A Place by Him

“And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me” (Exodus 33:21a).

 

I suspect many believe there truly is a place beside God. Some do wonder, though, how to get there or, perhaps, whether they can get there at all. What about you, are you curious about such a place? Do thoughts like these boggle your mind: Is it a tangible place? A geographical place? Is it Jerusalem or maybe Mecca? How about the Vatican? Perhaps that place is a holy hill somewhere, or an altar or a shrine! Does God provide a map to that place by Him? We should check the back of our Bibles at once… Maybe the fifth missionary journey of Paul will lead us there… Or maybe it’s a heavenly place beyond our reach! If there is such a place, it would also be helpful to know whether it’s occupied or not. Will there be a big sign posted that reads “no vacancy” or “off limits” or “no trespassing” or “take a number?” Do you think there will be a long line to that place, like the one at the mall where runny nose kids wait to sit on Santa’s lap at Christmastime?

 

It is a peculiar thing to me that God would offer Moses a place by Him. After all, they were already behaving as dear chums and chatting face to face. From my perspective, it hardly seems possible that a person could have gotten any nearer to the Lord. But that’s just how it is, the longer we linger in His presence the nearer to Him we are drawn. No matter how near you are to the Lord, there is always room to move in a little closer, there is always some distance to leave behind. In this divine romance we find ourselves on a never ending quest to eliminate as much space as possible between us and the One whom we seek. That is where the journey begins – in seeking Him. From that point on, God takes it from there. He clears the way. He makes room. He brings us to that sacred place few dare to visit. It is a marvelous vista point where we capture the ultimate view of God’s glory. You won’t see it all there, but it’s more than you’ll ever catch this side of heaven.

 

There are many places near God. It may be a prayer closet or a back porch. It could be on a private beach or a quiet spot in the woods. Wherever the Lord is sought, there is found a place by Him. For those who do not seek Him, that place remains foreign. It is unexplored territory. The frontier of the complacent remains a spiritual wasteland. The stagnant soul can never know the beauty of that place near God. What about you? Have you found your place by God? If so, I submit there is a place even closer, one even more glorious. And once you’ve discovered that place, there is another closer still. The Christian journey is filled with places by God. Each one prepares us for the next. Each one gets us nearer and nearer to the Lord. For Moses, the Tabernacle of Meeting was a place near God. The divine romance took to greater depths in that humble tent. Yet in the big scheme of things, that place was just a starting point. God drew Him closer still. The same is true for each of us. We will never find that perfect place where we just can’t draw any nearer to God. He’s forever nudging us closer. He is forever carrying us over the next threshold to that sweeter place by Him. The invitation “come” echoes out into the distance. Nearness does not seem to ever silence it. It rings louder upon every approach. The only thing that seems to muffle God’s voice is the whine of our own when we say, “I’m fine where I’m at.” It is the claim of every sluggard who proudly stands upon a distant and slippery slope!

 

Such is the life of a sojourner, we venture from place to place. The rest God offers will never be found in idleness. Rest is not found in one place but in a series of places. He lifts us higher that we might grow deeper. He takes us further that we might grow closer. There is nothing more detrimental to the Christian faith than stagnancy. It is the leading cause of spiritual lethargy. It is a trap we must avoid. We can only be still long enough to hear God speak. He keeps us on the move. We are continually advancing forward, lest the journey end. There is that kind and gentle voice which whispers into our hearts, “Your time here is finished. Get moving.” We are never pushed, only prompted. Yes, we may so choose to linger in a solitary spot. We might even grow comfortable there. But God’s glory moves on. You will quickly lose sight of it should you dig your heels too deep. Our options must be carefully weighed; we can linger in one place or we can follow God’s trail. Those who seek his glory never retire. We do not settle at any one spot. The journey of the soul never ends. It’s always on the move, seeking, yearning for that next place nearer to God.

 

Moses experienced a wonderful encounter with God in that sacred tent he pitched outside the camp. Had he lingered too long, though, he would have lost sight of His glory. The Lord had arranged for a view more intimate, more spectacular. Moses eventually had to venture out from that holy tabernacle. Had he not journeyed on, God’s glory would have faded before his eyes. It’s like taking in the Grand Canyon. You can enjoy it from a bird’s eye view out of the window of an airplane. Or you can explore its depths by entering into it. But the plane must land. You must step out and journey into the canyon. Before long, you will be surrounded by all the splendors the Canyon has to offer. Likewise, Moses had to step out from his tent. He was then brought to a place where he was surrounded by glory divine. He was placed in the cleft of a rock. But he didn’t overstay his welcome there, either. The Lord moved him on. And so it goes with each of us.

 

If there is that longing to be near God, a yearning to see His glory, you must fight idleness as if it were your fiercest foe. No one place remains sacred for too long. God’s presence does not rest on our merry plateaus. Once His glory moves on the adversary quickly moves in, bidding us to stay put. Keep moving, my friend! Move from glory to glory. Follow the voice of the One who leads you on to the next place — that place by Him.

From ‘That I May Know You’ by Terry Michaels

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