Exodus 33-35

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Exodus 33-35

Barely made it to these chapters. No, not me. The Israelites. They were on the verge. Just at the point God felt comfortable to share all that he was, these folks decided they wanted someone else. Maybe not a different name, but a different personality, and presentation. They decided the ways that God would like to be worshiped, and they felt that whatever they decided to offer was fine. They thought God to be like the other gods they knew.

Only they were wrong. God does not like to be mistaken for a cow. He does not like his honor attributed to any others. He doesn’t care about the reasons. Even if he hasn’t made a recent appearance he still insists his revelation is binding in all respects.

Moses intervened. But now we see how mad God still is. He won’t destroy them but he won’t join with them any longer. Because God is worried about his own anger at them, and he’s liable to destroy them. They tempted God’s anger and there is now a broken relationship.

Moses has seen God, heard God, felt the power of transformation and victory around him and in him. God appreciates those who know him. And he enjoys conversation with such people. He hangs out and chats, maybe during the cool of the day like in Genesis 3:8.

He called their clubhouse the “tent of meeting”.

In 33:11 is an interesting comment. When Moses left the tent, his assistant Joshua stayed behind. No word on why or for what reason. Seems like Joshua’s training was not only in the hands of Moses, however.

The exchange between God and Moses in 33:12 and following is brilliant. It’s one of my favorite passages. I like it so much I’m going to quote it.

12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

Compare this with the conversation in Exodus 3. Moses again asks questions. But he does not do it anymore out of fear. He asks good questions, questions that come out of his confidence and now his standing with God. He asks God for more. For more teaching, for more help, for more guidance. Moses knows God. Moses knows God so well he knows that they cannot now go off alone. Moses knows God so well that he knows that even though God has freed them and led them, he still needs God’s involvement in each moment for more of everything.

I can’t help think of times of blessings in my own life. Or times of blessing for some churches I’ve been a part of. There is a burst of favor. People are blessed. A burst of newness breaks out. Then there is a stumble. God steps back. In the newfound freedom, however, it is easy to think the blessings came from just the right organizational principles, or just the right set of gifts, or just the right kind of message, or talents, or efforts.

Then it all falls apart because in the moment of crisis we don’t remember to plead with God for his continued salvation. We think the crisis is a management one, or a social one, or one we can manage with what we know or do.

And in thinking we have any power worth mentioning we end up missing God’s glory, and finding the truth of our own weakness.

Moses knew to plead. He knew to talk to God out of a confident humility. A humility that was based on an understanding of who God is and what had happened with Israel.

Moses did not depend on his own mantle of leadership. He depended on the leadership of God, and placed himself under the continued counsel of God who still needed to give Moses his voice and his words and his life.

Israel is saved because of Moses’ intervention along the way. Which speaks strongly of how powerful even one righteous person can be in the midst of a community.

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