The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:21
Everyone was invited, but only Moses went to see God. In fact only a couple of verses earlier (Ex. 20:18-19) you can find the people making a very conscious decision to let Moses do all the talking with and seeing of God for them.
Why would they do that?! Why miss out on a chance to see God face to face. He invited them after all! Why miss out on a chance to hear God speak?! He was waiting on them!
Did you see where God was?
The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
I wonder how often in my life God is waiting for me, inviting me to find him, to see him, to hear him, but the place he can be found is a place of thick darkness.
It seems counter-intuitive. What’s the God of Light and Life doing in a place of darkness? Why is the God of mercy and justice shrouded in terrifying darkness?
Sometimes, to meet with God, we have to go to the dark places. We have to enter the thick darkness of terrifying circumstances; we have to enter in to the painful past and confront the ugly we know is still hiding there. Sometimes we have to risk and go on while everyone else is saying, “You go if you want to, but not me! I’m smarter than to go that way. You’ll die, you’ll suffer, you’ll fail if you go that way.”
And sometimes, it just seems that the darkness surrounds us. We didn’t choose it, we didn’t want it, we didn’t see it coming, but here we are, surrounded by the thick darkness of the unknown, the risky, the lonely, the spiritual dryness. And it feels like we went the wrong way. God isn’t in the darkness, is he? He dwells in the light…right?
Not in Moses’ experience. At least, not only in the light. The God of light is also the God of the dark.
But why? What is the good of being God in the dark?
In Isaiah there is a really interesting statement about God, the dark, and us finding him there.
Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let those who walk in the dark,
who have no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God. Isaiah 50:10
God in the dark requires more trust than God in the light. When life gets dark and terrifying we have a choice: walk in the dark, trusting God…or don’t. The Israelites, chose not to. They chose to let Moses take the risks, meet the God in the dark. And they lost out—they missed out—and Moses was forever changed.
Well, I guess there is a third option. Actually it’s the one we choose most, I think. We can choose to press on, into the dark, but not in trust. Not with the God of the dark. Instead we fancy ourselves capable to light our own way; to manufacture our own light. Look at what Isaiah says about that:
But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment. Isaiah 50:11
God takes it personally when, rather than meeting him in the dark, we choose to attempt to light our own way.
Sometimes the darkness isn’t punishment, or accident, or evil. Sometimes the dark is the gift. Sometimes the dark is the opportunity. God awaits us, not only in the light of easy times and happy moments, but also in the thick darkness. And there he invites us to learn to trust him like never before.
God in the dark requires far more trust than God in the light.