Exodus 33:14-17 My Presence Will Go with You

Exodus 33:14-17        My Presence Will Go with You                                 WC McCarter
In chapter five of The Story, we found the Israelites still wandering around in the desert. They have now made it to the Desert of Sinai and to the mountain of God. One day, the Israelites were to come to the base of the mountain, consecrated, and to hear from the Lord. They were so terrified that they stood far off, and they told Moses to speak with God from then on because they feared that they would die if they heard God speak to them again. The Lord proclaimed the Ten Commandments, and the people responded resoundingly with, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” The Ten Commandments would serve as both a standard of living for the people of God as well as the basis for the whole Mosaic covenant.
In this chapter, we also read about the people’s grievous rebellion and great sin in building the golden calf to worship. After this, God said that He would not go with them any farther. He did promise to send an angel to lead them the remainder of the way to the Promised Land, but Moses knew that He needed God Himself to lead them every step of the way.
This overview leads us to our main passage today. We will see that the Lord forgives the people and, in His grace and mercy, makes a renewed promise to Moses. Just as you may feel separated from God at times or you may actually be far from Him because of sin, you can take courage. Maybe you have been wandering around in a spiritual desert and you see no glory cloud to lead the way. You may think that you have gone too far to find forgiveness once again, but you are mistaken. Let us take a look at this passage to learn more about our God and to find comfort in His grace and promises. The very first line of our main text is one of the most glorious verses in all of holy Scripture. Let us open our hearts to His Word.
Scripture Reading (p. 67) – This is the Word of God
Who God is Essentially
After Moses’ request to learn God’s ways, God answers by saying that He would go with Moses. Now that is grace. After all that Moses had been through, the sin that he had committed, and the disobedience of his people, God showed him His ways-which is grace. It is a merciful God that will go with Moses despite the instability of the people.
God said this wonderful line, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,” not because of what Moses had done, but because of who God is essentially. God has already declared who He is when He said, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
My Presence Will Go with You
God had previously said that He would not go with the people because if He did He would have to destroy them. Instead, He said that He would send an angel. This would not do for Moses. He did not want to take a step without God Himself leading the way. So, Moses says to God, “Let me know whom You will send with me.” That is how we get the magnificent response.
When God says, “My presence will go with you,” He is literally saying, “My face will go with you.” He will personally and intimately be present with the people as they make this journey. And let’s be clear, Moses didn’t want God to go with only him, but also with the people.
Not only does God say that He will go with the people, but He also promises, “I give you rest.” “Rest,” here, refers mainly to settling in the Promised Land, but maybe it also refers to the hassle and stress that Moses had been enduring. Without God, who knows what Moses would have suffered? But God promises to go with Moses. God would bare the burden and carry the load of leading. A third idea that I think is of value is that rest refers to “faith rest.” Moses could rest in faith based on God’s promise. We must also rest in faith based on God’s promises. The author of Hebrews picks up on this notion. He says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. . . .” He goes on to say, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following [the Israelites’] example of disobedience.”
Of course, it is difficult to think about rest in the biblical sense and not think of what Christ said. In some of the most comforting words ever spoken, Christ said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
So, you see, there is something about God’s personal and intimate presence that allows rest. The Lord also tells us that He will personally see to rest for His people. This rest is more than Israel receiving some real estate. It is a promise of God’s presence and it is a rest of faith. If you are going 100 mph because you are afraid that if you slow down you will be run over, you are not resting in faith. If you are working with all that you have to earn your salvation, you are stressing your spirit in vain because there is none righteous on their own merit. Faith-Rest says many things to a person’s soul, and I will give you a few: Faith-Rest preaches to your soul that. . .
            God is with you. You are going to be alright. There is nothing to worry about.
            There is nothing to fear. God is the source of my salvation. God is the source of my strength.
            God is my protector. Although I do not know the future, my God does.
            God has made promises to me and has always been faithful. Stop chasing this world.
The Distinctness of the Saints
If there is one theme that can be realized from this chapter of The Story, it is the theme of holiness. Why does God issue all of these new commands and establish a new covenant? Because He is holy and if Israel is going to be His people, then they must be holy as well. They must be separate from all the people of the earth. Thus, we can ask, who are we without God? It is God’s presence among us that separates us from all the world. It is His going with us and His leading us that makes us distinct. He is our distinctness. We are children of the One, True God. The most glorious and holy God of heaven and earth is our Father. And He leads us by His word. His word is that pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commands.” He seeks to lead us by His strong hand in the ways of righteousness for His names’ sake, but also for our good. He does so with His commands. As our Great Shepherd, He promises to lead us into green pastures, but we may have to be led through the valley first. We may have to be led through the desert wilderness first. As David wrote in that famous Psalm,
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”
I Am Pleased
What a glorious thing to hear from the mouth of God, “I am pleased with you and I know you by name!” Did this mean that Moses was perfect? Did Moses live a sinless life in order to hear those words? Of course not; Moses was sinful like the rest. His sin may not have as blatantly terrible against God as the Israelites’ incident with the golden calf, but we know of at least one sin that was equally as terrible against another human being. Moses murdered a man. But God forgives. God’s grace was rooted in His intimate knowledge of Moses. God knew Moses’ heart. God knows what is inside a man. He looks to the depths of us.
Why was God pleased with Moses? He was pleased because Moses had a heart that longed for God. Although he was not perfect, Moses had a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. Let me also say, that it was Moses’ request, which God ordained, that allowed God to forgive the people once again. Sometimes God does what He wants to do without waiting on us to move, but often times, He desires for us to call out to Him before He does anything. He waits for a man to stand in the gap. This teaches us to trust in Him. What a merciful and gracious God we serve.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) It seems that God forgave Israel very quickly and with little effort from Moses. Doesn’t it take more? Isn’t it harder to earn grace like this? No…God had every intention of forgiving the people in the first place. God wills that none should perish, but that all should have eternal life.
2) Where is sin’s force strongest in your life, pulling you away from God’s presence?
3) How can you intercede for others today? Who needs intercession in their behalf?
4) Lastly, if there is anything that American Christians need (and Americans in general) it is rest. On average, we need more physical rest. We need to sleep more (7-9 hours a night for any age), we need to relax for family time more, we need to rest our minds, and we need to break from the tension of living in this society. All of these things are necessary, but more than this we need to rest in faith. The average American, from my own perspective, is spiritually frustrated and not at rest in their souls. They never find satisfaction in anything, so they go from one thing to another. God offers true rest in Christ. I think we should pursue it. I think we should receive it.