he think when Moses finally emerged with his face glowing from glory exposure?
Although God didn’t tell us what transpired, He did give us a hint of the effect this season had on Joshua. In Exodus 32, Joshua and Moses came off the mountain. In chapter 33, Moses erected a tent, sometimes called the tabernacle of Moses, in which the ark of the covenant was to reside. It was also called the tent of meeting, for “everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting” (Exodus 33:7).
When Moses would go into the tent, the people were so captivated and spellbound, they would stand and watch, for “the pillar of the cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent” (v. 9). This was so spellbinding and awe-inspiring that the people would “arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent” (v. 10).
Everyone but Joshua, that is.
It would seem that on these occasions, Joshua was allowed to go into the tent with Moses. What an honor. And when it was time for Moses to leave, an interesting and revealing development occurred. “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, WOULD NOT DEPART FROM THE TENT” (v. 11, emphasis mine).
There you go. Joshua had been infected by an insatiable attraction to the God of glory. Forever ruined on the mountain he became addicted to the presence of God, hopelessly enamored with the pleasure of His company. One can almost hear him asking his mentor and boss, Moses, as the old leader was leaving, “Would it be alright if I stayed for a little while and hung out in the presence?”
I can imagine the other “addict” answering with a knowing smile, “Sure, son, take your time.” Yep, it takes one to know one. Moses knew, and understood.
This type of addiction to God’s presence doesn’t occur overnight. When we begin our journey with Yahweh, it takes a while to overcome the restlessness of our flesh and emotions as we wait on Him. The “unusualness” of relating to an invisible person must be dealt with. It’s almost as though our hearts have to learn to connect with His intangible presence and our minds learn to be quiet enough to hear. In a world filled with noise, people, and a myriad of activities, we must enter the school of Holy Spirit, where we are instructed in the art of waiting. Joshua received a crash course on the mountain.
One of the things that will help in this process is to find or create a place where you meet with God regularly. Moses had one, as did Joshua. David erected a tent for the same purpose. Even Christ had one (see Luke 11:1; 22:39-40), the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Isn’t it revealing that when Jesus was about to face His greatest trial and the brutality of the cross, He retreated to His “place” of communion and prayer?
Experiment with various translations of Scripture until you find the one you enjoy most. Buy a journal and, as you spend time with Him, write down your thoughts. He will speak to you in your heart and through your mind. Some people also like to create a personal list of their favorite worship songs to listen to as they spend time with God.
Create the routine that works best for you and get started. If you choose to set aside these times visiting with Him and train your heart and mind to listen, you’ll begin to hear His voice. Then you’ll experience the reason you were created - to enjoy a true relationship with your heavenly Father. As happened with Joshua, an addiction will soon develop and your encounters with Him will become the highlight of every day. In fact, you’ll find them so fulfilling that, like him, you won’t want to leave.
Did I just hear an eagle?
Pray with me:
Father, bring us into the school of Holy Spirit where we’ll learn to overcome the restlessness of the flesh, our minds quieted to listen and our hearts fully aware of and engaged with Your presence.
Just as Jesus frequented a certain place to commune with You, Father, let us not rest until we find a special place to visit with You, face to face. And as we spend time with You, let us be infected with an insatiable attraction to Your presence. Let us become hopelessly enamored with the pleasure of Your company.
And we pray for America, a “religionized” people, wandering in the wilderness of lost identity and misplaced affections. Looking for love in all the wrong places, burnt out on unsatisfying religious activity and sterile, Sunday social clubs, America is disoriented, dissatisfied, and confused. We ask You to rock the boat, buck the system, annihilate status quo! Show up, Jesus, and infect our nation once again with Your overwhelming presence. In Your name, Amen.
Today’s post was taken from my book The Pleasure of His Company.
Dutch Sheets, The Pleasure of His Company (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2014), pp 97-105.