Exodus 33:1-6 My Presence Will Go With You: Take Off Your Ornaments
During the month of January our sermon series will come from Exodus chapters 33 and 34. I have titled this series “My Presence Will Go With You.” I would like to keep as our focus the desire for God’s presence to go with us into the New Year. This church and my family are beginning a new period in our lives. We are looking to what lies ahead and dreaming of a marvelous future together. Much like the Hebrews, we have had failures and successes in the past. God has done marvelous things and His presence has been with us. Now, as any other time, we want God to go with us as we move ahead into 2010. With each text that we discuss from these two chapters, let us keep at the forefront of our minds that desire for God’s presence to go with us.
The first sermon of the series will come from Exodus chapter thirty-three verses one through six. This text is a tough one for me to preach going into the New Year because it focuses on the sin of the Hebrews. This Scripture follows the golden calf incident and Moses breaking the first set of the Ten Words. God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give them a land flowing with milk and honey. He had brought this people out of bondage with the intention of going with them into the Promised Land. Now, after their blatant rebellion, God has said for the people to go into the land but without His presence. Moses realizes that they can do nothing without their God and comes before Him in behalf of the people.
READ SCRIPTURE- This is the Word of God
Background: Exodus 32.35
A. “So the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.”
B. Situation- The significance of the golden calf cannot be relayed in one sermon when we will be focusing on another text, but I should remind you that the people were anxious when Moses delayed on the mountain. They took all of their golden earrings and had Aaron to mold a golden calf.
C. Golden Calf- The cow/bull was worshipped in Egypt and in Canaan. It symbolized power and strength. After fashioning this calf the people declared that it was the god (or gods) that had brought them out of Egypt. Aaron also announced the name Yahweh for this calf. Before Moses could get down the mountain with the Ten Words from the LORD, the people had already broken atleast the first half of them.
D. Broken- Exodus 20:2-7 “I am the LORD your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (3) You shall have no other gods before Me. (4) You shall not make for yourself any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (5) You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God (7) You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.”
Connective: The sin of the people is obvious is the account of the golden calf being molded. For that reason, God tells Moses to depart and go to the land that was promised without Him.
Meaning 1: I will send an angel before you…
A. Let’s look at Exodus 23:20 where this angel was originally promised.
B. Angelic Details:
a. The angel is to guard the people and to take them to the promised place.
b. To be obeyed, will not pardon sin, and God’s name is in him.
C. Angelic interpretations:
a. Because of that last statement “My name is in him” many have said that this angel is the second person of the Triune God. Walter Kaiser Jr. says, “This must be the Angel of the Covenant, the second person of the Trinity.”
b. It is debatable whether that is the correct interpretation. This angel could be a chief angel to which the LORD gave much authority. The question that I would raise about the angel being God Himself is that God says just after that He will NOT go with in their midst.
c. I take the position that this is an authoritative angel sent by God.
Connective: The point of this matter is that God is sending a representative with them for He will not go in their midst.
Meaning 2: Lest I consume you on the way…
A. It is because of God’s hatred of sin that He will not go with them.
B. His hatred of their sin is pronounced in this one statement “lest I consume you on the way.” As Habbakuk says, God has purer eyes than to look on evil. He cannot look on wickedness.
C. The Hebrew people deserved God’s judgment. If God would have come into their midst and consumed them, who could raise a fault against Him?
D. In Exodus 34:9 Moses admits that the people are stiff-necked. There is no question that this is a fitting title for this stubborn group.
Connective: Exodus 33:3 should function as a reminder that we are sinful people and that if God consumed us at any moment, He would be just in doing so. This also highlights His grace through Jesus Christ. God, who would be just in coming into our midst and consuming us, has instead died on a cross in our place to forgive us our sins.
Meaning 3: They mourned, and no one put on his ornaments…
A. Although the people were stiff-necked, they realized that they had sinned against the LORD. They mourned after hearing the bad news of God’s withdrawal. If God would not go with them, how were they any different than the other nations surrounding them?
B. Taking off the ornaments:
1. Commanded by God
2. Visible reminder of their sin
3. An act of mourning
4. God desired repentance (that I may know what to do with you)
1. Gold from Egypt
2. Used to make the calf
3. Worldly adornment
We have encountered some interesting points in this text that we can relate to and learn from. We must admit that we are all sinners (stiff-necked), we must mourn over our sin, and we must come to the realization that we need God’s presence. We want God to go with us for what lies ahead in 2010.
The last verse of our main text today will serve as our conclusion.
Exodus 33:6 “So the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by Mount Horeb (Sinai).”
The ornaments were from their past. The ornaments positively reminded them of their exodus from Egypt by the might of God and the ornaments negatively reminded them of their rebellion against God when they built the calf. This church has a past; actually a long history. You have positive memories of God’s mighty hand at work, knowing that His presence was with you and you have negative memories of short comings. I also have positive and negative memories of my past in ministering in the churches in which I have been a part.
Let us strip ourselves of our ornaments. Put the past where it belongs- behind you, especially the failures and even the successes. Let us look ahead to 2010 with all preparations and let us seek God’s presence. God has brought us this far, yet we continue to need Him to go with us.