I remember the first time I read Exodus 33:10,11:
“Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”
Just so we’re clear, that’s insane.
Face. To. Face.
Not that God unveiled all his full glory. He was definitely pulling punches with Moses, because just a few verses later Moses asks, “Show me your glory,” and God says,
“…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:20-23).
But still. It says “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”
Face to face.
I know I’m repeating myself here, but that’s because I’m still trying to get my head around the glory of it.
There’s no “Jesus is my homeboy” kind of familiarity here. It doesn’t say, “Moses spoke to God face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” God was doing the speaking. The drawing near. The befriending.
The lesson isn’t, “See? God is our friend. Treat him that way.” The lesson is, God draws near. Manifests himself. Speaks to us in ways we can understand. That he treats us like we’re friends.
If the President of the United States invited you into the Oval Office then dismissed everyone else so you could talk candidly with him, that would not diminish him. It would elevate you to a level of respect you don’t deserve. Multiply that infinitely with God. This isn’t about us dragging him down to our level, or even about him condescending to us (though that certainly happened). It’s also about elevating Moses to an unthinkable level of intimacy.
Jesus said something similar to his disciples. “I have called you friends,” he says. “If you do what I command.” Again, he calls us friends more than the other way around.
The dignity and glory of this gift should rock us to our knees in worship.