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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 33

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Israel's Path of Restored Fellowship

A. Israel's repentance and restoration.

1. (Exo 33:1-3) The people learn of God's heart towards their sin.

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.' 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. 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."

a. To your descendants I will give it: After the sin of the golden calf, God did not deny the children of Israel the Promised Land. He did not deny them His protection, because He promised His might on their behalf.

b. I will not go up in your midst: God did say He would deny Israel His presence. Essentially, God said, "I won't stay so close to you, because I might wipe you out - but go your way."

i. This was a challenge to Moses and the nation as a whole. God told them they could have the Promised Land, but He would not remain with them in a close, personal way. If they were satisfied with that arrangement, it would prove they only loved God's blessings and not God Himself. If they challenged God - pleading with Him for His presence, not only His blessings - it would show a genuine heart for God Himself. This was the first step towards revival in Israel.

ii. "To be given every other blessing is of no value if God is not with you. What is the value of Canaan? What is the value of milk and honey? What is the value of having possessions, if God was not with them? They saw that the realization of the presence of God, having this fellowship and company, was infinitely more important than everything else." (Lloyd-Jones)

2. (Exo 33:4-6) The people repent and mourn.

And when the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. 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.'" So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb.

a. They mourned, and no one put on his ornaments: This was a good response on behalf of Israel. They mourned the potential loss of God's close presence. They cared about their relationship with the LORD, not only what He could give them.

i. This was a significant issue for Israel, because they could see the presence of the LORD in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. If God withdrew His presence it could be clearly seen.

b. So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb: The people displayed their repentance and mourning by not wearing their ornaments. They knew this was no time for decorating the flesh, but for bringing the heart right with God. This was the second step towards revival among Israel.

i. "The people who are concerned about revival, in a true sense, are not just out for a little bit of excitement, or interest, or some happiness, or phenomena, or coming with an attitude of 'something marvelous is going to happen and we are going to have a great good time.' That is now how they think about it at all. And if you, my dear friends, are simply thinking about meetings, and excitement, and something wonderful, you have not begun to understand this matter." (Lloyd-Jones)

3. (Exo 33:7-11) Moses leads the nation in worship.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

a. Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting: After Israel's heart was turned towards God and after they humbled themselves by removing their ornaments, Moses took the next step towards revival and restored relationship. He initiated a determined effort to seek God, making his own tent a tabernacle of meeting.

i. God told Moses to make a tabernacle of meeting when Moses was on Mount Sinai (Exodus 25-28). But the tabernacle wasn't built yet. This wouldn't stop Moses from taking extraordinary measures to seek God. He determined to make his own tent a tabernacle of meeting.

ii. This was not something that Moses organized or planned or strategized. He sought God, radically and spontaneously. When Moses did that, God touched the hearts of the people.

b. Everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp: By making the place of worship outside the camp, Moses clearly drew a line to see who really wanted to draw close to the LORD.

i. "When the Holy Spirit of God begins to deal with any one of us, there will be this separation. It will not be paraded, it will not be the Pharisees' 'I am holier than thou' attitude. No, once a man begins to be burdened for the glory of God and the state of the Church, he immediately feels the call to consecration, he 'goes out' as it were." (Lloyd-Jones)

c. Whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose: The people watched and noticed when Moses worshipped. When Moses worshipped, they also worshipped. Moses prompted the people to draw close to God by his own example.

d. The LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend: The phrase face to face is a figurative expression, meaning free and open fellowship. Moses had not - and could not - see the actual face of God the Father in His glory.

i. This is the sense in which John says No one has seen God at any time (1 John 4:12). Yet one can spiritually have a face to face relationship with God, in the sense of a free and open relationship with God.

e. Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle: The personal revival in the life of Moses was an example to the entire nation, but it was a special example to his servant Joshua. When Moses drew close to God it also drew Joshua close to God, so much so that Joshua did not depart from the tabernacle.

4. (Exo 33:12-17) Moses prays for the people.

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.' 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 He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then he said to Him, "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 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." 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."

a. But You have not let me know whom You will send with me: For Moses, it wasn't enough to know that he and Israel would make it to the Promised Land. In his estimation, the Promised Land was nothing special without the special presence of the LORD. God previously promised to send an angel with Israel (Exodus 33:2). Moses presses God on this point, wanting to know exactly whom God will send.

i. This was bold - almost importunate - drawing near to God. Moses was determined to have God's presence with Israel as close as possible. This was the next step towards revival and restoration of Israel's relationship with God.

b. My Presence will go with you: Here God seems to answer Moses' prayer, but Moses does not rest. He continues to press God for affirmation of the promise. This shows how boldly Moses sought after God for the sake of his own relationship with God and for the benefit of the nation.

i. My Presence will go with you is literally "My Face will go with you." This helps us to understand what it means when it says Moses met with God face to face (Exodus 32:11). It has the sense of "in the immediate presence of God."

c. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? Moses knew that nothing the LORD could give them would truly separate them from the nations. Only the strong presence of the LORD Himself could do that.

i. " 'Now,' said Moses to God, 'I am asking for this something extra, because I am concerned. Here we are thy people. How are all the other nations to know that we really are your people? They are looking on at us, they are laughing at us, mocking us and jeering at us, they are ready to overwhelm us. Now, I am asking for something,' said Moses, 'that will make it absolutely clear that we are not just one of the nations of the world, but that we are thy people, that we are separate, unique, altogether apart.' " (Lloyd-Jones)

d. For you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name: God honored the bold intercession of Moses, and He promised to restore His relationship with Israel.

B. Moses asks to draw closer to God.

1. (Exo 33:18) Moses' desire to draw closer.

And he said, "Please, show me Your glory."

a. Please, show me Your glory: Moses won a "yes" answer from God when he asked for the special presence of God to remain with Israel on the way to the Promised Land (Exodus 33:12-17). He also won a confirmation of the promise from God and an affirmation of close relationship. Yet he was still not satisfied. He wanted more in his personal relationship with God.

i. This hunger for more of God - for more of an experience with God - is a mark of true revival and restoration of relationship. Whatever Moses had experienced with God, he now wanted more.

ii. "We may have been Christians for many years, but have we ever really longed for some person, direct knowledge and experience of God? Oh, I know, we pray for causes, we pray for the Church, we pray for missionaries, we pray for our own efforts that we organize, yes, but that is not what I am concerned about. We all ask for personal blessings, but how much do we know of this desire for God himself? That is what Moses asked for: 'Show me they glory. Take me yet a step nearer.'" (Lloyd-Jones)

b. Show me Your glory: This was an interesting request. Moses already saw something of the glory of God (Exodus 16:10 and 24:16-17), yet he wanted more. He sensed that he had not seen anything yet.

i. "In other words, by revival we do not mean the Church being blessed by God, and conscious of his presence, and enabled to do his work. Moses, in a sense, was already conscious of all that … But Moses was not satisfied. And revival, I repeat, is not the Church being blessed and being conscious of God's presence, and being enabled to do her work. Revival goes beyond all that." (Lloyd-Jones)

2. (Exo 33:19-20) God tells Moses what He will show him.

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." But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live."

a. I will make all My goodness pass before you: Moses asked to see the glory of God (Exodus 33:18), and God promised to show Moses His goodness. God's glory lies in His goodness. When Moses saw the glory of God, His first understanding was that God was good. If we don't know that God is good, we don't know much about Him at all.

i. Often we come to the place where we are always trying to "balance" God out. We suppose there is something like a Yin and Yang to the universe, in the sense of light and dark, good and evil, law and grace. But God Himself is "unbalanced" in this sense. He is entirely good.

b. I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you: In the thinking of the ancient Hebrews (and also in other ancient cultures), the name represented a person's character and nature. God promised to reveal His character to Moses, not merely a title.

i. Lloyd-Jones gives the idea of what God said to Moses: "I will stoop to your weakness. I will let you see something. But, much more important than that, I will cause all my goodness to pass before you. I will give you a deeper insight and understanding into myself, into my character, into what I am. That is what you really need to know."

c. You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live: God would not - and could not - literally show Moses His face. This helps us to understand what was meant in Exodus 33:11 when it said, the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

3. (Exo 33:21-23) How God will protect Moses when God passes before Moses.

And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 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. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen."

a. Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock: God was about to reveal Himself to Moses in a unique way. God prepared the event carefully, giving Moses a specific place to stand.

b. While My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock: God's glory could not remain in front of Moses, it had to pass by him. Even with that, Moses had to be protected by the hand of God and the cleft of the rock when the glory of God passed before him.

i. This is a vivid and endearing image: protected both by the hand of God and hidden away in the rock of refuge He provides. The shelter in the cleft of the rock gave the image for Agustus Toplady in his famous hymn Rock of Ages:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me;
Let me hide myself in Thee.

ii. Protected by God, Moses could endure the glory of God passing before him. Isaiah had a glimpse of the glory of God, and it moved him to mourn his own sin and unworthiness (Isaiah 6). John experienced some of the glory of God and fell at the feet of Jesus like a dead man (Revelation 1:17). Paul experienced the glory of God on the Damascus Road, but also in the experience described in 2 Corinthians 12. It was such an amazing experience that he could only barely describe it.

iii. Others, beyond the times of the Bible, have also experienced glimpses of this glory. "Have you ever read of Jonathan Edwards describing his experience of it in a forest while he was there keeling in prayer for about an hour? Have you read of David Brainerd, the great apostle to the American Indians, experiencing the glory of God, and literally sweating, though it was cold, and though it was freezing round and about him? What was causing the sweating? Oh, it was the glory, the character and the transcendence of the glory. And to give you a man who is much nearer to ourselves, D. L. Moody, a very strong man physically, a very sturdy man. And yet when God gave him a glimpse of his glory, he had to ask him to desist and to hold back his hand, because he felt it was killing him. He is not the only one who has felt that." (Lloyd-Jones)

iv. We also should have an earnest desire to experience God deeply. Paul made it clear that we cannot fully see the glory of God - we see it as in a piece of polished metal, dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12) - but we can see something of it. Paul didn't say we see nothing of the glory of God, only that we can't fully see it or comprehend it.

c. I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen: Moses could only see God's back (a unique term never used for anatomy). The idea is that Moses could only see behind God, not God Himself.

i. "The word … could just as well and more accurately be rendered 'the after-effects' of his radiant glory, which had just passed by." (Kaiser)

ii. Poole puts it like this: "Thou shalt see a shadow or obscure delineation of my glory, as much as thou canst bear, though not as much as thou dost desire."

iii. "These four things are happening at the same time, whenever God draws near to his people - revealing and concealing, blessing and protecting, all happening together at one and the same time. You cannot separate these things." (Lloyd-Jones)

iv. With these special protections, God rewarded the desire of Moses to see His glory as much as humanly possible. This demonstrates that God rewards the seeking heart. And as marvelous as this experience was for Moses, it still cannot compare to the revelation of God given to us in Jesus Christ.

- And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

- But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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