The Promise of the Powerful Presence of God (Exodus 33:12 – 34:9)

Moses reasons with God about the next step in Israel’s journey, lifting up the necessity of God’s presence going with Israel if they were to succeed in their quest for the promised land.  God promises Moses that His presence will go with Israel, and that they will experience rest.  Moses reiterates his insistence on such an accompaniment, and then proceeds to ask God to show him His glory.  God makes a pivotal statement about the finitude of man and the infinitude of God by letting Moses know that he cannot see God’s face.  No man can live, because we are finite and limited, if he were to behold the unmediated glory of God.  But God did promise to allow Moses to see His back only, after He passed by Moses, shielding him from the face of God in the cleft of the Rock.

Before this could happen, though, God instructed Moses to cut two new tablets of stone like the first ones, and then God would write the words from the first tablets (which Moses broke) on the new tablets.  Moses obeyed the Lord, and ascended to the mountain the next morning.  God appeared in the cloud, and proclaimed before Moses His mercy, grace, longsuffering, goodness, truth, forgiveness, and justice.  Moses bowed his head and worshiped, asked God to forgive Israel and go among them, even though they are stiff-necked, and make them His inheritance.

Two things are evident here:  God’s people must not presume to go forward–even into the plan of God–without the presence of God going with them.  Too often, even after a divine directive, we rush forward and sometimes outrun God in the process.  Wait upon the Lord, listen for His voice, and do not move without Him!  Also, We must realize our own frailty and recognize our utter dependence upon God and His grace in order to survive.  When we humble ourselves before God and pursue His presence above all else, He will respond with grace and will move among us as we go.  Praise God!

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