In Exodus 34, a really interesting exchange takes place between the Lord and Moses, who have had a number of interesting exchanges up to this point. By now, Moses knows well who the Lord is and the Lord knows Moses and his heart. The two are not strangers, and you would think that they could talk like friends. Often, they do.
But in this particular case, they talk like the faithful and the Faithful One. And it's really interesting.
Yet something else in the camp of Israel has brought out God's need to declare who He is, so the Lord speaks first and lays out in plain language who He is. What His heart is. How He intends to act. The very core of His being. The depth of His character. In a beautiful, powerful, passionate monologue, the Lord says, "This is Who I Am."
And then Moses, knowing from personal experience that everything the Lord has just said about Himself is true, having intimately encountered the very Lord who just declared Himself, absolutely certain and 100% convinced of the truth of the Lord's words, falls down on his face and begins to pray. And what does he pray? He prays that the Lord will be exactly who He just said He will be, that the Lord will do exactly what He just said He will do, that the Lord's character will be revealed exactly as the Lord has declared it will be revealed.
In other words, God says, "This is Who I Am" and Moses falls face down and prays, "Yes, Lord. Be that."
Let me ask you something - when was the last time you prayed for God to be exactly who He is?
We who call ourselves the Lord's have some pretty deeply ingrained ideas about who God is, or who He's supposed to be. We have an idea when we pray about how we want Him to show up. We are pretty sure we can tell how He's supposed to answer our prayer, if He is who we think He is.
But therein lies the subtle difference. Are we a people who want God to be who we think He is...or are we a people who want God to be who He's declared Himself to be?
In the best of scenarios, there's quite a bit of overlap here. We hope that the God that we believe in is the God who has declared Himself. But the truth is that in a world of feel-good preaching, of prosperity Gospel, of individual-centered faith, of privatized Christianity, there's also a very good chance that we've lost sight of who God says He is in favor of who we want Him to be.
Take, even as a simple example, Jesus. For a lot of today's Western world, Jesus is a "nice guy" who loves everyone indiscriminately and doesn't much care how you live your life as long as you say that you love Him back. But the Jesus of the Bible is a deeply passionate individual who cares deeply how you live your life and wants for you life abundant. When you hear Him speak, He's not soft-spoken; He's raw and powerful and passionate. That Jesus scares a lot of modern Christians. They don't want that Jesus. They want "nice guy" Jesus, and that's who they pray to and that's who they expect to show up. They can't handle the real Jesus.
And yet, we ought to be a people who are praying for the real Jesus.
It's why I love Moses's prayer. He is more entitled than any of us to believe that he knows well the Lord, and yet, when he is faced with the reality of who the Lord declares Himself to be, all Moses can do is fall down and pray for that Lord to be present among them. For that Lord to show up. Not the Lord that he thinks he knows, but the Lord who has declared Himself, "This is Who I Am."
So I'll ask again - when was the last time you prayed for God to be exactly who He is?
What would happen if you did?