In Exodus 33 we see this cool interaction between Moses and God. For the last several chapters, God has been instructing Moses on how His people are to live. Where are the people? Well, back in chapter 20 the people heard God give them the 10 commandments. With all the thunder and lighting they realized how powerful and mighty God is. Israel heard God speak. This is a big deal. They heard God speak and in effect said: look we’ll keep the covenant but this God is far too scary for us to talk with. Should we talk more with Him, we may die. You, Moses, go up and talk to God for us.
So Moses is alone on the mountain with God. God goes on for several chapters to unpack how His people are to live. From purifying to laws regarding social justice, God is incredibly specific. He desires that this nation be completely different from the others; they will handle themselves differently. Why? Over and over again, God keeps returning to the recent earth-shattering event, their deliverance. God saved them. He saved them from the cruel rule of the Egyptians.
(It is incredibly important to recognize that the laws come after the salvation of His people. We can’t get that twisted when talking about the Israelites and our own lives. Law comes after grace.)
While all of this is going down, the people keep pulling out their iphones and checking Twitter to see if Moses posted something to the effect of I’m commin’ home. (Okay so there weren’t iphones and Moses would not have quoted D-Dirty Money but you catch my drift.) They were restless. So restless that they literally created a cow made of gold. The guy in charge, Aaron, totally flakes out and gives in and oversees this weird cow of gold process.
So in chapter 32 God sees this, because He is all-knowing, and almost kills everyone. He doesn’t though. But Moses and God execute judgement on those who so soon after they committed to the covenant, abandoned it. And here is where we come to Exodus 33.
God is still pretty angry. The text says that God tells Moses to just go to the promised land. They can go. They can take part in the promise but it will be devoid of one thing: God. If God goes with them, God says that He will probably kill them. So He will not. This is devastating.
Is the promised land the promised land without God? Is it worth it?
It would be like if you asked your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/best friend (I’m trying to cover all the bases here) to go to a movie. But they responded no you can go by yourself, I really don’t want to go with you. Would you go? Possibly. Maybe you want to see Thor so much that you would go by yourself anyways.
What if that was the rest of your life? Let’s say that for the rest of your life you would enjoy good movie after good movie in that theatre. Yeah you can go to the movie and partake in that cool experience, that is totally fine. But. I will not be with you. At all.
Would it be worth it? Would being in the promised land be worth it if it lacked God and His presence? (The movie theatre is not the promised land, let me make that clear.)
I love Moses’ response in verse 15:
If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here….Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people ont he face of the earth?
Did you catch it, how profound that is? The text doesn’t specifically say but I picture Moses weeping here. He wants God’s presence so badly that the promised land does not even matter anymore if it is devoid of Him. The milk and honey of the land does not measure up to experiencing God’s presence. So Moses says that he will not leave the base of the mountain, where he has met God before, unless His presence goes with them.
Moses cries out God!, if you will not be with us–if we will not be able to experience your presence–PLEASE do not command us to leave. Do not make me leave this mountain if all I get is the promised land and not you! YOU are what makes us different. Please do not make me go.
Why? Because when someone has truly communed with God, when someone has seen God, everything else pales in comparison. It just is not worth it. When someone has been changed by God, changed by the Gospel. When someone has been saved and delivered from slavery through the Gospel, satisfaction in anything else is ludicrous and absurd. Settling for anything less is torturous.
Is this what we are seeking? I do not mean in the patsy Christian answer. Are we truly seeking His presence? Are we being more intentional about watching the Bulls play than seeking? Or could it be that we are distracted enjoying God’s blessings without Him?
Do not let this heap guilt, that certainly is not the intention. Rather than wallowing in guilt, repent and know that when we dwell on the Gospel and beg God to give us more passion for pursuit of His presence, He will grant it.
Father, let us seek your presence.