Exodus 33: Exiting the Chaos

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

-        The Lord’s first judgment was to send the Levites out to kill those engaged in idolatrous worship. Then, a plague occurred, inflicting those who were also guilty. His second judgment was to not go forward with the Israelites into the Promised Land. He would send an angel, but not Jesus Christ, who had been going before them in person (Exodus 23:20-23). Have you ever stopped to think what your life would be like if you didn’t know Christ? Let us rejoice that He goes before us as Conqueror and King!

4 And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do to you.’” 6 So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

-        Bad news was an understatement. Notice how the people took off their ornaments – similar to the ones they had taken off to make the golden calf. Whether this was true repentance or not, we don’t know, but when there are idols in our lives, we must rid ourselves of the things which form the idol - and then replace it with a God-glorifying worship. Choose to exit the chaos!

7 Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. 8 So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. 11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

-        The Holman Bible Dictionary explains how there are three tents or tabernacles mentioned in the Old Testament.

First, after the sin of the golden calf at Mount Sinai the “provisional” tabernacle was established outside the camp and called the “tent of meeting” (Exodus 33:7). Second, the “Sinaitic” tabernacle was built in accordance with directions given to Moses by God (Exodus 25-40 ). Unlike the tent of meeting, it stood at the center of the camp (Numbers 2:1 ). Third, the “Davidic” tabernacle was erected in Jerusalem for the reception of the ark (2 Samuel 6:17 ).

The original “tent of meeting” was a provisional edifice where God met with His people (Exodus 33:7-11; Exodus 34:34-35). Apparently, only Moses actually entered the tent to meet God. Joshua, Moses' “servant” (Exodus 33:11), protected and cared for the tent. After the golden calf was made, God refused any longer to acknowledge Israel as His people and to dwell in their midst. Estrangement brought distance between God and the people because of their sin. Because of this situation and to symbolize it, Moses pitched this “tent of meeting” outside the camp (Exodus 33:7).”

-        The tent was pitched outside of the camp to symbolize the distance sin creates in our lives. How true this is! It’s difficult to fellowship with the Father when we’re carrying the weight of sin on our backs. His intentions were never for us to carry the guilt and shame of sin as punishment, but to repent and find new life in Him. 1 John 1:9 reminds us that if we confess our sin, He is faithful to forgive us! His amazing grace is ready to be received.

-        If you look to Numbers 12:1-8 and Deuteronomy 34:10, you’ll find that Moses spoke with God face-to-face in this very tent. How even more beautiful to think that God desires to speak with each of us individually and uniquely at any moment. No tent required.

12 Then 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 grace in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”

-        And speaking of grace – Moses pleads for it here. He desires God’s favor to be restored upon the Israelites. As Wiersbe says, “The thing which distinguished Israel from the other nations was that their God was present with them.” It was clearly evident that the Israelites weren’t traveling alone and with His presence removed, only darkness was left. Praise God for the grace of Christ Jesus that covers us and goes before us as we walk through this world. Let's cry out for His grace today and plead with the Father to saturate us in His favor! 

14 And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

-        God's presence provides REST. Have you ever had a season where you didn’t make time for God and then you found your life to be total chaos? A few weeks ago, I was experiencing some serious stress and this unsettled, overwhelming feeling. I realized (through the Holy Spirit) that my priority with spending time with Him had slipped. God is not a God of disorder, and when I’m feeling the chaos creep in, I must stop and realize it’s because I’ve opened the door to something other than Him. Rest in Him this day!

15 Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”

17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

-        Ah, grace was found! It’s awesome how Moses simply asked and the Lord provided. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Ask Him for His favor, wisdom, and strength. He freely gives!

18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

-        I love this part. Moses just appealed for God’s favor and it was granted. But, that wasn’t enough – he wanted God’s glory. Again, to quote Wiersbe: “A true servant of God is concerned more about the glory of God than about anything else.” Friends, just stop reading for a moment and really think about that statement and how that adds up in your life. 

19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”21 And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

-        I dig this part, too, because it speaks of such intimacy with God. The Lord didn’t have to stop and think, “Well, I’m just not sure about Moses’ request. I don’t know if I should reveal Myself to him so intensely.” No, He simply said, “You got it, Mo.” (Okay, not in those exact terms).

-        Notice that God first tells him that He will make ALL His goodness pass before Him. Wow. Was ALL that goodness just for Moses? Nope. It’s for us, too. Jeremiah 31:14 tells us this very thing: "I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord.” Be satisfied in His goodness today!

-        For Moses to have experienced the glory of God in this capacity is breathtaking to think about, isn’t it? But, even more so is the experience of Christ’s death and the grace He freely gives to us. The one sentence F.B. Meyer offers us is this: On Calvary, a niche was hollowed out in which a world of sinners may find shelter. Today, may you each find shelter in the shadow of the Almighty. Amen.