Why do some enjoy a more intimate relationship with God than others? "We are at this moment as close to God as we really choose to be," states Oswald Sanders. In his book Enjoying Intimacy With God, he wrote of a study he did of Moses and the Israelites that revealed four circles of intimacy available to God's people.
In the "outer circle" was the vast majority of Israelites Moses prepared for God's visible presence on Mount Sinai. "...the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, 'Be careful that you do not approach the mountain'" (Exodus 19:11-12).
Why were barriers erected to keep them at a distance from God? The people later showed that they did not qualify for a fresh revelation of God. They simply did not desire to come too close to God. To them "the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain" (24:17).
A smaller number was in the "second circle." "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up...they saw God, and they ate and drank" (24:9-11).
This group had a much more intimate vision of God than those in the outer circle. Although they must have felt a very real sense of His presence, it effected no permanent transformation. Only a short time later, they were worshipping the golden calf.
Only two were in the "third circle." "Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, "Wait here for us" (24:13-14). Of all Israel, only two qualified to come nearer God. What was Joshua's qualification? A clue is given in Exodus 33:11. Moses had erected a tent where he and the others could meet God. "When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua...would not depart from the tent."
Only Moses was in the "inner circle." "When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai" (24:15-16). The outer circle feared the consuming fire on the mountain top, but Moses saw in it the glory of God and worshipped.
"The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend" (Ex. 33:11). What could be more intimate than speaking face to face as friends? After this, Moses had a consuming desire to know God better and prayed, "Show me your glory." It is deep desire that admits us to the inner circle.
Thank You, Father, that when we desire a communion with You that is close and real, it is gloriously possible to experience a growing intimacy.
"One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4).