Chapter 33:12-23 (ESV) - Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Question to consider: Why does God ultimately agree to go before Israel into the land?
If Moses hadn’t written this experience down, I’m sure Israel never would have known the lengths to which he went to keep them from being destroyed, even to the point of asking the LORD to blot his own name out from the Book of Life if that is what it took for Israel to be spared.
In yesterday’s passage, the LORD offered to let his angel go before Israel and wipe out their opposition in order to deliver them the promised land. Since the covenant had been broken (symbolized by Moses shattering the stone tablets), this offering was their divorce settlement. Israel would receive the land, but the LORD would not go with them.
The people reacted with contrition by casting off the ornaments they had gained from Egypt, for they desired for God to dwell among them. They wanted to be distinct from the other nations who worshiped their gods outside of the camp. So Moses asked the LORD what he could do to restore the relationship between God and Israel. Would it be the LORD who would lead them or His angel? Would Israel continue to be the object of mockery by other nations, or would the other nations be able to see that Israel was favored by God?
For the sake of Moses, the LORD forgave Israel. Throughout scripture, we see examples of the LORD forgiving people who did not deserve it because of the intercession of a few. For the sake of Abraham, the LORD spared Lot and his family. For the sake of Daniel, the LORD ended the time of Israel’s exile into Babylon. For the sake of Christ, we have been made righteous in the sight of God.
When the LORD said that Moses had found favor in His sight, and that He knew Moses by name, Moses asked for a special revelation from God. Even though he had heard the voice of God and met with Him in the tent, Moses desired to see God in His fullness. Despite the fact that Moses had found favor with God, he was still a creature that was stained by sin. If God had granted this request, Moses would not have survived it. The LORD would not completely deny the request though it would have been His prerogative to do so. The LORD does what He pleases, showing grace and mercy to those whom He wishes for His own reasons. With that said, He would protect Moses while allowing him to get a glimpse. Today we also get a glimpse of the grace of God because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. One day, through the hope of Christ, we will be able to stand in His presence and live.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for extending grace and mercy to us even though You are not obligated to do so. Please draw us near to You by Your Spirit, and may Your peace which goes beyond all of our understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.