Divine Encounters with God (Rhema Words)

Until I transcribed the following Tony Evans sermon last Thursday, I had never heard the word “rhema,” but the term explains all the coincidences and confirmations I’ve had while watching and listening to sermons since I became a Christian in 2014. Evans would call these divine encounters with God. Below, he illustrates how to have your own.

The Scriptural Basis for Evans’ Encounters-with-God Sermon

moses tends flock of sheep in wilderness
Photo credit: Wild Orchid Images

“One of the most famous encounters in scripture is the encounter with God by Moses at a burning bush,” Evans said. “… Moses is pasturing a flock of his father-in-law’s sheep in a wilderness. This is the same Moses who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was picked up out of the Nile River by Pharaoh’s daughter, brought into Pharaoh’s house, raised as Pharaoh’s son, and was an heir to Pharaoh’s throne.

“But at 40 years old, he had a misstep. At 40 years old, even though he had made a commitment to God, he blew it. He decided to … take matters into his own hands and to depend on his own expertise and self-sufficiency to accomplish … delivering his people. And out of that miscalculation, he committed murder — a sin that you really can’t recover from because the person that the sin is against is gone.

moses committed murder and fledHis murderous act was discovered, reported on, and he had to run for his life.

“When we find Moses in chapter 3, he’s 80 years old. There is a 40-year gap between his misstep and his encounter [with God]. … During these 40 years, he’s in a wilderness, leading sheep. I wonder whether there’s anyone here today who [is] leading sheep. And by that I simply mean life is not working out like you had hoped it would. Something happened years ago, and you’re still wandering with sheep now. If you could go back and redo it, rehash it, [and] correct it, you would if you could, but you can’t. So you’re just trying to make it. … You’re just doing the best you can with what you’ve got and you’re trying to make it … and it’s been going on a long time. …

“I want to start off by giving you some good news, particularly if you’re in a wilderness with some sheep, if you’re in a dry place, if life has become dull and dreary as you perform your routine, day-to-day tasks. The good news is that even though [there was] a 40-year-gap, God had not forgotten Moses. So if you’re still here, that means there’s still hope for a fresh encounter with God. …

Prerequisites to Having Your Own Encounter with God

you have to hang out where god is
Photo credit: The Lutheran World Federation

“Notice where Moses is. According to verse 1, he’s on the west side of the wilderness, and he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. … So before he ever experiences an encounter, he’s in God’s vicinity. … See, a lot of people want an experience with God but don’t want to hang out where he’s located. If you want an encounter with God, you’ve got to hang out where he is. … He did not get the encounter until he reached the location. So, as long as we insist on a long-distance relationship, that is precisely the relationship we’ll have. …

“Now, Moses is … a believer. … [But] he’s one just going through the routine. But now that he enters into the vicinity of the mountain of God — God’s location — he has positioned himself for an encounter.

moses meets god at burning bush
Photo credit: Fanpop

“We’re told that … the angel of the lord appears to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush. Now, Moses is in the wilderness. He’s seen plenty of bushes on fire in the dry atmosphere of the wilderness. Brush fires happen all the time. But this particular fire was unusual because the fire was burning and the bush was not being consumed. … [T]he fire wasn’t doing what fires normally do. … Let me say this another way: what he saw was a contradiction. He saw something taking place outside of the norm. One of the ways you know you’re on the precipice of an encounter with God is when he presents [to] you a contradictory situation.

“Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight — why the bush is not burned up.’ He didn’t [continue walking]. He investigated it further. He said, ‘I’ve gotta understand what’s going on, man, because this doesn’t make sense.’ Many of us have missed an encounter with God because we ignored the contradiction. …

pay attention
Photo credit: Psychology Today

“God did not call him until he responded to the contradiction. There’s a biblical principle that is stated in the New Testament, [which] simply says, ‘When you respond to what God has done, he will give you more.’ … [This] is another way of saying, ‘When God shows up, don’t ignore it, respond to it and he’ll give you more, for God is not about to waste his glory.’

“‘When God saw him turn aside,’ it says, ‘he called him from the midst of the bush.’ And then God speaks to him and says, ‘Moses, Moses.’ We call that a rhema word. This is when God calls your name. This is when you know he’s talking to you. Perhaps you’ve been in a service, and the sermon was for everybody, but you heard it for you. It was [as] though you were the only person there. You knew God was talking to you in your circumstance. That’s a rhema word. It’s an utterance with your name on it. The question is: do you hear it for you? Do you hear God calling your name in the situation you’re in …? …

“Moses says, ‘Here I am. You called me, and I’m not runnin’ from ya. I’m runnin’ to ya. I’m here.’ And now the lord gives him more information because he responds to his name being called.

[Verse 5 provides another prerequisite.]

god tells him not to come any closer

” … So let me make something inextricably clear: you cannot have an encounter with God if you’re unwilling to deal with sin,” Evans said. “If you’re unwilling to acknowledge it, repent of it — if you’re unwilling, you can’t get to the bush.” According to Evans, Moses’ shoes symbolized accumulated dirt, or sin, in this passage.

God Gives Moses a Big Job

god gave moses a job

too much egypt in you
Photo credit: JW.org

“Now, wait a minute. What’s going on here?” Evans asked. “Well, remember, this whole thing started 80 years ago. Moses knew he was supposed to be used [by] God to deliver the people. He knew God had a hand on his life. He just didn’t do it God’s way. There may be those of us who knew, way back somewhere, God was gonna do something with my life, but nothing has happened. It’s not happening yet. You’ve been wandering in the wilderness, and God says, ‘I did not forget what I planned for you. I did not forget what I planned for my people, but the problem back then is that you wanted to do it your way. So I had to bring you down to Earth. You had too much Egypt in you.’ And often, we have too much world in us, so God can’t do what he wants to do at the time we think it ought to be done because we’ve been too Egyptianized. …

“[God] gives [Moses] a big job. ‘I want you to go to Pharaoh, and I want you to tell this monster man to let my people go.’ Now, that’s a big job. … So Moses has a question: …

moses asked why god was sending him to egypt

“Boy, that’s a change over 40 years because he was somebody 40 years ago. He was the man,” Evans said.

[Moses also asked another question — and got a strange answer.]

god said i am that i am

i am that i am“What kind of name is that? … [God] wants him to know that name because when he runs into this next problem that he’s getting ready to run into, named Pharaoh — see, [an] encounter with God doesn’t mean you’re not running into anymore problems — he’s runnin ‘into another problem from an old foe, and [God] says, ‘When you run into this problem … he’s gonna threaten you, he’s gonna challenge you, he’s gonna scare you. But I want you to know I am that I am. And the reason you need to know this is [because] you’re gonna have to know somebody who is so self-sufficient that he can be whatever you need … I am gonna be your power, I am gonna be your deliverer, I am gonna be your sustainer, I am gonna be your victory,’ … [and this] goes back to a theme we’ve gone over and over again, and that is: you only have one source. …

How to Recognize Your Own Divine Encounter with God

between a rock and a hard place is the perfect place to encounter god
Photo credit: PE Hub

“You know, a catch-22, or when you’re between a rock and a hard place, that’s a great spot to encounter God,” Evans said during a postscript to his sermon. “That’s exactly what happened to the children of Israel when they were caught between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. They couldn’t go back. They couldn’t go forward. It looked like they were trapped. But guess what? It was a trap set up by God himself so that God could give his people a fresh encounter with who he is and what his power is like when it gets manifested.

So, if God’s got you trapped — you don’t know which way to go, and every direction you look in, there’s no place to go, look up because God is preparing you to run smack dab into his greatness, his power, and his deliverance. He’s preparing you for a divine encounter. At your Red Sea, or if you’re being chased by Pharaoh, God wants to let you see what it looks like when he opens up a way out of no way.

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