Reading For Thursday Exodus 33:1-23

God tells Moses that he would send an angel (but not the angel of the Lord) before them to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan, but he would not be going with them. There would be no point in constructing the Tabernacle, which symbolized God’s presence, and by carrying it through the wilderness. God in his absolute holiness would not be able to tolerate their sin, and he did not want to destroy them along the way. This announcement was disastrous, and the people began to mourn. God commanded them to take off their jewelry and the contrite people quickly obeyed.

There is a description of what ordinarily took place at the tent of meeting, but this was a different location for the tabernacle, presumably because of the sins of the people. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud came down, and the people would stand at the entrance of their tents to watch. Moses would mediate, and God spoke face to face as with Moses as a friend. The reference to Joshua is important. Moses appeals to God on behalf of contumacious Israel. 

After Moses had communed with God in the tent for several days, he made another attempt to reconcile. God had promised to send an angel before Israel even though he himself must withdraw from leading them. Moses argues, on the basis of previous promises, that God’s promise to his people was that he would accompany them. This is the way others would know that the Lord was with Israel. The people would rather remain where they were so they could at least observe some evidence of God’s presence rather than go without him. God’s favor on Moses and the people would only be demonstrated if God accompanied them on their journey. The Lord agreed to this request. He would lead the people, not because they deserved his presence, but because of the high regard he had for Moses. Emboldened by the divine response, Moses requests to see God's glory. This is the formative principle of all that Moses will do. God hid Moses in a cave,  passed by, and permitted a glimpse of the divine. If Moses was exposed to the full revelation of that glory, he would die so he would only see a part. Moses would never be the same and God had personally covered him so that he would not perish. 

Thing To Consider:

  • Why was receiving the gift of the promised land not enough for Moses?  
  • Is God's presence important still? How are we made aware of his presence?  
  • How can we intercede on behalf of those in sin?  
  • How are we protected from God's holiness today?