This Week’s Readings: Exodus 30-40
And Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp far from the camp, and he called it the tent of assembly, and all seeking Yahweh would go out to the tent of assembly, which was outside the camp. And at the going out of Moses to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each at the opening of his tent, and gaze after Moses until his entering the tent. And at the entering of Moses into the tent the column of cloud would descend and stand at the opening of the tent, and he would speak with Moses. And all the people would see the column of cloud standing at the opening of the tent, and all the people would rise and bow in worship, each at the opening of his tent. And Yahweh would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his neighbor. And he would return to the camp, and his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the middle of the tent (Exodus 33:7-10, Lexham English Bible).
The Bible is an extraordinary text. Right in the middle of this passionate narrative of betrayal, where the Israelites rose up against God and formed a dumb ox to worship rather than wait on the One who had kept their leader up a mountain for five weeks straight, we find Exodus 33. After all the pain of the golden calf worship, the plague that hit the camp, the death of those rebelling against God and His heartbroken plan to send Israel forward to the promise land without Him, right in the midst of this turmoil, we find this story of God’s friendship with Moses.
It gives me great hope.
Moses took a tent and pitched it outside of that defiled camp with only one goal in mind: he had to find God.
Everyone else in the camp who were seeking Yahweh, the self-sufficient, eternal, all-powerful One and Only God, also headed out to Moses’ tent, which the people called the tent of assembly, the gathering place.
People all over the settlement watched Moses head out to meet with God. They would watch how, when Moses entered the tent, the column of cloud would come down and stand at the opening of the tent, and God would talk with Moses.
The all sufficient, all powerful eternal God would speak to Moses face to face, like neighbours chatting or best friends swapping notes. Then Moses would journey back to camp to face the governmental details and burdens of his mandate as leader, though Joshua never left the tent. He knew where the action was and he wasn’t budging.
And Moses said to Yahweh, “See, you are saying to me, ‘Take this people up.’ But you have not let me know whom you will send with me, and you yourself have said, ‘I know you by name, and you also have found favor in my eyes.’ And now if I have found favor in your eyes, make known to me, please, your way, and so I may know you so that I can find favor in your eyes. And see that this nation is your people.”
And He said, “My presence will go, and I will give you rest.”
And he said to him, “If your presence is not going, do not bring us up from here. And by what will it be known then that I have found favor in your eyes, I and your people? Is it not by your going with us? And so we will be distinguished, I and your people, from all the people who are on the face of the ground.”
And Yahweh said to Moses, “Also I will do this thing that you have spoken, because you have found favor in my eyes and I have known you by name.” (33:11-18, LEB)
After delivering a people from Exodus, intent on displaying Israel as His chosen nation to change the world for good through His blessed people, now God had just a broken group of rebels who had missed His heart and lived unwilling to draw near.
Moses, in great love, headed out of the camp to meet with God. They met for many days. Moses ministered to God by just showing up and God ministered to Moses by His presence. Finally, they had a conversation as Moses begged God, “ Lord, if You aren’t coming, I am not going anywhere. It is Your Presence that shows us as Your people. That is the only sign that marks us as Yours, God.”
What relief Moses must have felt when God changed His plan. God promised, “My Presence will go with you and I will give your rest.”
That rest God spoke of defined life in the Promise Land for the Israelites. God longed to give His people a place to settle down, relax, stop striving, and enjoy peace. God planned a great life for His chosen ones. Finally, despite the heartbreaking fickleness and sin, God agreed to accompany the Israelites, because Moses asked.
Then Moses asked for even more:
And he said, “Please show me your glory.”
And He said, “I myself will cause all my goodness to pass over before you, and I will proclaim the name of Yahweh before you, and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show compassion to whom I will show compassion.” But He said, “You are not able to see my face, because a human will not see me and live.” And Yahweh said, “There is a place with me, and you will stand on the rock. And when my glory passes over, I will put you in the rock’s crevice, and I will cover you with my hand until I pass over. And I will remove my hand, and you will see my back, but my face will not be visible” (33:18-23, LEB).
Moses asked for God to show Himself in even greater ways than a cloud, and God gave him to most exquisite response: Not only will I show myself to you, I will proclaim my Name over you and cover you with my hand and you can see My back, because that’s about all you can take in human form. I am happy to place you on in the crevice of rock and keep you from being consumed, even as I show you Me and my glory.
After Moses asked to encounter God even more, God called his boy up the mountain, hit the restart button and gave Moses the commandments, scribing those stone tablets once more with his own hands:
Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped (Ex 34:5-8, NKJV).
Aren’t you glad Moses asked for more? O worship the Lord for Who He is! God isn’t angry, He is merciful! God proclaimed the truth of who He was to Moses: Hey, I am Gracious! Long-suffering! Abounding in goodness and truth! I am the living eternal God!
Moses headed down the mountain, a changed man. His face shone so bright from God’s glory, the people freaked and begged him to cover up (see 34:30). Moses gave the law to Aaron, the leaders and the congregation and then revealed God’s plan for a tabernacle.
Revival broke out. The people lavished their gold, not in rebellion, but this time in offering, as they moved with love to build a resting place for Almighty God:
Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the Lord (Exodus 35:21-22).
Exodus 40 shows the most beautiful scene of restoration. On Jewish New Year’s Day, in that second year, Moses finished the work.
Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys(40:33-38).
Now, the people wouldn’t budge if God didn’t. Like Moses, they knew life was sweet and the journey was only worthwhile with God Almighty leading the way.
Let’s pray: Lord God Almighty, like Moses we cry for more this day! We want to know more of You, O God! Holy Spirit, draw us deep into the love of God as we see His heart and know Who He is. Lord Jesus, thank You, thank You for dying that we may now live as God’s tabernacles, with Christ within us, the hope of glory! O Lord God, like Moses, we ask for more, to know You more this day and serve You with the love You deserve. Amen.
- How did the people betray God in Exodus 32? What did the fruit of impatience bear in the nation? Where does the fruit of patience bear forth in your life?
- Do you want to know more of God, like Moses?
- The people gave of their gold to build the tabernacle. What do you have to give to build God’s kingdom?
- A nation shifted when one man, Moses, determinedly withdrew to meet with God and did not quit until the Lord agreed to accompany the Israelites. What do you think can we accomplish when we withdraw to meet with God for our nation?
- Is God leading you today? Do you carry His Presence? Do people recognize that’s what makes you so different? Why or why not?
Next Week’s Readings: Leviticus 1-11