Given the money and, let’s face it, I have the time, I would travel from place to place where so many of my dearest friends live if only to sit with them and talk about life, their life, the world, and all that is in between. Up until a few years ago, I actually did this more regularly than one might think – one of the beauties of the road trip. But the distances have increased with the friends. Some friends with whom I most long to spend face-time live on the other side of the country, or the other side of the world. Ironically, the ones that live not an hour away are sometimes talked with less, if even seen at all.
So what does one do in the case of God and the idea, the possibility of face-to-face? Traditionally, and rightly so, there has been a standing rule that no person can see God’s face and continue living. Which must explain why we come up with lesser gods. Reading the ever-so-thrilling (read: sarcasm) book called “Numbers” in the bible, there is this set of words that has set up camp in the field of my thoughts, and doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. Moses’ brother and sister have become jealous and are trying to get a piece of the leadership pie. God hears their complaining…as he seems to hear a lot of through out not only the bible but in regular life, too. So they are summoned to this place called the “tent of meeting” (oh how drab English can be), a place that supposedly God has set up camp amidst the wandering hoard. (Which, I might add, is profoundly absurd to consider the God of the universe taking up residence anywhere). Here is Moses, Miriam, and Aaron at the place and God speaking to Miriam and Aaron says of Moses, “With him I will speak face-to-face, mouth-to-mouth, openly and not in riddles; and he will see the form, the t munah of the Lord…”
Whether or not Moses is hearing this or if it is just the siblings is unclear. Either way, it says a lot of about not only what God thinks of Moses, but the uniqueness of their relationship. In essence God says, “Not by email, or letters, or telephone, but sitting across from each other, as peers would, clear as day; that is how things are with him and me.” When he says “openly and not in riddles, the word used is mar’ eh which refers to what is seen, an appearance, what is clear and obvious. Considering all the chatter these days about God and if he is or not, if he is on my side or the other guys, yada yada yada; it would be nice to experience some mar’ eh with him. "Psycologist observed that one of the most basic human needs, beginning at birth, is to be gazed upon by another... to be seen is to be real, and without another to gaze upon us, we are nothing," Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. To be seen also means being able to see clearly, though sometimes we don't.
The other word that is catching is t munah, or “the glory of the Lord.” The other time this is talked about in this manner is when 70 other guys in the mass that is Israel get to experience it, along with Joshua – Moses’ Special Assistant, so to speak. For Moses, this thing is a regular occurrence. It is this “glory” that supposedly results in people dying when they see it, but not all die because so far, in the text, at least 72-73 haven’t.
That God says this about his relationship with Moses is, well, profound. Back then, this kind of stuff just doesn’t happen. Much less, to somebody as bumbling as Moses. Though some of the Rabbis have gone so far as to say that there is a divination of Moses, that he is literally God’s representative on earth and goes “up” to heaven to talk with God. To which I must again scratch my head and say, “hmmm..oookkkaay.”
The thing about all this is I read that Moses got to have that kind of relationship with God and I say, “ooh. I want that.” Somewhere in there is a moment when I have a glimpse of what I am asking and the impact it could have on my life and then I second guess my response…I mean, do I really want that?
Now I don’t miss the convenient time of this pondering by virtue of the fact that Christmas is upon us. (Though I am not sure if it is politically correct to call it that anymore.) There will be tons of sermons and teachings and down right boring diatribes (which this one might very well be a part) about Jesus. My guess is, the majority will avoid the profoundly obvious: what if Jesus’ existence on earth is God’s way of saying, “With YOU I will speak face-to-face, mouth-to-mouth, mar’eh, and YOU will see the t munah?”
When those 70 experienced this kind of interaction with God in Exodus, they shared a “meal.” The drank wine and broke bread in the presence of this “glory of the Lord.” Hmmm…where have we heard of this before? Oh yeah, the Christians’ idea of communion, or the Eucharist. Before there was Jesus in the flesh, there was this drinking of wine and eating of bread that happened in the presence of God and what it meant was that they were at peace with Him. Thus, the reason they didn’t die when they saw Him.
So, here we have this thing called Christmas – celebrating the birth of Jesus – that has by now become such a fluff show that one can hardly be provoked to consider its deeper implications if what the Christians are saying is true. What if Jesus’ arrival on the scene is God’s way of not just saying, “no more email, no more letters, I want to sit across the table with you and be in a open and intimate relationship, but we will break bread and drink wine (make note to all you Christians that thinking drinking is a sin) so that you will know that all the stuff between us…it is water under the bridge…we are at peace together.” What if the uniqueness of Moses interactions with God then are exactly what God is after with everybody now? If that is the significance of this time of year, it is a bit disturbing and I’d guess we’ll rail off excuses as to why that is impractical or unrealistic. Give me my email, my voice mail, and IM; or put another way, give me something that isn’t so direct with God…something that direct might mean I get ruffled and possibly become that direct with people I don’t like; something that direct means the answers aren’t easy, and I actually have to asks some questions.
My friend Eric Peters once sang “Love it is the trembling and it is the scattering of dust. It’s looking out into a field I know that I must cross…” To consider that God is after me like he had it with Moses, that His love is like that, well, it is not only a trembling, but I feel very much that I look out into a field that I MUST cross sooner or later… and say, “I’m game;” to take my glass and eat my meal with One who is saying “things are good between us, we are at peace.”
And I haven’t even delved into the difficulty of that concept when the physical Jesus isn’t here as you and I are here; when God is not somar’eh today as a baby in a crib or a man on a cross. So, I ask Him about all that, because after all I get to have a face-to-face kind of conversation…