I don’t know about you, but I could spend weeks reading and reflecting on this passage. I was so blessed and encouraged that I didn’t even know how I was going to put into words even a fraction of what God had showed me. And then God helped me organize my thoughts a bit and in the events of chapters 33 and 34 I saw an order to the events. Sit tight. This is a little lengthy, but I think worth the time.
The place to start is mentioning a note that my study Bible had which explained that in chapter 32 when Moses saw the calf and was so upset that he broke the tablets, it was a way of breaking a covenant. So with this in mind, we see in chapters 33 and 34 the renewing of that covenant after a very serious grievance against it. So Moses meets with God and He says that He is going to send the Israelites into the land He promised, but because of how stubborn they have been He will not go with them. Part 1 of the sequence: sin.
Moses has a couple of responses that just spoke to my heart. First in 33:12,13 Moses says, “You (God) have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 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.” That second part resonates deep within me as a prayer not so easily verbalized. “God, if You are pleased with me, teach me even more of Your ways so that You will be even more pleased.” Now there are times that the motivation in this is just in a heart of unity- I want to be with You, God. But there are times that my motivation in this desire is fear- I want You to be pleased with me, God, because You being not pleased with me is terrifying. And the combination of these too is probably why Moses’ responses in verse 15 stuck with me. “If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” I can so relate to that, can you? The idea of doing something that God instructs you to do but it looks impossible is not nearly as scary as doing anything and being aware that God isn’t with you. Moses would rather not move into the Promised Land, but stay in the wilderness if God wasn’t going to go with him. That’s one of the things that can be a result of some serious sin in our lives- an adjusted perspective. And that adjusted perspective leads to what I see as Part 2 of our sequence: a deep desire to be right with God.
Part 3 I see next is God response. In the beginning of chapter 34 God renews and restores His covenant. This requires a great amount of forgiveness and mercy on God’s part. And this response by Him we see all throughout the Bible. He continually responds to peoples’ repentance and desire for Him with another chance. And we so don’t deserve it. Even just looking at the Israelites in this passage as the example (which, I’m not picking on- I could just as easily be the example!), they had just became impatient and resorted to pagan practices to try and get from God what they wanted. This sin was so grievous that 3,000 who didn’t repent were killed. So can you imagine, participating in the calf, repenting, but then watching the unrepentant be killed as a punishment? You would have a very real understanding of how sinful you were. And it wasin that place that they received another chance and I bet they were very aware that they didn’t deserve it.
So what is their response? Part 4 of our sequence is seen in 34:5-7: worship and praising God for who He is. This isn’t just a thank you, but a worshipful response to intimately experiencing the character of God. Moses praised God for who He is, not just what He had done. I think this is a very easy place for us to misstep. If we only praise Him for the things He does, than when we hit the next situation that is difficult or doesn’t make any sense we revert back to being frustrated or feeling abandoned because we are focusing on what He does. Who He is doesn’t change depending on circumstances, so when we focus on that and praise Him for that, we will train ourselves to have a more consistent view- not dependent on circumstances.
And finally we hit Part 5 of our sequence: we experience and radiate God’s presence. After we have experienced on a personal level the character of God and who He is, He meets us in our worship and it shows on our faces. I couldn’t help but read the passage about Moses’ face glowing and be reminded of Jesus’ words that we are the light of the world. Moses couldn’t help but radiate the presence of a God after he experienced it, it just happened. I think sometimes we view being a light In the world as a task. I need to do this, and I have to say that. And there is a piece of it that that is very intentional at times. But I think being the light of the world was more intended to be like this- we can’t help but radiate God’s light because it is left over on us from our time with Him.
Now I’m not a genius, or theologian- so weigh and test my thoughts here. But, like I said, I saw a sequence. Sin can lead us to a deeper realization and desire to be right with God. God responded to our repentance with forgiveness and a renewed relationship. In response we praise God for who He is. And finally, we experience and radiate God’s presence. And I think this is a recurring sequence in our lives (hopefully having to go back to the sin stage less and less). As much as I would love to say that I live always at the end parts, I don’t. Right now I relate more to Moses expressing the desire to know God more and be with Him. And I pray that God will allow me to continue to live this sequence out, experiencing and radiating more and more of who He is.
How about you?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 36-38