God in the Darkness
“The people kept their distance, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.” Exodus 20:21
Distance. Darkness. God. But…
As I read this verse in the life of Moses and the story of God I am both encouraged and challenged by it. The context of this Old Testament verse is that the Israelites have just heard the Ten Commandments given to them by God. After this - along with thunder, lightning and smoke - the Israelites are frightened. After hearing the commandments they were too afraid to hear God again so they asked Moses to be their “middle man.” Despite Moses’ assurance that God’s true desire was that they fear Him out of reverence, they feared God for their lives.
The people kept their distance. They did not want to draw near to God; they did not want to be close. BUT, Moses drew near. While the people kept their distance, Moses chose to step into the thick darkness. A few leadership principles can be gathered from this short verse.
1. God’s call to us may be to go where no one else is willing to. That’s hard to swallow. Our call to leadership very likely will call us to go whether others do not want to or are not willing to go. During this time it is easy for the leader to ask the question, “Why me?” Rather than focusing on what God is calling us to we are focusing on the unwillingness of others. A great recipe for a pity party.
2. God’s call may require faith and to be courageous for the sake of others (not necessarily our own benefit). Many times God calls us for the sake of others, the community, our families, etc. The calling might be for our own benefit but not necessarily. God may be calling us to go where others will not go for the sake of those same people. Sometimes the people who will benefit are the same people that are unwilling to go there themselves.
3. God’s call may be a place of thick darkness – unknown, mysterious, requiring much faith. This can be a frightening thought. The place of darkness is where we let go and grasp onto God. It is where we are challenged to relinquish control and trust. Leighton Ford reflects on this theme with these words:
“To enter this darkness is to enter into the mystery of God, to venture into the darkness of the unknown, to let go of the little lights that I want desperately to hold on to, and to know God more deeply in darkness, mystery and even near despair.” (The Attentive Life, p. 143-4)
4. We have a choice to follow God’s call. Moses chose to enter the thick darkness, the mystery and unknown for the sake of others. Many times this is when we are tempted to tap out. We tell God we are not willing to go there. We do have a choice to step out in obedience to the call or not.
5. God is ALREADY at the place where He is calling you. So grateful for this!! Yes, He’s going there alongside you, but He’s already there. There are no surprises for God. He is already in the darkness and He knows the way. He’ll be there with you in it however long the darkness lasts.
At the end of his Christmas Day broadcast on the eve of World War II, Britain’s King George VI quoted part of the poem “God Knows” by Minnie Haskins, saying:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’”
To lead others we must be willing to go where they are not willing to go for their sake, trusting that God will meet us in the unknown. What’s ironic is that many times we do not even know who we are influencing and leading and may never know. God is or may be calling us into a thick darkness for our transformation or for the sake of others. These steps of obedience into calling are not only for me and not only to bring God glory but to minister to others.
Will you enter when God calls? Have you tapped out on a call? Why?
When is God calling you to walk into darkness on behalf of others? How would my and your walking into darkness, mystery and unknown benefit others and increase their faith?