Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you realize someone is missing? Maybe you’ve noticed a friend slipped away, a family member left or co-worker is no longer around. What becomes clear is that person is absent. Would you notice if God was absent? Would it be obvious to you and equally important would it be problematic for you? In Exodus 33, we see the presence of God makes the people of God distinct in accomplishing the purposes of God.
- The Disaster of God’s Absence: v.1-6
On the heels of the golden calf debacle, God makes clear to Moses and the people that He will send them into the land, but He will not come with them.
God’s Absence because of sin: God chooses to be absent because God will not be present amongst sin. The text refers to the people as ‘stiff-necked.’ They are stubborn and set in their ways. Is this true of you? Are you stubborn and set in your ways? If so, don’t be surprised if God seems absent, because He has no interest in being with stiff-necked people.
God’s Presence is greater than all things: The response of the people gives us great insight into what is truly important. They have been promised everything that they could have wanted. God is holding fast to His promise about the land, He will drive out their enemies and it’s a good land! But when they hear that God is not going with them, it’s a “disastrous word.” What Israel is showing us, is that God’s presence is far greater than all other things. They were going to get everything they could want, with only one exception, but that one exception was going to reveal that everything they could want, wasn’t really what was best. I wonder if we feel the same way about God. If heaven could give me everything I could ever want, but Jesus would not be present, would I still want it? Or stated another, if heaven offered me nothing materially, but Jesus would be there, would I still be excited to go? God’s presence is greater than all things. That’s true! Do we believe that in the depth of our soul?
- The Distinction in God’s Presence: v.7-16
We expectantly seek God: As Moses goes out to the tent, the people have an expectation that they are going to meet with God. They seek God with an expectation that God will be present. I wonder how many of us view church with this same expectancy; that God is going to show up! Church is like a lot of things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. If we approach church half-heartedly, as a non-priority or an afterthought, we shouldn’t be surprised that we don’t get much out of it. However, if we approach church with the expectation of meeting with God, you will find God showing up and doing just that!
We remain with God: Moses makes clear that he has no interest in moving on from the Lord. He knows that what makes the people distinct is God’s presence! Have you realized that in your own life? It’s God’s presence that makes His people distinct. There’s no appeal to wisdom, talent or logic here, there’s only an appeal to God being present. This is what makes us distinct and able to accomplish God’s purposes in our lives.
- The Goodness in God’s Glory: v.17-23
On the heels of this engagement between God and Moses, Moses asks God to show him His glory. It’s a bold request. What may surprise us is that God doesn’t rebuke Moses or get mad for asking, but instead gives to Moses what he can handle. God in His goodness longs to reveal His glory to those who are seeking for it. This is the goodness of God’s glory.
God help us that we would expectantly seek God, choose to remain with God and know that the presence of God, which makes us distinct, is truly greater than all things.