I would like to share with you this week some thoughts I’ve had over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been slowly plodding through Exodus. I read too fast; therefore, I’ve taken to writing out a short passage of scripture to meditate on a little at a time. I’ve made my way now through chapter 35. I’ve really had to take pause since about chapter 32 and process what a relationship with God looks like and to a certain extent, the character of God.
Here’s where I am in the story: Moses has come down from the mountain after receiving stone tablets from God for the people. God has told Moses that the people he brought out of Egypt are acting out in a bad way! God is really angry! When Moses goes down the mountain, he becomes angry too, so angry that he breaks the stone tablets God has given him to share with the people. After God and Moses exact punishment on the people, Moses is left with some uncertainty about his relationship with God.
First, Moses asks God …”if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways so that I may know You and that I may find grace and favor in Your sight. And consider also, that this nation is Your people.” (Ex. 33:13) God assures Moses that He will go with Moses and give him rest by bringing him and the people into the promised land. Moses is not yet settled as he turns around to God and asks again in v. 15-16, “If Your presence does not go [with me], do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that Your people and I have found favor in Your sight? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we are distinguished, Your people and I, from all the [other] people on the face of the earth?”
Here, I had to pause. Some questions ran through my mind: Are we God’s people? Not in the sense that we are Israel, but as the church was established when Jesus ascended and the Holy Spirit came, have we become God’s people? How is God’s presence with us now? Are we distinguished from all the other people on the face of the earth – not nationally – but as the Body of Christ? What unites us?
Second, Moses asks God, “Please show me Your glory!” God agrees to pass over Moses and proclaim the Name of the Lord when Moses joins Him on the mountain the following morning. Moses gets up early the next morning and God descends in a cloud to meet him. Then the Lord passed by in front of him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting (avenging) the iniquity (sin, guilt) of the fathers upon the children and the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation [that is, calling the children to account for the sins of their fathers].” (Ex. 34:6-7). And Moses bowed to the earth immediately and worshiped [the Lord]. Even now, an unsure Moses is still asking God if he has found favor in God’s sight, will God receive him and the people and pardon them and take them as His possession?
Third, God responds to Moses by telling him that He is going to make a covenant. Here are His points:
- Before all your people I will do wondrous works such as have never been on earth or among the nations before. The working of the Lord is going to be a fearful and awesome thing.
- He is going to drive out all the groups of people ahead of them.
- They are to watch themselves that they do not make agreements with the inhabitants of the land where they are going, or it will become a dangerous trap for them.
- Tear down the [pagan] altars, and destroy anything that is an image of another god. God’s name is Jealous, and He demands what is rightfully and uniquely His – otherwise you might make a covenant with the inhabitants and play the prostitute with their gods.
- God reiterated the laws that He had given them earlier.
Moses stayed on the mountain with the Lord for forty days and nights. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
I think I’ll stop here. Even as I am still processing the never-changing character of God, I am wondering if we, like Moses, fall on our faces to worship God in the fulness of all He is. I’m still pondering…. What do you think?