Friday, May 27
Reader: “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest”
Response: “—everything will be fine for you.”
Scripture: Exodus 33:12-17
One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”
The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.”
Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
The Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.”
I find this conversation between Moses and God intriguing. The previous verse tells us that Moses had just met with God in the Tent of Meeting and the Lord spoke to Moses “face to face.” This phrase should not be interpreted as if Moses saw the face of God, but rather that he had direct conversation with God. In a few verses after our reading God declares, “No man can see my face and live.” You’ll also remember in all the descriptions of the throne of God in Revelation, Ezekiel, and Daniel, the face of God is never described. Man can know the energy (glory) of God, but not his essence. The Son is one in essence with the Father and makes the Father known to man which is why Jesus said, “He who has seen me, has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-10)
Moses clearly wants the Lord’s presence to go with him as he leads God’s people. Moses is looking for a physical companion. He knows he’s in God’s favor so he makes the request we should all be making, “let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor.” He wanted to know more of God’s character and nature. He wanted to know the mind of God. And he also wanted the people he was leading to have this intimate relationship with God. Understand, this kind of a relationship with Yahweh was entirely new. The Lord’s response was intimate. “I will personally go with you Moses.” “The word personally usually reflects a Hebrew term literally rendered face.”2 Moses wanted to continue in the “face to face” interaction he had enjoyed in the Tent of Meeting.
If we back up into the religious world in Moses’ day, we see immediately how different the God of Israel was from all the other gods. First, they weren’t real. They were always angry, demanding to be fed, often with infant sacrifice. There were many, many gods for crops, weather, fertility, war, plagues, and so forth. All were to be feared and appeased through sacrifice and sexual immorality. Then there was Israel’s God who interacted personally with his children individually! He was holy, loving, generous, caring, eternal, providing, protecting, forgiving, all powerful, all knowing, and present with all his people. Moses and the Israelites had to get to know Yahweh in contrast to all the gods around them. The First Testament is the story of that endeavor. Though we don’t know the details of Moses’ interaction with the Lord, the New Testament is our flesh and blood answer to Moses’ request in the person of Christ.
What can we take from this pericope? One phrase sticks with me: “Let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor.” And God’s answer? “I will personally go with you.” Be encouraged, we’re never alone in our journey.
2 NLT Study Bible, notes 33:12-23, p.108
Music: “Behold, God the Lord Passed By” from Elijah Edinburgh Festival Chorus
(Elijah asked the same question as Moses!)
Prayer:Lord, support us all the day long of this troublesome life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in our mercy, grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ―John Henry Newman, from In the Presence of My Father, p.178