Meditations in Exodus: 74. More on Presence & Glory
Ex 33:13 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.”
I have to confess I came to the end of the last meditation with a sense of dissatisfaction. Yes, we covered the ground and I did note that most commentators skim over this passage because there are many unclear issues, but I left feeling I had done the same, so if you will, we will go over the ground again looking more deeply at what is there and try to make more sense of it.
Moses we said had a worry that God had pointed out they were stiff-necked and He might destroy them. As I ponder on that I realise that there are Christians who feel the same way. When we considered the fear of the Lord back in study 63 we observed how we go to extremes and one of them is to hold God at a distance because we fear He will always be picking up on our weaknesses, and we forget He comes to us as a loving Father who has sent His Son to die for our weaknesses and failures.
The remedy is twofold. First, it is to remember all the good things God has done for you. Several times I have listed all the things the Lord has done for Israel since the burning bush incident. We too, in our lives, need to sit down and make a list of all the good things that come to remembrance, that the Lord has done for us, and thus realise something more of the extent and depth of His love for us. The apostle Paul wrote, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:17-19)
The second thing to do is do what Moses did, seek to deepen his relationship with the Lord. He did that by first acknowledging how the Lord obviously thought about him, `I know you by name and you have found favor with me.” (v.12) and then asking the Lord to take him deeper into their relationship together: “teach me your ways” (v.13) Let’s ask ourselves now we have a clearer picture of what was going on, do we have a desire to learn more of the Lord and the way He works? I have recently been reading R.T.Kendall’s book, ‘In Pursuit of His Wisdom’ which is really all about learning to know what is the right way to think and to do, the way that please God. I daily ask to be filled with the Spirit and with His word and with His grace but I now also add, ‘and with your Wisdom’. I want to understand more ‘His ways’.
Now the Lord’s answer to that request, we saw, was simply, “My Presence will go with you.” (v.14) and there we splashed around in deep waters. As I have pondered more on that it seems it is like the Lord is saying, “Very well, but it is never very good learning just a list of academic rules about me; the better way is to watch me and learn directly from me, so without devastating you all, I’ll allow sufficient of my presence to go with you. Imagine following someone’s shadow. You see where the shadow is going and what it is doing and you follow it and copy it. I have a feeling there is something like that behind all this.
And then there was that tricky, “and I will give you rest.” Well I remember Jesus’ words: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:29,30) i.e. take my role on yourself, watch me, come with me, let my Spirit lead you to do the same things I do, and you will realise that I am humble and gentle, not a slave driver, and so you will find doing my work is actually restful, because under this double yoke that two oxen wear, I will be doing all the work, my power will take the strain and bring changes. The only time my burden got heavy was going through the Cross; the rest of the time it was easy serving my Father and blessing people using the power we have from heaven.
Moses simply realised the truth of that and unless God was there leading the way, providing as He had been doing so far, they would be in trouble, and quite clearly the onlooking nations would realise the situation and laugh at Israel’s plight. (v.15,16) Is that why, I wonder, the world sometimes laughs at us, because it sees that we, unlike Moses, are happy to travel without the Presence of the Lord and so all we are doing is doing religious things by human effort. Now of course this should not be, because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but unless we have learned to discern His moving and prompting we will fail to respond to Him. The more we respond to Him the more His presence becomes manifest and His power becomes obvious and we start talking about being anointed by the Holy Spirit, which is always a power-recognition thing.
So the Lord says yes to this and then Moses pushes the boat out further, so to speak and asks, “Now show me your glory.” (v.18) i.e. I want more of you Lord! I want to know more of you, experience more of you, see something more, on a regular basis even, of this incredible glory of yours. It is a remarkable request which really goes too far, for the Lord has to tell him, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”(v.19,20)As we noted, that raises a question mark over the experience of Moses and the elders up on the mountain but maybe, to use the earlier analogy, they saw the ‘shadow’ of the Lord, or the outline of the Lord in a restricted or limited way that still allowedthem to live. And then the Lord told him how he would do it – put Moses behind a rock while He passed by so when He had gone, Moses could see that outline or shadow that the Lord calls His ‘back’ (v.21-23). This will satisfy Moses and he will live. This takes us to the next meditation and perhaps we are now ready to move on to an even more wonderful revelation.