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The Tent of Meeting

The Tent of Meeting
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty´╗┐

My Dear Shepherds,

Church folks generally assumed I was a better pray-er than I am. Once I was talking with a guy who’d never met a pastor before. “So do you just pray all day?” he asked. Yeah, right. More than any other responsibility, I wish I’d prayed better.

Pastor Moses prayed as if Israel’s life depended on it. Take the situation in Exodus 33, right after the golden calf fiasco. God told Moses that he’d send them on to the Promised Land with an angel guide but that he wouldn’t go with them himself lest their stubborn behavior become the death of them. The Israelites were shocked and frightened. They stripped off all their jewelry, standing before God like the beggars they were.

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. (Ex. 33:7-11)

These days, our people often know very little about their pastor’s meetings with God. The Israelites waited so solemnly because they hoped Moses could persuade God to show them mercy. Our people, knowing Christ as most do, don’t wait apprehensively upon our prayers. Nonetheless, many of them hope you know God better than they do. They hope your prayers have the lift and heft that theirs don’t, that you have God’s ear. It matters to them when their pastor prays for them personally. I often marveled that they thought my prayers were special, but they did.

I suspect people might show up to watch us pray if they could see the cloud of God’s presence hovering over our study or catch our face shining from God’s glory. But as it is, I wonder if our people sense when we’ve been with God?

A couple of years ago I determined to fast every Thursday during Lent, setting aside at least three hours on those mornings to be quiet with God, hungry for him—listening, reading, praying, and pondering. I think it was the second week when, as I sat there with my eyes closed, I saw before me the open flaps of a big tent. I entered and the interior was filled with God’s presence. Love was the oxygen there. I’d been invited into my tent of meeting.

I think God gave me that experience, that insight, because I was as hungry for him as I was for food, and I wasn’t in a hurry. I didn’t glimpse angels or the third heaven, but he did give me a deep sense of his delight in me and our congregation. It was a Sabbath place, a sanctuary of shalom. I didn’t pray for much but when I did, I was thoughtful, slow, attentive. I don’t know if my congregation saw anything different in me, but I know I was a better pastor. I was like someone who’d gotten a grace infusion. After all, I’d been with the Lord, “as one speaks to a friend.”

Having been there, I’m glad to tell you that the Tent of Meeting is spacious enough for you.

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He is the author of Feels Like Home: How Rediscovering the Church as Family Changes Everything and Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls (Moody Publishers), as well as being a frequent contributor to Preaching Today and CT Pastors. To learn more about his Pastors' Gatherings visit www.leeeclov.com.

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