Exodus 33

This Disastrous Word

Israel made an idol, a golden calf, to place in their midst as a picture of God's presence and a thing to be worshiped. Instead, their idolatry became a means of alienation. God's holiness will not tolerate sin, and he will not permit the worship of idols. The devastation of their sin still lingers as the Lord instructs Moses to leave Sinai and take with him the people that he brought up out of Egypt. The mercy and faithfulness of God are made clear because the pilgrimage to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continued. Consequences remain, and a dreadful change takes place. God would not accompany his people in the same way, and an angel who is not designated as the angel of the Lord would go before the people to drive out the inhabitants of the land. The people would inherit the land as God had promised, but he would not go among them any longer. This too should be seen as an act of mercy for God knew that if he were among this stiff-necked idolatrous people that he would consume them in his wrath. This disastrous word plunged the people into mourning. There would be no need for the tabernacle any longer for God would not be with his people or lead them through the wilderness any longer. The people no longer wore their ornaments as a sign of their mourning. 

Face To Face

Before the Tabernacle, Moses pitched a tent outside the camp where he would meet with God and called it the tent of meeting. People would stop what they were doing, rise, and walk to the door of their tent and watch Moses enter the tent of meeting. The pillar of cloud would descend and rest at the tent door where the Lord would speak with Moses. The sight was so awe-inspiring that the people would worship at their tent door. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face as someone would talk with a friend. Moses was a prophet who received direct and personal revelation from God as a friend and an equal although the distance between the two is immeasurable. Moses' assistant Joshua would watch over the tent of meeting when Moses returned to the camp. 

Show Me Your Glory

God was sending an angel to go before his people, and Moses asks the Lord for more information about who would help him lead the people. Moses appeals to the Lord based on his special relationship. Lord knows Moses and his favor rests on him. Moses wants to learn God's ways because those are the means by which he will know God. Moses points to the reality that God has chosen Israel as his people, and he wanted Israel to enjoy God's favor as he did. God's presence would be what set Israel apart from the other nations of the earth. The Lord agrees to go with Moses and his people. Moses' unique relationship and favor as a mediator opens the possibility for God to dwell with his people. At this point, Moses makes a bold request and asks to see God's glory. Moses wants to know and experience God fully. God agrees to make his goodness pass before Moses and proclaim his name which would reveal his character and nature. However, there are limits that must be observed lest man die in the fullness of God's divine radiance. God would give Moses a glimpse of his glory, but he would not see his face. Moses needed to be saved by God from God. 

Things To Consider:

  • How do we experience God's presence today?
  • Have you ever mourned over your sin?
  • How do we meet with God?
  • How does God speak to us today?
  • How can we use God's word to intercede for others?
  • What makes Christians distinct from the rest of the world?
  • How can we know God's ways?
  • Why do we need to be saved by God from God?
  • How do we see God's glory?