Scripture: Exodus 24:9-18; Job 42:1-6; Psalm 27:4-6; Song of Songs 5:6-6:3; Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 10:38-42; Eph. 1:15-23; Rev. 2:1-7
In Exodus 24:9-18, Moses and the Israelite leaders saw God in a raw and unfiltered way. This was so rare that Moses wrote that God, “did not lay his hand on the chief men…they beheld God, and ate and drank,” (24:11). In other words, they could have been killed for coming so close to such a holy God, but He preserved their life. So they were able to eat and drink and just adore His presence.
Note that this happens before God gives some very specific instructions to Moses (Ex. 25-31). God wanted them to see/know/behold Him before they begin to talk about building a tabernacle for Him.
It also happens before the Israelites reject God by worshipping a golden calf (Ex. 32). In fact, the great tragedy of that story is that Aaron and other leaders were present to see God’s glory in Ex. 24:9-18 and then turn to worship the glory of man (a stupid calf made from gold that God granted to them [c.f. Ex. 12:36]). In other words, they knew better. The glory of this calf paled in comparison to what they saw, but they gave in to the demands of the people and their eyes drifted from the glory they had formerly beheld.
Fast forward a few hundred years when David writes of conflicts and battles all around him (see Psalm 27:1-3). And yet, in the midst of all that, he says, “One thing I have desired of the LORD…That I may dwell in the house of the LORD…to behold the beauty of the LORD…” (Ps. 27:4). It is an odd picture for a man immersed in a battle to think his best recourse is to worship before God’s beauty. He even goes on to say he will “sing,” to this Lord in the temple (Ps. 27:6). How? Why? From this place, he understood, victory would come (see Ps. 27:5).
Or consider the incredibly difficult lot Job had. He lost almost everything he held dear. He asked the toughest questions of God and seemed to have no answer. All seemed hopeless…and then God appears to him. As a result, Job responds, “I have heard of You…But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). And from here–from a place of seeing God–Job is restored.
We see the same in the bride of the Song of Songs. In ch. 5, she is brought into an anguishing time of separation from her lover. The watchmen who had previously helped her (ch. 3) now mercilessly beat her. The friends who had supported her now ask, “What is your beloved more than another beloved?” (5:9). And from this lonely, desperate place she recalls how truly stunning and beautiful her lover is: pure, handsome, black and wavy hair…you get the picture. And after she recalls his beauty, then she knows how to find him (6:2) and how to labor properly for him (6:3ff). Everything seems matured in the bride from that point of recalling her lover’s beauty.
This theme continues. Turn one book to the right of Song of Songs and you see the marvelous and powerful ministry of the prophet Isaiah. And how did his ministry begin? Isaiah 6 recalls his commissioning. It begins with an awe-inspiring vision of God Almighty. When the prophet sees that, he recognizes his unworthiness (6:5). And when the Lord calls out for someone to help Him in his mission, Isaiah seems to find himself blurting out, “Here am I! Send me,” (6:8). Hallelujah! It all began with a seeing and beholding of the Almighty.
Isaiah’s not alone in this pattern, as Ezekiel also begins his ministry with an awe-inspiring vision of God’s glory.
Move now to the New Testament. Here we have God in the flesh, Emmanuel, Jesus Christ! 2 sisters welcome Him to their home. Both take on noble tasks: Martha is serving Jesus, and Mary is listening and beholding Him. Jesus’ response? “One things is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part…” (Luke 10:42). Like David in Psalm 27, the “one thing” God desires is that we behold, worship, and adore Him. This is even greater than serving Him. In fact, on another occasion, when a woman pours her oil on Jesus, and the disciples rebuke her for not “doing more” with her gift, Jesus rebukes them back. There is nothing greater than what she did! She adored and worshiped Jesus!
Likewise, Paul also, knowing that there are many things for the church in Ephesus to do to serve God (see Eph. 4 and on), first prays a prayer for the Ephesians. He asks that God would open the eyes of their heart to see the magnificence and glory of God (see Eph. 1:17-18). And only from that point would he later tell them, “[Now] walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” (4:1). Do you see the pattern? First behold, gaze, see rightly God. THEN serve Him from that point.
Significantly, this same church (Ephesus) was later warned by Jesus Himself that amidst so many great things they were doing (see Rev. 2:1-7), He has 1 thing against them: “you have left your first love,” (Rev. 2:4). He tells them to immediately repent and go back to their first love, their first place of working for the Lord (2:5). And even though they had multiple things going for them, this one lapse was so significant to the Lord that He threatened to extinguish their entire church if they did not get this right (2:5).
- before God’s tabernacle is built,
- as an antidote to idolatry,
- in the midst of enemies,
- in response to our deepest struggles and questions,
- before we serve the Lord,
- greater than any other thing we can do for Him…
We are to behold his glory and beauty, we are to kindle our love, awe, admiration, and worship of Him.
If we don’t, we are no better than Pharisees, Muslims, and others who operate out of slavish obedience without a beholding of Christ/God Himself.
This is vital to all of our ministry.