Sometimes we’re not so sure. But the more confident we are God wants to reveal Himself to us, the more we’ll seek Him and know Him in truth.
There is a fascinating verse in Psalm 103:7 that can help us:
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
When I really paid attention to the specific words used, I wondered why the difference? Why did God make known His ways to Moses but His acts to the Israelites. I believe the word “ways” point to God’s heart’s motives. His “ways” reveal why He does things and that He is trustworthy. Those who know God’s ways are open to knowing God in truth.
On the other hand, “acts” are more external. It’s what we observe and experience. If we only focus on what is happening, we can’t get past the circumstances of our lives to really trust in His motive as He allows the difficult circumstances is for our good. When we’re resistant or distrustful (as a pattern), we can only see what God has allowed and miss His motive.
For instance, when we face trials and difficulties, if we know God’s “ways,” we trust His heart that He wants the best for us. Therefore, we can go through trials with confidence, peace, and trust. TWEET THAT!!!
But if we only know His “acts,” the circumstances, we are tense, worried, and trying to eliminate the challenge before God’s time of release. We fight with attitudes like:
I don’t deserve this.
God can’t use this for my good.
I don’t need to change, my husband (or other person) needs to change.
I must have peace in my “world” before I can have peace in my heart.
Before I recognized the importance of the two different words, I didn’t think much about the different reactions of Moses and the Israelites. But the differences are remarkable and reveal the two choices you and I have.
Moses’ life was never the same after God revealed himself in a burning bush. From then on, though inadequate and imperfect, he was consumed with bringing glory to God. Moses prayed:
Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight (Exodus 33:13).
Notice his motive? “I want favor through knowing you and your ways.”
Here’s the Amplified version.
Now therefore, I pray you, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways so that I may know You [becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, recognizing and understanding Your ways more clearly] and that I may find grace and favor in Your sight.
Is that your heart’s motive and desire, even if imperfectly?
If so, God desires to fulfill it. He wants you to know Him! And here’s the good news: And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17).
Let’s also look at Exodus 33:17 in the Amplified version. The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have found favor (lovingkindness, mercy) in My sight and I have known you [personally] by name.”
What did God know about Moses? His heart. His motive. Moses begs to know God and be used to glorify God. Did Moses always respond perfectly? We know the answer is no. God even prevented him from going into the Promised Land because of Moses’ disobedience. But the overall motive of Moses’ heart was to please God.
In contrast to Moses are the Israelites’ motives while in the wilderness. And what they chose answers why God said He would show His “ways” to Moses and His “acts’ to the Israelites.
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21
Moses climbed the mountain with a passion to meet with God and know him better. The Israelites were not only hesitant, they were resistant. They were self-protective. By the time they faced the threat of clouds, smoke, and fire on Mt. Sinai, they have history with God’s actions but the knowledge and experience aren’t profitable for them. He had delivered them in miraculous ways but they chose to fear instead of trust.
Psalm 78:11, 18 explains their distrust of God. They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.
The Israelites wanted God to jump through their hoops. To prove Himself safe but even when He did, they refused to trust Him. Their “food” demanded God not let anything challenging happen to them.
Moses clearly states God’s motive: “Fear and trust me so that you will be motivated to not sin thus not suffer the consequences of disobedience. I want the best for you; disobedience isn’t it.” Sadly, like the Israelites, if we don’t see God’s wise and loving motives, we will refuse to trust him.
Each day you and I have a choice whether to believe the truths Moses believed or believe the lies the Israelites believed. The strength to believe the truth comes from knowing the truth about our great God. Study his qualities as described in the Bible and you’ll find the strength you need.
What is your favorite attribute of God and how does that knowledge strengthen your faith in God?
(This post is adapted from my book Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory)