Have you ever asked God to give you a sign? It is a bold thing to do, but I believe most of us have all done it before. Sometimes out of desperation, frustration, confusion, or even isolation. A physical, tangible, obvious sign is sometimes what we long for to confirm truth.
When we ask God to give us a sign, what we are really wanting to know is this:
Does God see me? Does He hear me? Does He know what is happening to me? Does He love me?
Welcome to #MindfulMondays here AT THE CROSSROADS where we try to start our week with purpose and intention.
I do not know quite where I picked up this idea (somewhere in my long ago Sunday School days, I suppose), but I always thought it was wrong to ask God for a sign. Mind you, it didn’t really stop me from doing it (especially when I was younger), but I definitely kept it to myself.
I guess I thought it showed disrespect to ask God to prove himself to me. I thought it might be viewed as testing God. I also believed it revealed that I had weak faith or a lack of trust.
Anyway, two significant things have happened in the past 3 months that have caused me to rethink this whole “asking God for a sign” thing. One comes from the Bible and one from personal experience.
Not too long ago, my pastor gave a sermon on Moses. Although I read this account in Exodus 33 several times before, this time I saw it with new eyes. Moses is talking to the LORD about leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. He is weary, frustrated, confused, and fearful. God is angry with the people for their disobedience and refuses to go with them. Moses has already pleaded for God to spare the people whom He has already threatened to wipe out, but he wants more. He wants God’s presence. He wants to see God. He wants to know that God will go with them. He needs a sign.
12 One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13 If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
14 The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
15 Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16 How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
17 The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”
18 Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.” ~Exodus 33:12-18
This is a big ask. A huge ask. A very bold ask.
Moses does not just want a sign; He wants to see God’s glory.
He has no idea what He is asking. Read God’s response in Exodus 33: 19-23:
19 The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. 20 But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” 21 The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. 22 As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”
God said yes…with conditions. But He did answer Moses’ request for a sign.
Amazing, incredible, unbelievable…but, why? Why did God do this for Moses?
This is the question I have continuously pondered for the past few months as I have also contemplated asking God for a sign. This is where this becomes deeply personal to me.
I hesitate to use the word “spiritual warfare” because it can be so distorted and misconstrued; however, I do believe it exists. For the past three months, I have been in a battle and the only way I can describe it is in spiritual terms. Meaning, I believe that when we get close to God, try to listen to voice, and follow His will, Satan does not like it. And he will use other people, circumstances, and anything else to attack us. The best book I can recommend to you on this subject is THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C.S. Lewis. It is a fascinating fictional account of what is going on behind the scenes to distract, discourage, and defeat us when we try to follow God.
So in the midst of this battle, I have asked God several questions:
Where are you? Are you even there?
Do you know? Do you see? Do you hear?
Why is this happening to me?
Are you going to do anything to rescue me?
I have cried out like David in Psalm 86:
Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer;
answer me, for I need your help.
2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you.
Save me, for I serve you and trust you.
You are my God.
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
for I am calling on you constantly.
4 Give me happiness, O Lord,
for I give myself to you.
5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive,
so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
6 Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord;
hear my urgent cry.
7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble,
and you will answer me.
8 No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
None can do what you do!
9 All the nations you made
will come and bow before you, Lord;
they will praise your holy name.
10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
You alone are God.
11 Teach me your ways, O Lord,
that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
so that I may honor you.
12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
I will give glory to your name forever,
13 for your love for me is very great.
You have rescued me from the depths of death.
14 O God, insolent people rise up against me;
a violent gang is trying to kill me.
You mean nothing to them.
15 But you, O Lord,
are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
16 Look down and have mercy on me.
Give your strength to your servant;
save me, the son of your servant.
17 Send me a sign of your favor.
Then those who hate me will be put to shame,
for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.
When we go to God, humbly and honestly, requesting a sign of His presence, His favor, His love, or His protection, it is crucial that we consider 3 things:
- OUR MOTIVE
- OUR MISSION
- OUR MANNER
In looking at both Moses and David words, we can see their hearts and their motives. Why did they go to God and ask for a sign? What were they seeking? Moses desperately wanted the presence of the LORD to go with him and the people. He knew that he could not make it or do what God had called him to do without God literally walking beside him every step of the way. He was not asking for power or strength or success…but for more of God. David pours out his heart to God, praising Him for His love , faithfulness, and mercy. David tells God there is none like Him and that all he wants is to follow, honor, and give God glory. David’s motives are also God-focused and not self-focused.
So what about our motives when we go to God asking for a sign? Is it about us or about Him? Do we want a sign to draw closer to God and follow His will or do we want a sign to have God put His stamp of approval on our self-made plans? Our motives when we seek God’s intervention should be to see more of God and allow Him to show us who He is. If we are coming with self-serving motives, we may not get the answer we seek.
Moses and David, called by God specifically, wanted to follow and obey God’s plan. They knew the mission God had given them and were seeking signs to help them do what God wanted them to do. Moses says, “let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully,” and David cries out, “Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.” What they both are expressing is acknowledgment of who they are and who God is. They know their mission is to bring God glory and have their lives point to Him. Moses and David sought “signs” to help them understand fully and follow God closely.
What is our mission when we come to God begging for a sign? Have we decided we want a promotion, a new relationship, or more time and money? Are we looking for God to smile down on us so that our lives will be stress, trouble, and worry free? Does getting a sign from God involve recognition, success, or praise for ourselves? If so, I do not believe God is in the business of giving out those kind of signs. God invites us to join His mission to bring love, hope, and peace to world full of hate, fear, and strife. He has called us to be His hands and feet, which may include suffering and pain. He never promised the journey would be easy, but He does promise (like He did with Moses and David) that He will never leave us nor forsake us. If we are looking for a sign to know if we are doing God’s will, we can be assured God will let us know and lead the way.
I know this sounds crazy, but have you ever prayed something so silly and insignificant as, “Lord, if you give me a parking space, I know you are with me today.” The kids are unexpectedly compliant, the item you have wanted to purchase goes on sale, your boss gives you a day off, or it doesn’t rain on the day of your big party…we can all “interpret” these as signs from God, right? And I am sure we all have. Maybe they are…maybe they aren’t. But in my experience, prayer does not work like a slot machine…we cannot just drop in our token requests, pull the lever, and hope we hit the jackpot.
When we come to God asking for a sign, it is okay to be bold and confident. I think Moses and David both approached God in that way. However, their boldness and confidence did not come from themselves, but rather from the God whom they were asking. Moses acknowledges God as the only reason for the Israelites being set apart. It was not what they did, how they prayed, or the fact that Moses was their chosen leader. It was God and God alone. Likewise, David tells God, “You are my God…none can do what you do…you alone are God.”
The manner (the attitude we have, the posture we take) in which we come to God, seeking His face, asking Him to show us a sign, is so very important. We cannot demand or pout, stomping our feet or throwing a temper tantrum when God does not reveal Himself in the way that we want.
We cannot presume to make deals with God: If you show me ________, then I will do _________.
Again, this is the God of the universe, not some genie in a bottle. We need to approach God with reverence and respect He deserves.
I know I have been praying for God to give me a sign the last few months. Maybe you need to see something from Him today too.
On this #MindfulMonday I want to learn from Moses and David, and boldly (yet humbly) ask for a sign with the right motives, seeking the right mission, and in the right manner.
Let’s keep our eyes open on the journey, seeking Him with all of hearts, minds, and souls.