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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

June 6, 2018

Exodus  33:12-23

  1. How do you pray when you are not confident? How do you pray when you are not sure about the future? How do you pray when you know you need more? In the text today, Moses teaches us that having an intimate relationship with God is crucial to our success. How close are you and God? How often do you talk to God and listen to God?

  2. Quick recap, in chapter 33, God clarifies the brief statement of 32:34, instructing Moses to leave the mountain and to take Israel on toward Canaan. He further explains that He will remain at a distance, rather than to dwell in the midst of the camp (33:1-3). At this-word, the Israelites repented, putting off their gold ornaments as God had instructed them through Moses (vss. 4-6). Verses 7-11 then describe the “tent of meeting,” that tent which was set up “outside the camp” at some distance (33:7), where the Israelites could go to seek God, and where Moses went to commune with Him. When Moses went out, the people stood in respect and then worshipped at the doorway of their tent. When Moses entered the tent, the presence of God was manifested at the doorway of the tent. The intercessory prayer of Moses has thus far “persuaded” God to relent from the extermination of the entire population of the Israelites. Further, it has resulted in God’s commitment to bring Israel into the promised land of Canaan. It has even resulted in minimizing the remoteness of God, to the point that God is now manifesting Himself to the nation outside the camp. But Moses will not be content until God is intimately present, in his own life, and in the lives of the people whom God has called him to lead. Our text will describe one of the intercessory prayers of Moses, which I believe took place in the “tent of meeting.” The structure of the remainder of Exodus chapter 33 is interesting and informative. There are basically three sections: verses 12-14, 15-17, and 18-23. Each section begins with a petition of Moses in which he requests something from God. The section then ends with God’s response. God’s response then becomes the basis for a further petition of Moses, until Moses is assured of the presence of God in the midst of His people. Once this is done, Moses makes a personal request to see the glory of God.

  3. Verses 12-14. Moses is pouring his heart out to God. He refers to the fact that God has told him to lead these people, but Moses hasn’t been told who will go with them. God only said an angel, but the word angel just means messenger technically, so Moses is not sure what that means. Moses also tells God that God told him that he has found favor in him, and if he found favor, he would surely help him. Moses is not quite as confident now that he has sensed the unfaithfulness of the people and the anger of God. Moses is very concerned that this journey will not end well without the Lord’s presence and power. At first, Aaron was the one whom God sent with Moses, but now Aaron is seeming more like a liability than a help. Moses needs more than the fellowship of other people, he needs the supernatural. This is a place we all need to be, where we are seeking a deeper connection with God. Moses is also showing that he knows that his leading and gifts are not enough. At some point, you will come face to face with the limitation of your abilities and it is at that moment where the supernatural is required. Moses ask God to teach him so that he will continue to find favor. This is the humility that all our prayers should have. Moses ask God to teach him the ways that please God. Moses petitioned God to consider the Israelites as His people. Ever since the Israelites chose to worship a golden calf rather than God, God has referred to these people as Moses’ people (Exod. 32:7). Moses wants to reverse this. Moses wants God to view the Israelites as His chosen people. Thus, he makes this petition and in verse 14 God responds. There is tremendous encouragement here. God assured Moses that He would be personally present with him as he led the Israelites to Canaan. God promised Moses the means to getting the Israelites to Canaan. Furthermore, He promised Moses that the end, the Israelites living safely in Canaan, would be realized. This is indicated by the term “rest.”

  4. Verses 15-17. God’s assurance of His presence and of “rest” were only specified for Moses in the original language, and not for the nation. When God assured Moses, “My presence shall go with you” (v.14), the words “with you” are supplied by the translators. Whether this “you” is singular or plural thus cannot be determined. The second “you” (“I will give you rest”) is singular, however. Thus, the assurance of God’s presence and of “rest” is only guaranteed to Moses, not the nation Israel as a whole. In Moses’ petition in verses 15 and 16, he sought for this assurance for the nation. Notice the “us.” Moses began by asking God not to lead the nation up from Sinai if His presence did not accompany them (v. 15). Moses then argues the necessity of God’s presence with Israel. He reasons that the one thing which distinguishes God’s people from all other peoples of the earth is His presence in their midst. Notice how Moses twice links himself with Israel. He is not willing to enjoy God’s favor alone, while Israel’s destiny hangs in the balance. God’s presence, he petitions, must not only be with him, but with them also. God’s answer this time assures Moses that He will be present with Israel, as well as with him. While God grants Moses’ request, it is only due to his standing in favor with Him, not due to any good on the part of Israel. Israel’s future is totally dependent upon Moses, and his standing with God.

  5. Verses 18-23. At this point, most people would be satisfied. God’s friendship and God’s presence would be enough. Not for Moses, though. He says: “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). This is an audacious request. God’s glory is almost impossible to describe. Moses had already seen glimpses of God’s glory at the burning bush, and when he entered God’s presence on the mountaintop. Now he wants to see the fullness of God’s beauty and greatness. God granted Moses’ request, sort of. God says he will let his goodness pass before Moses. Even then, Moses would only get a glance. The plan of God was to put Moses in the cleft of the rock, cover him over for a while, and then remove the covering so he could see the divine essence as He passed by for a moment. Then, in that heavenly moment, Moses could hear the voice of God as God explained to Moses the nature of His own being. He heard the voice saying, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” He would never forget those words. The people of Israel would never forget those words. They keep reappearing in the Psalms and on the lips of the prophets. God had designed things to reveal Himself to Moses at a more intimate level so that He might be better known among men. This isn’t the full glory of God; it’s only a partial revelation. If Moses saw all of God’s glory, it would destroy him. The glory of God is more than any human could bear. Even though Moses doesn’t see all the glory, the goodness that he does see is more than enough to solidify his faith. God will show you enough to help your faith. What Moses knew of God caused him to want to know more. You must remember that this man had spent forty days alone with God on the top of the mountain. This man had talked with God as friends speak with each other for forty days. And yet, Moses knew that there was something more. What he knew of God created the desire-to know more. This is much like the experience of the beloved Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. With his very own eyes he beheld his glory. And yet years later he writes of his desire to know Him—“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable unto His death!” Did not Paul already know Him? Yes! Absolutely! But he knew that there was more to be known of Him. This is what gave Moses the desire to cry out, “Show me your glory!” The knowledge he had of Him gave birth to a desire to know Him more intimately.

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