Sin has consequences, and the consequences are never pretty. But here, the most devastating of all possibilities unfolds.
“Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from 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 I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, 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, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way,” (33:1-3).
The LORD would not default in His Promise to give the land to His people, but His Presence would not go with them. “When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning,” (33:4), and rightly so, for what news could be more shattering than to hear they would no longer experience His Presence?
Consider His Presence
- His Presence was removed because of sin. “…for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way,” (33:3).
- His Presence was set outside the camp. Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance 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, (33:7).
- His Presence was to be approached by only one, the mediator. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses, (33:9).
- His Presence would prompt worship. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent, (33:10).
- His Presence would consider His people with favor and give them rest. “‘Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest,” (33:13-14).
- His Presence would grant favor and distinguish His people. “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” (33:16).
- His Presence would be only partially revealed. But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” 21 Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen,” (33:20-23).
How shall we respond to His Presence?
- His Presence was removed because of sin: When we place our faith in Christ for the payment of our sins, we are forgiven and brought into relationship with the Father as His child. We are forever His. (If you are uncertain of your own relationship with Holy God, please talk to someone or you can email me at email@example.com). When through faith in Christ we become His child and are forgiven our great debt, we must live mindful that sin disrupts and deters experiencing His Presence. Let us be quick to confess sin and let go of anything that might hinder His Presence in our lives.
- Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit, (Psalm 51:10-12).
- Create in me a clean heart, O God,
- His Presence was set outside the camp: He is holy and set apart, outside the camp. May we be diligent to treat His Presence as holy in everything we think, say and do.
- “You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the Lord who sanctifies you,” (Leviticus 22:32).
- His Presence was to be approached by only one, the mediator: Praise Jesus! He is our Mediator Who has granted us access to His Presence. Let us trust in Him alone; He is the only way.
- For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:5).
- His Presence would prompt worship: Let us live in constant gratitude for Him, our Mediator, Who has granted His favor and His Presence. Let us live lives of worship to bring Him glory in whatever we do.
- Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father, (Colossians 3:17).
- His Presence would consider His people with favor and give them rest: In His great mercy and in His grace He has given us His Holy Spirit and His Word, that we would rest from our own works and experience His Presence. Let us trust Him to guard the treasure He has entrusted.
- For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you, (1 Timothy 1:12-14).
- His Presence would grant favor and distinguish His people: What an absolute gift and privilege we have to be distinguished as His own. May our lives reflect His family resemblance.
- See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him, (1 John 3:1).
- His Presence would be only partially revealed: We experience His Presence by faith, in His Word, in prayer and through other believers. For now we see in part; there is coming a day when we will see Him as He is. Until then, we live by faith… and that pleases Him. Oh, may we live to please Him, that we would walk in His Presence each and every day.
- For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known, (1 Corinthians 13:12).
- And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him, (Hebrews 11:6).