Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 6 2019 - Exodus 33:1-23 – God's presence and glory

Moses pleaded with God to spare the Israelites after the incident with the golden calf, and God had spared them. He now instructs Moses that they are to move on to the land he had promised them. God will send an angel to go before them and fight for them, driving out the Canaanites before them, but God himself will not go with them.

This is a strange act of God's grace. If God were to travel with this stiff-necked people their constant rebellion might stir up his wrath to their destruction. It is safer for them to live without God. What a tragic verdict on these redeemed but rebellious people.

But this will not satisfy Moses. Moses would go regularly to talk with God in the Tent of Meeting that was pitched outside the camp of the Israelites. Was this tent outside the camp symbolic of God's refusal to dwell among his people? When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud came down upon it as a symbol of God's presence; God had come to meet with Moses.

Here Moses pleads with God; "Remember that this nation is your people" (33:13). Moses cannot lead this people on his own; God must go with them, "What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" (33:16). God agrees to Moses' request and gives him the wonderful promise, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (33:14).

The Lord has told Moses that he is pleased with him. This emboldens Moses to ask one thing more of the Lord; he asks that the Lord will show him his glory. It is a request which God cannot grant in full; were Moses to see the fullness of God's glory it would consume him. But, in his grace and goodness, the Lord hides Moses in a cleft of the rock and passes before him so that he sees something of his glory. God reveals to Moses the glory of his goodness – that he is a God who is full of mercy and compassion. It is because of his mercy and compassion that Israel is spared and will be led on into the Promised Land.

The mercy and compassion of God have been revealed in all their breadth and length and height and depth in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus. And he is the one who has promised always to be with us, to the very end of the age. God has come to be with us in Jesus Christ, and because of Jesus, we are not consumed. He calls upon all who are weary and burdened to come to him and find rest. It is his presence that makes us his people. It is his grace and his presence which alone distinguish us from those around us. He is with us to lead us; he is with us to bless us; he is with us to make us a blessing until there is no longer any distinction, for the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Lord Jesus, show us more of the glory of the triune God. Give us a sense of your presence with us and your gracious purposes towards us, for we know that without you we can do nothing. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you that we might be transformed into your likeness with that ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Bless us and make us a blessing. May your kingdom come and the day draw closer when your glory shall fill all the earth.

Peter Misselbrook