Exodus 33:1-3. The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you… 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
The people have sinned horribly against God at Mount Sinai. They fashioned a golden calf, called it Yahweh, and basically returned to their slave days in Egypt. Serving their own passions rather than God Almighty.
God in his glorious wrath must eliminate sin from humanity. But what all of us knows deep in our hearts is that that means eliminating us. Each of us is full of sin. Moses has begged for the lives of the people as their mediator. He even offered his own life. God refused that offer and here in Exodus 33 he presents a counter-offer: The people can go to the Promised Land and will even be led there by an angel, but God will NOT go up among them.
All of God’s blessings without God’s presence.
Would you take that offer? Most of us do every day. This is the great sin of mankind. the sin of the Garden. Wanting to be “like” God without God’s life. Wanting the creation without worshiping the Creator. Living with God’s blessings while living without God. Self-rule. Self-salvation. Self-glory. And for this we must repent.
But what does true repentance look like?
Exodus 33:4-6. 4 When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” 6 Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.
You know you are experiencing true repentance when you feel godly sorrow.
In 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts “worldly sorrow” with “godly sorrow.” Worldly sorrow is shame from being hurt by your own sin. Godly sorrow is sadness from hurting God. God tells the Hebrews that his presence will no longer be with them and they are devastated. They mourn. They’re more afraid of life without God then they are of life with God. They’d rather risk being consumed by God than lose him. To demonstrate their sorrow, they take off all their jewelry, the signs of the idolatry. They eliminate what’s left of the very thing that stole their hearts from God.
Not godly sorrow.
And then they seek God through their Mediator.
Exodus 33:7-13. 7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp…10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.
12 Moses said to the Lord… 13 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.”
There is no tabernacle yet. No holy of holies. No mercy seat. No altar. No priests. Just Moses and a little tent that he pitches outside the camp where he can go and talk to God as a man speaks to his friend.
And the people wait outside and worship.
You know you are experiencing true repentance when your only hope is your mediator.
No bargaining with God. No deal making. No declarations. No aisles to walk or prayers of contrition. Just looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. The one whose life intercedes for us in the presence of God. The one whose life has found favor in the sight of God. Just faith in the One who, like Moses, went outside the camp to pray for us on the cross. “Father forgive them.” And then he died. Taking our curse, our sin, our debt. So now we too can worship him outside the camp (Heb. 13:13).
Exodus 33:14-17. 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you [singular], and I will give you [singular] rest.” 15 And [Moses] said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us [plural] up from here. 16 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 [plural], so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
17 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.”
You know you are experiencing true repentance when your greatest desire is the presence of God.
Moses just will not give up on the presence of God. Not for himself and not for his people. God again offers Moses alone the Promised Land but Moses pleads for his people. The ones he is united to through the baptism of the Red Sea.
Jesus too would not give up on the presence of God for us. He refused Satan’s offer of a promised land without you and me. On the cross, he baptized us into himself, his death and resurrection. He brought us eternally into God’s presence by our union with his life.
Is the presence of God your greatest desire today? To hear him say to you, “you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Have you truly repented in sorrow of your God substitutes? Have you placed all your hope in your Mediator, Jesus Christ, alone?
“To live is Christ” is to experience the true repentance of godly sorrow, faith in our mediator’s work alone, and the daily delight of the presence of God in our union with Christ. Lord show us your glory (to be continued…)