John is to me the most interesting of the four gospels and has the most unique material about Jesus life. A good example of interesting material in John is the verse below that took place right as Jesus began His public ministry.
38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” John 1:38 (NKJV)
How would we respond if Jesus appeared and said, “What do you seek?” The Greek meaning is below and what Jesus was really asking is, “What do you desire? What is important to you?”
- ζητέω zēteō verb
Seek, look for, wish for, desire, inquire into or about.
Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa.
Hopefully we would respond like these two, one of which was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist when he asked this question so he was obviously looking for spiritual truth and reality, something beyond the normal synagogue routine. Their response, ‘Where are You staying?’ highlights their heart desire. The meaning of the Greek word is below.
- μένω menō verb
Remain, stay, stand fast, dwell, abide, continue, wait, last, endure, be permanent.
Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron.
They saw something in Jesus and simply wanted to be where Jesus was, they wanted to dwell with Jesus. To better understand this let me go back to a key section on His dwelling presence in the Old Testament.
Over the years I have many times shared my thoughts on Exodus 33-34 and I have taught on it a couple of times. It is also about a mountaintop experience but I think one where most times the main message is missed. The real message, which I will lay out in more detail, is that His presence is the gateway to intimacy, not the goal. Let me say that again, His presence is the gateway to intimacy! Think back to Andrew and the unknown disciple from above. They wanted to be in Jesus presence to intentionally interact with Him. Being in His presence was not their end goal; it was the beginning of developing a relationship with Him.
In our present church life we need the manifest presence of Yahweh in our midst, and need to seek His face. The surrounding culture has gotten into the church far more than we as the church have transformed the culture. We need more of Him to see this change. At the same time we need to avoid the presumption that experiencing His presence and seeing Him move in our midst means we know His ways!
Let’s examine the scriptures. In Exodus 33:14 the Israelites were confronted with the reality that in spite of His desire to dwell among them (Ex. 25:8), Yahweh had refused to go up in their midst because in their rebellious condition His presence in their midst would have destroyed them. Prior to the building of the Tabernacle His presence went before them or behind them as a nation, as the pillar of fire by night or the cloud by day. He was never in their midst. Even when Moses met with Him in the tent it was outside of the camp. At this point they had rebelled against Him by building the golden calf to lead them back to Egypt (Ex. 32:1-6), the land He had just delivered them from when they cried out to Him (Ex. 3:7-10). As a result of Moses’ intercession Yahweh agreed to send His “Angel” before them (Ex. 32:11-14, 32:30-33:3) even though He would not go in their midst. A key piece here is the exchange between Moses and Yahweh in Exodus 33:12-23. Of particular importance are verses 13-18.
13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17 So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” 18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Exodus 33:13-18 (NKJV)
At first glance it may seem that what Moses was asking for was Yahweh’s presence to go with them as they continued their journey, however, as a nation Israel had witnessed His presence with them ever since they left Egypt. Moses recognized the need for His presence but at this point asked to know His way that he might know Yahweh. Moses realized that in spite of all the time he had spent in Yahweh’s presence these encounters had not produced needed change in his own life and he did not really know this powerful One that he served. This may seem strange but let me back up a bit to lay the groundwork.
At this point in their journey the Israelites had been brought out of Egypt, which typifies sin, and brought into a dessert with only the promise of a better place. They did not know when they left Egypt that Yahweh was going to lead them into the wilderness to remove Egypt from them! When Moses disappeared for forty days and nights (Ex. 24:18) they grew restless, and had Aaron build the golden calf to be their god to lead them back to Egypt.
Are we like that? We long to be out of our present situation and circumstances, and then when the Yahweh delivers us we do not like where He has brought us to and long to go back! Many of us came out of Egypt (sin) because we were promised something much better. We found ourselves free from our previous circumstances but in a place where we did not enjoy our freedom, the wilderness. If we are to walk in anything significant at all there is always a dessert between the promises of God and their fulfillment. To survive the wilderness we need to have a heart like Job.
You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord – that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. James. 5:11 (NKJV)
We need this same focus to make it through the wilderness that we are likely to encounter. He brings us out into the wilderness for one purpose,
“The LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2 (NKJV)
This is the issue we face, and generally our response is conditioned by our trust in Him. I know in my own life, more so in the past, I often stumbled and fell in the wilderness through complaining about my situation rather than trusting that He would see me through. He always has thus far.
So back to what led to Moses realization of His need to know Yahweh’s ways. Leading up to this request there is a dialogue between Yahweh and Moses that has an underlying argument between the two of them. Yahweh kept referring to the nation as Moses’ people (Ex. 32:7-10, 33:1) but Moses refused this identification. He was willing to lay down his life for the sake of the nation and the purposes of Yahweh but kept referring to the people as Yahweh’s (Ex. 32:11-12, 33:13, 16). This may seem inconsequential but all scripture is of consequence. Moses had spent 40 days and nights with Yahweh, had interceded for the people and desired to lay down his life on their behalf, yet he refused to see himself as one of them. When he asked to know Yahweh’s way He said He would show Moses His glory, which when we see it unveiled in Exodus 34:6-8, we realize is His character.
In this encounter described in Exodus 34 Moses returned to the mountain and spent another 40 days and nights with Yahweh (Ex. 34:23). This time there are two notable differences in what happened to this great leader of God’s people. He returned from the mountain radiant with the glory of God (Ex. 34:29-35), because once he saw Yahweh’s character he finally came to the place Yahweh desired. Moses, as any true leader, finally identified himself with the people and said,
O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance. Exodus 34:9 (NKJV)
Moses prayed for Yahweh to go among them, not just with them, and said we are “stiff-necked” (proud). Moses had finally identified with the people and saw the iniquity of his own heart, that he was one of these rebellious Israelites. Yahweh answered Moses’ heart cry, and from then on dwelt among them in the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies (Ex. 40:34-38).
So to reiterate, what brought about this change is Moses? Why did this mountain top experience transform him? The answer lies in his discernment. Moses had many powerful encounters with Yahweh as He spoke to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex. 33:11). However, Moses finally discerned that he did not really know Him, and desired to have Yahweh’s way revealed that he might truly know Him (Ex. 33:13). He longed to see Yahweh’s glory (Ex. 33:13). He had finally realized that in spite of all His wonderful experiences he really did not know Yahweh in the way he needed to know Him. This revelation of Who and what He was (Ex. 34:5-7) was what changed Moses and brought about his identification with Israel (Ex. 34:9) and visibly imprinted His glory on Moses face (Ex. 34:29-35). When Moses saw and acknowledged his own need and lack of true knowledge of Yahweh it removed the veil from his face so that he could see Yahweh and be changed by His glory (2 Cor. 3:18).
The commentary of scripture on this event it very telling.
7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. Psalm 103:7 (NKJV)
My point in all of this is that I think many of us in the modern church have encounters with His presence but unless we are intentional about responding in the moment and seek to know His heart and character all we will have are encounters without knowing His ways. As I said at the beginning of this article, ‘His presence is the gateway to intimacy, not the goal.’ We need to be like the Greeks in John 12:21.
21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:21 (NKJV)
The key word here is the Greek word translated as see. The definition is below.
Greek Word: εἴδω Transliteration: eidō
a primary verb; used only in certain past tenses, the others being borrowed from the equivalent <G3700> (optanomai) and <G3708> (horao); properly to see (literal or figurative); by implication (in the perf. only) to know :- be aware, behold, × can (+ not tell), consider, (have) know (-ledge), look (on), perceive, see, be sure, tell, understand, wish, wot. Compare <G3700> (optanomai).
Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.
The Greek word eido, is frequently translated as “know,” rather than see. The context suggests the Greeks didn’t want to just look at Jesus, they wanted to meet with Him and get to know Him. Similarly it is not enough for us to see just see miracles or feel an anointing, on those occasions and others we need to become intimate with Him!
How do we do that? Look at what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do.
14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. John 16:14 (NKJV)
And what Jesus said He would do.
26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26 (NKJV)
Jesus said the Holy Spirit would glorify and reveal Him and He would reveal the father. When His presence draws near we have an opportunity like Moses to know His character and be changed by His glory, to stay where Jesus is staying, with His Father.
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV).