Post 96 / The Next Language
June 28, 2022
God is my Wit(h)ness
I wish I could take credit for this hybridization of the English word witness. But no, some sage in Nigeria came up with it. Many are the vehicles here in Nigeria that prominently display a Bible verse or a quote that suggests power or good will. This morning we passed a broken down truck that said, “Knowledge is Power!” Not far away was a truck bumper that declared, “We are Texas.” Our phrase, “God is my Wit(h)ness,” was seen on the rear bumper of a long haul freight truck parked on another street here in Jos. The owner’s name was Mohammed so likely was in the service of a prominent Muslim.
The Old Testament custom of confirming an oath with the words, “God is my witness” is evidently still in practice. But here we are reminded that we have not only God’s august, all knowing observation but also His presence- His “withness.”
This blessing of “withness” was a point of discussion between God and Moses in Exodus 33. After the fracas at Mt Sinai God informed Moses that He will send them on with an angel.
[Ex. 33:1-3 KJV] “And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, [and] go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it: And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou [art] a stiff-necked people: lest I consume thee in the way.”
How many of today’s church would be satisfied to take the “bye and bye” (heaven) and leave the walk through this life to chance or personal effort. Accept the fire insurance and ignore the direct involvement of God in daily living. The Angel would no doubt have provided the daily bread but what would have been missing was the shekinah glory of God in the Holy of Holies and the ever-present Cloud giving direction and timing.
At this point I believe Moses has it right. The first priority was being with God now and leaving destiny to their faith and God’s faithfulness. How sure can we be of destiny if we are not living in daily present communion? How sure can we be even of correct direction if God is not with us? Yes, even in Moses’s day there were maps out there but gone would be the visible Presence (the cloud by day and the fire by night) and the intimate timing of every move.
Moses reasoned with God.
Ex. 33:16 KJV – “For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.”
Moses interceded for his people. “If Thy presence go not [with me], carry us not up hence.” God responds with that coveted promise, “My presence shall go [with thee], and I will give thee rest.”
Moses’ first concern was “God with us.” Should our distinctive as pilgrims on a mission not also be that God’s grace is evident via God’s presence? So many of us are instead obsessed about us being eventually with God. I have never understood that mentality and I believe the Word does little to support it. God created us in His image to co-administer this creation — even after the fall. Sin greatly complicated things but “in Christ” we are co-regents moving toward a new heaven and a new earth. Much as the children of Israel were moving through the desert in a state of constant motion toward the Promised Land and “rest.” If the getting there isn’t about God and His direct presence, then the arrival may be a rude awakening or a blunted diminished glory.
The proper perspective is God with us, not us with God.
If the quintessence of achievement for GRN is “the story of Jesus in Every language,” then I believe the lesson of the wilderness is that the way to that worthy goal is entirely dependent on “God with us” or in NT language, “Christ in you- the hope of glory.”
In Deuteronomy Moses variously reminded everyone that God was with them.
Deut. 31:8, 16-17 KJV – “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. … And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?”
The effectiveness of an ever-present God was evident in the testimony of Israel’s enemies. Imagine the spectacle of this cloud approaching and illuminating even the night – no doubt visible for as far as the eye could see across that vast plain. Barak of Moab was terrorized and did his best to get Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam’s defense for not being able to curse Israel was that “the Lord his God is with him.”
Num 22:3-4 KJV – “And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel. And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.”
Num. 23:20-21 KJV – “Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.”
All this time Israel is camped in the plains of Moab in direct view of Jericho — an intimidating spectacle that persisted at least as long as it took to enact the book of Numbers. Rahab’s testimony to the spies is another third party testimony to the effectiveness of the works of an almighty God who not only broke Egypt’s gods but went with His people.
Josh 2:9-10 KJV – “And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.”
We read that the daily manna lasted until the day after the first meal inside the Promised Land. Is that when the cloud disappeared? We are only told that “the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Ex. 40:38 KJV).
Was that perhaps then why the Captain of the Hosts of the LORD appeared to Joshua on the eve of the assault on Jericho to make him aware that though not now visible, the Lord was still in charge? Immediately before the destruction of Jericho we read the results of the poll of all the inhabitants of the land.
Josh. 5:1 KJV – “And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.”
Then and now the issue of first importance is whether God is with us.
Our challenge is this: to what degree are we willing to defend, maintain, display, and submit to that Presence?
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
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