Showing We Are Different
Lord, grant that Your loving-kindness never departs from me.
Read EXODUS 33:12–23
12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 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.”
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
19 And the Lord said, “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. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).
God has given Moses a task, but Moses wants to know God’s involvement (Hebrew yada, “know,” is used four times in verses 12 and 13). Only God knows—and it is his responsibility: Moses reminds God that they are “your people” (13, italics added). God shows “favor” to Moses but reserves his presence only for Moses—“you” in verse 14 is singular. Moses, however, is concerned for “us,” saying “me and your people” (15,16; cf. 32:11). What distinguishes Israel from other nations is God’s presence, not ethnicity, or might, or wealth. The wider purposes of God for all peoples come into sharp focus. Significantly, Christ’s promise, “I am with you always” as we journey to “the very end of the age,” also lies within the context of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19,20).
God agrees, but there remains the issue of Israel’s sinfulness. Moses’ request to behold God’s glory (18) is “a desire to have God confirm his astonishing willingness to show his favour to a stiffnecked, idolatrous people” (John Piper, quoted in W. Ross Blackburn, The God Who Makes Himself Known). God promises to show his “goodness”; his presence with Israel will prove his “mercy” and “compassion” (19). Israel’s experience of God’s forgiveness will shape their lives as they keep God’s commandments and live out his compassion (Deut. 4:5–8). Likewise, God promises us his presence by his Spirit so that in turn “the fruit of the Spirit” rather than “the works of the flesh” will be evident (Gal. 5:19–25). Others see “good [beautiful] deeds” that point to God’s glory (Matt. 5:16). As we have received from God, so we live out “mercy” and “forgiveness” (Luke 6:36,37).
God’s “presence” is with us, but we do not yet see his “face” (the same Hebrew word; 14,15,20,23). Through his grace he has revealed himself in Christ and also by his Spirit so that we can know he is with us. That makes the difference.
What might others around you (and your congregation) see as being different because of God’s presence? Mercy and compassion?
Lord, Your people long like Moses to see Your glory. Honor us with Your presence until the day You call us home.
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